Len Dawson and the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl IV

The 1969 Kansas City Chiefs were a veteran outfit that played together for quite while. Three years earlier, the same group lost to the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl I.

But it all came together in 1969. The Chiefs were stacked with future Pro Football Hall of Fame players Len Dawson, Bobby Bell, Buck Buchanan, Willie Lanier, Emmitt Thomas and Jan Stenerud, and led by legendary coach Hank Stram. Stram was known for his innovative coaching, big personality, snappy clothes and an absolute love for his players.

The team’s road to the Super Bowl was not easy. They ended the season with an 11-3 record and finished a game behind the Oakland Raiders in the AFL’s Western Division. Kansas City had to beat the Jets and Raiders on the road in the playoffs before they had a chance to upset Minnesota in the Super Bowl.

But Kansas City’s defense buried teams all season. Even though Dawson missed six games because of an injury, the defense kept the Chiefs on the Super Bowl highway. During the playoffs, they limited the Jets and Raiders to a combined 13 points. Minnesota’s high-powered offense managed a meager seven points during Super Bowl IV.

“Our defense was special,” Stenerud said. “I remember that playoff run and we just didn’t give anything up. We held down some really good offenses. That defense was really the difference-maker for that team.”

Most impressive win: The 23-7 win over Minnesota in Super Bowl IV. The Chiefs dominated the Vikings, who were a 13-point favorite.

Send them home unpacking: The Oakland Raiders’ players were so sure they’d dispatch the Chiefs in the AFL Championship Game that they packed their bags to head to the Super Bowl after the game.

The Raiders had reason to be confident. They had won the West with a 12-2 record and beaten the Chiefs in two regular-season match-ups. But Stram’s team took the game that mattered. Kansas City went into Oakland and stunned the Raiders 17-7, sending the Chiefs (and not the bags-packed Raiders) to New Orleans.

“As the Chiefs were waiting for the team buses, they saw all the Oakland players leave the stadium with their bags in their hands, going home instead of the Super Bowl,” Kansas City team historian Bob Moore said. “The Chiefs players were all laughing at Oakland’s players.”

Super Bowl IV

Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl IV

The American Football League was soaking in the limelight after the New York Jets’ stunning upset of the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. One season later, the Kansas City Chiefs represented the AFL in pro football’s title game. Like the Jets, the Chiefs were big underdogs heading into the Super Bowl game against the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings.

After all, the Vikings were led by one of the most dominating defensive lines in history. Carl Eller, Alan Page, Gary Larsen and Jim Marshall comprised the famed “Purple People Eaters.”

Perhaps overlooked was the fact that the Hank Stram-led Chiefs had a rather well-balanced team that had been on a roll through the end of the regular season and into the playoffs.

Adding fuel to the fire was the fact that Kansas City was playing in the last game ever by an AFL team. The AFL and NFL were to begin play as one league the following season. As such, the Chiefs took the field with an “AFL-10” patch on their jerseys to signify their pride in the league that existed for 10 seasons from 1960 to 1969.

Hank Stram

While the focus of the game was on the tough Vikings defense versus the Chiefs’ offense led by Dawson, it turned out to be the formidable Kansas City defense that stole the show. The Chiefs defense – anchored by Hall of Famers Lanier, Bell and Buchanan — stymied the Vikings offense. That allowed the Chiefs to build a comfortable 16-0 halftime lead off three Stenerud field goals and a 5-yard touchdown run by Mike Garrett. With the Vikings playing catch-up and forced to throw often, Kansas City’s relentless defense intercepted three passes in the fourth quarter to seal the win.

For the Chiefs, the victory avenged their loss to the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl I.

The win also put an exclamation point on the success enjoyed by the Chiefs throughout their years in the AFL, a league founded by owner Lamar Hunt. From the beginning, it was Stram who built the team into winners. Under his guidance, the team won AFL titles in 1962 and 1966 and was the only coach in AFL history to take his team to two Super Bowls. The innovative coach won more games and more championships than any other team in the league history.

Perhaps none was more important that the Chiefs big upset of the Vikings in Super Bowl IV. That victory gave the AFL permanent credibility as the Super Bowl series between the AFL and NFL would forever remain tied at 2-2.