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23 years later, "That Kicker" still haunts Kansas City

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Lin Elliott

Kansas City Chiefs kicker Lin Elliott missed three field goals in the 1995 playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts. The game still haunts Kansas city to this day.

With the Kansas City Chiefs trailing the Indianapolis Colts 10-7 in a 1995 AFC Divisional round game, Chiefs quarterback Rich Gannon broke the huddle for a pivotal 3rd-and-6 on the Colts' 25-yard line. 

Gannon, in his first year with Kansas City, had replaced starter Steve Bono, who had started all 16 games of the regular season, in which the Chiefs achieved an NFL-best 13-3 record.

After a career season in which Bono racked up 21 touchdowns and 3,121 passing yards, it would be his replacement receiving the duty of commanding a game-winning drive.

A second-stringer that completed just 7-of-11 passes for 57 yards and zero touchdowns in a mere two games of action during the 1995 season, Gannon had the opportunity to immortalize himself in Kansas City history by sending the Chiefs to the AFC Championship game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Only, that potential “history” had different plans, with a different fate for Kansas City. 

It should be duly noted, Kansas City controlled its own destiny. With the league's best record, the only time the team would travel for a playoff game would be for the Super Bowl — only two games separated them from a potential championship for the first time since 1967.

The Chiefs had come close in 1994 behind the heroic efforts of future Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana, but they fell at the hands of a much more talented Buffalo Bills team.

In 1995, however, with perhaps the easiest path to undeniable greatness, the Chiefs would need a last minute miracle to keep that dream alive.

The five linemen trudged their way to the line of scrimmage, Gannon barked the snap count, and finally the ball was snapped.

Needing six yards, Gannon surveyed much farther than the first down marker.

The ball floated from the hands of Gannon and headed toward wide receiver Lake Dawson, a second year player out of Notre Dame.

Running a post route, Dawson leapt for the spiraling football near the goal line. However, he mistimed the jump, and the ball bounced off his hands.

With 42 seconds left in regulation, Chiefs coach Marty Schottenheimer sent out kicker Lin Elliott, who already faltered twice, to attempt a 42-yard field goal to tie the game.

Elliott had consecutive misses from 35 and 39 yards earlier in the game, making the upcoming 42-yard attempt seem all too daunting with the stakes at the highest point of his young life.

Elliott was a reliable 25-for-28 in his career, with two of those misses coming earlier in the night.

The special teams unit trotted onto the field well-aware that this was potentially the last chance the Chiefs had to extend their season.

If he makes it, Kansas City has momentum heading into overtime. If he misses, the blunder will haunt an entire fan base as the most devastating loss for decades to come.

The ball was snapped, Elliott took two steps and connected.

The ball wobbled toward the red sea of fans who were giving a valiant effort to will the ball through the uprights. But those same fans would leave disappointed.

For the third time in the game, Elliott missed. However, this miss would be the final nail in the coffin for the Chiefs and their season.

The Colts went on to win the game 10-7, but that served as more of an afterthought of what had just occurred. 

Elliott's legacy burned out like a candle in the wind after another playoff defeat.

The next season, he was out of football for good, his last kick inevitably becoming an infamous memory for the entire city.

But, the tale lives on. The bitterness that was felt still resides in the souls of “Chiefs Kingdom."

Even so, heartbreak has become synonymous with Kansas City in the playoffs.

Three years later in 1998, arch rival Denver, led by future Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway, came into Arrowhead Stadium and eliminated the Chiefs on a pass break up in the end zone on the team's final offensive play.

In 2003, Peyton Manning and the Colts stormed into Kansas City and didn’t net a single punt in a 38-31 shootout victory for Indianapolis.

In 2013, the Chiefs blew a 38-10 lead in the second half to Indianapolis after starting the season 9-0.

In 2016, the Steelers beat the Chiefs on six field goals and no touchdowns.

Last season, an undervalued Tennessee Titans team overcame a 21-3 deficit on the road and ended Kansas City’s season in the first round.

Again, postseason collapse has become a defining trait of the underachieving Chiefs. 

Yes. The misery has become well apparent in years since Elliott’s botched kick. But, finding the roots of just why Kansas City fails to live up to postseason expectations following regular season success can trace nowhere else but to that 1995 AFC Divisional round game.

The 2018 Kansas City Chiefs could very well be the best team in the NFL, boasting the league's best offense, and could buck the trend of collapsing in the clutch come January.

But, that ugly track record will surely temper expectations regardless of where quarterback Patrick Mahomes and company find themselves at the end of the regular season.

The losses over the years each have a signature moment that signifies the heartbreak endured each season, and it’s possible that the Lin Elliott story resembles what Steve Bartman means to Chicago Cubs fans.

But, as exaggerated as that must seem, there is a cure for it all. Bartman has mostly been forgiven since the Cubs' World Series win in 2016.

Can it be the same for Elliott if the Chiefs complete the job this season?

We won’t know until when or if it ever happens, but for now, Lin Elliott’s name will still be referred to by many as “That Kicker."  

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