1971 Kansas City Chiefs Season

The 1971 Kansas City Chiefs season saw the club bounce back from a 7–5–2 campaign in 1970 to record a 10–3–1 mark and win the AFC West division championship, the Chiefs' first division title since 1966. The Chiefs tied with the Miami Dolphins for the best record in the AFC and were tied for the third-best record overall in the NFL, trailing only the 11–3 marks of the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings.

Most of the pieces of the team which won Super Bowl IV two years earlier were still in place. Left defensive end Jerry Mays retired after the 1970 season, with Marvin Upshaw taking his spot, but the other 10 defensive starters were the same as they were two years prior. Middle linebacker Willie Lanier was a unanimous All-Pro selection following the season, and would likely have been named NFL Defensive Player of the Year had not Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Alan Page become the second defensive player to win the league's Most Valuable Player award. Outside linebacker Bobby Bell, defensive tackle Buck Buchanan and cornerback Emmitt Thomas joined Lanier on the AFC Pro Bowl squad following the season. Bell, Buchanan, Lanier and Thomas are all members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

On offense, fullback Robert Holmes was traded to the San Diego Chargers midway through the season, leaving Wendell Hayes to assume the fullback duties next to third-year pro Ed Podolak, who had become the starting halfback slot when Mike Garrett was traded to San Diego in 1970. Morris Stroud, the tallest player in NFL history at 6-foot-10, and Willie Frazier, acquired from San Diego, alternated at tight end for the retired Fred Arbanas, but the rest of the offensive line, save for center Jack Rudnay, remained the same from the Super Bowl winning team. Rudnay assumed the starting center spot in 1970 over veteran E. J. Holub. At wide receiver, rookie Elmo Wright, the Chiefs' first-round pick in the 1971 NFL Draft from the University of Houston, assumed the slot opposite all-pro Otis Taylor, as Frank Pitts had moved on to the Cleveland Browns. Taylor earned selection to the Pro Bowl, along with guard Ed Budde, quarterback Len Dawson, and tackle Jim Tyrer.

Kansas City's special teams remained among the league's elite units, thanks to the combination of kicker Jan Stenerud and punter Jerrel Wilson, both of whom were named to the Pro Bowl. Podolak and Warren McVea handled the bulk of the return duties.

The season was the last for the Chiefs in Municipal Stadium, as owner Lamar Hunt and general manager Jack Steadman were overseeing the construction of Arrowhead Stadium, located at the junction of Interstate 70 and Interstate 435 in Jackson County, Missouri, at the eastern edge of the Kansas City city limits. Arrowhead, along with Royals Stadium, being constructed for the Kansas City Royals of Major League Baseball, would form the Truman Sports Complex, bucking the trend of multi-purpose stadiums in vogue at the time.

The season ended in heartbreak, as the Miami Dolphins won the longest game in National Football League history on Christmas Day, defeating the Chiefs 27–24 in double overtime on a 37-yard field goal by Garo Yepremian in the last football game in Municipal Stadium, as well as the last game for safety Johnny Robinson, who was an original member of the Dallas Texans in 1960. Coach Hank Stram often called the 1971 Chiefs the franchise's best-ever squad, and this loss haunted Stram for the rest of his life, even after his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003. Stram died July 4, 2005 at age 82.

The loss to Miami began a nosedive in the Chiefs' fortunes. Kansas City backslid to 8–6 and 7–5–2 in 1972 and 1973, before falling to 5–9 and last in the AFC West in 1974, leading to the Stram's firing following the season. Kansas City would not reach the playoffs again until 1986, did not host (or win) another playoff game until 1991, and did not win the AFC West division title until 1993.

Read more about 1971 Kansas City Chiefs Season:  Roster, Regular Season

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1971 Kansas City Chiefs Season - Regular Season - Standings
... AFC West Team W L T PCT PF PA Kansas City Chiefs 1..769 208 ... Oakland Raiders 2..667 278 ... San Diego Chargers 0..429 341 ... Denver ...

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