Later today the Kansas City Chiefs will be in Sin City playing their archrival the Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders. It’s the 129th meeting between two of the original AFC West teams. The Chiefs lead the series 72-54-2 and during the Andy Reid era, the Chiefs have dominated the Raiders. Still, this rivalry goes way back, and in my biased view, it’s the best in football.
Mention the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs to any diehard fan over the age of 40 and they’ll have some great stories to share about this rivalry. If you’re pushing the six-century mark, those stories date back to the very beginning – the AFL days.
This rivalry means so much to different generations of Chiefs and Raiders fans. For me, so many great games between these rivals at Municipal Stadium in Kansas City and the Oakland Alameda County Stadium in the Bay.
In the early years, Len Dawson, Bobby Bell, Otis Taylor, and Hank Stram drove the Chiefs success. On the flip side, Darryl Lamonica, Ben Davis, Fred Biletnikoff, and John Madden were the centerpieces of the Raiders.
The AFL was a violent league back in the day, and these two teams took every chance they could to break the bodies of their division rivals. In those days, the league didn’t care about player safety. Defensively the Raiders players would wear a hard plastic on their forearms to use as weapons on opposing runners and receivers. Little secret the Chiefs did as well.
Quarterbacks were hit hard after they released the ball, flipped upside and if you were running toward the sidelines, they generally were knocked into the front row where fans would pile on with another shot or two.
Speaking of Oakland fans, every Chiefs head coach told their players to keep their helmets on their heads on the sidelines. Raiders fans threw everything at the Chiefs bench including batteries and beer bottles. The fan base had no love for the Chiefs players and they made that painfully clear.
Since the move to Las Vegas, most Raiders fans are more civilized.
Still, back in the day, this rivalry was second to none in the AFL and later in the early stages of the AFC. The Chiefs had some signature wins against the Raiders, most notably the 1969 AFC Championship game in Oakland.
The Chiefs defeated the New York Jets a week earlier, thanks to a terrific four-down goal line stand, and they traveled to the other side of the country to face the heavily favored Raiders for the right to go to Super Bowl IV to face the Minnesota Vikings.
However, Len Dawson led a balanced attack, and his 50-yard bomb to Otis Taylor in the fourth quarter set up the Chiefs game-winning points. Yes, to my Raiders brothers, Taylor was out of bounds when he caught the pass, but the fact Dawson heaved that ball from his own End Zone, just made it impossible to overturn the greatness of the throw and catch.
The win allowed the Chiefs to head to Super Bowl IV. It was a poignant victory for the Chiefs because the Raiders players had already packed their bags for New Orleans prior to the AFL Championship game. I remember, Bobby Bell telling me how he watched the Raiders players take their suitcases off the team bus and put them in their cars, as the Chiefs made their way to the Airport.
As a Chiefs fan, I remember when Chiefs defensive end, Buck Buchanan picked up LaMonica and body-slammed him to the ground. I also remember when Ben Davidson speared Len Dawson in the back, and Otis Taylor defended his quarterback. A fight broke out and when it was all sorted, the Chiefs were the team penalized and the result was ultimately a 17-17 tie.
When the Chiefs moved to Arrowhead the Raiders were the dominant team. However, when Marty Schottenhiemer arrived in Kansas City in 1989, he made sure his Chiefs teams would end the Raiders’ dominance in this rivalry. Though they won more games than they lost, watching Marty get fired up during Raiders week was pure joy.
During the Dick Vermeil, Herm Edwards, and Todd Haley era the Raiders routinely defeated the Chiefs, However, when Andy Reid arrived in Kansas City, he took the cue from Marty and force-fed his belief to his players that there’s nothing more important in the regular season than winning your division.
It took a few years to get that message home, but for the last seven seasons, the Chiefs have won the AFC West rather easily. Barring a loss Sunday against the Raiders, Kansas City will likely win their 8th straight division title.
For me, the AFL days were the best, but during the Mahomes era, where their beloved quarterback has only lost to the Raiders once in his six NFL seasons, this is all they know of the rivalry.
I wish that was not the case, because as the Junior league to the NFL, the AFL brand of football was simply electric. The players on the field could not stand each other, but off the field, many of them were good friends. In fact, Len Dawson told me numerous times that one of his best friends from the AFL days was none other than Ben Davidson.
Today every NFL team can lay claim that their division rival is the best in the NFL. However, the Chiefs-Raiders rivalry was special for more reasons than the drive to beat the crap out of your opponent every snap.
Though the rivalry has been one-sided in recent years, every time I see the Silver and Black uniform, that familiar Raiders logo, and the fans dressed in black, it brings a smile to my face. This rivalry is why I’m a Chiefs fan today. It’s what drove my fandom in the offseason. When the NFL schedule came out, I just wanted to know when the Chiefs and Raiders played each other.
Today the battle continues, albeit with different players, coaches, and fans, still, it means the same to me now as it did in the sixties! There was nothing better than defeating the Silver and Black, and that still rings true today.