Each week during the 2015 season, Viking Update examines a past game against the Vikings’ upcoming opponent. Some of the choices are obvious; others are not. However, all the games chosen stand the test of time.
Minnesota vs. Kansas City
Super Bowl IV (New Orleans, Louisiana)
Jan. 11, 1970
The Vikings were kings of the NFL during the 1969 season. In the franchise’s ninth year of existence, Bud Grant’s crew dominated, boasting the league’s best defense and highest-scoring offense. The “Purple People Eaters” – defensive linemen Jim Marshall, Alan Page, Gary Larsen and Carl Eller – anchored a unit that surrendered just 133 points, an NFL record. The offense, powered by rugged quarterback Joe Kapp and bruising running backs Bill Brown and Dave Osborn, scored 379 points. The Vikings’ only defeats came on the opening Sunday and the final week of the regular season. In between, Minnesota reeled off 12 straight victories, the NFL’s longest winning streak in 35 years. In the playoffs, the Vikings rallied to upend the Los Angeles Rams, 23-20, and destroyed Cleveland, 27-7, to claim the final NFL Championship and advance to Super Bowl IV against the AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs. Following an 11-3 regular season and second-place finish in their division, Hank Stram’s team surged in the playoffs, beating the defending Super Bowl champion Jets, 13-6, and Oakland, 17-7. Most “experts” believed the Vikings’ ferocious pass rush and potent offense would overwhelm the Chiefs. Minnesota was installed as a 13-point favorite for the last game prior to the AFL-NFL merger.
Played at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans, the weather conditions for Super Bowl IV foretold the type of day it would be for the favored Minnesota Vikings. Dark skies, wet grass and a raw 55 degrees greeted the players and the 80,562 in attendance. A tornado watch had even been issued for the region. But on this day, the Chiefs were the storm as they blew away the Vikings.
After an opening seven-play drive by Minnesota died at the Kansas City 39, the Chiefs established early control. A nice mix of runs and quick passes from quarterback Len Dawson led to a 48-yard field goal from Jan Stenerud. One of the few soccer-style kickers of that era, Stenerud’s kick was the longest field goal in the Super Bowl’s short history. (The record would stand until Super Bowl XXVIII.) A second failed drive by the Vikings gave the Chiefs the chance to follow the same script late in the first quarter. They did just that, using eight plays to travel 55 yards. Stenerud culminated the efficient drive with a 32-yard field goal and a 6-0 lead with 13:40 to play in the half. Just over five minutes later, Stenerud struck again, this time from 25 yards for a 9-0 advantage.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Chiefs seized complete control of Super Bowl IV when they recovered a Charlie West fumble at the Minnesota 19. Six plays later, the Chiefs ran “65 toss power trap,” as Mike Garrett scored on a 5-yard run for a 16-0 Kansas City advantage at the half.
Heading into the locker room, the vaunted Vikings defense was clearly frustrated by the offensive game plan installed by Kansas City head coach Hank Stram. The Chiefs employed multiple formations and extensively used motion to befuddle the Minnesota linebackers and secondary. End-arounds and trap plays took advantage of the Vikings’ aggressive brand of play. Perhaps most importantly, double-teaming defensive ends Jim Marshal and Carl Eller and emphasizing short passes took the bite out of the “Purple People Eaters.”
On defense, the Chiefs stonewalled the Vikings powerful running duo of Bill Brown and Dave Osborn. Kansas City offered a new wrinkle by showing a five-man front and placing a large defensive tackle, Buck Buchanan or Curley Culp, in front of Vikings center Mick Tingelhoff, who was outweighed by about 60 pounds. Smothering Tingelhoff gave the Kansas City linebackers a cleaner path to stuff the run. The Vikings’ longest carry of the dreary afternoon would be a 15-yard burst by Oscar Reed when the game was all but over.
In the second half, things didn’t improve dramatically for Minnesota, although the Vikings did show some life on their first drive. Joe Kapp finally got in a rhythm, completing four straight passes to march the Vikings to the Kansas City 4. Osborn finished the 69-yard drive by knifing into the end zone. With 5:03 remaining in the third quarter, the Vikings had a glimmer of hope. Unfortunately for them, the Chiefs extinguished that a few minutes later. At the Minnesota 46, Dawson connected with Otis Taylor on a hitch. Vikings defensive back Earsell Mackbee, playing with a pinched nerve in his shoulder, attempted to tackle Taylor at the 41. The wide receiver broke free and raced down the sideline where he thwarted Karl Kassulke’s tackle attempt before crossing the goal line for a momentum-killing touchdown. The Chiefs led 23-7 late in the third quarter, making the final stanza a mere formality.
Minnesota’s desperate attempt to rally resulted in three fourth-quarter interceptions. Tough-guy Kapp, who coined and embodied the Vikings’ “40 for 60” mantra, didn’t make it to the end of the game. A nasty hit from defensive end Aaron Brown left the Minnesota QB with a left shoulder injury. A wobbly Kapp being helped to the sideline with four minutes to play symbolized the Chiefs’ domination in their 23-7 victory. Kansas City allowed just 67 yards rushing and forced five Minnesota turnovers. On offense, the efficient Chiefs attack accumulated 151 yards on the ground. Dawson, who threw for 142 yards on 17 attempts, was named the game’s MVP.
Kansas City’s Remi Prudhomme recovering Charlie West’s fumble of a kickoff midway through the second quarter was the key. Leading 9-0, the fumble recovery at the Minnesota 19 set up the Chiefs for an easy score. Six plays later, Mike Garrett’s 5-yard run gave Kansas City an insurmountable 16-0 lead.
Purple Player of the Game
Wide receiver John Henderson was Minnesota’s lone bright spot offensively. Henderson caught seven passes for 111 yards.
Post Game Chatter
(via the Jan. 12, 1970 edition of The New York Times)
Bud Grant (Vikings head coach)
“We played a great team and they beat us. Why? They made the big plays and didn’t make any errors.”
Joe Kapp (Vikings QB)
“We went into the game wanting to run the ball and they were able to take it all away with great defensive play.”
Roy Winston (Vikings LB)
“There were so many guys running around there in that backfield, it was hard to figure out what was going on.”
Karl Kassulke (Vikings DB)
“We made a batch of mistakes. We made more mistakes today than we made in 23 games.”
Dave Osborn (Vikings RB)
“We didn’t overlook the Chiefs, we got outsmarted.”
“Everybody back then played a 4-3 defense. The Chiefs came out for that game with a five-man line. We never saw that or practiced against it. There were too many guys to block. It took us the whole first half to figure out how to handle it.”
“Kansas City knew if they were going to beat us that they had to stop the run. We didn’t pass until we had to pass. Stopping our running attack allowed them to control the ball.”
The winning share for the Chiefs was $15,000 per player.
Cost of a Super Bowl ticket was $15.
16 eventual Hall of Famers were involved in Super Bowl IV.
For Kansas City:
- Len Dawson, QB
- Curley Culp, DT
- Buck Buchanan, DT
- Bobby Bell, LB
- Willie Lanier, LB
- Emmitt Thomas, CB
- Jan Stenerud, PK
- Hank Stram, head coach
- Lamar Hunt, owner
For the Vikings:
- Mick Tingelhoff, C
- Ron Yary, OT
- Carl Eller, DE
- Alan Page, DT
- Paul Krause, S
- Bud Grant, head coach
- Jim Finks, general manager
The game marked the first time NFL Films mic’d a coach during the Super Bowl. They chose Kansas City’s Hank Stram. The experiment worked. The gregarious coach’s comments endure for longtime fans and prompted NFL Films to make coaches and players with microphones a staple of their productions. Some of Stram’s classic remarks that still burn Vikings fans:
- “Just keep matriculating the ball down the field, boys!”
- “65 toss power trap! Yaaa-haaa-haaa-ha-ha! Yaaa-ha-ha! I tell ya that thing was there, yes sir boys! Haa-ha-ha-ha-ha! Wooo!!”
- “Kassulke was running around there like it was a Chinese fire drill. They didn’t know where Mike was. Didn’t know where he was! They look like they’re flat as hell.”
The Vikings got a small measure of revenge on the Chiefs in the opening week of the 1970 season. Minnesota blasted Kansas City 27-10 en route to another 12-2 season that would end with another playoff disappointment, this time at the hands of San Francisco in the divisional round. But Minnesota would return to the Super Bowl following the 1973, 1974 and 1976 seasons. While the Vikings lost those encounters, the Chiefs haven’t made it back to the big game since that gloomy afternoon in 1970.