Sunday, December 26, 2004

Christmas isn't our day

As the Kansas City Chiefs moved into position for the game-winning field goal, Lawrence Tynes was wishing he'd washed his car.

That's always been the game-day good luck charm for Kansas City's rookie kicker. But he went ahead and drilled a 38-yarder with 22 seconds left, lifting the Chiefs to a 31-30 victory Saturday over the Oakland Raiders.

``It was too cold this morning (to wash the car),'' Tynes said after booting his first game-winning field goal in the NFL. ``I was thinking I should have washed it.''

No matter how filthy Tynes' transportation might be, he probably would never have gotten on the field if not for Dante Hall's 49-yard kickoff return after Sebastian Janikowski's third field goal, a 46-yarder, put the Raiders on top 30-28 with 1:03 to play.

Hall waited as the expected squib kick bounced perfectly into his arms and then set sail behind some excellent blocks.

``Most teams in situations like that tend to squib kick them,'' said Hall. ``It was just a matter of catching it, finding the right bounce.''

It was the fourth win in a row for the Chiefs (7-8), whose Super Bowl hopes were dashed by a 1-3 start and a four-game losing streak in November.

Janikowski scored the last nine points for Oakland (5-10) on three field goals, including a 45-yarder that made it 28-27 with 3:49 left.

``This is very frustrating,'' said Oakland running back Amos Zereoue. ``You can't ask for much more than we gave out there.''

Hall was not stopped until Janikowski got him on the Raiders 36. Then Trent Green, whose fumble had led to Janikowski's go-ahead field goal, hit passes to Chris Horn and Tony Gonzalez and Tynes trotted onto the field.

``Anybody who says they're not nervous in a situation like that is lying,'' said Tynes.

``My mom's been sick and she was here for the first time. It's pretty special. It's pretty cool.''

Holding for Tynes, who missed from 50 yards and had another attempt blocked, was punter Nick Murphy, who was signed at midweek.

``We knew it was going to come down to stopping them on defense one more time,'' said Oakland defensive tackle Warren Sapp. ``We just couldn't get the little fella (Hall) down. He made an excellent return.''

For much of the game, two of the worst defenses in the NFL seemed bent on proving statistics don't always lie.

But it looked like the last crucial mistake belonged to the Kansas City offense when Ted Washington recovered Green's fumble on the Oakland 43 with 1:42 to play and Janikowski converted a field goal. He also had a 40-yarder that put the Raiders on top 24-21 in the final seconds of the third quarter.

Green hit 32 of 45 passes for 358 yards and two touchdowns to tight Tony Gonzalez. Oakland's Kerry Collins was 18-for-37 for 217 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

``Thanks to the special teams for saving me today,'' said Green.

After their first two possessions ended in a turnover and a blocked field goal, the Chiefs reeled off three straight scores, powered by the Green-to-Gonzalez passing combo that produced two TDs and 112 yards receiving in the first half alone. Gonzalez finished with 11 catches for 124 yards.

His first TD catch covered 2 yards. A few minutes later, Gonzalez beat linebacker Tim Johnson on a 26-yard crossing pattern in the end zone. His 54th career TD gave the Chiefs a 21-14 lead and tied him with Wesley Walls for third all-time at tight end.

``It was a good day. But I've got to give credit where credit is due and that's Trent Green,'' said Gonzalez. ``He was putting the ball right on the money and the offensive line was giving us enough time.''

Collins, who passed for 371 yards and five touchdowns in a 40-35 victory over Tennessee the previous week, made it 7-0 on the Raiders' third play with a 5-yard toss to Jerry Porter. The TD was set up by Tyler Brayton's interception and 24-yard return of Green's first pass.

The Chiefs tied it on a 6-yard run by Larry Johnson and then Ray Crockett, with just the second touchdown rushing in three games for the pass-happy Raiders, scored on a 3-yard run for a 14-7 lead.

Alvis Whitted beat Benny Sapp, Warren's first cousin, on a 32-yard touchdown pass that tied it 21-all at the half.

Johnson's 4-yard touchdown run gave the Chiefs a 28-24 lead midway through the fourth quarter. ^Notes: Murphy unloaded a 58-yarder for Kansas City's season-best punt. ... Green's seventh 300-yard passing game tied the Chiefs' season record. ... Collins connected with at least eight receivers for the 10th straight week.

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