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On This Date in Sports January 11, 1970: Super Chiefs

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The Kansas City Chiefs confirm the legitimacy of the AFL by stunning the Minnesota Vikings 23-7 in Super Bowl IV at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans. Len Dawson wins the Super Bowl MVP as his 142 yards passing were highlighted by a 46-yard touchdown pass to Otis Taylor, as Chiefs coach Han Stram was famously miked up during the game.

Super Bowl IV at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans marked the end of the 1960s and the American Football League. Founded in 1960 as a rival to the NFL, the AFL was a colorful form of professional football, as teams had open passing offenses and played a flashier version of football. The league began to turn the corner when Joe Namath chose to play for the New York Jets after receiving a record contact from Sonny Werblin. With contracts escalating, the leagues were forced to reach a peace accord that led to the start of the common draft and the Super Bowl. While the Green Bay Packers dominated the first two Super Bowls, the Jets win in Super Bowl III showed that the upstart league was coming of age. This win led the two leagues to come together as one with all AFL teams being given full member status in the NFL in 1970, with three NFL teams being moved to the AFC to provide the NFC and AFC an even number of teams.

The Kansas City Chiefs coached by Hank Stram were the only AFL team to play two of the first four Super Bowls, having lost the first game 35-10 to the Packers. The Chiefs’ path to Super Bowl IV was not easy, as they benefited from the league deciding to add an extra round of playoffs. Kansas City finished 11-3 and finished in second place in the Western Division. In the Divisional Round, the Chiefs marched into Shea Stadium and beat the New York Jets 13-6. A week later, they upset the Oakland Raiders 17-7 to win the AFL Championship.

The Minnesota Vikings were the first expansion team to reach the Super Bowl, having begun play in 1961. The Vikings were originally going to be an AFL franchise, but the NFL granted the Twin Cities membership, leading to the birth of Raiders instead. Coached by Bud Grant, the Vikings posted a record of 12-2 thanks to the play of quarterback Joe Kapp in 1969. On the way to the Super Bowl, the Vikings beat the Los Angeles Rams 23-20 in the Divisional Playoffs and the Cleveland Browns 23-7 in the NFL Championship.

There was no bye week for Super Bowl IV as the championship games were played just a week before the big game at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans. The Chiefs were getting no love from the experts as the Vikings were a 13-point favorite. In a move that would become iconic, Chiefs coach Hank Stram agreed to wear a microphone for NFL Films, to have his reactions recorded for the Super Bowl highlight film.

The Vikings got off to a sluggish start as they were unable to move the ball against the Chiefs defense. Meanwhile, Kansas City managed to get field goals and each of their first two drives. The second quarter would see much of the same, as the teams traded interceptions. Meanwhile, Jan Stenerud added a third field goal to extend the Chiefs’ lead to 9-0. On the ensuing kickoff, disaster struck for Minnesota, as Charlie West fumbled, giving the ball right back to Len Dawson and the Kansas City offense. From there, the Chiefs found the end one, on a five-yard run by Mike Garrett, called 65 toss power trap to build a 16-0 lead at halftime.

In the third quarter, the Vikings finally got on track as they went 69 yards on the first drive of the second half, with Dave Osborn finding the end zone on a four-yard run. The Chiefs would have the answer, as on the next drive, they answered with Len Dawson connecting with Otis Taylor on a 46-yard pass that would become the highlight of the game as Hank Stram gleefully delighted to the play called 65 toss power trap working for a touchdown. From there, it was up to the Chiefs defense, as they had three interceptions in the fourth quarter with Willie Lanier and Johnny Robinson picking off Joe Kapp. While Gary Cuozzo did no better, getting picked by Emmitt Thomas as the Chiefs won 23-7 to claim the Super Bowl trophy.

Len Dawson would continue the early tradition of being named Super Bowl IV’s MVP, as the first four MVP were all from the quarterback position.