1994 brings back memories, like the last Chiefs playoff win

Joe Montana congratulates J.J. Birden after a 11-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter against the Oilers.

Lynne Sladky/AP

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Ah, yes, 1994.

Back then, a gallon of gas cost $1.11. A stamp (remember them?) cost 29 cents.

It was the year when figure skater Tonya Harding and her ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, became household names for all the wrong reasons before the Winter Olympics, as skater Nancy Kerrigan and her wounded knee knew all too well.


It was the year an entire nation, it seemed, stayed glued to their television sets one June afternoon to watch coverage of a white Ford Bronco chugging along a California highway with 20 or so police cars in slow pursuit. That Ford Bronco, of course, was carrying O.J. Simpson, who was about to be charged with the murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman.

It was the year the Royals broke loose on a 14-game winning streak, and then were closing in on first place in the division (64-51, four games back) when Major League Baseball players walked off the field, orchestrating a strike that eventually led to the season being canceled.

And 1994 was the year in which the Kansas City Chiefs last won a playoff game.

That’s right, we are fast approaching the 20-year anniversary — Jan. 16, 1994 — of the Chiefs’ 28-20 win over the Houston Oilers, a game that also happened to be the last NFL playoff game ever played in the Astrodome.

Longtime Chiefs fans will remember that even though the Chiefs had Joe Montana, Marcus Allen, Derrick Thomas and Neil Smith on that team, it was the Oilers, riding an 11-game winning streak, who were favored by more than a touchdown.

And for at least a half, it looked like Vegas had the spread right as the Oilers seemed to be cruising with a 10-0 lead over the sputtering Chiefs.

But then Montana, who needed two pain-killing shots just to play because of sore ribs, started to heat up.

Less than five minutes into the second half, Montana hit tight end Keith Cash on a seven-yard touchdown strike to pull the Chiefs within 10-7. And what Chiefs fans probably remember most about that play is Cash’s celebration. Instead of spiking the ball in the end zone, he ran toward the stands and fired the ball at a huge poster of outspoken Oilers defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan.

Montana then put the Chiefs up 14-13 in the fourth quarter when, under heavy pressure, he fired an 11-yard touchdown pass to J.J. Birden.

Montana later tossed an 18-yard scoring throw to Willie Davis to extend the Chiefs’ lead to 21-13. It was a back-shoulder throw in front of cornerback Cris Dishman at a time in NFL history when the term "back-shoulder throw" didn’t even exist.

"I haven’t seen any quarterback throw a pass like that," Dishman said after the game.

The Oilers pulled within 21-20, but Montana again answered with a 41-yard duck to Cash — the pass wobbled because Montana got hammered as he threw. That long completion set up Allen’s 21-yard touchdown run and the Chiefs prevailed 28-20.

Afterward, Oilers players sat in their locker room in disbelief.

"Amazing, just amazing," safety Bubba McDowell said. "It’s almost like Joe Montana’s got magic. Seriously. How does he do it?"

But Montana’s magic ended the next week in Buffalo when he was sacked and bounced to the frozen turf at Rich Stadium, suffering a concussion on the third play of the second half. The Chiefs went on to lose that AFC Championship Game, 30-13.

You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter @jflanagankc or email jeffreyflanagan6@gmail.com.