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1969 AFL Championship

The Game Before the Money Radio Show reviewed the 1969 AFL Championship, where the Chiefs battled the Raiders for a win in the last-ever American Football League championship. The show airs on the SportsMap Radio Network on Saturday mornings at 11 am Eastern, 8 Pacific and is hosted by football historian Jackson Michael.

Chiefs vs. Raiders Rivalry

The Kansas City Chiefs vs. Oakland Raiders rivalry was likely the most bitter of all American Football League rivalries, especially during the late 1960s. Their AFL rivalry climaxed in the 1969 American Football League championship game, which was the very last AFL game ever played. The stakes couldn’t have been higher. The winner won a trip to Super Bowl IV.

The rivalry is now an AFC West rivalry. I love the AFC West because all four teams in today’s AFC West comprised the original AFL West. All of those rivalries date back to 1960.

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Becoming the Oakland Raiders

The Chiefs and Raiders are both original AFL teams from 1960, but neither of them play in their original city. In fact, the Raiders never played a home game in their original city.

The Raiders AFL franchise was originally located in Minneapolis. The NFL fought the new AFL by offering the initial owners of the Raiders franchise an NFL expansion team. Those owners accepted, and the Minnesota Vikings were created. A new group of owners in Oakland then took over the AFL franchise, and they became the Oakland Raiders.

Very early on, the team announced its name would be the Oakland Senors. Before the first game, however, the team became the Raiders. The Raiders also first had yellow as one of their colors. The yellow trim was dropped in favor of silver in 1963. That was the first year of the silver and black.

Becoming the Kansas City Chiefs

Lamar Hunt, the great founder of the Kansas City Chiefs, came from a very wealthy family in Texas. Therefore, the Chiefs franchise did not start out in Kansas City. They started in Dallas and were known as the Dallas Texans. To directly combat the Texans, the NFL started its own franchise in Dallas in 1960, the Dallas Cowboys. Both teams struggled to gain the full attention of the city. That eventually led Lamar Hunt to move the Dallas Texans to Kansas City, where they became the Chiefs, a nickname for Kansas City’s mayor at the time.

First Year of Raiders Chiefs Rivalry

The two teams first played each other in Week 2 of the 1960 AFL season, the second regular season game ever for both franchises. The then Dallas Texans coasted to victory over Oakland, led by their quarterback Cotton Davidson, who a few years later became the starting quarterback for the Raiders. Oakland’s quarterback for part of that second game of the 1960 AFL season was Tom Flores, the future Super Bowl-winning head coach of the Raiders.

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The two teams met again in Week 5 of the 1960 season. Oakland scored 20 third-quarter points to top the then Dallas Texans, 20-19.

The teams were 1-1 against each other after the first year of the rivalry.

Raiders vs. Chiefs was Full-On War

The teams had played each other exactly 22 times before the 1969 AFL Championship. Their records stood at 11-11 against each other. It had become one of the fiercest rivalries in pro football.

The line play was so physical that the red paint from Chiefs helmets stained the helmet of Raiders defensive lineman Ben Davidson. In an interview on the Chiefs YouTube channel, Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson said, “The games between the Raiders and Chiefs weren’t games.” Dawson said, “Games were fun. Raiders vs. Chiefs was full-on war.”

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Battle for the Last-Ever AFL Championship

The 1969 AFL Championship meant a lot. It was the final game of the American Football League before it fully merged with the NFL. It determined the AFL’s representative for Super Bowl IV. Also, it conclusively settled whether the Raiders or Chiefs would stand as the team with the most AFL victories against the other in this stoic rivalry.

Coming into the 1969 AFL Championship, the Raiders had lost only four regular season games in the past three years.

The Chiefs had finished the 1969 season with three regular-season losses, two of those by a total of seven points to the Raiders. The stage was set for the AFL’s two biggest rivals to battle for the last-ever American Football League championship.

First Half of 1969 AFL Championship

The Raiders jumped out to a 7-0 lead by the end of the first quarter, thanks mostly in part to a pass from quarterback Daryle Lamonica, nicknamed the “Mad Bomber,” to Warren Wells, one of Oakland’s top receivers in the 1960s. That play set up a short rushing touchdown by Charlie Smith.

Late in the second quarter, Kansas City had only made two first downs all game. With about 3 minutes left in the first half, they got across midfield for the first time. A long pass from Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson to Frank Pitts got Kansas City to the one-yard line. The Chiefs tied the game at 7 on the next play.

People think of the AFL as a flashy passing game, but this was a brutally physical game that was tied at 7 at halftime.

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Final Half of 1969 AFL Championship

The final half of AFL play got off to both a bone-crushing and bizarre fashion. A botched snap forced a Raider field goal attempt to go awry, but Kansas City quickly fumbled the ball back to the Raiders.

On Oakland’s ensuing possession, both Kansas City star safety Johnny Robinson and Oakland quarterback Daryle Lamonica were knocked out of the game on separate plays. Forty-two-year-old George Blanda took over for the Raiders at QB. (Blanda eventually played quarterback at age 48!)

Following an interception, Kansas City drove 94 yards for a touchdown, taking a 14-7 lead into the fourth quarter. Lamonica courageously reentered the game, despite an injury to his throwing hand. 

Turnovers plagued both teams in the fourth quarter. Kansas City’s Emmitt Thomas returned an interception 62 yards to set up a field goal that put Kansas City ahead 17-7, and that’s how the game ended.

Kansas City Chiefs Win 1969 AFL Championship

The Kansas City Chiefs won the 1969 AFL Championship, won the 10-year war against the Raiders, and earned a place in Super Bowl IV.

Kansas City won Super Bowl IV, 23-7, over the Minnesota Vikings.

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If you get a chance to see highlights of that AFL Championship Game, I highly recommend it. Everybody talks about the AFL and offense. That game showcased the AFL’s defense in a huge way, punishing hits on nearly every play.

Punishing hits defined that rivalry and one of the most famous ones came the next year, in 1970, when Raiders defensive lineman Ben Davidson hit Len Dawson in the back after a play ended.

Hear Football Legends on The Game Before the Money Podcast:

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