Dawson is inclined to agree. He played two years for Cleveland behind Milt Plum. Before that, he was a backup quarterback to Bobby Layne at Pittsburgh. "This club," said Dawson, "is better than either Cleveland or Pittsburgh when I was with them. As a quarterback, if you can throw the ball where you want to it doesn't make any difference what league you're in."
The Chiefs came into Buffalo as mild favorites. But the weather and the Buffalo defense had threatened to cancel Kansas City's offense—the highest-scoring offense in the league—and turn the game into one of defense and breaks. The field was frozen on the sides, despite a chemical treatment, and was muddy in the center. The temperature fell to the low 30s and a chill, nasty rain came down on the puddles of ice and slosh that glistened under the stadium lights.
As if believing in the importance of breaks, the Chiefs quickly made one for themselves. The opening kickoff was a sort of pop fly that Buffalo Tackle Dudley Meredith caught and fumbled at his own 31. After Jerrel Wilson recovered for Kansas City, the Chiefs shifted from an I formation into a full-house (or T formation) backfield and scored in three plays. Dawson threw a 29-yard pass to Tight End Fred Arbanas, who ran a deep flag pattern for the touchdown.
It took the Bills five minutes to tie the score. Quarterback Jack Kemp, who has been bothered by a sore arm, passed to wide receiver Elbert Dubenion, who outran Corner Back Willie Mitchell and Safety Bobby Hunt for the last 40 yards of a 69-yard play. Dubenion, who is called Golden Wheels, has a habit of stepping up and down curbs 200 times at a stretch whenever he thinks of it, a practice that has strengthened his legs after an operation last year. He appeared to be moving faster on that play than at any time since 1964, when he had an incredible average of 27 yards per catch.
Buffalo's mysterious place-kicker—Gerald or Gerard Lusteg, once known as Booth, alumnus of either Boston College or the University of Connecticut, depending on which strikes his fancy—kicked the extra point for the tie. At that stage it still seemed bound to be a close game that might be decided by the kickers, Lusteg or Mike Mercer of Kansas City.
The Bills are somewhat disenchanted with their man, who made only 19 of 38 field goals during the season. The Bills call him Brand X, and Buffalo Coach Joe Collier calls him Whatshis-name. But after Lusteg's extra point the Bills settled down to playing a vicious, blitzing defense that kept Dawson changing formations and checking off his plays at the line of scrimmage.
"I was amazed," Dawson said later. "I'd never known the Bills to blitz that much. I had to keep guessing with them and I called a lot more audibles than I would ordinarily."
Mike Garrett, the Kansas City rookie halfback who won the Heisman Trophy last year at USC, grabbed a Buffalo punt in heavy traffic early in the second quarter and his long return, set up the Chiefs at the Bills' 45. After a couple of scrambles and another pass to Arbanas (the Buffalo tackler gave him a separated shoulder and a seat on the bench), Dawson rolled to his right from the Buffalo 29. The blitz was on again. Middle Linebacker Harry Jacobs came up behind Dawson and hit him a shattering blow. At impact, Dawson threw to Flanker Otis Taylor, who used his 210 pounds to run over four Bills on his way into the end zone to put Kansas City in front 14-7.
Buffalo had two big chances before the half. One came on the next Kansas City series, when Corner Back Tom Janik almost intercepted a Dawson flat pass at the Chiefs' 21. It would have been a certain touchdown and might have changed the game. The Bills got the ball again with a minute left in the half and, using passes to rookie Halfback Bobby Burnett, moved to the Kansas City 10. With 49 seconds to play, rookie Bobby Crockett ran a quick post pattern and Kansas City Corner Back Willie Mitchell fell down. Crockett was open for the touchdown. But suddenly here came Kansas City's veteran free safety, Johnny Robinson.
"We had a blitz called," said Robinson. "My man was Jack Spikes [a Buffalo running back], but he stayed in to block. I looked to the strong side, and as I looked back to the weak side I saw Crockett. I went for the ball. I was very lucky."