The Oakland Raiders will host the Kansas City Chiefs for their 114th matchup on Thursday. The Chiefs currently hold a 60-51-2 advantage in this history filled rivalry.
To understand the history of the Raiders and Chiefs, you must first know how the Chiefs came to be and their importance to the founding of the American Football League (AFL).
The Chiefs were founded by Texas oil tycoon Lamar Hunt at the same time he founded the AFL. A visionary in every sense of the word, Hunt actually created his outline for the AFL on a piece of airline stationary. It was his leadership of the fledgling league that promoted Al Davis, the late owner of the Raiders, to league commissioner and forced the NFL to the merger table. In a secret meeting in a Texas parking lot, the most successful merger in sports history was hammered out by a bunch of smart mavericks looking to create the biggest sports league of its kind. Not only that, but it was also Hunt’s vision that concocted and launched the greatest championship game in all of sports: the Super Bowl.
The early days and a rivalry begins in epic clashes.
In 1966 the Chiefs rose to prominence under the stewardship of the greatest Chiefs coach in history – Hank Stram. Legendary quarterback, and Hall of Famer, Len Dawson lead this upstart unit to victory over the Buffalo Bills in the AFL Championship. This set up a meeting between the upstart Chiefs and coach Vince Lombardi‘s Green Bay Packers in the first ever Super Bowl. The young Chiefs would hold there own in the first half, but they were facing a Packers team at the height of their supremacy. In the end, the Packers crushed the Chiefs 35-10.
In 1967 season it was the Raiders turn. The first match up between the defending AFL Champion Chiefs and the Raiders was a nail biter. The Raiders managed to eek out a 23-21 victory in Oakland. The second go around had the Raiders dominating 44-22. It would be the Raiders that year, finishing with a 13-1 record, to take the AFL crown by clubbing the Houston Oilers 40-7.
Raiders coach John Rauch would face the same challenge that the Chiefs had the previous season – Lombardi’s Packers. Unfortunately, they would come away with the same result. The Raiders had a stellar offense that year scoring 468 points to lead both leagues. Quarterback Daryl Lamonica had thrown for over 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns. Those were huge passing numbers back in the day. The Raiders were also lead by their defense, dubbed the “11 Angry Men” which punished opposing teams, both physically and mentally. Just as the Chiefs had done the year before, the Raiders made a game of it in the first half, only to be dominated by the Packers in the last 30 min and lost 33-14.
In 1968 and 1969 the Rivalry was never better.
The 1968 season finished with both the Raiders and Chiefs deadlocked at 12-2 in the western division. By rule, this would force a tie breaker scenario that would be handled in a special playoff game as opposed to using the stat based method of today. For the Raiders, this would prove to be fortuitous as the Chiefs had a better division record at 7-1. The Raiders had, once again, been an offensive powerhouse scoring 453 points and the Chiefs defense had only allowed 170.
The special playoff game would be a bloodbath.
Lamonica would toss five touchdowns and Dawson would almost match that in interceptions. The Raiders trounced the Chiefs 41-6. The Raiders would then go on to lose to Joe Namath’s, and eventual Super Bowl III winner, New York Jets in the AFL Championship game.
The next season saw the Raiders pass the torch from Rauch to Hall of Fame and coaching legend John Madden. Madden would lead the Raiders to a 12-1-1 regular season record and a sweep of the Chiefs. The Raiders would then embarrass the Houston Oilers 56-7 in the divisional round of the playoffs setting the stage for the third meeting between the Chiefs and Raiders in the last ever AFL Championship game. For the Chiefs, they finished 11-3 that year and were once again led by their vaunted defense that allowed only 177 points. They upset the defending Super Bowl Champion Jets 13-6. The only thing standing in their way on their path to Super Bowl glory was the hated Oakland Raiders.
The Last AFL Championship Game.
The Raiders had swept the Chiefs in the season and began they game as they expected. Daryl Lamonica led the Raiders opening drive down the field and capped it off with a Charlie Smith three yard run for a touchdown. The Raiders had come out swinging and struck first blood. However, that would be the end on their scoring for the day. The Chiefs defense would take center stage for the rest of the day while the Chiefs offense was stuck in the mud for most of the first half. Kansas City had only two first downs when Len Dawson would lead them on a 75-yard drive to tie the game up before halftime.
The next 30 minutes would end the Raiders Super Bowl hopes. In the third quarter, Lamonica would jam his thumb meaning and early exit for the veteran signal caller. This lead to back up, and Hall of Fame quarterback George Blanda to fill in for his injured teammate. He promptly tossed an interception deep in the Chiefs territory. Lomanica would return, but with his injury, he would not be the same. He would go on to toss three interceptions and the Chiefs would add another 10 points. Kansas City would then go on to win Super Bowl IV and the AFL and NFL would officially merge the following season.
The last wrinkle of an era, Ben Davidson’s hit on Len Dawson.
On November 1st, 1970 the Raiders and Chiefs met in the first game of their official NFL series. The Chiefs were closing out the game, leading 17-14, when fireworks ensued. Dawson had scampered for a first down, which would have allowed the Chiefs to run out the clock and win. However, Raiders defensive lineman, and legendary tough man “Big” Ben Davidson speared Dawson in the back after he was down on the play.
This resulted in a bench clearing brawl. The result of which would be offsetting penalties that would negate the play. The Chiefs were then stopped and forced to punt. With just three seconds left on the clock, Blanda would kick a field goal and the game would end in a tie. In ensuing years, the rules would change, and in similar incidents would result in a dead ball foul after the play. Davidson would go on to Hollywood Stardom with his most memorable role that of henchman to James Earl Jones villain role in Conan the Barbarian.
For the Chiefs, the team did not make the playoffs that year and always blamed the result of the brawl as their reason for not getting to the postseason. They would rally one more time the following year to reach the playoffs only to be done in by the Miami Dolphins perfect season of 1972. With their playoff window now closed, the Chiefs fizzled out into mediocrity for the next few decades. The Raiders, on the other hand, would be dominant for the next 15 years.
A new history begins
In the 50 years since this rivalry began, it has ebbed and flowed. Very rarely, until recently, has it even come close to matching the excitement and intensity of the early years. Yes, there were the Marty Schottenheimer years. That also featured the feud between Al Davis and hall of fame running back Marcus Allen. The Raiders were waning and the Chiefs were perennial “one and dones” in the playoffs through the 1990s.
Only recently has this rivalry truly started to boil once again. With the Chiefs playing great football under coach Andy Reid, the Raiders under Jack Del Rio have been dominated by Kansas City. The Chiefs have won seven of the last eight games against Oakland during the Reid era. A few Oakland victoires and the old AFL days may see a return in the focused rivalry between the two division foes.
Only time will tell if this rivalry reaches the level of the early days. With both teams appearing to have bright and winning futures, it could raise the stakes in this rivalry into even bigger proportions.