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Blast From The Past – Wildcard Weekend

December 23rd 1962: Dallas Texans 20 – Houston Oilers 17

To celebrate the fact that our Chiefs have reached the playoffs and have a game against the Houston Texans, an extra Blast from the Past.

In this one, the Texans win! But Houston lose. And it’s not Houston as we know it. And there isn’t even a Kansas City team playing in the game… I can see this might get confusing, so a bit of background for those that don’t know what the heck I am going on about!

The team we know and love as the Kansas City Chiefs was originally founded as the Dallas Texans by the Hunt family back in 1960. The first two seasons were so-so (an 8 & 6 record, followed by a 6 & 8). Meanwhile, across the state, the big team was the Houston Oilers. They won the AFL Championship in both 1960 and 1961, against the San Diego Chargers both times. In 1962, the Oilers were riding high again, but this time their main rivals were an improving Dallas Texans team spurred on by their new franchise quarterback, Len Dawson.

Both teams finished the regular season with an impressive 11 & 3 record. The Texans had actually won in Houston – while the Oilers had returned the favour by winning the game in Dallas at the Cotton Bowl. They would now meet for a third and final time in the 1962 AFL Championship game, which would turn out to be a nail-biting classic.

The quarterbacks faced differing challenges in the game. The Chiefs Len Dawson was sacked 5 times, but held his nerve to avoid giving up any interceptions. By contrast, the Oilers’ George Blanda wasn’t sacked during the game, but did give up 5 interceptions. The first of those, midway through the opening quarter, gave Texans’ kicker Tommy Brooker a good position from which to open the scoring by kicking a field goal.

Brooker was a rookie in 1962. He spent his whole 5 year career with the franchise, mainly as a kicker – but also as an occasional receiver. He pulled in three touchdown receptions, including one in each of our two games against the Buffalo Bills that year. To modern fans, that kind of multiple-role player may seem unusual, but it was very common at the time – in fact the Houston kicker in this game was their quarterback Blanda!

In the second quarter, Dallas moved quickly down the field, and finished the drive with a 28 yard pass to Abner Hayes. On Houston’s next possession, Blanda gave up another interception, which gave the Texans great field position – several runs later, Hayes rushed over the line for a further touchdown, to give Dallas a comfortable 17 – 0 half time lead.

Abner Hayes was an early star of the team – he played from the franchise’s very start in 1960 (in fact scoring in the team’s first ever game), and over five years managed to score over 50 touchdowns, including the two in this game. Fifty years on he remains, with 348 points, one of the top ten points scorers in the team’s history.

The Oilers received the ball at the start of the third quarter, and now started to show the form that had won them two championships. Their ‘human bowling ball’ fullback Charlie Tolar punched his way repeatedly through the line to allow several successful drives. The Oilers scored two touchdowns (one by Tolar himself) and a field goal to tie the score at 17 – 17. Then with the last drive of the game, they got back into field goal range only for Blanda’s kick to be blocked. This meant the game would go to overtime.

The first period of overtime was scoreless, but another interception by Dallas late on meant that they started the next period with the ball, and in Oilers territory. After earning a couple of first downs, the team was in range to try a field goal, which Tommy Brooker hit home to seal the victory and the AFL Championship.

Despite the win, the team’s ownership had grown concerned about the issue of Dallas football fans’ loyalties being split, as the popular Dallas Cowboys team, was also based in the same city. Lamar Hunt took the decision to move the franchise – and though they didn’t realise it at the time, the AFL Championship victory was the team’s last game under the Dallas Texans name. When they next suited up in 1963, the team had moved to Missouri and was renamed the Kansas City Chiefs, which they have remained ever since.

The Oilers meanwhile, stayed put until moving to Nashville in 1996, where they became the team now known as the Tennessee Titans.

Elsewhere in the NFL at the time:

In the NFL Championship game 1 week later, a Green Bay team lead by Bart Starr went to New York and beat the Giants 16 – 7. Jim Taylor scored the game’s only touchdown – one of 19 he scored that year to lead the league in TDs.

Elsewhere in the world:

The day of the Chiefs’ AFL Championship win was the start of a big freeze in Britain, the coldest since 1740. There was an overnight frost every day for over two months, with the first frost-free day not coming until early March. There was massive disruption to the nation’s sporting calendar as event after event was called off.

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