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Way Back Wednesday: The early days of Broncos vs. Chiefs


The best of rivalries always involves each team winning some games that make the other fans hate them.

If one team wins them all, it generates a lot of misery, and so it was at the beginning for the Denver Broncos against the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Kansas City franchise actually began play in the American Football League as the Dallas Texans from 1960-62, but a rose by any other name did not smell any sweeter for the Broncos.

Denver lost all six games while the other guys were in Dallas, and went 1-19 against the Texans/Chiefs from 1960 to 1969, when the teams competed in the AFL.

But once it changed, it changed big time.

This week, the two teams meet for the 119th regular-season game, and the Chiefs still hold a 64-54 series lead, but Denver actually is 53-45 against the Chiefs since 1970, when both teams officially began play in the National Football League.

And while the Chiefs won Super Bowl IV over the Minnesota Vikings in 1970, the Broncos earned their first winning season in 1973, earned the team's first playoff berth in 1977 and have never looked back.

Denver is now one of just nine pro football franchises to have won the Super Bowl three times, and only the New England Patriots have more Super Bowl appearances than the Broncos' eight.

But back in the day, there were some ugly times.

Under Hall of Fame owner (and AFL founder) Lamar Hunt and Hall of Fame head coach Hank Stram, who was not only a great coach but was one of the more fashionable dandies ever to patrol the sidelines, the Chiefs ruled the AFL like no other team.

Stram was a classic character and — in kind of a cute way — a very vain man. He was first notable head coach to allow himself to be wired for sound during a game by NFL Film, which led to the famous line, "I am the mentor!", uttered by Hank during a wiring.

He was a fashion plate known for his red blazer, gray slacks and red vest, but do not be deceived.

He developed the moving pocket and the elephant backfield as head coach of the Chiefs.

Not that his talent pool needed any help.

Stram's Chiefs featured eight Hall of Famers in quarterback Len Dawson (Class of 1987), linebackers Bobby Bell (1983) and Willie Lanier (1986), defensive tackle Buck Buchanan (1990), cornerback Emmitt Thomas (2008), nose tackle Curley Culp (2013), and placekicker Jan Stenerud (1991).

When the Broncos faced Stram's Chiefs, Johnny Robinson was every bit a Hall of Fame safety, with 53 career interceptions and a reputation for toughness shown by the fact that he played Super Bowl IV with two broken ribs, coming up with a key turnover in that game. Robinson was enshrined this year into the Hall of Fame.

Fittingly, they have 13 enshrinees who are identified primarily as Chiefs by the hall.

But the Broncos are gaining in that department as well, with seven Broncos now in the Hall and four others with Broncos ties.

Denver safety Steve Atwater is again a semifinalist for selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and all of Broncos Country fervently hopes this is the year.

Here's hoping big time for Steve to join Robinson and company this year.

Who knows who could leave their mark on this year's game? History is never over. We keep adding pages to it and do so again this week in Arrowhead Stadium.

No one knows how this season will end for either team, but the rivalry is classic AFC West.

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