September 29, 2012

2002: Green & Gonzalez Star as Chiefs Upset Dolphins

In their second season under Head Coach Dick Vermeil, the Kansas City Chiefs were 1-2 on September 29, 2002 as they hosted the Miami Dolphins. QB Trent Green (pictured above) had been considered a disappointment after coming over from the Rams with great expectations as the club went 6-10 in 2001. All-Pro TE Tony Gonzalez and RB Priest Holmes brought great talent to their positions. Defense was a concern, and while the team had scored 94 points in its first three contests, it had also given up 103.

Miami, coached by Dave Wannstedt, had been to the playoffs in each of the preceding five seasons. Coming off an 11-5 record in ’01, they were off to a 3-0 start and benefiting from the performance of RB Ricky Williams, who had been obtained during the offseason from New Orleans and seemed finally ready to play to his full potential (394 rushing yards in the first three contests). QB Jay Fiedler was competent and WR Chris Chambers was coming off a promising rookie year.

Things started out well for the Dolphins as WR Albert Johnson returned the opening kickoff 49 yards and they drove 52 yards in four plays. Fiedler tossed a pass to Williams that gained 29 yards to the Kansas City one and the quarterback took it up the middle himself for the last yard and the early lead.

The Chiefs responded with a solid 73-yard drive in 11 plays that featured Green passing to Gonzalez for 30 yards in a third-and-six situation to the Miami 38. Green completed three other passes, including the nine-yard touchdown throw to Gonzalez. With Morten Andersen’s extra point, it was a tie game.

It didn’t stay that way for long. On the second play of Miami’s next possession, Williams fumbled and LB Marvcus Patton recovered for the Chiefs. Green tossed a pass to Gonzalez for a short gain but, following two incompletions, Andersen booted a 50-yard field goal to make it 10-7.

The Dolphins came right back with a methodical drive of 12 plays that covered 56 yards and extended into the second quarter. Fiedler completed all six of his passes and Olindo Mare kicked a 42-yard field goal to again tie the score. However, KC came back quickly as Green threw to Gonzalez once more for a 32-yard gain on first down and Priest Holmes finished the four-play series with a 25-yard touchdown carry. In a span of 1:21, the Chiefs were back in front at 17-10.

Four plays into the next series, Fiedler was intercepted by CB Eric Warfield and Kansas City capitalized four plays after that with another Green TD pass, this one to WR Johnnie Morton from eight yards out. The teams traded punts before Williams took off on a 30-yard carry into KC territory and the Dolphins added three points on a Mare field goal from 29 yards.

Following a short possession by the Chiefs, Miami put together another scoring drive of 49 yards in nine plays. Fiedler was successful on seven throws and, on the last play of the first half, Mare kicked a 25-yard field goal to narrow Kansas City’s lead to 24-16.

The Chiefs added points on their first possession of the third quarter, going 80 yards in seven plays that culminated in Green going yet again to Gonzalez for a 42-yard touchdown. But Miami responded quickly as Fiedler threw to WR Oronde Gadsden for 20 yards and Chambers for 38 on back-to-back passes. The four-play series covered 77 yards and ended with Williams running for a three-yard touchdown. Kansas City was ahead by 31-23.

The teams traded punts but the Chiefs were in Miami territory at the end of the period primarily thanks to a Green pass to Holmes that gained 24 yards. Early in the fourth quarter, Green connected with Gonzalez for a six-yard touchdown and, with the successful PAT, a 38-23 lead.

Once again the Dolphins responded quickly, going 63 yards in five plays. WR James McKnight started things off with a 19-yard carry on an end-around play and Fiedler threw to Gadsden for 21 yards. Following a 12-yard keeper by Fiedler, he tossed a six-yard TD pass to FB Rob Konrad and another successful extra point again made it an eight-point contest at 38-30.

Miami got the ball back at its 29 after a short Kansas City possession, but on the third play Fiedler was intercepted by safety Greg Wesley, who returned it 42 yards to the Miami 16. Holmes ran the ball three times and Andersen kicked a 24-yard field goal to make it 41-30.

Two plays after the kickoff, Wesley again intercepted a Fiedler throw and the Chiefs again capitalized two plays after that with Green throwing his fifth scoring pass of the game, of three yards to TE Billy Baber that was set up by a 17-yard completion to Gonzalez. It proved to be game-clinching. Any last hopes for the Dolphins were snuffed out when Wesley picked off a Fiedler pass for the third time on the next series and Kansas City won impressively by a score of 48-30.

The teams combined for 849 yards of offense with the Chiefs gaining the most (450 to 399) while Miami had more first downs (28 to 25). The Dolphins turned the ball over five times, however, while KC suffered none.

Trent Green completed 24 of 34 passes for 328 yards with the five touchdowns and no interceptions. Priest Holmes gained just 52 yards on 23 carries that included a TD and also caught 6 passes for 63 yards. Tony Gonzalez (pictured below) was the receiving star with 7 catches for 140 yards and three touchdowns.

For the Dolphins, Jay Fiedler was successful on 29 of 45 throws for 310 yards and a TD while also tossing four interceptions, which were especially devastating in the second half. Ricky Williams ran the ball 14 times for 66 yards and a touchdown and had 60 more yards on a team-leading 7 pass receptions. Chris Chambers gained 102 yards on 6 catches.

The big point total proved to be nothing unusual for the Chiefs as they went on to be the highest-scoring team in the NFL with 467 points. However, giving up too many points assured that they failed to win consistently and Kansas City ended up on the bottom of the AFC West at 8-8. Still, the stage was set for a major improvement in 2003. Miami came back to win its next two games, but then lost three straight on the way to a 9-7 finish for third place in the AFC East and out of the postseason for the first time since 1996 – a dry spell that would last until 2008.

Trent Green improved greatly from his 2001 performance, ranking fourth in the league in passing (92.6 rating) while throwing for 3764 yards and 26 touchdowns. He led the NFL in yards per attempt (7.9) and his interceptions dropped from a league-leading 24 in ’01 to 13.

Even though his numbers were down from those of previous years, Tony Gonzalez was still considered to be the best all-around tight end in the league and earned a fourth consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl by catching 63 passes for 773 yards (12.3 avg.) and seven touchdowns. Priest Holmes ran for a career-high 1615 yards and also earned All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors as he led the league in touchdowns (24) and scoring (144 points).