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Dashed Dreams: The 1966 Kansas City Chiefs

History remembers the victors much better than it does the losers. the teams that win it all are instantly immortalized as one of the sport's greatest while the loser can only stand on the sidelines watching as their legacy is forever tarnished all the while thinking: "Was all that work wasted?". Sometimes they find redemption, but for the most part, the losers of the Super Bowl never return. But this article is not about what happened before or after the Super Bowl. Instead, this is the story of a single, forgotten team: the 1966 Kansas City Chiefs.

The Lead-up

Ever since he founded the league, Lamar Hunt had envisioned a time when his AFL could match wits with the mighty National Football League. After seven years of waging a cold war against the more established league, an imminent merger was made in 1966 with a title game scheduled for mid-January 1967 at the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Hunt had been meticulously planning for this moment for years. After hiring Hank Stram away from Miami, the Dallas Texans began to adopt many of his habits. Regarded as one of the best offensive minds of his era, restaurant managers quickly learned to switch to paper napkins when he arrived, so that he wouldn't ruin their more elegant and expensive cloth napkins. The Texans even acquired one of his prized pupils from year earlier, Len Dawson. they had worked well together at Purdue and had a hunch that they could do something special in the upstart league.

Led by Stram and Dawson, Dallas was often competitive but never quite good enough to truly challenge for the league title yet still, they kept building. By 1962, the Texans were AFL champions but despite having won significantly more games than their NFL counterparts, Lamar Hunt knew that his beloved Texans couldn't continued to compete with the woeful Cowboys. Not at that time.

So they moved to Kansas City and became the Chiefs. In the coming years, the Chiefs assembled one of the deepest rosters in the AFL. They got a Heisman Trophy winner (Mike Garrett, USC), powerful linemen from places far and wide (Buck Buchanan, Grambling State; Jim Tyrer, Ohio State), a rangy receiver from an overlooked school (Otis Taylor from Prarie Veiw A&M) and game-changing outside linebacker Bobby Bell. Despite finishing third in the AFL West in 1965, the Chiefs had a feeling that something special was brewing in the locker room. Little did they know how right they were.

The Regular Season

The Kansas City Chiefs began their quest for their first Super Bowl appearance by winning the first three games of 1966 in convincing fashion, scoring more than 30 points in each. They were served a fresh slice of humble pie in Week Four, losing to a Bills team that htey had beaten by 22 points just three weeks earlier.

At first, it looked like the three previous games, with Len Dawson tossing two touchdowns in the first quarter. But the second half was a different story and despite their best efforts, the Chiefs could only watch as their slim two-point halftime lead fizzled away and the Bills scored 17 unanswered points.

Further embarrassing the Chiefs was the fact that their vaunted rushing attack was held to just 16 yards between their running backs. Two weeks later, the Chiefs were humbled again, this time to the rival Oakland Raiders. While the 34-13 defeat stung, it motivated Hank Stram and his men to get focused on the main thing: the NFL-AFL Championship Game.

In the first game since their loss to Oakland, Kansas City destroyed Denver 56-10 while rushing for an incredible 380 yards. This launched a four game win streak that reinvigorated their mission. Over the next four weeks, the Chiefs won by an average of 41-16, treating each win as a personal vendetta. Even though their exuberance was momentarily halted with a 27-27 tie with the Patriots, the Chiefs refused to let that deter their goal.

However, nothing great comes easy. As the Chiefs embarked on a three-game road trip to conclude the regular season, each game proved to bring its own challenges. Battle-tested, the Chiefs answered each challenge with aplomb, beating the Jets (32-24), the Dolphins (19-18) and Chargers (27-17) to claim the AFL West and punch their ticket to the AFL Championship Game.

AFL Championship

Despite having a better record, the Chiefs had to travel to Buffalo for the AFL Championship Game due to the league switching the championship game location each year. In front of a packed crowd of 42,080, the Chiefs headed out to prove that their opening week victory was not a fluke.

It began like a boxing match, with both teams feeling each other out, looking for openings to inflict the most damage. the two teams traded touchdowns in the first quarter and were all tied up at seven when the second quarter began. Then the Chiefs' offense came alive, scoring 24 unanswered points to squash any championship dreams that the Bills may have had left that day. With the 31-7 victory in hand, the Chiefs were AFL champions and were headed to the inaugural AFL-NFL World Championship Game in sunny Southern California.

Super Bowl I

Although the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was two-thirds full, there was a lot of anticipation leading up the AFL-NFL World Championship Game. For the past seven years, the two leagues had waged a war that could only be resolved on the field of friendly strife.

As 14-point favorites and the owners of four NFL championships in the past decade, the Green Bay Packers were everyone's favorite to win over the Chiefs and to carry the NFL banner past their lowly AFL counterparts. Owners from all over the league sent letter to Vince Lombardi, begging him to keep the NFL's legacy intact by dominating the youthful Chiefs.

Going into the biggest game of their lives, the Chiefs felt that they had a chance. Like the Packers, they too boasted one of the most talented rosters in professional football. Like the Packer, they too were led by a well-regarded teacher of the game. If anything, this was a clash of era's as the Packers relied much more on the ground than the air and hardly ever used pre-snap motions, a staple in Kansas City's offense.

The Packers struck first with Bart Starr connecting with tight end Max McGee for a 37-yard touchdown in the opening quarter. the Chiefs responded in the second with Dawson throwing a seven-yard touchdown to Curtis McClinton. After Packers fullback Jim Taylor rumbled into the endzone from 14 yards out, the Chiefs ended the first half with a field goal to come within four.

Those would be the last points that the Chiefs scored that season. For the rest of the game, the Packers summoned up the championship swagger that had earned them so many titles in that decade. Final score: Packers 35, Chiefs 10.

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