Chiefs get Lott of help down stretch and steal a win away from Raiders

October 29, 1991|By Chris Dufresne | Chris Dufresne,Los Angeles Times

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The four-leaf clover Ronnie Lott had stashed in his hip pocket the last two weeks was stolen last night -- first by a man named Holohan, no less -- allowing the Kansas City Chiefs to steal a 24-21 victory over the Los Angeles Raiders in front of 77,111 at Arrowhead Stadium.

Lott, who led the Raiders to recent miracle-finish victories over the Seattle Seahawks and the Los Angeles Rams, was this time a last-minute victim, allowing a 6-yard scoring pass from Chiefs quarterback Steve DeBerg to Tim Barnett with 47 seconds left to give Kansas City an improbable comeback victory.

Now 6-3, Kansas City takes over sole possession of second place in the AFC West, a half-game behind 6-2 Denver. The Raiders are 5-4.

There was confusion in the Raiders' secondary on the game-winning pass, as Barnett slipped past cornerback Lionel Washington and was left wide open in the back of the end zone.

Lott, though, was playing up close to the line of scrimmage.

"I'm supposed to have him man-to-man when he releases inside," Lott said afterward.

The Raiders, though, had no reason to be in such a perilous position. They owned a 21-10 lead entering the fourth quarter and were driving to put the game away when quarterback Jay TC Schroeder's pass, apparently intended for Tim Brown, was intercepted by safety and former Maryland Terrapin Lloyd Burruss and returned 83 yards to the Raiders' 15 with 11:05 left.

The Chiefs cashed that first gift when Christian Okoye scored on a 1-yard run with 8:07 left, cutting the Raiders' lead to 21-17.

The Raiders couldn't sustain their ensuing drive, and punted the ball back to the Chiefs at their own 43 with 4:32 left.

On first down, DeBerg threw a pass deep over the middle. Lott cut in front of the ball and seemed poised to make the interception and put the game to rest.

But, this time, the ball not only bounced from Lott's hands, it floated into the waiting arms of tight end Pete Holohan, who clutched the prize for an 18-yard gain at the Raiders' 39.

The Chiefs moved in for the kill from there, picking away at the Raiders' defense and the clock.

Before the winning score, the Chiefs converted a crucial fourth-and-four play when DeBerg passed 5 yards to Todd McNair for the first down.

The next play was the game-winner. Washington chucked Barnett at the line of scrimmage but let him loose. Lott, presumably, would continue the coverage.

Afterward, Lott, who had basked in victory the last two weeks, took this loss upon himself, as if no other plays could have changed the course of the game.

"I didn't make two plays," Lott said. "The last touchdown was my man. The interception should have been an interception. Those were mental errors. I didn't come through in crunch time. I didn't keep my poise."

Lott might have appeared the goat, but others could line up. Schroeder, who looked brilliant at times, threw three interceptions.

His first, in the first quarter, was returned 43 yards by cornerback Jayice Pearson and set up the Chiefs' first touchdown.

Worse yet, the Raiders not only lost a game, they lost rookie Nick Bell, who suffered cracked ribs on a first-quarter touchdown run and will be lost indefinitely.

How strange was this game? Well, how many 11-0 leads do you see in the NFL? That happened courtesy of a safety and a missed extra point.

It took all of three minutes for the weirdness to unfold, as Raiders defensive end Greg Townsend tipped a DeBerg pass to himself and raced 31 yards with the interception to the Chiefs' 1. Townsend thought he scored -- so did the field officials -- but the play was overruled by instant replay.

It was a big reversal because Kansas City's defense -- which came into the night ranked No. 1 in the AFC -- stuffed the Raiders on three downs. They had to settle for Jeff Jaeger's 18-yard field goal from there.

Townsend thought he scored on the play: "I thought I broke the plane [of the end zone]," he said. "We were dealt a crazy game."

And Burriss' interception was a big part of it.

"It ranks high," Burruss said of the 83-yard return that was fourth-longest in Chiefs history. "It probably is in my top three returns. I think God I had the presence of mind to stay in there and watch that quarterback. I knew what play they were running and it would have been very easy to turn and follow the man."

"In the first half, it was one of those things, everything that could go wrong -- Murphy's law -- but I told the players at the half, if we just stay after this thing, we'll find a way to pull it out," Chiefs coach Marty Schottenheimer said.

"I don't think any game is more crucial than any other," Raiders coach Art Shell said in downplaying the loss. "In two weeks we have to go down and play Denver. In two weeks we've got another crucial game."

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