Relive My First Super Bowl Experience With Me (Super Bowl IV)

The first Super Bowl I can remember watching was Super Bowl IV. I was roughly two and a half months shy of my eighth birthday, and having watched the 1969 season with my father and older brother, I was beginning to understand the game well. I was reading everything football-related I could get my hands on, including the back of my 1969 Topps football cards.

Buck Buchanan (Defensive Tackle - Kansas City Chiefs) football card
Photo courtesy Mark Morthier's private collection of a Buck Buchanan (Defensive Tackle - Kansas City Chiefs) football card
Mick Tingelhoff (Center - Minnesota Vikings) football card
Photo courtesy Mark Morthier's private collection of a Mick Tingelhoff (Center - Minnesota Vikings) football card

My First Super Bowl Prediction

The Minnesota Vikings were heavily favored to defeat the Kansas City Chiefs. The Vikes came into the game with a 14–2 record and had just destroyed the Cleveland Browns in the NFL Championship 27–7.

But the Chiefs were no slouch either. They came into the game with a 13–3 record despite their quarterback Len Dawson missing six games due to injury. I predicted a Chiefs victory based on three factors.

1 — They had an innovative coach in Hank Stram.

2 — They outsized the Vikings, who had only two players weighing over 260 lbs, and no players weighing over 270 lbs. The Chiefs had three players weighing over 260 lbs. and four weighing between 270 and 285.

3 — The Chiefs had better and more athletic players, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Defensive tackles Buck Buchanan and Curly Culp, outside linebacker Bobby Bell, middle linebacker Willie Lanier, safety Johnny Robinson, and cornerback Emmitt Thomas. They had Len Dawson at quarterback and Jan Stenerud, the best placekicker in football. All of the players mentioned above made it to the Hall of Fame.

Curley Culp (Defensive Tackle - Kansas City Chiefs) and Jan Stenerud (Kicker - Kansas City Chiefs) football cards
Photo courtesy Mark Morthier's private collection of Curley Culp (Defensive Tackle - Kansas City Chiefs) and Jan Stenerud (Kicker - Kansas City Chiefs) football cards

Super Bowl IV - Chiefs vs. Vikings

The game was played on January 11, 1970, at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans. The temperature was 55 degrees, and the field was wet and muddy. During the pregame festivities, a hot air balloon crashed into the stands, but thankfully, there were no injuries.

The Vikings won the coin toss and started at their 20-yard line after a touchback. They had two significant gains on pass plays, one to Dave Osborn for 10 yards and one to John Beasley for 27 yards. They got down to KCs 38-yard line but couldn’t get any further. They elected not to try a field goal, even though, at that time, the goalpost was on the goal line, so it would have been about a 45-yard attempt. Their kicker Fred Cox was known for having little success with anything beyond 40 yards, so they punted, and it was a lousy punt, only 22 yards.

A pass completion to Mike Garrett gained 17 yards, and a 20-yard completion to Frank Pitts got it down to the Vikings’ 36-yard line. Linebacker Roy Winston sacked Dawson for an 8-yard loss, and the drive stalled. Unlike the Vikings, the Chiefs had a kicker in Jan Stenerud who could kick the long ones. KC took a 3–0 lead. Then Stenerud kicked the ball into the end zone again on the kickoff, and the kicking game was already impacting this game.

The Vikings went three and out, and DE Jerry Mays had a 6-yard sack on Joe Kapp. The Vikes punted, and the Chiefs were penalized for roughing the punter. Minnesota went three and out again. After a 50-yard punt, KC took possession at their 20. Neither team could establish a running game, but Len Dawson picked them apart, and Jan Stenerud kicked a 32-yard field goal.

Len Dawson (Quarterback - Kansas City Chiefs) football card
Photo courtesy Mark Morthier's private collection of a Len Dawson (Quarterback - Kansas City Chiefs) football card
Joe Kapp (Quarterback - Minnesota Vikings) football card
Photo courtesy Mark Morthier's private collection of a Joe Kapp (Quarterback - Minnesota Vikings) football card

Minnesota took possession at their 32, and on second down, they fumbled, giving KC the ball at the Vikings’ 46. But on second down, Paul Krause intercepted a Len Dawson pass, giving the Vikings the ball on their 7. KCs defense continued to smother the Vikings’ offense, and they had to punt again. Frank Pitts returned the punt 19 yards, and KC got into field goal range again. Stenerud booted a 25-yarder to give the Chiefs a 9–0 lead.

KC kicked off, and Minnesota fumbled the return. KC took possession on the 19. After a Jim Marshall sack of Dawson, KC gained 23 yards on the next two plays. The following two plays gained nothing, and KC was faced with a 3rd and five from the 5-yard line. Coach Hank Stram called the famous 42-toss power trap. Mike Garrett went in for the TD, and KC took a commanding 16–0 lead.

The Vikings took over on their 32, and Joe Kapp connected with John Henderson for a 27-yard gain. But two incompletions and a Buck Buchanan sack of Kapp gave the Vikes no choice but to send in kicker Fred Cox to attempt a 56-yard FG, which he missed. The Chiefs ran seven plays and got the ball to the Vikings’ 49 before punting. The Vikings ran two plays that went nowhere, and the first half ended with KC completely dominating.

Could The Vikings Turn It Around?

Minnesota kicked off to start the second half, and KC was moving the ball until they got penalized 15 yards for holding. They had to punt, but if nothing else, they did take over 5 minutes off the clock.

Minnesota took possession at their 31 and finally moved the ball against the Chief’s stingy defense. Joe Kapp went 4 for four on this drive, and they also got a few decent runs. Dave Osborne scored from the 4-yard line making the score 16–7.

The Vikings kicked off, and KC took over at their 18-yard line. The Chiefs gained 15 yards on three straight runs. Then on 2nd and six, they were penalized five yards for illegal procedure. They returned to the run on the next two plays and got a first down. This was the first time in the game that KC ran the ball consistently. But instead of sticking with the run and working on the clock, they returned to the pass, which fell incomplete.

But it worked out well for them because the Vikings were penalized 15 yards for a personal foul. On the very next play, Dawson connected with Otis Taylor on a sideline route. Taylor broke a tackle and was off to the races for a 46-yard touchdown.

Otis Tayler (Wide Receiver - Kansas City Chiefs) football card
Photo courtesy Mark Morthier's private collection of an Otis Tayler (Wide Receiver - Kansas City Chiefs) football card
Willie Lanier (Linebacker - Kansas City Chiefs) football card
Photo courtesy Mark Morthier's private collection of a Willie Lanier (Linebacker - Kansas City Chiefs) football card

KC kicked off, and Clint Jones returned the ball to the 37-yard line. The Vikings managed to get to the Chief’s 49-yard line before Willie Lanier intercepted a Joe Kapp pass. The Chiefs went three and out and had to punt, but there were now only 11 1/2 minutes left in the game. The KC defense knew that Minnesota has to pass on almost every play, and they pinned back their ears and rushed the QB.

After a penalty and an incompletion Kapp connected with John Henderson for 28 yards. The small glimmer of hope ended on the next play when Johnny Robinson intercepted a Kapp pass. The Chiefs went three and out, but with only about 8 minutes left in the game, it didn’t much matter. This game was over, and everyone knew it.

The Vikings took possession at their 19 and after three plays gained 11 yards, Kapp was sacked and knocked out of the game with a separated shoulder. The following three plays gained 31 yards before Emmitt Thomas intercepted backup QB Gary Cuozzo.

KC took over at their 34 and, after three plays, gained 10 yards for first down. But on the next play, Len Dawson was sacked by Carl Eller. It’s hard to figure out why Dawson (Super Bowl MVP) was still in the game with only 2 minutes left, but Coach Hank Stram took him out after the sack. With 1:53 left in the game, the Chiefs ran out the clock.

Alan Page (Defensive Tackle) and Carl Eller (Defensive End) of the Minnesota Vikings football cards
The 1970s had some outstanding defenses, such as the Vikings “Purple People Eaters”. These football cards are from Mark’s private collection.

My Observations of Super Bowl IV

My two main observations of this game are:

1 — Hank Stram outcoached Bud Grant. Grant was a great coach, but Stram outsmarted him in this game, and Grant and his coaching staff never made the necessary adjustments to their game plan during halftime.

2 — The Chiefs’ size and power that I mentioned earlier wore the Vikings down, and it’s evident in the following statistics. Kansas City ran the ball 42 times for 151 yards while throwing the ball only 17 times. Minnesota managed only 67 yards rushing and had only two first downs running the ball.

Super Bowl IV Interesting Facts

1 — Bud Grant became the first coach not to wear a tie in the Super Bowl.

2 — Hank Stram became the first coach to wear a microphone during the Super Bowl.

3 — CBS erased the videotape of the game. Videotape was expensive then, and they figured no one would be interested in rewatching the game years later.

4 — Defensive end Ernie Ladd, who played for the Chiefs in 1967 & 1968, but retired before the start of the 1969 season to pursue a career in professional wrestling, wanted to be on the sidelines with his former teammates for this game. So Coach Hank Stram agreed to allow Ladd on the sidelines as his bodyguard.

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Mark Morthier is the host of Yesterday’s Sports, a podcast dedicated to reliving memorable sports moments from his childhood days and beyond.  He grew up in New Jersey just across from New York City, so many of his episodes revolve around the great sport’s teams of the 70s for the New York area. 

He is also an author of No Nonsense, Old School Weight Training (Second Edition): A Guide for People with Limited Time and Running Wild: (Growing Up in the 1970s)

Mark Morthier headshot - host of Yesterday's Sports podcast on the Sports History Network

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