After Green Bay had won its second straight National Football League championship by defeating the Dallas Cowboys last week, champagne flowed like cement in the Packer dressing room. The Packers, many of whom had played in previous championship games, accepted victory with the quiet relish of pros who had done a job well; none gave a thought to the Super Bowl—the game that will match the NFL and AFL champions this Sunday in the Los Angeles Coliseum.
But in Buffalo, the Kansas City Chiefs disposed of the Buffalo Bills to win the AFL title and then wasted a few magnums anointing Hank Stram, the young and inventive coach of the Chiefs. The sentiment of the Kansas City dressing room was one that has long obtained in AFL circles: "Bring on the NFL."
Well, at last the NFL will be brought on, but if any anointing is done in a Coliseum dressing room it will be of Vincent Lombardi, coach of the Packers. The Packers already have won the most difficult game they will play on the way to the championship of the professional football world. Fined $2,000 by the AFL for their bibulous Buffalo capers, the Chiefs can look forward to champagne without a penalty in Los Angeles—but they will have to go to the Packer quarters to get it.
Although the oddsmakers have established Green Bay as a 13-point favorite, the probability is that the Packers, vastly more experienced in clutch games than the Chiefs, will win by three or four touchdowns. One reason is that Green Bay is the most unflappable football team in history. The Cowboys, more talented than the Chiefs and just as talented as the Packers, lost because the enormous emotional tension of the championship game caused errors of execution. These cost the game-tying touchdown in the final moments and slowed Cowboy drives or created Green Bay opportunities earlier in the game. A fumble gave Green Bay a touchdown; an overeager offensive lineman who jumped offside strangled Dallas' last threat. Green Bay made no such mistakes.
"This is a game like any other," said Fullback Jim Taylor before the Packers beat the Cowboys. "Sure, we're up for it. But we're not excited. This is a tough game. You go out, and if you're man enough you win. You do what you have to do and you don't make a mistake. You don't have to get excited. If you lose, the world goes on. It's not a matter of life or death."
Lombardi, preoccupied with the Cowboys, did not turn his thoughts to Kansas City until after the championship game. He sent Scout Wally Cruice to Buffalo, but when the Packers started preparation for the Super Bowl last week he ruefully admitted that he wished he knew more about the Chiefs.
Lombardi certainly knows more than he says he does. He has three movies of the Chiefs in action—films that reveal them as surprisingly similar to the Cowboys except in defense.
Like his Kansas City players, Hank Stram is almost obsessed by the challenge of meeting the NFL champions. He, too, has three movies of his opponent in action. He chose them to give him a broad view of Green Bay. One is of an early game against Cleveland, one of a midseason game against Minnesota (which the Packers lost by three points against a scrambling quarterback not unlike the Chiefs' Len Dawson and Pete Beathard) and the third of the championship game, which gave Stram an opportunity to study a somewhat bigger and quicker version of his own team against the Packers.
I have not had as much opportunity to watch the Chiefs perform on the field as my colleague, Edwin Shrake. An expert on the American Football League and on football in general, Shrake also has seen NFL teams in action, so his is an educated eye. "In the game films the Chiefs wanted to see how the Packers progressed during the season," he says. "They wanted to see how the Green Bay personnel either improved or declined and what changes were necessary. But Stram says the Chiefs—whose workouts are closed to the public but open to the press at Long Beach—are preparing for this game as for any other.
"Stram says that his approach and procedures are the same. and adds: 'I think Green Bay and Buffalo have similar personalities.' "