Super Bowl History: 50 Years ago

Super Bowl History: 50 Years ago
Reading Time: 7 minutes.

The NFL post-season is in full swing and before we know it Super Bowl LIV will be upon us.

In the run up to this years’ championship I thought it might be fun to do a series on the decade anniversaries of the big game.

We recently did a retrospective decade anniversary series for the CFL Grey Cup. That went back a century, staring with 100 years ago, then 90, 80 and so on.

As the NFL is celebrating a 100 seasons I was tempted to do the same here. However for a lot of modern NFL fans, it feels like the game’s history starts with the, (retrospectively named), first Super Bowl. Not many will mention the undefeated APFA 1920 winners the Akron Pros.

So, we’ll stick to the Super Bowl era then and travel back 50 years to 1970. For the NFL the decade started with a championship game with 80,562 fans on hand at Tulane Stadium. They witnessed the 11-3 Kansas City Chiefs (AFL) defeat the 12-2 Minnesota Vikings (NFL) by a score of 23-7.

The run up to the game

The 1969 season was the last that saw the NFL & AFL operate as separate leagues. Following merger agreements earlier in the decade the first four Super Bowl games were to be known as the AFL-NFL World Championship Game .

However they had been re-named he Super Bowl the year before. So Super Bowl IV was actually the second game to carry the name whilst the others were retroactively re-branded.

Most people had expected those games to be dominated by the older, more established NFL teams. Indeed, the Packers did win the first 2 titles convincingly, including defeating this Chiefs team in the first title match-up.

The New York Jets winning the third title sent shockwaves through the football world. It also meant that whichever AFL team made this game had the chance to win and leave the junior league on an equal footing with its’ more senior partner.

Kansas City were going into this match-up as one of the stronger teams in the AFL. They were AFL champions in 1962, 1966, and now again in 1969. They had gone 73-34-5 over that period.

Minnesota were a recent addition for the NFL. Their inaugural season as an expansion team had been in 1961. In their first 7 seasons they had only one winning season and went 32-59-7 over that period. In 1968 however they had gone 8-6 and made the playoffs and now they were back and in the title game.

Playoffs

The Chiefs had finished second in the AFL West behind the 12-1-1 Oakland Raiders. That meant they played in the Divisional Round away at the New York Jets. A crucial goal-line stand saw them overcome the defending champs’ 13-6.

That set up a match in Oakland as the Raiders had dispatched the Houston Oilers 56-7.

The Raiders had won the West and beaten the Chiefs in two regular-season match-ups. Rumour had it that the Raiders’ players were so sure they’d win that they packed their bags to head to the Super Bowl after the game.

But the Chiefs went into Oakland and beat Raiders 17-7, sending them to New Orleans instead.

Over in the NFL at 12-2 the Vikings had the best regular season record in the league. That gave them a home Divisional match-up where they outlasted the Los Angeles Rams 23-20 despite having been 17-7 down at the half.

Minnesota faced the 10-3-1 Cleveland Browns for the NFL title. It was a blowout as the Vikings marched to a 24-0 halftime lead. The second half was much less dramatic as the ‘Vikes ran the game out to a 27-7 win.

Most people were predicting a Vikings win. They had been dominant in the regular season and demolished a strong Cleveland team in the title game. A lot of people still thought the Jets win a year earlier had been more about the Colts having an off day than the Jets being successful.

Added to all that was the fact that Kansas City had finished second in their Division and seemed to squeeze their way into this match. Minnesota were strong favourites then.

The Patches

The AFL 10 year patch. Image from Wikipedia

In 1969, much like 2019, the NFL was celebrating. It was the 50th anniversary of the league founding & to show that NFL players were wearing a 50 year anniversary patch on their jerseys throughout the NFL season.

There had been a petition for the AFL to do the same – to wear a 10 year anniversary patch. Especially as following the AFL-NFL merger agreement reached in 1966 this would be the last season for the AFL as an independent entity.

During the AFL season a patch was not worn, but one was made to be worn by whichever AFL team made the title game. So it was that on January 11th 1970, the Chiefs became the only team to wear the AFL decade anniversary patch.

The Coaches

Both of the coaches from this game are enshrined in Canton, in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Chiefs coach Hank Stram would finish his career 131-97-10 & 5-3 in the post-season. He would lead Kansas City to 3 AFL titles and 1 Super Bowl.

Following his coaching career, Stram was a colour commentator over twenty years, including a pre Tony Romo penchant for predicting the upcoming play before it happened.

Minnesota coach Bud Grant was inducted in the Hall of Fame nine years earlier than Stram.

Grant had a strong CFL legacy in Winnipeg before becoming a Vikings legend. He was 118-64-3 all-time in the CFL & 168-108-5 in the NFL (including going 10-12 in the post season and losing 4 Super Bowl games).

Grant is the only coach in both the Pro Football Hall of Fame & the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

The Game Itself: Super Bowl IV

They say defense wins championships and this match was a fine demonstration of that adage in action. The Chiefs limited the Vikings offense to a paltry 67 yards rushing , forced three interceptions, and recovered two fumbles. 

It had all started so well for Minnesota too. They took the opening drive from their own 20 to the Chiefs 39 thanks largely to QB Joe Kapp accounting for 36 yards on two passes. The drive stalled however and that was indicative of how the day would go for the men in purple.

The Chiefs replied with a drive picking up 3 points thanks to a 48 yard Field Goal from Hall of Fame placekicker Jan Stenerud. He would go on to be the first pure kicker inducted into the Hall.

We must remember that kicking was not as accurate then or perceived in the same way. Contemporary reports suggest the ‘Vikes were shocked by the Chiefs trying one form this distance. Further, that when he hit it that had a psychological impact as they felt Kansas City could score from almost anywhere.

Two more Stenerud Field Goals in the second period took the Chiefs out to a 9-0 lead.

The Chiefs late in the half forced a turnover on special teams. That set up a moment enshrined in football folklore.

65 Toss Power Trap

If you have followed the NFL for a while you will have seen plenty of mic’d up action.

Stram was the first coach to be wired for sound in a Super Bowl. You watch any history of the game or Super Bowl retrospectives and you’ll hear him. One of the things you are sure to have seen and heard is him shouting “65 toss power trap.”

RB Mike Garret carried the ball into the end zone on a five yard trap draw play with perfect blocking. There followed much hollering and joy from Stram which has been forever captured and repeated since.

The Second Half

Minnesota came out with some fighting spirit to start the second half. They drove 69 yards in 10 plays, mostly driven by Kapp to pull the score back to 16-7.

The Chiefs responded immediately however with a six play 82 yard touchdown drive of their own to retake a 16 point lead and go up 23-7.

That just about did it. The fourth quarter saw the Chiefs pick off the Vikings three times and nullify any chance of a comeback. For the second year in a row the AFL champion was overall champion.

Chiefs QB Len Dawson was named game MVP. Meaning the fist 4 Super Bowls all have a quarterback named as MVP.

His stat line going 12 of 17 for 142 yards with one touchdown and one interception, along with 3 carries for 11 yards, was hardly eye popping.

However he was playing under unusual pressures as in the week leading up to the game he was interrogated because of a casual connection to a known gambler who was arrested before the game carrying more than $400,000 and Dawson’s phone number. Dawson was absolved of any impropriety but it certainly cannot have helped his or the teams’ preparations.

Hall of Fame Players

Super Bowl IV was littered with future Hall of Fame members. 12 of those present have been inducted up to now.

That includes five Minnesota players, Mick Tinglehoff, Ron Yary, Carl Eller, Alan Page & Paul Krause.

For the Chiefs, seven of those present in January 1970 are now enshrined in Canton. They include, Len Dawson, Curly Culp, Buck Buchanan, Bobby Bell, Willie Lanier, Emmitt Thomas & Johnny Robinson.

What came next

The Chiefs would not be back to defend their title. In 1970 they went 7-5-2 and missed the playoffs. They returned in 1971 going 10-3-1 & losing to the rising Miami Dolphins 27-24 in double overtime in the longest game in NFL history.

That was the beginning of a decline in Kansas City. 8–6 and 7–5–2 seasons in 1972 and 1973, were followed by years of mediocrity. They would not appear in the playoffs again until 1986.

It was a different story for the Vikings as they became one of the teams to beat during the 1970’s going 101-41-2, winning 8 Division titles and 3 NFC championships along the way.

They have not appeared in the title game since Super Bowl IX in 1975.

Of late both teams have been on an upswing, Minnesota going 50-29-1 and appearing in the playoffs 3 times in the last 5 years. Meanwhile the Chiefs have gone 57-23 over the same period appearing in the playoffs five consecutive times and picking up 4 Division titles.

Fans of both teams have seen them be competitive but both fan bases must be dreaming of a return to the biggest stage.

Banner Image: QB Len Dawson leads the Chiefs. Image from mosportshalloffame.com

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