51 for LI: Super Bowl I Starts It All
[lead align=”default”]The Super Bowl LI countdown is over with one day remaining, and the last stop on the tour is Super Bowl I.[/lead]
When this game took place in January 1967, the idea of a Super Bowl or AFC-NFC World Championship, was a novelty. The two leagues had a healthy rivalry which came to a head following the 1966 seasons. On one end, there was the National Football League, the more established league considered to be superior. The other end was the American Football League, a relatively new association that went toe to toe with the NFL before long.
The two leagues agreed in 1966 to merge, and this union would not be complete until 1970. At that point, two schedules would become one. Those top college players and free agents would not be the subjects of bitter bidding wars, either.
Just because they decided to get hitched doesn’t mean they liked each other, though. This was the first time on a huge stage where the two leagues got to prove their worth against the other. Pride for their franchises and leagues were at stake.
Super Bowl I: 1966 Green Bay Packers
Representing the NFL in the first-ever Super Bowl were the Green Bay Packers. They were the defending champions, having won the title in 1965 as well. Taking the 1966 title was their fourth of the decade, and they’d get their fifth under Vince Lombardi the following season.
The 1966 Packers went 12-2 under the leadership of Lombardi and veteran quarterback Bart Starr. Their only defeats came against the 49ers and Vikings in narrow defeats. Green Bay closed the year with five regular-season wins in a row.
The Packers won the NFL Western Conference by three games over the Baltimore Colts of Johnny Unitas. Back in those days, there was only one playoff game in the respective leagues, and Green Bay claimed the NFL championship by defeating the Dallas Cowboys.
Super Bowl I: 1966 Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City had the distinction of representing the AFL in the first Super Bowl. Originally the Dallas Texans, the Chiefs came about in 1963 and took their first league title as Kansas City in 1966.
It began with an 11-2-1 season that got them their division crown by a three-game margin. With an offense putting up 448 points over the course of 14 games, this Len Dawson-led unit put points on the board better than any other AFL team.
Kansas City drew the Buffalo Bills in the AFL championship, played on New Year’s Day in 1967. That was a rout in favor of the Chiefs, sending them to the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl I: The Game
The hype coming into the first Super Bowl was one thing, but the point spread was another. Green Bay was a 14-point favorite over the Chiefs from the supposed weaker league. As a matter of fact, they were a weaker league until a few years later when they actually begun winning these games.
Green Bay struck first in Super Bowl I, going 80 yards down the field and scoring the first Super Bowl touchdown thanks to Bart Starr and Max McGee. There’s the answer to a trivia question for you. Yet, at 7-0 Packers, Kansas City had a response, and when Len Dawson found Curtis McClinton, we had a tied ballgame.
The Packers would retake the lead on a Jim Taylor touchdown run at 14-7, but late in the first, Kansas City kicked a field goal. This was a 14-10 game at the half, drawing surprise from both viewers and the Packers sideline. While Green Bay were heavy betting favorites, being the so-called “superior” team didn’t give them much leeway in the court of public opinion, either. A loss would have been, frankly, an embarrassment.
Fortunately for them, Kansas City ran out of gas. The Packers’ Willie Wood picked off a pass early in the third quarter, setting up a short touchdown drive. This gave Green Bay a comfortable lead at 21-10, which eventually ballooned to 35-10 by the fourth quarter.