What’s old is new: Chiefs-Raiders rivalry regains top status

KANSAS CITY, MO - CIRCA 1973: Head Coach Hank Stram (R) of the Kansas City Chiefs and Al Davis owner of the Oakland Raiders looks on prior to the start of an NFL football game circa 1973 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. Stram was coach of the Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs from 1960-1974. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - CIRCA 1973: Head Coach Hank Stram (R) of the Kansas City Chiefs and Al Davis owner of the Oakland Raiders looks on prior to the start of an NFL football game circa 1973 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. Stram was coach of the Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs from 1960-1974. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /
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Years ago, the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs waged war twice every season. It was football’s best rivalry. Now, both teams are back in all their glory.

It was a bootleg to the right, and Len Dawson had nothing but green grass in front of him.

Dawson scrambled toward and past the first-down marker, clinching the game for his Kansas City Chiefs. After the future Hall of Famer hit the grass at Municipal Stadium, Oakland Raiders defensive end Ben Davidson launched into Dawson, spearing him with his helmet.

Chiefs receiver Otis Taylor fought Davidson after the unsportsmanlike effort, leading to a full-scale brawl. The ensuing penalties — ruled as continuation of the play and not a dead-ball foul — nullified Dawson’s gain. The result was Oakland getting second life, George Blanda drilling a last-second field goal, and the Raiders earning a tie in this 1970 thriller. The result was the difference in the AFC West that year.

Between 1966-76, the Raiders and Chiefs accounted for every Western Division title. Each won the Super Bowl once, with two other appearances mixed in. Both franchises were owned by eventual Hall of Famers, and each was led by a Hall of Fame coach. On the field, no fewer than 12 men bound for Canton battled each other throughout those years, with six on each side.

The Chiefs and Raiders had the sport’s best rivalry for the better portion of a decade. Then, with the decline of Kansas City’s fortunes in the mid-70s, it vanished.

For the better part of 40 years, the rivalry was dead. There was a brief revival in the early ’90s with Marty Schottenheimer at the Chiefs’ helm, but it wasn’t the same. The caliber of player was lesser, and the teams weren’t championship contenders.

Finally, one of the NFL’s cornerstone matchups has returned in all its glory. Two once-proud franchises slogged through much of the new century with losing records and dismal standards, but the respective outlooks have swung. Kansas City and Oakland each went 12-4 last year, with the Chiefs taking the West on the final Sunday.

Last year, the teams played a December primetime game in frigid Arrowhead Stadium on a Thursday night, and the league must have enjoyed the show. This season, the bitter foes meet up on a Thursday night contest in Week 7 in Oakland. The rematch will be at Arrowhead in Week 14, same as last year.

Any professional sports league is built on stars and rivalries, and the NFL is better for having the Chiefs and Raiders back on the map. Oakland has an exciting and explosive offense led by fourth-year quarterback Derek Carr. Kansas City plays its own brand of punishing football behind cancer-survivor Eric Berry and third-year All-Pro corner, and Oakland native, Marcus Peters.

Peters, who grew up a diehard Raiders fan, had choice words this offseason when talking about new Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch, a man he commonly refers to as his cousin.

“It’s going to feel good for him,” Peters said of Lynch’s homecoming. “It’s going to be a good feeling. It’s going to be a good feeling for Oakland. But when we come here, we’re going to beat the dog [expletive] out of him.”

With Carr and the newly-drafted Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City, both teams appear set up for the long haul. Factoring in the age of Tom Brady and the annual thoughts Ben Roethlisberger has of retirement, and we could soon be seeing history repeat itself.

In recent years we’ve watched the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts do battle. There was also the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers wage the football equivalent of war. Today, it appears an old hatred is being rekindled, one that stokes the flames in old fans and starts a new blaze in the young ones.

While they would never admit it, Raiders and Chiefs fans both secretly like when the other is good. It means the stakes are higher, even if the losses are tougher to stomach. It might be easier to win the division if the other was terrible, but what is the fun in that?

Come December, there is a good chance Kansas City and Oakland have separated themselves from the rest of the West, and could be meeting in Arrowhead to settle it all. Winner likely gets a home playoff game, the loser fights for a wild card berth.

On that day, Len Dawson will be up in the radio broadcast booth, working his final season as a media member with the Chiefs. You can bet he’ll be thinking of Ben Davidson, and how his scramble should have stood.

He’ll be raging inside, and he will want revenge. The Chiefs and Raiders, and their furious rivalry, are back.