KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Not the San Diego secondary, nor bruised ribs, nor the National Football League record book could not stand in the way of Kansas City wide receiver Stephone Paige on the final day of the 1985 season.
In a game involving two non-playoff teams before a home crowd of only 18,178, Paige broke a 40-year-old NFL record with his 309 receiving yards to deliver the Chiefs a 38-34 victory Sunday over the Chargers.
Paige caught eight passes, including touchdowns of 56 and 84 yards, in breaking the previous mark of 303 yards set by Jim Benton of the Cleveland Rams in a 1945 game against the Detroit Lions. It was the first 100-yard day of Paige's three-year career.
Paige's first obstacle was the San Diego secondary, which ranked 28th in the league in pass defense. He said he was stunned when the Chargers opened the game in a man-to-man defense with rookie John Hendy drawing the assignment of covering Paige.
'That really surpised me,' said Paige, a backup in his three seasons Carlos Carson and Henry Marshall. 'Most teams play a zone against us and double on me underneath. When I saw the man (coverage), I said, 'OK, let's go. I like this.''
His first catch was a 56-yarder for a first-quarter touchdown on a fly pattern up the left sideline. Paige wound up amassing 107 yards by the end of the first quarter and 258 by halftime. But he suffered bruised ribs in the closing minutes of the half after making a 20-yard catch, was helped off the field and appeared to be through for the day.
But when Paige was told how close he was to the NFL record -- he had already broken the club mark of 213 yards set by Curtis McClinton in a 1965 game -- he donned a flak jacket and returned midway through the third quarter.
'I knew about the team record,' Paige said, 'but I had no idea what the league record was. Henry Marshall first told me about it. He came up kind of nonchalantly and said, 'Do you know you need only seven yards for the record?' I said, 'I've already got the record.' Then he said, 'No, I mean the pro football record.'
'My ribs really hurt ... but when I found out how close I was, my ribs stopped hurting. I just sucked it up and went for it.'
The former free agent from Fresno State caught his seventh pass midway through the third period, a 39-yarder, and then set the record with his only catch of the fourth quarter, a 12-yarder with five minutes left in the game.
Paige's two touchdowns helped Kansas City build a 35-6 halftime lead. But the Chargers made a game of it by scoring 21 points in the fourth quarter on a 2-yard touchdown run by Tim Spencer and Mark Herrmann TD passes of 8 yards to Lionel James and 20 yards to Trumaine Johnson.
James salvaged an NFL record in defeat for the Chargers with a total offense of 242 yards against the Chiefs, allowing him to to break the NFL single-season mark of 2,462 yards set by Terry Metcalf in 1975.
James had 43 yards rushing, 42 receiving, 141 on kick returns and 16 on punt returns against Kansas City to finish the season with 2,535 yards. He also used his 42 aerial yards to become the first running back in NFL history to post a 1,000 yard receiving season. He finished with 86 catches for 1,027 yards.
San Francisco running back Roger Craig went over the 1,000 mark in receiving later in the day.
The Chargers finished the season 8-8 and the Chiefs 6-10.