HALLELUJAH! We’ve waited a long time for this. Let’s savor the playoff win in Houston. The pressure is off.
After watching Blair Walsh miss that chip shot field goal attempt, which ended the Vikings season, it makes me appreciate how valuable Cairo Santos has been to the Chiefs. Nobody cares about a kicker until he shanks and blows one of those layups at a critical juncture in the game. On the network highlights, they show us the 75 yard touchdown pass and then mix in a bone crushing hit that forces a fumble. They never show us a field goal unless it’s a game ending miss.
I can’t tell you the number of times that 27 yard hook by Walsh made the highlight shows. It reminds me when Lin Elliott was run out of town twenty years ago after missing 3 field goals in the Chiefs 10-7 playoff loss to the Colts at Arrowhead. The Chiefs had the #1 seed that season. Home field advantage all the way and blew it in their first playoff game.
The most agonizing and unforgettable miss in Chiefs playoff history happened on Christmas Day 1971 at Municipal Stadium, 22nd and Brooklyn. I was there on the sidelines. I can recall it was unseasonably warm and balmy with temperatures in the 60s on December 25th. It’s a game that wouldn’t end – the longest in NFL history – still is. It went double overtime, 82 minutes and 40 seconds. Jan Stenrud, a good friend who lives in KC, is still uncomfortable talking about that 31 yard miss in regulation. That was 45 years ago but the Hall of Fame kicker still can’t shake the loss to the Dolphins. It began a 15 year playoff drought for the Chiefs. It’s been a little bit of feast or famine over the years for this franchise after playing in 2 of the first 4 Super Bowls.
I digress. Back to Santos. He has been money all season for the Chiefs. I believe Santos is one of the reasons Andy Reid is so conservative in the play calling. Big Red knows he has a sturdy leg that can split the uprights from long range and put points on the board. He doesn’t need the deep ball and the risk of a turnover. Look at the Cincinnati game earlier this season. Santos kicked 7 field goals scoring all the Chiefs points.
Looking ahead to Saturday’s game at Foxboro, Chiefs fans can take comfort in the fact Santos doesn’t seem like a guy who would choke with the game on the line. He made 4 from 50 yards and beyond this season. Heck, he made a pair of back-to-back 49 yard field goals in Saturday’s blowout win at Houston.
In the playoffs, Tom Brady is 14-3 at home but this New England team has been riddled by injuries. They’ve gone through 5 left tackles this season. That plays right into the Chiefs wheelhouse. Their pass rush will be the key difference just like every week. Keep in mind; the Patriots have lost 4 of the last 6 games. The outcome will ride on the leg of Santos. He will be good for 3 field goals as Andy Reid will play it close to the vest. When the dust settles Saturday night, the Chiefs will be only one victory away from playing in Super Bowl 50. Oh My!
Prediction: Chiefs 23 Patriots 20