On the plane that carried the Kansas City Chiefs, the champions of the American Football League, across the shadow of the Rockies to their opening game against the Denver Broncos last week, Abner Haynes, the team's fancy running back and a virtual symbol of the league itself, was giggling and twisting in the aisle and winning an argument about Texas. Haynes was claiming that his home state, and the place from which the Chiefs had moved, had given pro football a greater number of stars than California. "Just name the position, baby," said Haynes to talent director Don Klosterman, a Californian. "Halfbacks," said Klosterman. "Go, baby," said Haynes. Klosterman said, " Jon Arnett." Haynes's eyes flashed and he said, "Oh, give me Doak Walker, quick." Klosterman hurriedly offered, " Hugh McElhenny." Haynes paused a second, snapped his fingers and said, " Abner Haynes. Ooh, baby." And Abner danced away.
A day and a night later Abner Haynes and astonishingly powerful Kansas City danced away from the Denver Broncos in such fashion that it looked as if Lamar Hunt, the 31-year-old owner of the Chiefs, might have to find another league for them to play in. Hunt's team revealed so many weapons in defeating Denver by the record-smashing score of 59-7 that the possibility arose the AFL might have a team too strong for its own good.
Coach Hank Stram had brought his defending champions along slowly through the exhibition season, exploring the possibilities of the top rookies that Don Klosterman had signed for him. Quarterback Lennie Dawson had been spared the grind of extensive warm-up game exposure, and Stram had reserved a new and exciting I formation to use against Coach Jack Faulkner's improved but soon-to-be-stunned Broncos. From the instant that the game got under way in a rainstorm that swept over the turf of the University of Denver's quaint little stadium, the Chiefs knew they were hot. Dazzling the Broncos with the new formation, Dawson drove his team straight to a touchdown, using Haynes and Fullback Curtis McClinton on outside runs, befuddling Denver's uncertain cornermen, then throwing a 17-yard pass to McClinton for the score. Before the evening was over, Dawson passed for three more touchdowns, setting a record for himself, and the merry-go-round Kansas City offense sped to a new AFL scoring record. The Chiefs even had the audacity to let McClinton throw a left-handed touchdown pass and to let Abner Haynes set up a touchdown by throwing a pass. The Kansas City defense, led by Middle Guard Jerry Mays, intercepted five passes, scored twice and smothered Denver's attack. Nor could Kansas City's defense be too vicious for Hank Stram, a man who labored 12 years as an assistant coach at four universities ( Purdue, Notre Dame, SMU and Miami) before Hunt gave him his chance. Once during the massacre at Denver, Stram noticed his giant rookie lineman, Junious Buchanan, helping up a Bronco player he had plowed under. "Let him get up by himself," Stram hollered. "It's your job to knock him down, Buck, not pick him up."
Stram's prekickoff pep talk to the grim and solemn Chiefs, who were only six-point favorites, had consisted of a short, simple lecture. "There's no mystery to this game," he said. "Just hit and win. You're the Yankees of the AFL." Stram was as right as Houk. After the game he pointed at Dawson.
"There's the story," said Stram. "Look at his pants. Not a spot on 'em."
Dawson smiled and said quietly, "I'm glad we outscored the defense."
Said Abner Haynes, "Oh, give me Lennie Dawson, quick."
Owner Hunt, huddled under a rain slicker, watched from the top row of the stadium, his emotions oscillating between immediate joy and long-term worry as his Chiefs steadily rode the Broncos.
"He's got a no-hitter going," said Hunt as Dawson completed his first seven passes. "They're all strikes."
When McClinton unloaded his left-handed bomb to End Chris Burford, a 33-yard surprise that sailed high and end over end rather than in a spiral, Hunt grinned and said, "McClinton throws the satellite ball."