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Remembering when the Chiefs opened Arrowhead 50 years ago

Kansas City is celebrating 50 years at their home in the iTruman Sports Complex.

Denver Post Archives Denver Post via Getty Images

On Thursday, September 15, the Kansas City Chiefs will have their 2022 home opener against the Los Angeles Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium.

It will be just two days shy of 50 years since the first game played in Kansas City’s iconic home at the Truman Sports Complex: a rematch against the Miami Dolphins, who had defeated the Chiefs 27-24 in 1971’s Christmas Day Divisional playoff game. In the final game at the old Municipal Stadium at 22nd and Brooklyn, the Chiefs had lost to the Dolphins in what became (and remains) the longest game in NFL history.

The two teams came into the rematch largely unchanged from their classic contest just nine months before. Both were led by future Hall of Fame coaches: Kansas City’s Hank Stram and Miami’s Don Shula.

Gold jackets would eventually be given to no fewer than 13 players who took the field that day: the Chiefs’ Len Dawson, Bobby Bell, Buck Buchanan, Curley Culp, Emmitt Thomas, Willie Lanier and Jan Stenerud, along with the Dolphins’ Bob Griese, Larry Csonka, Paul Warfield, Larry Little, Jim Langer, and Nick Buoniconti. (Kansas City’s Otis Taylor and Miami’s Bob Kuechenberg also played that day — and are among those who could be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2023).

For the Chiefs, it was a revenge game of the highest order. Many within the organization believed that the 1971 team was the best the franchise had ever fielded, so the overtime loss to the Dolphins had stung. For Miami, it was an opportunity to not only prove that its playoff victory against Kansas City wasn’t a fluke, but also to get back on the right track after a bitter 24-3 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl LVI.

So it was matchup between two teams loaded with talent and itching for a fight — and was being played in the home team’s brand new, state-of-the-art facility. It promised to be an epic showdown.

It just didn’t play out that way.

Miami Dolphins v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Miami jumped to a 17-0 halftime lead on a touchdown pass to former Buffalo Bills wideout Marlin Briscoe, a 47-yard field goal by Garo Yepremian and a two-yard touchdown run by Csonka. Yepremian added a 15-yard field goal in the third quarter to extend the Dolphins’ lead to 20 before Stenerud was finally able to get the Chiefs on the board with a 40-yard kick. With just seconds remaining, Kansas City finally managed to reach the end zone with a four-yard pass to tight end Willie Frazier — who had earlier stepped in front of what should have been an easy catch to Taylor for a big gain.

The Chiefs outgained the Dolphins, but committed four turnovers — and Taylor ended up being ejected from the game. Aside from a pair of interceptions, Dawson played well, completing 22 of 33 passes for 237 yards. For the Dolphins, Csonka, Mercury Morris and Jim Kiick combined for 196 rushing yards on 42 attempts, while Griese attempted only 15 passes in Miami’s 20-10 victory — just the first of 17 consecutive wins that would give the Dolphins not only the Lombardi Trophy, but the NFL’s only perfect season of the Super Bowl era.

The Chiefs would go on to win their next three road games, but wouldn’t collect their very first win at Arrowhead until their 27-14 victory against the Oakland Raiders in Week 8. Kansas City finished the season 8-6 — just the first of 14 consecutive seasons where the team would fail to make the postseason.

All of that was 50 years ago — when Arrowhead began.

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