Kansas City wide receiver Stephone Paige broke a 40-year-old NFL record Sunday when he caught eight passes for 309 yards as the Chiefs beat the San Diego Chargers, 38-34, in front of 18,178 fans at Arrowhead Stadium.
Paige's 12-yard reception in the fourth period broke the record of 303 yards set in 1945 by Jim Benton of the Cleveland Rams and brought praise from even the Charger defensive backs.
A willowy 6-foot 2-inch wide receiver, Paige caught on with the Chiefs as a free agent from Fresno State in 1983 after having played in junior college at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo and in high school at Long Beach Poly.
Paige admitted he could hardly believe what he had done.
"Some teams don't get that much in a whole game," he said. "When I look at it on paper, it's unbelievable. I wanted to go out with a big bang."
Instead, he started out that way.
After gathering in a 56-yard touchdown pass down the middle from quarterback Todd Blackledge in the first quarter, he teamed with Bill Kenney in the second period for an 84-yard touchdown play on what looked like the same pattern.
Kenney and Blackledge both said the touchdowns were at least partly the result of "safety errors," and Paige agreed.
"I'd beat my man in the safety and, for some reason, he wouldn't move. He'd stay there. I'd stick the safety and run right past him. Once the ball got there, all I had to do was run with the ball. It seems like he wasn't flying out of there," Paige said.
Strong safety Gill Byrd of San Diego did not take issue.
"It was just a matter of blown coverages," Byrd said. "A couple of times he made great plays, but we just didn't play defense the way we were supposed to play. I don't mean to take anything away from him; he had a fabulous day and he's a great receiver--no doubt about it. But a couple of times on the long passes we just blew the coverage."
Paige had 258 yards receiving in the first half alone on receptions covering 56, 51, 30, 17, 84, and 20 yards. He caught a 39-yard aerial from Kenney in the third quarter but suffered bruised ribs on the play. However, he returned to the game wearing a flak jacket and broke the record with a 12-yard catch, his shortest of the game, in the fourth period.
Scoring 28 points in the second quarter, the Chiefs finished 6-10 and failed to make the playoffs for the 14th consecutive time. The Chargers finished 8-8.
San Diego running back Lionel James set an NFL record for all-purpose yardage. He had 242 yards running, receiving and kick returning for a season total of 2,535 yards, breaking the record of 2,462 set by Terry Metcalf of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1975.
Avenging an earlier loss this year to the Chargers, the Chiefs jumped to a seemingly safe 35-6 halftime lead. Paige got the first score with his 56-yard reception from Blackledge.
Herman Heard then scored on a 7-yard run and Mike Pruitt scored from a yard out following a Kansas City interception to make it 21-3 with 11:41 left in the first half.
Blackledge suffered a jammed thumb early in the second quarter and was replaced by Kenney.
Late in the half, Kenney leaned back and hurled a bomb that Paige caught near the Charger 30 and turned into an 84-yard touchdown play.
The Chargers scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns in a futile comeback attempt.