Dawson: Here's why Chiefs handled Vikes in Super Bowl IV


Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson (16) throws the football during a game in 1970.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson (16) throws the football during a game in 1970.

(Photos courtesy of the Kansas City Chiefs)

Talk of Fame Network

Three years after losing the first-ever Super Bowl, the Kansas City Chiefs produced the game’s second straight upset when they buried Minnesota, 23-7, in Super Bowl IV. As happened with the New York Jets the year before, the Chiefs weren’t given much of a chance. Yet they not only won; they won easily, overwhelming a Vikings team that was a 12-point favorite.

So what happened? We asked Hall-of-Fame quarterback Len Dawson when he stopped by the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast.

“You remember Johnny Robinson, the defensive back?” Dawson asked. “Well, he was my roommate on the road. And, of course, you know the offensive players would go and look at the defensive players of the other team (in pre-game film meetings), and our defensive team would look at their offense. So we don’t get to see the whole picture.

“So I asked Johnny the night before the game: ‘I’m reading about everything, and we don’t have a chance out here in this game against the Minnesota Vikings.’ And I said, ‘Do we have a chance? Can you handle some of them?’ And he said, ‘Listen, we might shut them out.’ And he was serious. And that’s the way that they played.

“A big difference in Super Bowl IV and Super Bowl I was the fact that we’d been through it in (Super Bowl) One and knew what it felt like to lose. Now in Super Bowl IV, our attitude was a lot different. We had a lot more confidence. And we were a better football team, as well, in Super Bowl IV.”

But there was another factor: The Chiefs weren’t in awe of their opponents, and if that sounds odd, let Dawson explain what happened when Kansas City met Green Bay in Super Bowl I.

“You have to understand that a lot of the players on my team … they idolized the Green Bay Packers when they were in high school and when they were in college,” he said. “So these guys were very special to my teammates. To them, it was one (game) where (they’d think) ‘I hope I do something out there where I won’t embarrass myself.’

“It wasn’t a question of: Hey, forget about these guys that are on that football team. Yeah, I know it’s (Paul) Hornung and Bart Starr and all these guys… and the defense they have … they’re players just like we are.’ They’re saying those things, but I don’t think they really believed it because they were kind of in awe. They were in awe participating against the Green Bay Packers and guys that they idolized when they were younger.”

The Chiefs lost, 35-10, and Dawson conceded that he still hasn’t gotten over the defeat.

“An interception that I threw turned the thing around,” he said. “What was it at halftime 14-10? It was a close game and, looking to throw downfield, my arm got hit. Willie Wood intercepted it and took it down inside the 10-yaerd line, they scored a touchdown and, basically, that was it. That was the end of the game. Because you’re trying to play catchup against that Green Bay defensive unit? Not very easy to do back in those days.”


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