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The 1969 Kansas City Chiefs: History’s most overlooked team

An examination
Publish Date: 03/15/2024
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa

The 1969 Kansas City Chiefs are probably the greatest overlooked team of the super bowl era. They overcame an injury to their starting quarterback Len Dawson and accusations that he was involved with known gamblers. But led by Hall-of-Fame coach Hank Stram and 7 Hall of Fame players, the Chiefs persevered and put together one of the most dominant years in professional football history.

Maybe the 1969 Chiefs are forgotten because of what the Broadway Joe Namath led New York Jets accomplished the year before by becoming the first AFL team to win a Super Bowl over the heavily favored Baltimore Colts. It is my contention that the Chiefs were not only as good as the Jets, but they were also actually a superior team overall.

On offense, the Chiefs were led by a Hall of Fame quarterback in Len Dawson, 1965 Heisman Trophy winner Mike Garrett and a big-play receiver in Otis Taylor. Dawson was injured and missed six games during the season.ย  The following week against the Bengals, the Chiefs lost their backup QB, Jacky Lee, as well. Many thought that would spell the end of the Chiefs season. Third-string quarterback Mike Livingston started and won all six of those games in place of Dawson, throwing for 1,123 yards and 4 touchdowns.

The Chiefs defense is what made this team legendary. They had 6 future Hall of Famers. That accounts for over half of the Chiefs starting defense! The defensive line was anchored by defensive tackles Curly Culp and Buck Buchanon and linebackers Bobby Bell and Willie Lanier were among the best to ever play their positions respectively. In addition, the Chiefs had Emmitt Thomas at one cornerback with the vastly underrated Johnny Robinson as the other CB who was a 9-time all-pro and finished his career with 57 interceptions.

The 1969 Chiefs defense is one of only four defenses in NFL history to lead the league in fewest rushing yards, fewest passing yards and fewest total yards allowed in one season. They held five opponents to less than 10 points in a game and gave up an average of fewer than two touchdowns per game. They finished the regular season at 11-3 losing two close games to Oakland and being upset by the upstart Cincinnati Bengals who were led by the eventual AFL Rookie of the year quarterback Greg Cook.

The true greatness of the team, and especially their defense, came to light in an unbelievable playoff run. They started off at Shea Stadium in New York by beating the defending World Champion New York Jets 13-6, completely shutting down Joe Namath and the vaunted Jets offense.ย  This game was a defensive battle at windy Shea and included a successful goal-line stand after the Jets were the beneficiaries of a pass interference call against Emmitt Thomas that put them on the Chiefs one-yard line.ย  The Chiefs defense held the Jets to a game-tying field goal in what turned out to be their final score of the game.

They would then travel to Oakland and avenge their two prior regular-season defeats with a hotly contested 17-7 win over the favored Raiders.

Then came Super Bowl IV where the Chiefs completely dismantled the heavily favored Minnesota Vikings. The Chiefs dominated the contest from start to finish allowing the Vikings only two rushing first downs and 7 points the entire game on their way to a 23-7 thrashing.

If the Chiefs played in New York or Los Angeles, they would be considered one of the greatest teams of all time. With a Hall of Fame coach and seven Hall of Fame players on their roster, the 1969 Chiefs would be mentioned in the same breath with the Steelers, 49ers, and Cowboys. This team was tremendous and it is time that they receive their due as one of the greatest teams in NFL history.

ย 

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