Former linebacker Willie Lanier was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame on August 2. On the field, the pieces started coming together for head coach John Mackovic. His offense displayed plenty of scoring punch, while the club’s defense and special teams became increasingly effective. With the team sitting at 3–3, Bill Kenney replaced Todd Blackledge for the second half of the season in a game against San Diego, guiding the club to a 42–41 victory. That win was the first of four consecutive triumphs with Kenney at the helm, the club’s longest winning streak since 1980. Poised with a 7–3 record after 10 games, three straight losses in November put the Chiefs playoff chances in jeopardy. Two December wins gave Kansas City a 9–6 mark, putting the Chiefs on the verge of their first postseason berth in 15 years.
The defining moment of the season came in the regular season finale at Pittsburgh on December 21. Despite being outgained in total yardage by a 515-to-171-yard margin, the Chiefs were able to notch a 24–19 victory as all of the team’s points came via special teams on a blocked punt return, a field goal, a kickoff return and a blocked field goal return. With a 10–6 record the Chiefs earned an AFC Wild Card berth, winning a tiebreaker with Seattle. Bill Kenney was injured in the fourth quarter of the Steelers contest, meaning Todd Blackledge would draw the starting assignment for the club’s first playoff contest since 1971, a 35–15 loss at New York.
Quarterback Pat Ryan led the Jets to the victory with 3 touchdown passes. The Chiefs scored first on a 67-yard drive capped by running back Jeff Smith. On their ensuing possession, the Jets faced fourth down and 6 on the Kansas City 33-yard line. Rather than attempt a long field goal, Ryan faked a handoff and rushed for a 24 yard gain. Two plays later, running back Freeman McNeil scored on a 4-yard rushing touchdown. In the second period, Ryan completed two touchdown pass: a 1-yarder to McNeil and an 11-yarder to wide receiver Al Toon. On the first play of the second half, Jets linebacker Kevin McArthur returned an interception 21 yards for a touchdown. Ryan later clinched the victory in the fourth period with a 6-yard touchdown pass to tight end Billy Griggs. The Chiefs' only scores in the second half was a blocked punt recovery in the end zone, and an intentional safety by the Jets.
McNeil finished the game with 135 rushing yards, 3 receptions for 16 yards, and 2 touchdowns.