The Chiefs Secure AFL's Reputation
The American Football League was soaking in the limelight after the New York Jets' stunning upset of the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. One season later, the Kansas City Chiefs represented the AFL in pro football's title game. Like the Jets, the Chiefs were big underdogs heading into the Super Bowl game against the NFL's Minnesota Vikings.
After all, the Vikings were led by one of the most dominating defensive lines in history. Carl Eller, Alan Page, Gary Larsen, and Jim Marshall comprised the famed "Purple People Eaters."
Perhaps overlooked was the fact that the Hank Stram-led Chiefs had a rather well balanced team that had been on a roll through the end of the regular season and into the playoffs. Adding fuel to the fire was the fact that Kansas City was playing in the last game ever by an AFL team. The AFL and NFL were to begin play as one league the following season. As such, the Chiefs took the field with an "AFL-10" patch on their jerseys to signify their pride in the league that existed for 10 seasons from 1960 to 1969.
While the focus of the game was on the tough Vikings defense versus the Chiefs' offense led by future Hall of Famer Len Dawson, it turned out to be the formidable Kansas City defense that stole the show. The Chiefs defense - anchored by Hall of Famers Willie Lanier, Bobby Bell, and Buck Buchanan - stymied the Vikings offense. That allowed the Chiefs to build a comfortable 16-0 halftime lead off three Jan Stenerud field goals and a 5-yard touchdown run by Mike Garrett. With the Vikings playing catchup and forced to throw often, Kansas City's relentless defense intercepted three passes in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
For the Chiefs, the victory avenged their loss to the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl I.
The win also put an exclamation point on the success enjoyed by the Chiefs throughout their years in the AFL, a league founded by owner Lamar Hunt. From the beginning, it was Stram who built the team into winners. Under his guidance the team won AFL titles in 1962 and 1966 and was the only coach in AFL history to take his team to two Super Bowls. The innovative coach won more games and more championships than any other team in the league history.
Perhaps none was more important that the Chiefs big upset of the Vikings in Super Bowl IV. That victory gave the AFL permanent credibility as the Super Bowl series between the AFL and NFL would forever remain tied at 2-2.