The game already had its share of mood shifting junctures, but for a moment the Chiefs faced the ultimate buzz kill.
In overtime, the Chiefs had driven to the Ravens’ 12 on their first possession. A touchdown would end the game, but at this point nothing less than a field goal would suffice.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes took the snap and scrambled. As he moved out the pocket, the ball slipped from Mahomes’ grasp and landed on the turf.
A Baltimore recovery could have meant disaster.
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Instead, left tackle Eric Fisher dove on the ball for the recovery, saving the possession that led to the game-winning field goal in the Chiefs’ 27-24 triumph that allowed them to clinch a spot in the playoffs.
“We need that ball, so I got to go get it,” Fisher said when asked about his reaction to the fumble.
The Chiefs lost 13 yards on the play. But they retained possession. The next play picked up eight yards on a short pass to Darrel Williams, the first reception in the career of the undrafted free-agent rookie.
That got eight yards back, and after an incompletion, Harrison Butker’s 35-yard field goal stayed just inside the upright for the lead. The Chiefs held on defense to clinch a victory that might not have happened without Fisher’s head’s up play.
“Talk about a huge play in the game,” Chiefs center Mitch Morse said. “In a big moment like that, it’s the play we needed, and he was able to come up with it.”
There’s an element of right place at the right time with such plays, but a touch of instinct also is required.
“I’m not looking at it, but there’s a feeling that the ball’s either gone by now or something else is happening, so you take a look around,” Fisher said. “You don’t hear a whistle and you go until the play is finished. You don’t stop.”
At he end of the day, the offensive line held its own against the team with the NFL’s top-ranked defense heading into the game.
The Ravens had held their previous three opponents to an average of 212 total yards. The Chiefs finished with 441. Running back Spencer Ware, getting his second start in place of dismissed superstar Kareem Hunt, rushed for 75 yards on 15 attempts.
Mahomes was sacked three times and pressured into an ugly interception. And the Chiefs had to go for more than two quarters without starter Cameron Erving, who suffered a knee injury. Jeff Allen finished the game.
“There are definitely some things we can work on, but that was an extremely hard-nosed defense,” Morse said. “Today, we came out and completed.”
And fell on the ball at the right moment.