Against all odds, the Kansas City Chiefs escaped with a 30-27 win on Sunday night over the Denver Broncos. In an overtime thriller filled with dramatic twists and unlikely heroes, fans of both teams thought their team had secured a victory at several different points throughout the game. Luckily for Kansas Citians, all of that heightened drama paid off in the end with a Chiefs victory, extending their record to 8-3 and putting them in prime to position to make the playoffs. But securing the win was never easy.
Here's five moments from the Chiefs-Broncos game where the Chiefs seemed on the brink of defeat.
Coming off a disappointing loss in the previous week to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and facing a tough rivalry matchup on the road against the defending Super Bowl Champions, the odds were stacked against the Chiefs. Las Vegas odds makers predicted that the Broncos would win by 3.5 points, and ESPN's Win Probability Index, which tracks the likelihood that either team will win at any point in the game, gave the Chiefs just a 28.7 percent chance of winning at the start of the game. The Chiefs were not only clear underdogs, but facing an uphill battle against a strong Broncos team with one of the best defenses in the NFL.
The Last Three Minutes
The score was 16-24, and there was just 2:31 left in the game. The Chiefs had the ball on their own 18 yard line. They needed to go 82 yards to score a touchdown, then score a two-point conversion just to tie the game. They didn't have any timeouts. Quarterback Alex Smith had just been sacked for a loss of seven yards. They were on 2nd down and needed 17 yards just to get a first down.
According to ESPN's Win Probability Index, at this moment the Chiefs only had a 1.9 percent chance of winning the game, making that the point in the game in which the Chiefs were least likely to win. But on that play, the Chiefs gained seven yards and managed to stop the clock by getting out of bounds, which started their march down the field towards the end zone.
The (Literally) Last-Second Touchdown
Kansas City needed every second of that 2:31 seconds, because they scored their game saving touchdown with just one second remaining in the game. Smith threw a pass to Tyreek Hill, a rookie wide receiver who had the biggest game of his short professional career. Earlier in the game, Hill scored a running touchdown and a touchdown off of a kickoff return. He became the first player in NFL history to score a touchdown from a run, a pass and a kick return since Hall of Famer Gale Sayers, known as "The Kansas Comet," did it with the Chicago Bears in 1965.
The touchdown was a controversial point in the game. Hill's knee appeared to be down before he reached the end zone, and he also seemed to bobbled the ball as he was crossing the goal line. Initially, Hill was ruled to be down at the 1 yard-line, which would have ended the game before the Chiefs had another chance to score. But after a referee review, the call was overturned, and the Chiefs lived for another play. They still needed to score a crucial two-point conversion to tie the game and send it to overtime, and they scored it on a short pass to third-year tight end Demetrius Harris. With the game tied 24-24, they went into overtime.
The Broncos Field Goal
The Broncos got the ball first in overtime, and drove down all the way down to the Kansas City 19 yard line. The NFL's overtime rules meant that if Denver had gotten the final 19 yards and scored a touchdown, they would have automatically won the game. But on 3rd down, Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali sacked Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian for a loss of seven yards, forcing Denver to kick a field goal. Because they only kicked field goal, the Chiefs got one possession to either tie the game or win it outright. Kansas City scored a field goal on their possession, extending the game even further. But if they hadn't forced Denver into kicking a field goal in the first place, it could have all been over before the Chiefs even got a chance.
With the game tied 27-27, the Chiefs had the ball at the Denver 16 yard line with just five seconds left in the game. Denver had a chance to win the game, but missed a 62-yard field goal that would have been tied for the sixth-longest field goal in NFL history had it gone through the uprights. With time running out, Kansas City moved the ball as far as they could in 1:03. That set up a 34-yard field goal for Chiefs kicker Cairo Santos.
Santos' field goal try hit the left goal post and went across the face of the goal. Because of the weird angle the ball took after it bounced off the post, many fans were tricked into thinking the ball had bounced out, and that the field goal had missed. There was even confusion among Chiefs players; while some celebrated, others hung their heads and showed frustration that the kick had not gone through. But it was ultimately ruled a successful field goal, giving Kansas City a 30-27 lead just as time expired. Despite facing long odds, a tough opponent, and even an optical illusion, the Chiefs somehow managed to squeak by with a victory.
Aaron Pellish is a digital intern at KCUR 89.3