KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 31: Andy Studebaker #96 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates after recovering a fumble late in the 4th quarter during the game against the San Diego Chargers on October 31, 2011 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
San Diego Chargers QB Philip Rivers made the play everyone will remember years down the line when he fumbled the quarterback-center exchange with C Nick Hardwick (for the first time in six years together) on Monday Night Football against the Kansas City Chiefs. But it's what happened after that fumble that we should remember because that fumble didn't recover itself.
The ball came loose from Rivers' hands, falling to the ground and -- boom! A big pile of dust as just about every player on the field hops on the pile.
"Anytime you see that kind of activity, you know there's a loose ball, an opportunity," Andy Studebaker, who recovered the fumble, said after the game.
The play was a first and 10 from the Chiefs 15-yard line with just over a minute left. A tie game and the Chargers in field goal range, this game was basically over. Everyone in the stadium knew the game was over. The Chargers would run it, former Chief Nick Novak would come out and kick the game-winner.
It's a 5-10 minute walk from the press box down to the locker room so, right before that play, I had already packed up all my stuff, grabbed my recorder and my notebook and stood up, ready to head downstairs and question the Chiefs about what this feels like. Matt Cassel said on 810 WHB this morning that he was standing on the sidelines with his arms crossed, a little ticked off. Like the rest of us, we just knew the game was over.
But Derrick Johnson said that things were different in the defensive huddle. Studebaker was rallying the troops telling them the game isn't over yet. It sure looked like it, but the clock hadn't struck zero.
As Rivers took the snap, a single firework went off. I don't know where it came from but I heard it up in the press box. Rivers says he didn't hear anything but Le'Ron McClain said he did.
"It was crazy," McClain said of the Rivers' fumble. "I was looking up at the sky wondering why the fireworks went off and then the crowd went crazy."
"I just took it," Studebaker said. "I held on for dear life, and someone pulled me off the pile. You couldn't have gotten that out of my grip once I had it."
(Related: Video of the Rivers fumble.)
Studebaker didn't say whether he landed on the ball first or whether it changed hands a few times but DJ told us after the game that the ball will move around from player to player a few times in those piles before someone eventually comes out with it.
Luckily for the Chiefs, that was Studebaker. The same guy who was in the huddle prior to the play telling everyone that this game, the one where the Chiefs were almost assuredly going to lose, wasn't over yet.
"This place was unbelievable," McClain said. "Just running out the stadium, the tunnel at the beginning of the game was amazing. Those fans...just amazing. Arrowhead is unbelievable. And then the fireworks went off before the fumble so that was smooth."