TOFN podcast: HOFer Willie Lanier recalls five of his most memorable games
The Talk of Fame Network introduces another in our “5 Games” series of podcasts this week with Hall of Fame middle linebacker Willie Lanier of the Kansas City Chiefs.
The concept of the podcast is to visit with an historic football figure about five significant games in his career. We’ll visit with Lanier this week about a couple games between the Chiefs and their bitter AFL-rival the Oakland Raiders, a Super Bowl, the longest game ever played plus, interestingly enough, an exhibition game.
The first game we’ll discuss with Lanier on this podcast is the 1969 AFC title game against the Raiders – a team that had beaten the Chiefs twice during the regular season and had won seven of the previous eight meetings between the two teams. Kansas City did topple the Raiders, then went on to upset the Minnesota Vikings to win its only Super Bowl. Lanier said the root of that 17-7 upset victory of the Raiders was a humiliation the Chiefs suffered in Oakland in the playoffs a year before, a 41-6 defeat.
“They had at halftime a 31-6 lead,” Lanier said. “They basically humiliated us. I remember Hank (coach Stram) coming in at halftime and saying, `If they scored 31 in the first half, then we could do it in the second half,’ and went off in his commentary.
“After he was out of the room, my comments to the defense was there’s a difference between fact and fiction. They had scored 31. We did not. There was a greater possibility they might score 62 – and I’ll be blank-blank if we’re going to allow anything like that. So what we have to do is let them feel physical pain this whole second half because in my view the game was over. But we were going to play it in a way that we were going to establish a physical, psychological dominance. So that second half set the tone for whatever happened in the championship game the next year… Going into Oakland (in 1969), we already had a template that most people wouldn’t have understood.”
The Chiefs won with a physical defense all season that did have a psychological effect on offenses. Kansas City was the last Super Bowl champion to finish first across the board in the four major defensive statistical categories – run, pass, total and scoring defense. The Chiefs lined up five Hall of Famers on defense that season: tackles Buck Buchanan and Curley Culp, linebackers Bobby Bell and Lanier and cornerback Emmitt Thomas.
The Chiefs allowed only 20 points that postseason in beating the two previous AFL champions – the 1967 Raiders and 19698 Jets – in addition to the NFL champion Vikings.
So what was the difference between, say, the 1969 Chiefs and some of the great Super Bowl championship defenses of the past -- Pittsburgh’s Steel Curtain, the 1985 Bears and the 2000 Ravens?
“We had five guys in the Hall of Fame,” Lanier said. “We could match (up) with anybody.”
In our next episode, we’ll talk to Lanier about that 1970 Super Bowl victory over the Minnesota Vikings. Subscribe to our podcast and listen for free at @ iTunes or VokalNow.com
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