KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Green Bay Packers’ perfect season came to a crashing halt against the struggling Kansas City Chiefs, who had just fired their coach and were starting a new quarterback.
Proof again that nothing can be taken for granted in the NFL.
Kyle Orton threw for 299 yards to outduel Aaron Rodgers, and the Chiefs rallied behind interim coach Romeo Crennel for a shocking 19-14 victory on Sunday that ended the Packers’ 19-game winning streak. It was their first loss since Dec. 19, 2010, at New England.
Green Bay, playing without leading receiver Greg Jennings and top rusher James Starks because of injuries, also failed to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
They can still wrap that up in their final two games against Detroit and Chicago, but no longer with the pressure of trying to become the second team in NFL history to win a Super Bowl with a perfect record. Their 19-game streak was second only to a 21-game run by New England in 2003-04.
Rodgers was 17 of 35 for 235 yards and a touchdown, and he also scampered 8 yards for another touchdown with 2:12 left in the game. But the Packers (13-1) were unable to recover the onside kick, and Kansas City picked up a couple of first downs to secure the victory.
Ryan Succop kicked four field goals for Kansas City (6-8), which had lost five of its last six games and fired coach Todd Haley last Monday. Jackie Battle added a short touchdown plunge with 4:53 left in the game, points that came in handy when Rodgers led one last scoring drive.
Neither team seemed as if it wanted to win in the first half.
Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson was hit twice with offensive pass interference, Rodgers was harassed by the Chiefs’ weak pass rush, and Green Bay wound up making five first downs.
One of them came when Kansas City’s Jeremy Horne ran into Packers punter Tim Masthay, giving them 15 free yards. The Chiefs tried to give Green Bay another gift later on the drive when Mason Crosby missed a 59-yard field goal attempt but Kansas City had 12 men on the field.
With another chance from 54 yards, the normally reliable Crosby still pushed the kick right.
Rodgers finished the half 6 of 17 for 59 yards, with a handful of drops between wide receiver Donald Driver and tight end Jermichael Finley. In fact, things were going so badly for Green Bay that at one point it ran out of the wildcat despite having one of the best quarterbacks in the game.
The Chiefs were still clinging to a 6-0 lead when Rodgers finally hit down field, finding Finley over top the coverage for a 41-yard gain. Three plays later, the Packers’ star quarterback hit Driver in the corner of the end zone for a 7-6 lead with 8:04 left in the third quarter.
Kansas City answered when Orton hit his own tight end, Leonard Pope, for a career-long 38-yard catch. Jon Baldwin added a 17-yard grab to set up Succop’s 46-yard, go-ahead field goal.
The Packers moved into field-goal range on their ensuing drive, but rather than have Crosby attempt a 56-yard kick in the same direction he had already missed, coach Mike McCarthy elected to go for it on fourth-and-9. Rodgers’ pass fell incomplete and the Chiefs took over.
They needed seven plays to cover 59 yards, but had to settle for another field goal and a 12-7 lead. It was the third time the Chiefs drove inside the 5 and had six total points to show for it.
They got seven on their next trip, though.
With first-and-goal at the 5, Thomas Jones managed to gain a yard and Le’Ron McClain bulled ahead for three more, setting up third down from just outside the goal line. Battle took the carry over the right side and powered into the end zone, giving the woeful Kansas City offense its highest-scoring game since the Chiefs beat San Diego in overtime in late October.
The Packers marched down field in the closing minutes, and Rodgers showed his moxie by scampering around the end for a touchdown that made it 19-14. But the onside kick ended up in the Chiefs’ hands, and they were able to pound out a couple first downs to secure the upset victory.
Green Bay came into the game averaging nearly 36 points, but was held to its lowest total since beating the Chicago Bears 10-3 in Week 17 last year. The Packers needed to win that game to make the playoffs, and wound up riding the momentum to a Super Bowl victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
All that momentum finally came to an end against the most unlikely of scenarios.