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July 07, 2011
With the NFL's reputation at stake, Green Bay pushed past the Chiefs and proved it was in a class by itself
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July 07, 2011

Duel For Superiority

With the NFL's reputation at stake, Green Bay pushed past the Chiefs and proved it was in a class by itself

From SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, January 23, 1967

FOR TWO QUARTERS IT SEEMED THAT THE KANSAS CITY CHIEFS MIGHT turn the Super Bowl into a Super Upset. The AFL champions, seven-year-old babes in the jungle of professional football, had played the merciless machine that is Vince Lombardi's NFL champion Green Bay Packers to a virtual standstill, blunting the famed running attack, harassing the game's best passer and moving the ball down the field to trail only 14--10. Then the Super Dream came to a nightmarish end. Green Bay stormed out of the weeds, where it had been lurking for a half, and suddenly the first game between the two long-feuding leagues became a rout.

The Packers struck savagely and often at Kansas City's weak spots, and when it was all over, they had demonstrated to their own satisfaction—and to the AFL—that they are indeed the finest football team in creation. The score was 35--10, and even Lombardi, the game ball clutched to his breast, permitted himself a smile.

The game began slowly. Curious about the Chiefs' capabilities, Green Bay's Bart Starr probed cautiously, waiting for a while before he began throwing passes to Carroll Dale, Marv Fleming and to the surprising hero of the game, Max McGee. McGee caught the first touchdown pass eight minutes and 56 seconds into the first quarter on a pattern that worked well throughout the warm, windless afternoon in the Los Angeles Coliseum. He ran an inside move on cornerback Willie Mitchell, who dived frantically in an effort to knock the ball away. McGee reached back with one hand, snapped the ball to his chest and went in for a 37-yard touchdown.

That one play confirmed Kansas City's fatal weakness at the corners, but at the time it did not create noticeable consternation among the Chiefs. Quarterback Len Dawson completed several passes to Mike Garrett, the stumpy rookie halfback who proved to be just as good as the Packers had feared; to Chris Burford, the veteran end; and to Otis Taylor, who had been compared favorably by AFL adherents with Dallas's Bob Hayes. When Dawson got Kansas City its first touchdown with a pass to Curtis McClinton, the surprisingly small crowd of 63,036, most of whom seemed to be pulling for the Chiefs, cheered the seven-yard play with slightly unbelieving exuberance.

But early in the second quarter Starr had pretty well decided what he could do to Kansas City. He took 13 plays to travel 73 yards for Green Bay's second score, and it was during this march that the hopes of the Chiefs must have begun to die. The drive ended in a 14-yard touchdown on a play the Packers have all but abandoned against NFL opponents because it has become so familiar. It was the venerable Green Bay power sweep to the left, with Jim Taylor carrying the ball behind the meticulous blocking of tackle Bob Skoronski, who hooked in the Chiefs' end, and guards Fuzzy Thurston and Jerry Kramer, who mopped up what was left.

After that, Kansas City drove down to the Packers' 24 on Dawson's passes out of his moving pocket, and Mike Mercer booted a 31-yard field goal. That was to be almost the last sign of any offensive activity by the Chiefs. The half ended 54 seconds later.

GREEN BAY MADE A FEW ADJUSTMENTS DURING THE intermission. "We were a little too cautious in the first half," captain Willie Davis would say after the game. "We were concerned with that rolling pocket. We were getting in and then not making tackles, and we weren't blitzing at all."

Early in the second half Dawson had advanced Kansas City to its 49-yard line, third-and-five, when the Packers tried their first blitz, sending the two corner linebackers—Lee Roy Caffey and Dave Robinson—in with the wave of the defensive line. Robinson looped in and tipped Dawson's pass, which wobbled weakly into the air.

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