Chiefs ends Packers' dream of perfect season
Originally published December 18, 2011 at 3:45 p.m., updated December 18, 2011 at 9:53 p.m.
KANSAS CITY (AP) — Romeo Crennel stood dripping wet on the sideline, a water cooler having been dumped over his head. Kyle Orton’s jersey was covered in grass stains as he took one last snap from center.
The Kansas City Chiefs had a new coach Sunday. They had a new quarterback, too.
They looked like a whole new team.
Orton threw for 299 yards to outduel Aaron Rodgers, and the Chiefs rallied behind Crennel for a shocking 19-14 victory over Green Bay that ended the Packers’ 19-game winning streak and bid for a perfect season.
“We played the way I’d like the Chiefs to play all the time,” Crennel said.
It was the Packers’ first loss since Dec. 19, 2010, and kept them from securing home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Green Bay can still wrap it up in its final two games against Detroit and Chicago, but no longer with the pressure of the NFL’s second-longest winning streak and the chance to become the second team in NFL history to win a Super Bowl with a perfect record.
Rodgers was 17-of-35 for 235 yards and a touchdown, and he also scampered 8 yards for another score with 2:12 left in the game. But the Packers (13-1) were unable to recover the onside kick, and Kansas City picked up a couple of first downs to secure the victory.
“The Chiefs had a good plan today,” said Rodgers, who quickly brushed aside the ending to the Packers’ remarkable win streak. “The next step is the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.”
Ryan Succop kicked four field goals for Kansas City (6-8), which had lost five of its last six games and fired coach Todd Haley last Monday. Jackie Battle added a short touchdown plunge with 4:53 left in the game, points that came in handy when Rodgers led one last scoring drive.
“That’s about as much fun as I’ve ever had on a football field,” said Orton, who was claimed off waivers from Denver a few weeks ago but had only played one snap before hurting the index finger on his throwing hand. Orton was finally healthy enough to make the start in place of Tyler Palko, who had started the last four games after Matt Cassel went down with a season-ending injury.
“It wasn’t one guy or one coach,” Orton said. “It was a team win, everybody fighting together.”
Neither team seemed as if it wanted to win in the first half.
Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson was hit twice with offensive pass interference, Rodgers was harassed by the Chiefs’ weak pass rush, and Green Bay wound up making five first downs.
One of them came when Kansas City’s Jeremy Horne ran into Packers punter Tim Masthay, giving them 15 free yards. The Chiefs tried to give Green Bay another gift later on the drive when Mason Crosby missed a 59-yard field goal attempt but Kansas City had 12 men on the field.
With another chance from 54 yards, the normally reliable Crosby pushed the kick right.
Rodgers finished the half 6-of-17 for 59 yards, with a handful of drops between wide receiver Donald Driver and tight end Jermichael Finley. In fact, things were going so badly for Green Bay at one point it ran out of the wildcat despite having one of the best quarterbacks in the game.
The Chiefs were still clinging to a 6-0 lead when Rodgers finally hit down field, finding Finley over top the coverage for a 41-yard gain. Three plays later, the Packers’ star quarterback hit Driver in the corner of the end zone for a 7-6 lead with 8:04 left in the third quarter.
Kansas City answered when Orton hit his own tight end, Leonard Pope, for a career-long 38-yard catch. Jon Baldwin added a 17-yard grab to set up Succop’s 46-yard, go-ahead field goal.
The Packers moved into field-goal range on their ensuing drive, but rather than have Crosby attempt a 56-yard kick in the same direction he had already missed, coach Mike McCarthy elected to go for it on fourth-and-9. Rodgers’ pass fell incomplete and the Chiefs took over.
They needed seven plays to cover 59 yards, but had to settle for another field goal and a 12-7 lead. It was the third time the Chiefs drove inside the 5 and had six total points to show for it.
They got seven on their next trip, though.
With first-and-goal at the 5, Thomas Jones managed to gain a yard and Le’Ron McClain bulled ahead for three more, setting up third down from just outside the goal line. Battle took the carry over the right side and powered into the end zone, giving the woeful Kansas City offense its highest-scoring game since the Chiefs beat San Diego in overtime in late October.
The Packers marched down field in the closing minutes, and Rodgers showed his moxie by scampering around the end for a touchdown that made it 19-14. But the onside kick ended up in the Chiefs’ hands, and they were able to pound out a couple first downs to secure the upset victory.
Green Bay came into the game averaging nearly 36 points, but was held to its lowest total since beating the Chicago Bears 10-3 in Week 17 last year. The Packers needed to win that game to make the playoffs, and wound up riding the momentum to a Super Bowl victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
All that momentum finally came to an end in the most unlikely of scenarios.
“We set the tone on both sides of the ball,” Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson said. “This is the great thing about football. You can’t always look at the records, because you’ve got grown men out there who are all getting paid. You don’t have to be better on paper. If you’re better on that given Sunday, you’ll get the win.”
Notes: Succop has made 21 consecutive field goals. ... Palko was inactive for Kansas City. ... The Chiefs wound up having the ball for 36:11, while Green Bay had it for 23:49. ... Kansas City won despite going 1-for-5 in the red zone.