TOFN podcast: HOF MLB Willie Lanier revisits the longest NFL game ever played


Willie Lanier photo courtesy of the Kansas City Chiefs

The Talk of Fame Network introduces another in our “5 Games” series of podcasts this week with Hall of Fame middle linebacker Willie Lanier of the Kansas City Chiefs.

The concept of the podcast is to visit with an historic football figure about five significant games in his career. We visit with Lanier about a couple games between the Chiefs and their bitter AFL-rival the Oakland Raiders, a Super Bowl, the longest pro football game ever played plus, interestingly enough, an exhibition game.

On this podcast we’ll discuss with Lanier the 1971 AFC semifinal game on Christmas Day between his Chiefs and the Miami Dolphins, AKA the longest pro football game ever played. It was a game that sent the two franchises in opposite directions – the Dolphins would go on to appear in three consecutive Super Bowls and the Chiefs would go the next 14 seasons without qualifying for the playoffs.

The Dolphins won, 27-24, on a 37-yard Garo Yepremian field goal in the second overtime, 82 minutes and 40 seconds into the game. Going down to defeat was, according to their coach Hank Stram, the best Kansas City team ever assembled. And Lanier agreed.

“It was more seasoned,” Lanier said. “The year we won (1969), I was a third-year player. (Linebacker Jim) Lynch was a third-year player. (Cornerback Jim) Marsalis was a first-year player. That 1971 team was more seasoned. There was a mix of maturity, youth, history and abilities that hopefully would have been able to have more success…but it didn’t quite work out that way.”

That also was the last game the Chiefs ever played at Municipal Stadium. They moved into Arrowhead Stadium the following season…and lost their aura.

“Psychologically, you only went to Municipal Stadium on game day,” Lanier said. “So whenever you left home on that day, that was the only time you were in that stadium. Going to Arrowhead, it became your facility during the week and the place you played the game on Sunday. Even though it was a superior facility, it seemed to have a sameness about it. So possibly, in whatever way, maybe you didn’t assign it a higher significance because you were going there five times in a week anyway. Now you’re going back on Sunday.

“So whatever the aura that might have been come from playing at Municipal Stadium, an older facility that did not have all the great creature comforts… It was more like an old home or old shoe that fit well that causes you to be very confident when you go in and sit down. It didn’t have all the accoutrement of this huge facility with everything — bangles and bales. That’s a great part of a stadium, nothing against it, but the place where you gain your comfort of having the other team show up and you were able to beat them handily shifted once we ended up at Arrowhead. The spiral as it started to unfold there continued for a very long time.”

Lanier also recalls his conversation with President Richard M. Nixon about the Christmas Day game, the surprising misses of three field goals by Hall of Fame kicker Jan Stenerud and how, in his opinion, the better team lost to the Dolphins.

In the final episode, we’ll talk to Lanier about a 1967 exhibition game against the Chicago Bears – the first NFL opponent the Chiefs would play after their Super Bowl loss to the Green Bay Packers in the first Super Bowl. Subscribe to our podcast and listen for free at @ iTunes or VokalNow.com

VoKalNow:

https://vokalnow.com/show/talk-of-fame

iTunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/talk-of-fame-podcast/id1337217347?mt=2

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4 Comments

  1. Kerouac
    February 23, 2018
    Reply

    1967, a year that still lives in infamy, tho it was a night to remember August 23: 66-24 the final score, but It could have been even worse. Seconds remaining the game backup QB Pete Beathard fumbled an 2-point attempt after a td while trying to make it 68-24.

    I attended the game and can say Chiefs rookies Lanier/Lynch both played from that game’s start on special teams – then second half, defense (both were on the field when Dick Gordon went 103 yards kickoff ret td & when he fumbled just minutes later another ko ret, Lynch recovering, both during the second quarter.)

    Chiefs had a three-week run beating Raiders 48-0, Bears 66-24 & then went to LA & dominated the Rams 24-13, before going to backups the second half (Rams kept their starters in, came back to win. KC played backup QB Beathard the entire game on his college field, showcasing him for a trade that came 4 weeks later to the Oilers.)

    Len Dawson, still recovering from the flu reportedly, was held out (tho I suspect with the regular season one week away, Beathard soon to be traded, as well not wanting tempt fate by playing starting QB Dawson vs the Fearsome Foursome the possibility injury, discretion proved be the better part of valor… which is to say, the Rams got off easy : )

    1967 was a major disappointment Chiefs: losing Superbowl 1 after proving GB’s equal first half, dominating everybody in pro football that ’67 exhibition season, then laying a 9-5 egg regular season. To this day ’67 remains the most disappointing season ever my opine (1971 & 1970 season’s disappointments pale, comparison.)

    That the six-year period 1966-1971 Chiefs could have won anywhere from two to all six of the Superbowl’s, still chafes half a century later.

    • Rick Gosselin
      February 24, 2018
      Reply

      That 1967 game with the Bears and the 1963 College All Star game may be the two most significant exhibition games of all time.

      • Kerouac
        February 24, 2018
        Reply

        Can’t forget the 1967 Broncos 13-7 win over the Lions – first ever AFL triumph vs the ‘superior’ NFL. Notable because it repudiated a myth, and also provided comic affect.

        Detroit was one of those “better” teams the Chiefs weren’t as good as according Lombardi aft Superbowl 1. Too, that it was not just ‘any’ AFL team but likely it’s ‘worst’ (Denver had just been dominated in another exhibition game by the AFL’s other ‘best of the worst’ candidate Miami Dolphins), added guffaws the mix.

        Too, Alex ‘I’ll Walk Back To Detroit If We Lose’ Karras reportedly went down ‘kicking’ (and probably screaming too) as twere: his leg aimed a Broncos player, followed his own backside being on the receiving end when Denver’s Cookie Gilchrist, a RB back fully larger than DT Karras, gave Alex a bit of ‘attitude adjustment’.

        That Denver went on beat the NFL Vikings (just an couple years pre-MINN Superbowl), along the Chiefs annihilation of the Bears, made 1967’s ‘Summer of the Little Superbowl’s’ unforgettable.

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