It has been quite a while since the Rams' Jim Benton set the NFL single-game record of 303 yards receiving against the Detroit Lions. The Chicago Cubs had just gone to the World Series and the Rams still considered Cleveland their home.
That was 1945.
Just more than 40 years later, Benton's record finally fell as Kansas City wide receiver Stephone Paige caught eight passes for 309 yards in the Chiefs' 38-34 victory over the Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium.
"I was talking to my coach, Richard Williamson, before the game and told him I wanted to go out with a bang," Paige said. "It's nice. I wasn't even around when it was set."
Said Chief Coach John Mackovic: "It was a super performance. He hustles and runs hard and is one of the greatest practice players we have. Today when they gave him single coverage, he ran through them and our quarterbacks found him time and again."
Paige had six catches for 258 yards, including touchdown receptions of 56 and 84 yards in the first half. He was knocked out in the third quarter of Sunday's game, but he returned minutes later. He wasn't going to let this day end early.
"It wasn't just to go for a record," Paige said. "I'm the kind of guy that's going to play until they break my leg."
Paige broke Benton's record when he caught a 12-yard pass from Bill Kenney with less than six minutes to play.
Sunday's game was a microcosm of the Charger season.
Charger Coach Don Coryell's halftime speech was as explosive as his offense's second half performance.
"He got kind of hyper at halftime," wide receiver Trumaine Johnson said. "He was feeling some kind of pressure. I was kind of surprised because I never saw him that hyper before."
Said running back Lionel James: "He came in and told us we weren't playing our style of football. Any head coach down 30 points is not going to speak too softly."
San Diego looked lifeless and trailed last-place Kansas City at halftime, 35-6. Coryell was only too aware that Charger owner Alex Spanos is scheduled to make a decision regarding his future today.
Last Wednesday, Spanos hinted to the press that he would bring back Coryell for at least the final year of his contract, which expires at the end of the 1986 season.
Spanos said he would be "satisfied with an 8-8 season."
Despite scoring 21 straight points in the final quarter, San Diego fell short and finished 8-8. The Chargers finished in fourth place in the AFC West and did not gain its first winning season in three years.
As has been his custom throughout the second part of the season, Coryell would not comment on the status of his job. He also did not want to discuss what took place in the Charger clubhouse at halftime.
"No," he screamed, "I don't believe the players quit. We just played poorly. There's not a quitter on this team.
"We screwed it up offensively and defensively in the first half. But the guys came back even though it seemed hopeless."
Until the final 10 minutes of the game, when San Diego scored three touchdowns to make it close, the Charger highlight was a record-setting performance by James.
He gained 242 yards to set an NFL single-season all-purpose yardage record of 2,535. The 5-foot 6-inch running back returned the second-half kickoff 21 yards to break Terry Metcalf's mark of 2,462 yards set while he was with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1975.
"It is a great individual honor," James said. "It is something to be proud of and something I'll be able to look back on and say I did."
A lot of people won't be able to say they saw James and Paige set their records.
On a sunny and 45-degree day, a season-low crowd of 18,178 came to 78,097-seat Arrowhead Stadium. There were 14,544 no-shows.
When two women in the stands were asked why they had come to Sunday's game, Marsha Lutz said: "I had no choice. My husband David plays for the Chiefs. And Debbie is my loyal friend."
There were probably a lot more folks shopping at Crown Center than watching the Chiefs and Chargers combine for 968 yards.
Using a hurry-up, no-huddle offense throughout much of the second half and taking the short passes and runs that the Chief defense basically gave them, the Chargers narrowed the gap to 38-34 on three touchdowns passes by Mark Herrmann and a two-yard run by Tim Spencer.
"We knew they would lay back and not come after us and not play the run," tight end Kellen Winslow said. "We'd take the short stuff, work it down the field and not panic."
Running back Gary Anderson's slashing cuts and darting moves paced the San Diego offense in the second half. He caught 9 passes for 91 yards and gained 72 yards on 12 carries.
"Gary is a tremendous athlete and you want to get him the ball as much as you can," Herrmann said.
Like the offense, the Charger defense played one terrible half and one good one.
Nick Lowery's 34-yard field goal late in the third quarter was Kansas City's only score in the second half.
"In the first half we weren't really there mentally," safety Gill Byrd said. "We had a lot of mental errors."
Chief quarterback Todd Blackledge completed 4 of 7 passes for 143 yards and 1 touchdown before leaving the game in the second quarter with a dislocated right thumb. Bill Kenney played the rest of the game and completed 9 of 16 passes for 200 yards and 2 touchdowns.
"At halftime, we talked about saving the season," Byrd said. "You never want to get blown out, and we were playing for pride and respectability."
After Herrmann hit Johnson on a 20-yard touchdown pass with 3:48 to play, the Chargers had momentum and a chance until Chief running back Mike Pruitt gained seven yards on a third and five from the Kansas City 43-yard line with 1:43 to play.
San Diego had no timeouts remaining, and the Chiefs ran out the clock.
"We never felt we were out of the game because we know we can score a lot of points," Anderson said. "But we came up short."
At halftime, the thought of second-guessing the calls on any specific plays would have seemed ridiculous. However, with San Diego finally losing by four points, Coryell might have been thinking twice about two field goal attempts.
With three seconds to play in the first half, Thomas kicked a 26-yarder on a second and goal from the Kansas City 8-yard line. It was a surprising call since that kick only made it 35-6.
On the Chargers' first drive of the second half, Thomas missed a 32-yarder on a fourth and seven from the Kansas City 15-yard line.
"I thought we could at least get something out of it," Coryell explained.
There were no more Charger field goal attempts after that. San Diego recovered one of three onside kicks and scored all four of its touchdowns in the second half.
Herrmann, starting in place of the injured Dan Fouts, attempted a team-record 58 passes and tied a team mark by completing 37. Fouts set the previous record of 56 attempts last Nov. 8 against Miami. Fouts also set the completion mark in that game.
"Herrmann responded well after throwing some bad balls," Coryell said. "He sure isn't a quitter. None of these guys are."
Charger Notes Almost incredibly, Dan Fouts played in Sunday's game. When Mark Herrmann got the wind knocked out of him in the fourth quarter, Fouts entered the game with the Chargers facing a third and one at the Chief 2-yard line. Fouts handed off to Tim Spencer, who ran off the left side for a touchdown. Fouts had a broken bone in his left leg and a bruised left knee. Why use Fouts instead of Joe Dufek, who was acquired after Fouts got hurt? "It was a running play," Coach Don Coryell said. "Dan could have played more. He's probably played with a worse leg."
A Paige for the Record Book
First Quarter No. 1--56 yards from Todd Blackledge for touchdown on first and 10.
No. 2--51 yards from Blackledge from the Chief 38 to the San Diego 11 on third and 12.
Second Quarter No. 3--30 yards from Blackledge from Chief 46 to Charger 24 on first and 10.
No. 4--17 yards from Bill Kenney from Chief 13 to Chief 30 on second 12.
No. 5--84 yards from Kenney for touchdown on third and 12.
No. 6--20 yards from Kenney from Charger 26 to Charger 6 on first and 10.
Third Quarter No. 7--39 yards from Kenney from Chief 26 to Charger 35 on third and eight.
Fourth Quarter No. 8--12 yards from Kenney from 50 to Charger 38 on first and 10.