Momentum in Sunday’s Chiefs-Vikings game had flipped to purple after Mecole Hardman’s fumble on the second-half kickoff, setting up a short-field touchdown that gave Minnesota the lead.
A subsequent exchange of punts pinned the Chiefs at their own 3-yard line. The Vikings had put themselves in position to take command.
But in a flash, running back Damien WIlliams and the Chiefs’ offensive line flipped the script and the home team was on its way to a dramatic 26-23 triumph at Arrowhead Stadium.
Williams’ 91-yard touchdown run restored a 17-16 Chiefs advantage with 6 minutes, 13 seconds left in the third quarter, and although the Vikings would retake the lead again, that play proved to be the game’s biggest counter-punch.
“All I did was run,” Williams said.
Nobody in Chiefs history has covered more ground on a scoring run. Back in the bleak season of 2012, Jamaal Charles provided a ray of light with a touchdown run of the same distance at New Orleans.
Charles’ play couldn’t turn the course of a terrible season, but Sunday’s effort by Williams might have helped these Chiefs change theirs. They had dropped three of their previous four games, with all three losses coming at home.
Williams’ burst was energizing, and not just for him. An offensive line that has dealt with a load of injuries this season took great satisfaction in the moment.
“Words can’t describe how great of a feeling it is, seeing that go,” said guard Andrew Wylie, who returned to the lineup after a three-game absence. “That is a sweet, sweet thing, seeing a running back take off and seeing green, green grass in front him. It is a beautiful sight. We were due for one of those.”
The Vikings were in a blitz on the play and the Chiefs caught it perfectly. Wylie and fellow guard Mitchell Schwartz had the biggest clear-out blocks. Once WIlliams got to the second level, he had one player to beat: safety Anthony Harris.
Williams made a cut and left Harris in his dust.
“We had pressure coming off the outside,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “We got a little wide and missed two tackles.”
Vikings cornerback Mackensie Alexander gave chase, but he wasn’t going to catch Williams — wide receiver Tyreek Hill made sure of that. Hill raced toward Williams and provided a seal block and an escort to the end zone.
As he was racing toward the goal line, WIlliams saw the play unfold on the big screen on the west side of Arrowhead. That’s when he first noticed an object in red gaining on him.
“I thought (Hill) was coming on my other side,’ Williams said. “When he came to the right side, I almost dropped the ball. I know he made a great block. I could see it on the screen. LIke I said, all I did was run. Everybody else did the hard work.”
Williams finished with 125 rushing yards, the most for a Chiefs player in the regular season since he went for 103 at Seattle last season. The Chiefs entered the game 27th in the NFL in rushing, at 83 yards per game. Against a Vikings defense that ranked seventh in stopping the run, the Chiefs finished with 147 yards, their best showing of the year.
“They have a great defense and we had to match their intensity,” Williams said.
The touchdown run wasn’t Williams’ only contribution Sunday. On the first snap of the drive that produced Harrison Butker’s game-winning field goal, quarterback Matt Moore was sacked and lost the ball. Williams alertly fell on it.
But the record-tying long run was the play of the day, and maybe the season, for the Chiefs.