KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)—He cut left, then right, then stutter-stepped and actually ran backward toward the end zone.
Surrounded by Denver tacklers and just a couple of yards from the goal line, Dante Hall cut back left, looped around to the outside and darted 93 yards into the end zone—and the record book.
His NFL record fourth touchdown return in four games came with 8:20 left and gave Kansas City a 24-23 victory over Denver and the Chiefs’ first 5-0 start.
But to the other Chiefs players, the game between previously unbeaten AFC West rivals was almost secondary. They all seemed to want to talk about their remarkable teammate.
“He’s a human highlight reel,” Chiefs defensive end Eric Hicks said. “He’s like Michael Jordan. It’s ridiculous. The play he made, really nobody was blocked on the initial part of the play. My God, I’ve never seen anything like that in my life.”
Hall began his streak with a 100-yard kickoff return against Pittsburgh, then had a 73-yard punt return against Houston and followed with a 97-yard kickoff return for a score against Baltimore. Until then, nobody in NFL history had ever had touchdown returns in more than two consecutive games.
Now with 11 regular-season games left, Hall has already tied the NFL’s single-season record for touchdown returns.
“I was beside myself I was so excited for him,” head coach Dick Vermeil said. “I said to myself, `Oh, Dante, don’t go backwards.”’
The Broncos (4-1) had never trailed when Micah Knorr punted to Hall with a little more than 8 minutes left.
When he started running backward, he feared he might be about to get tackled for a safety and be guilty of a colossal error.
“I thought, `Oh, I’ve got to get out of this jam,”’ Hall said with a laugh.
But the Chiefs didn’t have a return set up. By the time he finally got outside, there were plenty of blockers to clear the way.
“The first part of that return was not smart at all,” Hall said. “I caught it maybe on the 8, then I retreated back to the 5, then the 2. I got dumber and dumber and dumber.”
Dating to last season, Hall has seven touchdown returns in 10 games.
“He’s the best in football,” said Denver wide receiver Chris Cole, a former teammate of Hall’s at Texas A&M. “Probably one of the best ever. One guy’s not going to tackle him. You have to put 11 hats on him. You can’t have a let down.”
The Broncos might have had an insurmountable lead had they scored a touchdown after getting a first-and-goal from the 4 late in the third. But three runs netted only 2 yards and Jason Elam kicked his third field goal, a 21-yarder, for a 23-17 lead.
On the third play of the third quarter, Clinton Portis broke through a big hole on the right side and ran 65 yards for Denver’s longest run in almost three years, putting the Broncos on top 20-10.
Then Trent Green hit Eddie Kennison for 12 yards to launch a 5-play, 77-yard drive that pulled Kansas City to 20-17. After Priest Holmes picked up 22 yards on a run and 6 on a shovel pass, Johnnie Morton beat Deltha O’Neal in the end zone for a 28-yard touchdown catch.
Gary Stills recovered a muffed punt on the Denver 25. And on third down from the 20, Green threw a jump ball into the end zone and 6-foot-4 Tony Gonzalez easily outleaped 5-11 Nick Ferguson for the touchdown.
Morten Andersen kicked a 23-yard field goal, drawing Kansas City even at 10 in the second quarter after Elam had kicked a 48-yarder for Denver.
O’Neal appeared to have a 64-yard punt return for a touchdown. But the play was called back by a holding call on Donnie Spragan. Then on the final play of the half, Elam made it 13-10 with a 29-yarder.
Hall said he’s feeling more confident than ever.
“It’s kind of bringing me back to my high school days when I was so confident and so natural that I was able to do things that I did today,” Hall
Elam’s 48-yard field goal moved him past former Chiefs kicker Pete Stoyanovich for 20th place on the NFL’s career scoring list. … Portis’ 65-yard touchdown run was the longest of his career and the longest run by a Bronco since Mike Anderson’s 80-yard touchdown run against Seattle in 2000. … Gonzalez has caught a pass in 41 consecutive games. He tied Otis Taylor forsecond on the Chiefs career receptions list with 410.