Ten years ago, Philip Rivers fumbled the snap. Yes, it’s been exactly 10 years. That play was crazy both on and off the field. I attended the Monday Night Football showdown between the Chiefs and Chargers at Arrowhead. I want to share my perspective as a fan who was in attendance that night at section 313 (I will explain why my seat location is important) and what happened 10 years ago.
The 2011 season was a weird one. The Chiefs started 0-3 and were outscored 109-27 in their first three games. They lost Tony Moeaki (in the preseason), Eric Berry, and Jamaal Charles to season-ending injuries. Coincidentally, all of them suffered a torn ACL. But the Chiefs battled back and found themselves in the hunt for the division. Ten years ago to the day, the Chiefs and Chargers met at Arrowhead and were playing for first place in the AFC West.
Exactly 10 years ago today, Philip Rivers fumbled the snap in one of the craziest endings in Chiefs history.
Chiefs fans were stoked that night. They aired Len Dawson’s video introduction at the stadium, which was also seen on the ESPN broadcast. The video ended with Dawson saying “Kansas City will rise again on Monday Night Football.” That video intro fired up every fan in attendance as the team took the field.
A quick recap of the game leading up to the fumbled snap: a pair of field goals from Ryan Succop and a nice touchdown catch by Jonathan Baldwin helped give the Chiefs a 13-3 lead at halftime. The Chargers quietly came back with three field goals in the third quarter. The Chiefs extended their lead to eight after a Jackie Battle touchdown run. However, the Chargers manufactured a 10-play touchdown drive, followed by a two-point conversion to tie the game at 20.
Matt Cassel and the Chiefs’ offense failed to get anything going and had to punt after a three-and-out. The Chargers slowly got close to the end zone while running off as much time as possible. A lot of fans left at the two-minute warning. The Chiefs used their third timeout with 1:48 to go.
More fans started to leave. My family and I got up from our seats and were getting ready to leave. The last thing we wanted to see is the Chargers kick a field goal to steal a win at Arrowhead. Might as well beat the traffic on a late Monday night, right?
Then something crazy happened.
On first-and-10 at Kansas City’s 15-yard line with 1:04 left to go in regulation (and remember, the Chiefs have no timeouts), all sorts of craziness happened. I’m sitting in the south end zone at section 313, and I saw fireworks going off. The first firework went off a split-second before the Chargers snapped the ball. The Chargers snapped the football, and then two more fireworks were set off.
As I’m getting ready to leave, my attention is fully on the fireworks and not the field because I am assuming the Chargers are just going to run and center the ball for their field goal kicker. I am confused why fireworks are going off.
All of a sudden, I see Andy Studebaker has the football in his hands and the Chiefs defense is celebrating. The Chiefs’ offense is coming back to the field.
What is going on? Fireworks were going off for a few seconds and the Chiefs somehow came away with the ball when the Chargers were a minute away from winning the game.
Needless to say, we sat back down and a few fans even rushed back to their seats. Some had already left. I opened my phone to check Twitter. Fans at home were making fun of Rivers for fumbling the snap. But I have no idea how the fumble happened. Keep in mind, this was before people had the capability of uploading videos and gifs instantly to Twitter. I’m at the stadium and still unaware of how the fumble occurred since there was no replay shown at the stadium. When I got home, I checked my DVR and saw Rivers’ hands were clamped together during the snap and that is how the fumble occurred. I was in shock. I replayed it several times and could hear the fireworks during that play.
The fireworks thing was confusing. I wondered if a stadium employee accidentally did it or if this came from the parking lot. If you sat in the first or second levels behind the north end zone, there was no possible way of seeing it. Either your back was to the spot where the fireworks were set off or you were sitting in a covered area, making it impossible to see or even know what happened.
From my vantage point behind the south end zone, sitting in the nosebleeds and facing the spot where the fireworks were set off, you could see it clearly.
The entire game is available on YouTube. Click here to watch and go to the final minute of the fourth quarter and turn up the volume. You will hear fireworks at 1:05, 1:02, and 1:00 left in regulation.
Chiefs fullback Le’Ron McClain said he saw the fireworks from the sidelines. Many wondered if the fireworks possibly distracted Rivers and caused him to fumble the snap. Rivers was asked after the game if the fireworks distracted him, but he said he did not hear them.
After an interception from Cassel, the game went into overtime. The Chargers got possession first but punted after a three-and-out. The Chiefs put together a 14-play drive, capped off by a 30-yard field goal from Succop to win the game. In honor of Halloween, Chiefs players celebrated on the field wearing Scream masks. Rivers was seen on the sidelines saying “worst day ever.”
I remember very few things about that night. I recall Baldwin’s nice touchdown catch. Outside of that, not much else. But the fumble and the fireworks, I still remember every second of that—the craziest ending to a Chiefs game.