Dustin Colquitt’s head drooped. He thought the Chiefs’ 34-yard field goal attempt to end overtime against Broncos had sailed wide.
The boot from Cairo Santos took a turn, but not wide enough to miss the upright. It clanked off the post, ricocheted and sailed on the back side of the other upright. The officials under the goal posted looked at each other, nodded and the one on the right raised his arms in the air. Good.
Colquitt was wrong, but not even Santos was sure immediately after the carom.
“I couldn’t see the referee because I’m kind of short, but people started grabbing me and they said, ‘You made it,’” Santos said. “It scared me a little bit because I thought I hit it pure enough and it just started to get a little too close to that upright.”
For the second time this season, Santos kicked a walk-off field goal. Sunday’s capped the Chiefs’ 30-27 victory over their division rival.
The first happened two weeks ago at Carolina in a 20-17 victory, capping an improbable comeback from two touchdowns down in the fourth quarter.
This triumph may have been even more unlikely – the Chiefs scored the game-tying touchdown and two-point conversation with 8 seconds remaining – and not possible without the play of the kicking operation.
Santos did his part by making all three field goals. Holder James Winchester not only made all the snaps, his fumble recovery off a Broncos’ muffed punt in the fourth quarter prevented Denver from setting up in excellent field position. Winchester fired down field after the snap.
Winchester’s contributions were especially meaningful. He was playing eight days after attending the funeral of his father, who was fatally shot on the job at the Oklahoma City airport.
“It was special,” Winchester said of the victory. “I’m just thankful for part of this team and contribute.”
Then there’s Colquitt. In windy conditions, he punted nine times for a 47.9-yard average, constantly shifting field position.
He also was the catalyst on the game’s first score.
Colquitt’s 61-yard punt pinned the Broncos at the 5, where two snaps produced three yards. On third down, outside linebacker Justin Houston blasted through to sack quarterback Trevor Siemian and cause a fumble. The Broncos recovered in the end zone, but the Chiefs had a safety.
The safety was immediately followed by Tyreek Hill’s electric 86-yard return for a touchdown on the free kick. The lead was then 9-0 and it could be traced back to Colquitt.
He entered the game ranked 18th in the NFL with a 45.8-yard average and ninth in net gain at 41.8 yards. Not All-Pro numbers.
But there’s a reason why he’s a 12-year pro for the same club. Colquitt also seems to understand the situation. He entered Sunday third in the NFL with 22 punts inside the 20.
Sunday, Colquitt made all the kicks, so did Santos, and the Chiefs don’t win without the contribution from the kicking operation.