October 6, 2011

2002: Chiefs Sink Jets with Late Touchdown by Priest Holmes

Coming into the Week 5 matchup on October 6, 2002 with the New York Jets, the Kansas City Chiefs appeared to be in good position to improve on their 2-2 record. The Chiefs, in their second year under Head Coach Dick Vermeil, were coming off a 6-10 tally in ’01, but had won three of their last four games after a 3-9 start. The offense was geared around RB Priest Holmes (pictured above), who had come to Kansas City as a free agent after being underutilized with the Baltimore Ravens. Holmes proved to be a pleasant surprise as he led the league in rushing (1555 yards) and total yards (2169). However, another acquisition, QB Trent Green, struggled and led the NFL in interceptions thrown (24).

Thus far in 2002, Holmes had continued where he left off, twice running for over a hundred yards and scoring eight touchdowns. Green showed improvement and passed for 328 yards and five TDs the week before in a 48-30 win over the Dolphins. Another major cog in the offense, TE Tony Gonzalez, caught three of those scoring passes and gained 140 yards.

Meanwhile, the host Jets were struggling at 1-3 and had scored a total of 13 points in their last three contests. Veteran Vinny Testaverde was replaced as the starting quarterback by Chad Pennington, in his third year after being drafted in the first round out of Marshall in 2000. Star RB Curtis Martin was hobbled by a high ankle sprain and the performance of the offensive line had not helped the situation. The defense was very poor against the run.

There were 78,149 in attendance at Giants Stadium in the New Jersey Meadowlands as the Chiefs scored first on a 36-yard field goal by Morten Andersen midway through the first quarter. New York responded with a five-play drive that ended with Martin running up the middle for a 17-yard touchdown and, with the teams trading punts, the score remained 7-3 following a quarter of action.

Taking possession just prior to the end of the first quarter, Kansas City put together a 12-play drive that included six runs by Holmes that covered 37 yards, as well as a four-yard pass completion. Andersen kicked a 40-yard field goal to narrow the margin to 7-6. On the ensuing series, Pennington was intercepted by SS Greg Wesley and the Chiefs proceeded to move 80 yards in nine plays that ended with Holmes running for a 12-yard touchdown, although the two-point conversion attempt failed. Still, Kansas City was back in front at 12-7.

With less than two minutes to go in the first half, Pennington passed the Jets down the field, hitting on all six of his passes, including a two-yard touchdown toss to TE Anthony Becht. Martin ran successfully for two points and New York took a 15-12 lead into halftime.

The Chiefs started off the second half with a 58-yard possession down to the New York nine yard line. However, the drive stalled there after Green threw two incomplete passes and Andersen tied the game with a 27-yard field goal. The Jets responded with a seven-yard drive that included back-to-back completions by Pennington to WR Laveranues Coles. They came up empty when John Hall missed a 51-yard field goal attempt.

Following a punt by the Chiefs, New York again mounted a drive that stretched into the fourth quarter. Once again, Pennington made good on all six passes, including a 24-yard completion to WR Kevin Swayne in a third-and-nine situation and a 27-yard scoring pass to WR Santana Moss. The Jets were up by 22-15 early in the final period.

The Chiefs came back with a big play as Green threw to WR Dante Hall for a 60-yard touchdown and, with the successful PAT, tied the score. However, New York responded with a long, 14-play possession that ran nearly seven minutes off the clock. Pennington again was precise in his passing, going five-for-six, and Martin carried the ball six times. Hall kicked a 25-yard field goal and the Jets were back in front at 25-22 with under three minutes remaining.

Following the kickoff, Kansas City took over at its 22 yard line. Holmes gained 13 yards on a pass from Green, ran for eight, and on a third-and-two play caught another pass for nine more yards. Three plays later, in another third-down situation at the New York 42, Green went to Holmes again for a 12-yard gain. Holmes ran for 11 yards and, with 27 seconds to play, caught a pass from Green for a 19-yard touchdown. The extra point gave the Chiefs a four-point lead, and time ran out on the Jets at their own 39. Kansas City came away with a hard-fought 29-25 win.

The Chiefs outgained New York (504 yards to 359), with 215 of those yards coming on the ground. They also had the slight edge in first downs (24 to 23). Each team suffered one turnover apiece.

Priest Holmes gained 152 yards on 23 rushing attempts, including one for a TD, and also caught 9 passes for 81 yards and the game-winning score. Trent Green completed 23 of 33 throws for 296 yards and two touchdowns with one intercepted.

Chad Pennington (pictured below) played well for the Jets in defeat, succeeding on 22 of his 29 passes for 237 yards, also with two TDs against one pass that was picked off. Curtis Martin returned to form by gaining 119 yards on 21 carries and a touchdown. Laveranues Coles caught 8 passes for 116 yards.

“The fourth quarter as been good to us all year,” Dick Vermeil said. “On that last drive, they went on the field with confidence that they could score and it showed.”

“We just gave them big plays at the end,” said a disappointed Herman Edwards from the Jets’ side. “We're not playing good defense at all and in the fourth quarter it really showed up.”

The Chiefs lost their next two games and went on to finish with an 8-8 record, putting them at the bottom of the AFC West. Priest Holmes had an outstanding season, however, placing third in the NFL in rushing with 1615 yards, second in all-purpose yards with 2287, and first with 24 touchdowns and 144 points. He was a consensus first-team All-Pro and was named to the Pro Bowl. The success continued – the 5’9”, 213-pound running back set a then-league record with 27 touchdowns in 2003.

New York, on the other hand, won five of their next six games and topped the AFC East with a 9-7 tally (thanks to tiebreakers). The Jets whipped Indianapolis in the Wild Card round but lost to Oakland at the Divisional level. Chad Pennington was the key to the team’s surge as he led the NFL in passing (104.2 rating) and completion percentage (68.9) and ranked second in yards per attempt (7.8) and lowest percentage of interceptions (1.5).