The Cincinnati Bengals were at 8-2 and had won four straight games as they faced the Kansas City Chiefs on November 21, 1976. The Bengals, coached for the first year by Bill Johnson, had a fine sixth-year quarterback in Ken Anderson, the league’s top passer the previous two seasons. With one of their two first-round draft choices, they took HB Archie Griffin (pictured at right), the two-time Heisman Trophy winner out of Ohio State, to add outside speed to their running game. The defense had talent in pass-rushing DE Coy Bacon, MLB Jim LeClair, cornerbacks Lemar Parrish and Ken Riley, and SS Tommy Casanova.
Head Coah Paul Wiggin’s Chiefs, meanwhile, were slogging along at 3-7. Kansas City was an aging team with far too many starters over 30. QB Mike Livingston had emerged from a long apprenticeship behind the now-retired Len Dawson, and second-year TE Walter White was developing into a good receiver. But the defense had too many holes, although rookie FS Gary Barbaro was proving to be a good find.
It was a sunny day with 46,259 fans in attendance at Arrowhead Stadium. It didn’t take them long to see the home team fall behind. On the first play from scrimmage, Archie Griffin broke away for a 77-yard touchdown for the Bengals. Another rookie, Chris Bahr, added the extra point.
The teams traded punts before the Chiefs mounted a drive that reached Cincinnati territory. FB MacArthur Lane had a 17-yard carry and HB Tommy Reamon got the ball to the Bengals’ 40 with a 10-yard run, but the possession stalled there as Mike Livingston overthrew three straight passes. Kansas City was forced to punt.
The Bengals, taking over at their 20, proceeded to advance 80 yards in nine plays. Griffin ran effectively and Ken Anderson completed three passes, including one to TE Bob Trumpy for 22 yards to the Kansas City 18. From there, FB Boobie Clark ran for a touchdown, and with Bahr’s second successful extra point, the visitors carried a 14-0 lead into the second quarter.
The Chiefs got a break early in the next period when Anderson, on a quarterback keeper up the middle, fumbled and MLB Willie Lanier recovered at the Cincinnati 35. But three running plays accumulated seven yards and Jan Stenerud’s 35-yard field goal attempt was wide to the left.
The teams once again exchanged punts before Anderson threw a pass that was intercepted by CB Emmitt Thomas, who returned it 29 yards to the Cincinnati 31. It looked like the Chiefs would again fail to take advantage when Lane was tossed for a two-yard loss and Livingston was sacked to put them seven yards further back. But on third-and-19, Livingston kept the ball himself and ran for the 19 yards he needed for a first down. Two plays later, Livingston passed to WR Henry Marshall for 23 yards to the one yard line, and from there Reamon went through the middle of the line for a TD. Adding Stenerud’s extra point, the Cincinnati lead was cut to 14-7.
With 4:39 left in the half, the Bengals advanced to the KC 29, but a running play that lost yards combined with Anderson being sacked by DE Whitney Paul moved the ball back to the 34 and, after a pass fell incomplete, Bahr missed a 51-yard field goal try. The score remained unchanged at the half.
The Chiefs had first possession in the third quarter and went three-and-out, but then got a break when Tommy Casanova fumbled the ensuing punt and LB Dave Rozumek recovered for Kansas City at the Cincinnati 10. Four plays later, Reamon scored a touchdown from a yard out and, with Stenerud’s successful PAT, the game was tied at 14-14.
The problems continued for the Bengals on the kickoff when HB Tony Davis lost the handle on the ball and WR Lawrence Williams recovered at the Cincinnati 30. But after a first-play Livingston pass to Lane that picked up 16 yards, the Chiefs gained seven more yards and Stenerud’s 24-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Coy Bacon.
After another trade of punts, the Bengals put together a 10-play, 62-yard drive. Anderson threw to Trumpy for 20 yards and, on a third-and-eight play, connected with the tight end again for 11 yards. Clark ran for 18 yards on a sweep and Anderson picked up 11 on a carry up the middle. FB Stan Fritts went one yard to cap the series with a TD, and while Bahr’s extra point try was unsuccessful, the visitors were back in front by 20-14.
Williams returned the kickoff 37 yards for the Chiefs and they were into Cincinnati territory as the game moved into the fourth quarter thanks to a Livingston pass to Lane for 23 yards and carries by Reamon and HB Ed Podolak that added another 12 yards to the Cincinnati 31. On the second play of the final period, Livingston connected with Walter White for 16 yards and, after two short runs and a reverse by Marshall that picked up seven yards, Stenerud kicked a 24-yard field goal to narrow the margin to three points.
The Bengals continued to have trouble holding onto kick returns as DB Melvin Morgan fumbled the kickoff and Gary Barbaro recovered for the Chiefs at the Cincinnati 21. From there, a loss on a running play and a holding penalty backed Kansas City up, but facing a third-and-23 situation, Livingston completed a pass to White in the end zone for a 34-yard touchdown. With the successful conversion, the Chiefs were in front by 24-20.
Once again a KC kickoff resulted in the Chiefs gaining possession as HB Lenvill Elliott’s 22-yard return ended with a fumble and FB Glynn Harrison recovered for the home team. With 11:44 left to play, the Chiefs started off at the Cincinnati 27 and gained five yards in three plays, but they failed to add to their lead when Stenerud missed a 39-yard field goal attempt.
Once more the teams exchanged punts before, with just under seven minutes remaining on the clock, the Bengals went 62 yards in six plays. Griffin picked up 15 yards on two carries and two plays later a controversial roughing-the-passer penalty that drew vehement argument from the Chiefs added another 15 yards to the Kansas City 33. Anderson then threw to TE Bruce Coslet for 32 yards and Tony Davis went up the middle for the last yard and a touchdown. Bahr added the extra point and the visitors were back in front by three.
Two kickoffs went out of bounds, resulting in penalties and backing the Chiefs up, and Harrison then ran the next one back 35 yards to give Kansas City excellent field position at the Cincinnati 38. However, after advancing to the 22, Livingston was dumped for a seven-yard loss and Stenerud’s 46-yard field goal attempt sailed wide to the left. The Bengals were able to run out the clock and came away with a 27-24 win.
The Bengals outgained Kansas City (373 yards to 251), with 269 yards of that total coming on the ground, and also had the edge in first downs (21 to 16). Cincinnati also recorded six sacks, to two by the Chiefs. However, the Bengals hurt themselves with six turnovers, five of them on fumbles, while Kansas City didn’t turn the ball over at all.
Archie Griffin rushed for 139 yards on just 13 carries that included the long touchdown. Boobie Clark added 91 yards on 15 attempts and also scored a TD. Ken Anderson completed 9 of 17 passes for 123 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. Bob Trumpy topped the receivers with three catches for 53 yards.
For the Chiefs, Mike Livingston was successful on 12 of 25 throws for 179 yards and a TD with none intercepted. Walter White (pictured at left) had 5 pass receptions for 87 yards and a score. MacArthur Lane ran for 36 yards on 13 carries and added four catches for 40 yards. Tommy Reamon, the former World Football League star, gained just 19 yards on 10 rushing attempts, but two of them were good for touchdowns.
“It would have been a big win for us,” said a frustrated Coach Paul Wiggin, who vehemently questioned the roughing-the-passer penalty that allowed the Bengals to continue their winning scoring drive.
In the showdown for the AFC Central the next week, the Bengals again fell to the Steelers in a snowstorm and lost the following game as well. They ended up with a 10-4 record, which put them in second place and on the outside of the postseason. Kansas City won two of its last three contests to finish at 5-9 and fourth in the AFC West.
Archie Griffin, undersized at 5’9” and 191 pounds, had a good rookie season as he rushed for 625 yards while averaging 4.5 yards per carry. The 139-yard performance against the Chiefs ended up being the best single-game output of his career.
34-year-old MacArthur Lane led the NFL with 66 pass receptions, which gained 686 yards, and he also added 542 rushing yards, although averaging only 3.3 yards per attempt. Walter White caught 47 passes for 808 yards (17.7 avg.) and scored seven TDs.