At the heart of Kansas City's optimism was a belief in Schottenheimer's formula for success against the Raiders, one that has netted him 12 victories in 14 games against them since he became the Chief coach in 1989. To hear one former and two present chiefs tell it, Schottenheimer's teams thrive because of mental and physical toughness. "The Raiders think they're going to out-physical most teams, and with Kansas City they can't get away with that," says NBC analyst Joe Montana, who prepared for his broadcasting career by quarterbacking the Chiefs in '93 and '94. "Kansas City is way more disciplined, and the Chiefs don't get pushed around."
Allen, who jumped from the Raiders to K.C. after the '92 season, agrees. "On paper, as usual, they look like the more talented team," he says. "But Marty has a very good idea of how to beat them; you have to take it to them physically, hit 'em in the mustaches." And then, in Smith's words, "there always comes a point in the second half where they just lay down."
That didn't happen this time, but it didn't matter, because the Chiefs adhered to the most essential component of Schottenheimer's strategy: winning the turnover battle. Since 1990 the Chiefs have a takeaway-giveaway ratio of plus-81. The next-best team over that period, the Pittsburgh Steelers, are a distant plus-45.
The trend has continued because Montana's successor, Steve Bono, protects the football like Michelle Pfeiffer protects her privacy. In 98 passing attempts this season Bono has been intercepted once. He was brilliant in Kansas City's opening-game victory over the Seattle Seahawks and shook off poor starts to lead comeback triumphs over the New York Giants and the Raiders the last two weeks. Does his late-game poise remind Montana of anyone? "Reminds me of Bono," Montana said. He then rated his buddy, a 10-year backup until this season, one of the league's top 10 quarterbacks, "and maybe in the top five, behind the big names like John Elway but ahead of people like Jeff George."
Bono seized the Chiefs' first opportunity, connecting with Lake Dawson on a four-yard touchdown pass after former K.C. running back Harvey Williams fumbled on Oakland's opening drive. But Williams (20 carries, 74 yards) ran for a pair of second-quarter touchdowns while the K.C. offense stalled. The Chiefs trailed 17-7 before Bono got untracked on the first play of the fourth quarter, scrambling away from Pat Swilling and hitting Webster Slaughter 28 yards downfield. That set up a 19-yard TD pass to Willie Davis. Elliott tied the game with a 35-yard field goal, and a Dan Saleaumua interception (off Smith's deflection) gave K.C. a chance to win on Elliott's chip shot, but he shanked it.
In overtime, Allen, who earlier became the fifth NFL player to exceed 15,000 all-purpose yards, fumbled at the Oakland 38 after a 20-yard catch and gave the Raiders their opening. The visitors marched upfield and looked like winners until Hasty intervened, allowing the ex-Raiders to release their pent-up emotion.
Cunningham, upstairs in the coaches box, stood on a table and screamed as Hasty raced down the left sideline. Shell was more restrained, but don't let his demeanor fool you. Shell was so committed to winning this game that he spent time in defensive meetings, discussing the tendencies of his former players. "Yeah, he wanted it badly," said Smith.
Other than offering a brief, expletive-laced Davis imitation after the game, Allen also played it low-key. "I usually go home and make a lot of noise for the neighbors," he said. One of them is Peterson, who lives in the same K.C. condominium complex. "He's three floors up," said Allen, "and I usually don't scream that loud."
The voice that carries the most weight in Kansas City is Schottenheimer's. On Saturday he canceled a walk-through of the next day's game plan, instead treating his players to an impassioned pep talk that revealed his distaste for the Raiders and their owner. Said Hasty, "We found out this week how much Coach Schottenheimer wants to beat them."
Then, as usual, the Chiefs fastened their chin straps and delivered.