The game was beginning to unravel for the Kansas City Chiefs. Kansas City had fumbled away it’s second possession of the third quarter, and the Detroit Lions had the ball on the goal line set to break a 13-13 tie.
Quarterback Matt Stafford handed the ball off to running back Kerryon Johnson only to be stopped by a pile. Johnson reached the ball over the goal line but at some point lost its grasp.
The ball rolled on the ground.
“I saw it down, I didn’t hear no whistle, I saw my teammate pick it up and he kind of put it back down, and I still didn’t hear a whistle,” said Chiefs cornerback Bashaud Breeland. “So I just went and picked it up and just ran with it, just hoping it wasn’t down.”
Breeland ran the ball 100 yards down the field and crossed the opposite end zone. The referees signaled for a Chiefs touchdown as Detroit boos rained down. A regular football fan could reasonably assume the ball was coming back.
But upon official review, the ball had indeed come out, and the play was indeed live.
“That’s a veteran crew – maybe the most veteran crew,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said during his post-game presser. “They’ve been around awhile. (NFL Referee) Walt (Coleman) does a good job with all of that and I thought he did a nice job throughout – I mean he was the one following it, so he kept it alive.
“They get the advantage of the review after scores, so they had a chance to see, and turnovers.”
In the matter of one play, instead of the Lions going up 20-13, the Chiefs did, and it changed the flow of the entire game. The Lions would still take the lead twice before the Chiefs eventually won, 34-30.
But had Breeland not made the heads-up play, it is worth wondering whether the Chiefs would have had an opportunity to come back and win.
“The turnovers really helped us out,” Breeland added. “Everybody had a slow start and those were able to keep us within the game. If we didn’t create those turnovers, the game could have really got out of hand. They started punching us in the mouth early. They came with the energy of first home, first half, first quarter, so we had to find ways to really slow them down. You know, they home, they got the crowd behind them and they are feeling energetic.”
Breeland finished with two tackles, one pass defensed and the most important fumble recovery of his playing career.