October 8, 2010

1989: Okoye Runs for 156 Yards as Chiefs Rally Past Seahawks

The Kansas City Chiefs were coming off of consecutive four-win seasons and, having revamped the front office and in their first year under new Head Coach Marty Schottenheimer, had started at 1-3 in 1989. Their Week 5 matchup on October 8 was against the Seattle Seahawks, under veteran Head Coach Chuck Knox. The Seahawks had made it to the postseason the past two years and, having lost their first two games in ’89, had won two straight on the road as they returned to the Kingdome.

Steve DeBerg battled Bill Kenney for the starting quarterback job in ’88 – Kenney was gone but DeBerg remained. Schottenheimer brought in 15-year veteran Ron Jaworski to compete with DeBerg, and it was Jaworski behind center at Seattle. Also present in the backfield was third-year fullback Christian Okoye (pictured above), a 6’1”, 253-pound Nigerian power runner who had battled injuries in his first two seasons but was finally beginning to realize his potential – he had gained over a hundred yards in each of the previous two games.

Seattle wasted no time getting on the board as CB James Jefferson returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. After the Chiefs and Seahawks traded punts, Kansas City scored on a 39-yard field goal by Nick Lowery. Okoye carried the ball on 10 of KC’s first 12 plays from scrimmage.

Late in the first quarter, the Chiefs began to diversify the attack as Jaworski completed a pass for 21 yards to TE Chris Dressel and RB Herman Heard ran for 17 yards. But a 17-yard Jaworski completion to WR Emile Harry ended up being fumbled into the end zone and recovered for a touchback by Seattle.

The Chiefs didn’t mount another threat in the second quarter, and the Seahawks added three field goals by Norm Johnson of 37, 26, and 37 yards to take a 16-3 lead into halftime. Neither team had particularly distinguished itself offensively, although Okoye had gained 51 yards on 12 carries.

Okoye continued to be the key player for Kansas City as he opened the team’s first possession of the second half with three runs for 21 yards. Jaworski hit on three passes on the KC drive and after 11 plays Okoye ended it with a 13-yard touchdown run. With the successful PAT, the Chiefs were now behind by only 16-10.

With time running down in the third quarter, Okoye again spurred another long Kansas City possession that resulted in a 25-yard Lowery field goal early in the final period. Krieg was promptly intercepted by safety Deron Cherry and five plays later Jaworski hit TE Alfredo Roberts for a two-yard touchdown and four-point Chiefs lead.

Seattle had two more possessions but couldn’t put points on the board. On the final drive from their own 17, Krieg completed five straight passes to the KC 35, also running for 12 yards at one point. But after getting down to the 23, two passes into the end zone were for naught, with Cherry intercepting the last one. The Chiefs came away with a 20-16 win.

Kansas City rolled up 303 yards to 288 for the Seahawks, with 199 of that coming on the ground. Christian Okoye gained 156 yards on 30 carries with the one TD and was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance. Ron Jaworski went to the air 18 times and had 12 completions for 104 yards and a touchdown with none intercepted. Emile Harry was the top receiver for the Chiefs with three catches for 41 yards, but also the one costly fumble.

For Seattle, Dave Krieg had completed 20 of 36 passes for 252 yards with no touchdowns and the two passes intercepted by Deron Cherry (the safety’s only two pickoffs of the season). Tellingly, Krieg was also the team’s leading rusher with 29 yards on three carries. RB John L. Williams was more productive through the air (5 catches for 32 yards) than on the ground (9 runs for 22 yards). WR Paul Skansi contributed another 5 receptions for 79 yards while WR Brian Blades gained the most receiving yards (86) on his four catches.

The Chiefs continued to make progress under the new head coach (and front office regime), winning four of their last five games to end up with an 8-7-1 record and second place in the AFC West. Seattle dropped off to 7-9 to end up fourth in the division.

It was a good beginning for Marty Schottenheimer (pictured at left), who succeeded in coaching the Chiefs back to respectability. They produced four straight 10-win seasons from 1990 to ’94 and made it to the postseason in seven of his 10 years at the helm. Unfortunately, as was the case for Schottenheimer in his other three head coaching stops, they didn’t make it to the Super Bowl.

Christian Okoye, who had never played American football prior to coming to college at Azusa Pacific on a track scholarship, led the NFL in rushing with 1480 yards on 370 carries and 12 touchdowns. The 156 yards against Seattle marked his third of an eventual eight 100-yard rushing performances for the year. He was a consensus first team All-Pro, as well as Pro Bowl, selection.

As a footnote, in his last season, 38-year-old Ron Jaworski (pictured below) started three games for the Chiefs and threw for 385 yards with two touchdowns and five interceptions. While Steve Pelluer also joined the quarterback mix during the season, Steve DeBerg ultimately prevailed as the starter.