TOFN podcast: HOF MLB Willie Lanier revisits the 1970 bench-clearing brawl with Raiders
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 1970 regular-season game that featured a bench-clearing brawl with the Raiders that wound up a 17-17 tie, costing the Chiefs a playoff spot and the chance to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
The Chiefs appeared to salt away the victory when quarterback Len Dawson scrambled 20 yards for a first down in the game’s closing minutes. But Raiders defensive end Ben Davidson speared Dawson in the back as he was on the ground, which triggered the brawl and featured wide receiver Otis Taylor squaring off with Davidson.
After the penalties were assessed, the Chiefs lost that first down and subsequently were forced to punt. That gave the Raiders a final possession and time for a game-tying field goal by George Blanda in the closing seconds. A Kansas City victory would have given both the Chiefs and Raiders 8-5-1 records. But the tie gave the Raiders the AFC West with an 8-4-2 mark.
“The rivalry was real,” Lanier said. “The rivalry was intense. The rivalry was that which is all football. But at the end of the game you could still shake hands, wish them well, safe flight home and look forward to seeing you again soon. That’s the way I approached it. And most the guys tried to approach it that way.
“But there were certain games that they might not have had the template to do that. But that was what made the game what it was and very special in the annals of pro football history.”
Lanier talked about how Al Davis drafted Hall of Fame guard Gene Upshaw specifically to block Kansas City’s Hall of Fame defensive tackle Buck Buchanan. He also talked about what separated the two teams on the field – the discipline of the Chiefs. Which is why he was so disappointed in the brawl during that 1970 game.
“I don’t move,” Lanier recalled. “I’m standing on the sideline watching what I considered this foolishness. What’s going to happen is the official is going to call an offsetting penalty. So we’re going to have to replay that third-down play. The chances of us executing another third-and-19 was, in my view, zero. That’s exactly what occurred.”
In the next episode, we’ll talk to Lanier about a 1971 AFC semifinal game with the Miami Dolphins, the longest game in pro football history. Subscribe to our podcast and listen for free at @ iTunes or VokalNow.com