STUDEBAKER’S MOTOR TURNS TIDE ON DEFENDING CHAMPS
Pittsburgh at Kansas City: November 22, 2009
Arrowhead Stadium experienced few Sunday smiles in 2009 as the Chiefs struggled to produce just one home victory on the season. The exception, however, came in late November when the defending Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers paid Kansas City a visit.
Terrible Towels flooded Arrowhead, turning the Sea of Red into a spotty pattern of Steelers fans attempts to create their own homefield advantage some 850 miles away from Heinz Field.
“We didn’t like that at all,” RB
And setting the tone early is exactly what Charles and his teammates did. Amidst a standing roar of Steelers fans waiving their towels for the game’s opening kick, Charles jump-started the contest for Kansas City, returning the opening kickoff for a 97-yard TD that gave the Chiefs a 7-0 lead a mere 16 seconds into the game.
“That set the tone because everybody was so excited because we were up, so all we had to do was maintain and we knew that if we just stuck in there and took our time and wasted some of the time off the clock, then we would have a chance to win the game,” said Charles.
It wasn’t long, however, until the Chiefs headed in the other direction. Grinding the clock was no longer an option after Pittsburgh rattled off 17 unanswered points in response to Charles’ return TD.
Down 17-7 at halftime, this Sunday looked like more of the same for a struggling Chiefs team searching for its identity.
Second-half help came immediately in the form of the somewhat anonymous
Just three months prior, Studebaker was anything but a sure bet to make the Chiefs 53-man roster. He’d arrived in Kansas City as little more than a special teams player that the previous administration had hoped to develop into a backup defensive end.
Shortly after Studebaker was plucked from Philadelphia’s practice squad the Chiefs experienced sweeping changes throughout the organization. A new general manager was hired to guide the franchise and, in turn, a new head coach was charged with implementing a new style of play.
Specific to Studebaker, the 4-3 defense was gone and he was asked to transform into a 3-4 outside linebacker. Through injury, he was on the field this Sunday making his first-career start against one of the most disciplined teams in all of football. Mistakes made by inexperienced players would be picked apart by QB Ben Roethlisberger and the rest of Pittsburgh’s play-makers.
But Studebaker didn’t perform like an inexperienced player starting at a new position for the first time. Instead, he played like a defensive MVP.
Pittsburgh got the ball to start the second half and immediately charged into Chiefs territory. A score likely spelled the end, but Studebaker picked off a Roethlisberger pass to give the Chiefs possession at their own 38-yard line.
Kansas City would capitalize on the turnover as QB
That score closed the Pittsburgh gap to 17-14. Both teams would go three and out on their next possession, setting the stage for one of the game’s pivotal plays.
With the Steelers setting in first and goal at the 10-yard line, Studebaker recorded his second interception of the day as he picked off Roethlisberger two yards deep in the end zone and returned it 94 yards to the Pittsburgh eight-yard line before he was eventually chased down by RB Rashard Mendenhall. That set up a 27-yard FG to knot the score at 17-17 with 0:09 left in the third quarter.
From that point forward, it wasn’t the same-old, same-old for Kansas City.
The Chiefs capped a dramatic comeback at Arrowhead with a 22-yard FG from rookie K
For the thousands of Steelers fans that packed Arrowhead and waved their Terrible Towels, there were no Sunday smiles while leaving Kansas City.
“It was by no means perfect, but you get a guy like Andy Studebaker, who I said all off-season there was nobody that was better, and then to see it translate into some of the things that kid did out there today,” Head Coach Todd Haley said. “I’m happy that some of that is starting to show because you need some positive reinforcement for as hard as these guys work. We push them hard and my philosophy is I’m not going to accept average or below. This job is not for the faint of heart and not a lot of games have been won around here. It’s nice to get a little reward against a team like that.”
FROM THE VAULT: GAME NOTES (11/22/09)
A Winning Streak: Kansas City has won back-to-back games for the first time since doing it vs. Cincinnati (10/14/07) and at Oakland (10/21/07). The Chiefs snapped a four-game overtime losing streak, securing a victory in OT for the first time since a 40-34 OT victory at Green Bay (10/12/03). It was Kansas City’s first overtime win at Arrowhead since a 26-23 victory vs. Denver (12/16/01). The Chiefs are 2-3 in games decided by seven points or less in 2009.
Turnover Stats: The Chiefs registered three takeaways, including two INTs by LB Andy Studebaker. Kansas City has forced four INTs the past two games. KC finished +2 for the third time this season. Dating back to ’95, KC has registered at least one game with two INTs at Arrowhead in every season over that span. During that timeframe, the Chiefs are now 34-4 (.895) at Arrowhead when forcing two or more INTs. CB
Third-Down Offense: KC converted 40.0% (six of 15) of its third-down opportunities, the club’s best mark since converting at a 50.0% clip (six of 12 ) vs. San Diego (12/14/08).
Cassel’s Comeback Win: QB Matt Cassel registered his first victory as a Chiefs starter at Arrowhead. It marked the fourth time in his career that he has rallied his team to a victory after being tied or trailing in the fourth quarter. Cassel recorded his 11th career multi-TD game, throwing TD passes to TE Leonard Pope and RB Jamaal Charles. Cassel now has 12 TD passes on the season and 35 for his career. Cassel finished the contest with a rating of 100.4, his first 100.0-rating game (min. 20 attempts) as a member of the Chiefs and the fifth of his career.
Studebaker’s Day: LB Andy Studebaker made his initial NFL start, becoming the first player from Wheaton College to ever start an NFL contest. He registered his first two career INTs, including one that he returned 94 yards, the fifth-longest INT return in Chiefs history. The Chiefs have had a player with two INTs in two consecutive games. S Mike Brown had two INTs at Oakland (11/15). Studebaker also registered half a sack vs. Pittsburgh.
Charles in Charge: RB Jamaal Charles returned the opening kickoff for a 97-yard TD, tying for the fifth-longest kickoff return in franchise history. It was the first kickoff return TD of his career and the first by the Chiefs since WR Dante Hall had a 96- yard TD vs. Philadelphia (10/2/05). Charles’ return marked the first time that Kansas City had returned the opening kickoff of a game for a touchdown since Hall had a 97-yard TD kickoff return vs. Denver (12/19/04). Charles caught a two-yard TD pass for his first TD reception of the season and the second of his career, marking the initial two-TD game of his career. Charles finished the game with a career-high 158 kickoff return yards.
Colquitt Ties KC Single-Season Record: P
Game-Winning FG: K Ryan Succop recorded the first game-winning FG of his career.
Chambers’ Day: WR Chris Chambers registered his 18th career 100-yard receiving game with 119 yards, his first 100-yard game as a member of the Chiefs. Chambers caught a 61-yard pass, Kansas City’s longest offensive play of the season. It was the Chiefs longest reception since RB Jamaal Charles had a 75-yard catch vs. Miami (12/21/08). In three games with Kansas City, Chambers owns two catches of 50 yards or more. KC had one 50-yard reception in the season’s first seven games.
Receiving Notes: TE Leonard Pope caught a 21-yard TD, his first TD as a member of the Chiefs and the sixth of his career. WR Lance Long registered a career-long 30-yard reception.
First-Quarter Shutout: Kansas City pitched a first-quarter shutout for the fourth time this season. It marked the fourth time Pittsburgh has been held scoreless in the first quarter in 2009.
Sack Stats: KC tied a season high with 3.0 sacks. S Mike Brown – 2.0 season/7.0 career; LB Derrick Johnson – 1.5
season/13.5 career; DE Alex Magee – 2.0 season/2.0 career and LB Andy Studebaker – 0.5 season/0.5 career.