History Lesson Week 6: Chiefs 17, Raiders 7 (1969 AFL Championship Game)

 

The rivalry between the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs (originally the Dallas Texans) has always been amongst the most intense in professional football.

And things will be no different this Sunday at Kansas City, where the 5-0 Chiefs take on their longtime adversary and a team that has won its last six games at Arrowhead Stadium.

But let’s go back more than 40 years ago. Somehow it was only fitting that these two proud franchises would put a stamp on a big part of sports history as the 1960s came to a close.

Daryle Lamonica 1
Daryle Lamonica

This title tilt would be the final game played between two teams from the American Football League and two of the AFL’s most successful organizations. During the league’s 10-year run, the Chiefs (who would capture the 1962 title as the Texans) would win the most games, while the Silver and Black was third in terms of victories. The franchises would also combine to represent the AFL in the first two Super Bowls, although both came up short in the Big Game via losses to the NFL’s Green Bay Packers.

In 1969, Oakland boasted a league-best 12-1-1 record and had already defeated Hank Stram’s Chiefs twice during the regular season. The Raiders were led by talented quarterback Daryle Lamonica, who threw a league-high 34 touchdown passes as the Silver and Black led the AFL in scoring with 377 points. Meanwhile, Kansas City finished 11-3 and while they nearly matched Oakland in point production (359), no team in the AFL came close when it came to defense as Stram’s team allowed an AFL-low 177 points–65 fewer than the second-ranked Raiders. And the Kansas City defense would be the difference on this afternoon in Oakland.

Lamonica, who had completed just 13-of-17 passes but for a whopping 276 yards and six scores (and just one interception) in a 56-7 rout of the Houston Oilers in the Divisional Playoffs a week earlier (and who had thrown for 347 yards and five touchdowns in a playoff win over the Chiefs in 1968) was stifled by Stram’s star-studded defense.

Len Dawson 350
Len Dawson

Led by Pro Football Hall of Famers such as defensive end Buck Buchanan and defensive tackle Curley Culp, linebackers Bobby Bell and Willie Lanier and ball hawking cornerback Emmitt Thomas, Kansas City (which had dethroned the defending Super Bowl champion New York Jets, 13-6, on the road the previous week) stifled Lamonica and backup George Blanda, who combined for less than 200 yards through the air and were intercepted four times, three of those at the expense of Lamonica. After scoring a touchdown in the first quarter, the Raiders were blanked for the remainder of the afternoon as Stram and company went onto a 17-7 win.

The Chiefs would cement their place in football history a week later at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans with a 23-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, it remains the last appearance by the franchise in the Big Game.

But that day did belong to Stram and his very talented squad. Quarterback Len Dawson was named the game’s Most Valuable Player. But Bell, Lanier and company made their mark by harassing Vikings’ quarterback Joe Kapp for the majority of the afternoon, a fitting tribute to one of the great defensive units in football annals.

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