September 20, 2012

1970: Revenge-Minded Vikings Beat Chiefs

The 1969 pro football season – the last in which the NFL and AFL existed as separate entities – ended with the AFL Champion Kansas City Chiefs handily defeating the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings in the Super Bowl. Much was said about how Kansas City Head Coach Hank Stram’s complex offense had been too much for Minnesota’s vaunted defense to handle. 

On September 20, 1970 the two teams opened the new season of the merged league at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minnesota. There were some changes – most notably, fiery Vikings QB Joe Kapp was holding out (he would not return to the team, joining the Boston Patriots instead), but Head Coach Bud Grant’s club retained the tough defense anchored by the line of ends Carl Eller and Jim Marshall and tackles Alan Page and Gary Larsen (pictured above #59 LB Lonnie Warwick, #88 Alan Page, #77 Gary Larsen, #60 LB Roy Winston, #81 Carl Eller). The Chiefs still had the same veteran core that included QB Len Dawson and WR Otis Taylor on offense and a star-filled defense that featured DT Buck Buchanon, MLB Willie Lanier, OLB Bobby Bell, and FS Johnny Robinson.

There was a capacity crowd of 47,900 on a rainy afternoon at Metropolitan Stadium. DB Charlie West started things off well for Minnesota as he returned the opening kickoff 49 yards to his own 47. The Vikings got into KC territory but a penalty combined with a sack of QB Gary Cuozzo by Buchanon drove them back and forced a punt.

Following a 65-yard punt by Jerrel Wilson that landed at the Minnesota three, the Vikings put together a long 15-play drive that ended with a 20-yard field goal by Fred Cox on the first play of the second quarter.

The Vikings got more points just three plays later. Kansas City HB Mike Garrett fumbled when hit by Carl Eller and Jim Marshall picked it up and rumbled 24 yards before tossing a lateral to LB Roy Winston at the KC 14, who took it the rest of the way for a touchdown and 10-0 lead.

The Chiefs came back with a big play as Dawson passed to Otis Taylor for a 59-yard touchdown. However, the Vikings embarked on another time-consuming drive, going 48 yards in 13 plays. With 47 seconds left in the half, and following two pass interference penalties on the Chiefs, HB Dave Osborn powered over from a yard out for a touchdown.

Minnesota controlled the ball effectively in the first half, running 41 plays to just 17 for the Chiefs and taking advantage of mistakes to build a 17-7 halftime lead. This was despite Len Dawson completing his first 12 passes as the Vikings simply kept the ball out of his hands for large stretches of time.

Kansas City came out throwing in the third quarter and Dawson completed five straight passes. The Chiefs ended up with a 28-yard field goal by Jan Stenerud, but were otherwise shut down the rest of the way.

In an eventful portion of the third quarter, Alan Page pulled the ball away from Kansas City FB Robert Holmes, but the Chiefs regained possession two plays later when FB Bill Brown fumbled and DT Curley Culp recovered. However, on the next play, the ball was turned over again when SS Karl Kassulke intercepted a Dawson pass. CB Jim Marsalis returned the favor a snap later when he intercepted Cuozzo’s pass intended for WR Gene Washington.

In the final period, RB Oscar Reed scored another TD for the Vikings that was set up by FS Paul Krause’s interception and 40-yards return to the KC 7. Cox capped the scoring with a 40-yard field goal and Minnesota ended up with a convincing 27-10 win.

The Chiefs, who had played with such precision in the Super Bowl, made costly mistakes, turning the ball over four times (to three by Minnesota) and committing untimely penalties. While the Vikings barely outgained them (220 yards to 218), Minnesota had 17 first downs to just 8 for Kansas City, only one of which came on the ground.

Gary Cuozzo turned in a workmanlike performance, completing 12 of 20 passes for 100 yards, although with two interceptions. Of Minnesota’s committee of running backs, 10th-year veteran Bill Brown led with 55 yards on 17 carries. TE John Beasley caught three passes for 41 yards and WR Bob Grim also had three receptions, for 19 yards.

For the Chiefs, Len Dawson (pictured at right) was successful on 18 of his 27 throws for 164 yards with a TD and two interceptions. With the one long scoring play, Otis Taylor gained 100 yards on his 5 catches. FB Wendell Hayes, also heading a running-game-by-committee, ran for 22 yards on 7 attempts while Mike Garrett was held to 16 yards on 7 carries and had the damaging fumble.

“It happened eight months ago,” said Bud Grant in reference to the Super Bowl defeat, “but they’ve been shoving it down our throats ever since. We couldn’t say anything because that’s the price you pay when you lose.”

“If they would have gotten ahead, they probably would have tried more of their razzle-dazzle,” said Vikings LB Roy Winston. “We were better prepared this time and Kansas City was not fortunate to get ahead.”

“You can’t score unless you have the ball,” summed up Hank Stram from the losing side.

The Vikings went on to win the NFC Central with a 12-2 record, identical to their 1969 tally. However, they didn’t reach the Super Bowl again, falling to the 49ers in the Divisional round. Kansas City also failed to repeat, missing the postseason altogether by posting a 7-5-2 record and placing second in the AFC West.

Minnesota’s defense was the top-rated in the NFL and accounted for a total of five touchdowns during the season. Carl Eller and Alan Page (who recovered seven fumbles) were consensus first-team All-Pros and were joined as Pro Bowl selections by Gary Larsen and Karl Kassulke.