The Chiefs' Dick Vermeil is not only on one of the hottest
coaching streaks of his career--the Chiefs are 5-0 for the first
time in their storied 44-year history--but he's also successfully
moonlighting in the prophesy business. Six days before his team's
AFC West battle of the unbeatens with the Broncos, Vermeil was
talking about his amazing return man, Dante Hall.
"Dante's the best I've ever been around," said the 66-year-old
Vermeil. "I'm going to tell you this: You'll see a better return
for a touchdown than you've seen."
The 5'8" Hall, a 2000 fifth-round draft pick who converted from
running back at Texas A&M to wide receiver in the pros, had
returned a punt or kickoff for a touchdown (none shorter than 73
yards) in an NFL-record three consecutive games and in six of
nine games dating to last season. And on Sunday, for the second
straight week, a Hall return provided the winning points for the
Chiefs. Trailing 23-17 with 8:45 left, Hall took a punt at his
own seven-yard line, cut left, stutter-stepped, broke right, got
trapped, danced around for a couple of seconds, darted backward
and left toward his goal line--returners are never supposed to
run backward, especially when they've already broken a cardinal
rule by fielding a punt inside their 10--before turning upfield
and heading toward the left sideline. Hall raced untouched to the
end zone, and when Morten Andersen added the extra point, the
Chiefs had a 24-23 win.
Hall's return was all the more amazing when you consider that the
Chiefs had set up their special teams unit to try to block the
punt, so it was surprising that Hall fielded the ball at all,
much less tried to return it. But, he said, "I'm getting in the
kind of comfort zone where I think anything is possible on any
play. I just tried to stay alive on the play and keep moving. As
long as I stayed on my feet, my teammates would find someone to
If you had to pick a league MVP five weeks into the season, Hall
would be the guy. He has personally put his team over the top in
the fourth quarter against two playoff contenders, the Ravens and
the Broncos. (In a 10-10 game against Baltimore on Sept. 28, Hall
returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown.) And after the
Chiefs had dug themselves into a 10-0 hole against the Steelers
on Sept. 14, Hall returned a kickoff 100 yards for a score.
Without a doubt, the only return man who's been so electrifying
for so long was Gale Sayers, a star for the Bears in the '60s
before a knee injury cut short his career after seven years.
Said Broncos linebacker Ian Gold, who twice missed Hall on the
game-winning return, "I don't know if I've ever faced an athlete
that dominant in Little League, college or the pros."
COLOR PHOTO: PETER READ MILLER The Broncos appeared to have this punt covered, but the elusiveHall broke loose.