KANSAS CITY — The football year is winding down for Kansas City the way it was supposed to start.
With one game left, there’s not enough time for this season-ending surge that has reached four straight victories to accomplish a thing.
Things like Saturday’s thrilling 31-30 win against Oakland in the last home game of 2004 are merely slapping a coat of bittersweet paint on an otherwise gray campaign, one that was ruined before it could begin.
“Now I think we’re starting to come around as a team,” said Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez, who has had one of the greatest years of his splendid career. “And that’s translating into wins for us.”
The Chiefs will close out the year Sunday at San Diego, and a victory would send them into training camp next July on the heels of an 8-8 season. A 1-3 start and a four-game losing skid in November doomed the Super Bowl hopes that had billowed after last year’s 13-3 campaign.
“This (winning streak) shows what could have been,” said Gonzalez, who caught 11 passes for 124 yards and two touchdowns against the Raiders.
“It’s frustrating and sad. But at the same time, I’m happy for the four wins. Hopefully we close it out at San Diego and go out 8-8, finish .500. But next year I think this is going to be a pretty good football team.”
Without a doubt, the Chiefs have been an entertaining team to watch this year. Saturday’s win completed a season sweep of the Raiders and was in doubt until the final play.
Lawrence Tynes, an NFL rookie, got his first winning field goal when he hit a 38-yarder with 22 seconds left . The kick was set up by Dante Hall’s 49-yard kickoff return.
Sebastian Janikowski’s 46-yard field goal, after Trent Green’s fumble, had just given the Raiders a 30-28 lead.
Hall waited as the expected squib kick bounced perfectly into his arms and then did what Chiefs fans have seen him do so many times.
Typically, Hall gave credit to his blockers, but unlike his 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown several weeks ago, he had to bob and weave and dodge several would-be tacklers.
“We had a middle wedge,” Hall said. “The guys did a great job of staying on their man. I had two or three lanes to choose from. It was a total team effort, not one man.”
It probably would be no consolation to the Raiders (5-10) to know that Hall was hurting. An ankle had been giving him trouble all week.
“My ankle was killing me and my hamstring was trying to get tight on me,” he said. “So I just put my head down and prayed to God, ‘Let me have my legs.’
“I got the opportunity and we took full advantage of it.”
The last-minute field goal rescued Green, who had a terrific night save for one play, when he fumbled with under 2 minutes left. That gave the Raiders the chance to set up Janikowski’s go-ahead field goal.
After Hall’s long return, Tynes still needed to get a few yards closer, so Green went into action. He hit two quick passes, including one to Gonzalez, and Tynes did the rest.
“Every game is like this,” said Green, who hit 32 of 45 passes for 358 yards, including the two touchdowns to Gonzalez.
With one game left, the Chiefs already have piled up 6,252 yards of total offense, breaking the team record of 6,000 set in 2002.
“The old cliche is character and all of that stuff, but I think we played like a real good football team tonight and played against another football team that played like a good football team, regardless of their won-loss records,” Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil said.
“At this late in the year, to play that hard, and on two short weeks in a row, is a tremendous tribute to our guys.”