A complete guide to Chiefs’ Super Bowl history

If you grew up in the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, aughts, or most of the 2010s, then the Kansas City Chiefs may carry little significance in your image of great NFL teams. But in the very beginning of the Super Bowl era and the present day, the Chiefs serve as the league’s bookends of great teams.

From Len Dawson and Hank Stram to Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid, the Kansas City Chiefs have been one of the NFL’s top franchises under two regimes and only those two regimes. Can they carry on their legacy beyond this current run as pro football’s premier franchise unlike their last time on the perch over 50 years ago?

1966 season: Lost Super Bowl I, 35-10

As the upstart AFL’s championship team in 1966, the Chiefs carried the weight of being the new league’s first hope of proving they belonged with the big boys. Started in 1960 as a rival to the much older NFL, there was a vast disparity in talent in the beginning as the AFL tried to play catch up for five years until securing a $36 million TV contract with NBC in 1965.

That not only gave the AFL the money necessary to compete for top players, but also gave the NFL reason to think that not unlike a modern day cinematic universe that there could be even more money in crossover events than simply trying to hold a monopoly on pro football.

Rather than competing for players and driving up the cost for a quarterback or running back, the two leagues soon agreed to a merger, which would mean an “AFL-NFL World Championship Game” to be held on Jan. 15, 1967 at the Los Angeles Coliseum between the champions of each league. Only a few years later would it be changed to being called the Super Bowl.

The Chiefs were 14-point underdogs against a Green Bay Packers organization that had won eight NFL championships, including three of the last five. Despite a close 14-10 halftime score thanks to AFL Pro Bowl quarterback Len Dawson throwing a second quarter touchdown, the Packers pulled away in the second half behind Bart Starr, the MVP of the 1966 season and the league’s first Super Bowl champion.

Chiefs v Packers

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Green Bay head coach Vince Lombardi said after the game: The best AFL team “doesn’t compare with the top NFL teams.”

The Chiefs would be outclassed in the AFL by the much more dominant Raiders over the next two seasons, but Stram and Dawson wouldn’t have to wait long for redemption.

1969 season: Won Super Bowl IV, 23-7

A year after Super Bowl III, always known to some as “the first rigged Super Bowl” (including some players) because of how much it benefited the league to show fans that in fact it could be a great game won by either team, the Chiefs went into their second championship opportunity with a lot of reasons to be confident.

The number one reason being: The Packers weren’t there.

The new kings of the NFL were the Minnesota Vikings, themselves a franchise that weren’t even as old as most teams in the AFL. Debuting in 1961 with future Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton at quarterback, the Vikings struggled to compete for their first eight seasons but then suddenly it all came together under head coach Bud Grant in 1969.

Three years after trading Tarkenton to the Giants, Minnesota went 12-1 behind former CFL star Joe Kapp at quarterback and shocked the world by beating the Rams and Browns en route to their first Super Bowl appearance. But the Chiefs were not shocked to be playing in their second Super Bowl in four years.

They were just hungry.

Kansas City Chiefs

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With one of the greatest defenses in football history, ranking first in points, yards, turnovers, passing yards, rushing yards, passing touchdowns allowed, yards per carry allowed, rushing touchdowns allowed, and any other category you can think of, Kansas City went 11-3 and then held the Jets and Raiders to a combined 13 points in two playoff games.

Back for their second chance, Dawson and Stram did their parts, but it was the defense again as the Chiefs intercepted Kapp twice, backup Gary Cuozzo once, and forced three turnovers in a dominating 23-7 Super Bowl victory against the NFL’s top-ranked offense. Perhaps the game was so lopsided for Kapp that he never recovered, as he went unsigned that offseason despite finishing second on MVP voting in 1969, and he was out of the league entirely by 1971.

The Chiefs were finally champions, but it would be 24 years until their next conference championship appearance, and 50 years until their next Super Bowl.

2019 season: Won Super Bowl LIV, 31-20

It’s hard to believe now given their recent success — but other than a brief affair with Joe Montana that led to a blowout AFC Championship loss to the Bills in the 1993 season, Kansas City did not come anywhere near the Super Bowl for five decades.

Then former general manager John Dorsey made one of the boldest draft day moves in history by trading up 17 spots for Patrick Mahomes in 2017, setting the stage for what could be a great dynasty. Following a year on the bench behind Pro Bowl starter Alex Smith, Mahomes took over in 2018 and the Chiefs improved from 25.9 points per game to 35.3, a franchise record that may never be broken.

Though Kansas City lost an overtime heartbreaker to the Patriots in the AFC Championship to end the 2018 season, their place in future Super Bowls seemed like an inevitability with Mahomes under center.

The Chiefs won their final six games of the 2019 regular season, then scored 41 unanswered in the divisional round to come back from a 24-0 deficit to beat the Houston Texans in a rout. A week later, Mahomes scored four touchdowns to come back from a 17-7 deficit to the beat the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Championship. Then like it was written, Kansas City was down 10 points in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl against the San Francisco 49ers, plenty of time for Mahomes to turn on the engines for 21 unanswered points to take home his first Lombardi.

Though they were flirting with disaster in all three playoff games, the magic of Mahomes was much too powerful to stop the Kansas City Chiefs from winning their first Super Bowl in 50 years. Their next wait may not be nearly as long.

2020 season: Lost Super Bowl LV, 31-9

Now considered the consensus best team in the NFL, the Chiefs won 14 of their first 15 games in 2020, meaning they pulled all starters in a Week 17 loss to the Chargers. But then perhaps we thought too much of their final record and previous Super Bowl victory, as Kansas City went 8-0 in games decided by six points or less.

That luck would run out in Super Bowl LV.

Super Bowl LV

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After barely escaping the Browns in the divisional round when Chad Henne replaced Mahomes in the second half, the Chiefs blew past a Bills team in the AFC Championship that didn’t have a defensive line at the time capable of harassing Mahomes.

The Buccaneers certainly did.

With no protection around Mahomes to fend off Shaquil Barrett, Ndamukong Suh, Vita Vea, and Jason Pierre-Paul, Tampa Bay pressured Mahomes an incredible 21 times, sacking him three times and forcing two interceptions. Tom Brady winning his seventh Super Bowl was understandably the main storyline from Super Bowl LV, but it was Kansas City’s porous offensive line failing to protect Patrick Mahomes that really did the trick because normally it’s not a problem for his offenses to score at least 31 points.

Instead they only managed nine points on three field goals.

The Chiefs responded to that disaster by trading for Pro Bowl left tackle Orlando Brown, signing left guard Joe Thuney, drafting center Creed Humphrey, and turning over 100-percent of their starting offensive line.

2022 season: Super Bowl LVII, ???

Now two years later, Mahomes is back in the Super Bowl and despite the quality changes on offense the question remains the same against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Can the Chiefs offensive line protect him long enough to get the ball to Travis Kelce and company? If not, how will Andy Reid respond this time?

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