Regardless of who was at fault, Vinatieri's 32-yard attempt in the closing seconds hit the right upright and bounced backward, allowing the Kansas City Chiefs to escape with a 16-14 victory over the previously unbeaten New England Patriots on Sunday.
"I could probably go out there and hit a hundred in a row right now. I just didn't hit one when I needed to," said Vinatieri, who had already booted three game-winning field goals this year for the Patriots (4-1).
"I got the ball caught on my thumb and I couldn't get the laces around," he said. "It was what I call a 3 o'clock lace, with the laces on the right side of the ball, and when that happens the kick usually goes wide right. Knowing Adam, he should hit that, but I just wanted everybody to know the hold was not up to my satisfaction."
The emotionally exhausted Chiefs (3-2) didn't care who took the blame.
"When I saw the ball hit the upright and kick back onto the field, the feeling was hard to describe," said safety Reggie Tongue. "It was awesome. We finally got a break to go our way."
The Chiefs then had to punt, giving the Patriots the ball on their 33 with 30 seconds to go. Bledsoe's 27-yard completion to Jefferson set up the field goal try by Vinatieri that missed with 4 seconds left.
"You talk about highs and lows and dying in two seconds," said Chiefs coach Gunther Cunningham. "I never feel lucky. You make your own luck."
If Johnson didn't want to take the blame, Bledsoe was willing. Near the end of the first half, Jefferson worked his way free deep in the secondary, but Bledsoe overthrew a sure touchdown.
"Adam Vinatieri should have never been in that situation to have to make that kick," said Bledsoe, who was 23-for-45 for 334 yards and his first two interceptions in four games. He also fumbled.
"It's my job as the quarterback, first and foremost, to hold onto the ball, not give it to the defense," he said. "I gave it to them three times today. If I don't do that, Adam's not in that situation."
Elvis Grbac, booed in a lackluster first half, engineered three second-half scoring drives as the Chiefs remained unbeaten in three home games and made sure there were no more unbeaten teams in the AFC.
The Chiefs, seeking to avenge last season's 40-10 loss to the Patriots, took a 16-7 lead with 4:52 left in the fourth period on Pete Stoyanovich's 23-yard field goal.
After Donnell Bennett's 1-yard TD run put the Chiefs on top 10-7 with 6:54 to go, Grbac set up a 41-yard field goal by Stoyanovich for a 13-7 lead.
Although the defense forced turnovers on the New England 7 and 33 in the first half, the Kansas City offense was able to get only three points. The New England linemen, obviously rattled by the deafening noise by nearly 80,000 fans, drew four false start penalties on their first nine plays from scrimmage.
On the 10th, Derrick Thomas came on a blitz and sacked Bledsoe, stripping the ball. Chester McGlockton recovered, tried to lateral before the Chiefs wound up with the ball on the 7. But the Chiefs had to settle for Stoyanovich's 23-yarder.
In the second quarter, Bledsoe threw his second interception of the year when linebacker Donnie Edwards jumped in front of Terry Glenn anreturned the ball 15 yards to the 33. But, as the big crowd booed, the Chiefs punted on fourth-and-11.
On their third possession, Bledsoe marched the Patriots 78 yards in just eight plays. On third-and-17, Glenn beat cornerback James Hasty on a 49-yard touchdown pass, putting the Patriots ahead 7-3 with 1:57 left in the quarter.
With less than a minute left in the half and the Patriots on their own 41, Jefferson got free in the secondary and did not have a defender within 20 yards. But Bledsoe overthrew him, squandering what would have been a sure touchdown.
"When you keep doing the things we were doing, the mistakes and the penalties, we were fortunate to be in a close game with a chance to win," said Bledsoe. "We are too good a team to keep beating ourselves."
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