The Kansas City Chiefs’ return to the Super Bowl has been a long time in the making.
Super Bowl LIV on Sunday will mark the Chiefs first appearance in the NFL championship game since 1970, when the franchise hoisted its firstand so far onlyLombardi Trophy.
Having lost Super Bowl I to the Green Bay Packers in 1967, the Chiefs returned to football’s most prestigious game three years later.
In the final season before the AFL-NFL merger, Kansas City went 11-3 in the regular season, clinching its third AFL Championship under head coach Hank Stram.
Two road wins against the San Diego Chargers and the Boston Patriotswho became the New England Patriots in 1971got the Chiefs off to a winning start.
A loss in Cincinnati against the Bengals briefly halted their progress, before nine wins in the next 10 gamesincluding seven straightpropelled Kansas City to an 11-2 record.
A home loss against the Oakland Raiders proved to be inconsequential as the Chiefs moved into the playoffs.
Kansas City’s run was made even more remarkable by the fact starting quarterback Len Dawson was injured in Week 2 and his replacement, Jacky Lee, broke his ankle the following week.
Second-year quarterback Mike Livingston was thrown in at the deep end after taking just five snaps in the whole of the previous season and stepped up to the plate, overseeing a five-game winning streak.
Dawson returned in Week 9 and steered the Chiefs into the playoffs, were they defeated the New York Jets on the road 13-6 in the divisional round and then won 17-7 in Oakland in the AFL Championship game.
In the pouring rain in New Orleans, Louisiana, the Chiefs leant heavily on their defense to defeat the Minnesota Vikings 23-7.
Minnesota had gone 12-2 in the regular season but had no answers for Kansas City’s rock-solid defense, which allowed only 67 rushing yards, forcing three interceptions and recovering two fumbles.
Dawson went 12-of-17, throwing for 142 yards, one touchdown and one interception and was named the game’s MVP.
A similar kind of production from Patrick Mahomes on Sunday is highly unlikely to return the Lombardi Trophy to Kansas City, let alone deliver Mahomes his first Super Bowl MVP award.
To put the seismic shift the NFL has undergone in half a century consider these figures.
In three playoff games in 1970, Lawson accumulated 472 yards for two passing touchdowns. By comparison, in just two playoff games this year, Mahomes has thrown for 615 yards and eight touchdown passes.
If Kansas City’s 50-year absence from the NFL’s showpiece event was the longest in the sport, the San Francisco 49ers’ wait has now reached its 26th year.
While San Francisco’s last appearance in the NFL championship game came in 2013, when the were defeated 34-31 by the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII, the 49ers last lifted the Lombardi Trophy in 1995.
Five years on from their last title, the 49ers began their sixth season under George Seifert still smarting from losing to the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship game in the previous two years.
San Francisco found itself 1-1 after losing to the Chiefs in Kansas City in Week 2 and 3-2 after being thrashed 40-8 at home by the Philadelphia Eagles three weeks later.
After a slow start, however, the 49ers caught fire winning their next 10 games before losing the season finale on the road against the Minnesota Vikings.
Despite the loss, San Francisco clinched the No. 1 spot in the NFC and home field advantage throughout the playoffs, which would prove crucial in the postseason.The 49ers thrashed the Chicago Bears 44-15 at home in the divisional round, before dethroning the Cowboys in the NFC Championship game.
San Francisco took a 21-0 lead after forcing three turnovers on Dallas’ first three possessions and never looked back, winning 38-28 against the two-time defending Super Bowl winners.
The 49ers went into Super Bowl XXIX as 18-point favorite against the San Diego Chargers and lived up to the billing, thrashing the AFC champions 49-26.
In the highest scoring Super Bowl in history, Steve Young threw a record six touchdown passes and was named MVP as San Francisco became the first NFL franchise to win the Lombardi Trophy five times.
Over two decades later, the 49ers are back in Miamialbeit in a different venue, as Super Bowl XXIX was played at the Joe Robbie Stadiumand determined to add a sixth title to their collection.