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Chiefs’ Super Bowl history: From game’s debut to ‘Kelce Bowl’

The Kansas City Chiefs were there in the beginning. They’re here in the present. And they weren’t around much in between.

That about sums up the Chiefs’ Super Bowl history, which will continue when they face the San Francisco 49ers at Allegiant Stadium on Sunday.

Kansas City was one of the American Football League’s best teams before the league merged with the NFL in 1970. It participated in two of the first four Super Bowls when the leagues were still considered rivals.

Chiefs fans had to wait a long time to get back. But thanks to quarterback Patrick Mahomes, tight end Travis Kelce and coach Andy Reid, they’re about to play on the NFL’s largest stage for the fourth time in five years.

Here is a recap of the Chiefs’ Super Bowl history:

Super Bowl 1 (1967): Packers 35, Chiefs 10

The one that began it all.

The NFL and AFL set up a new contest between their champions with a catchy name in 1967. The “Super Bowl” stuck even after the two leagues merged.

The Chiefs were a fearsome team then. They had five Hall of Fame players and a Hall of Fame coach in Hank Stram. There was just one problem: Green Bay was better.

Coach Vince Lombardi’s star-studded Packers squad featured 11 Hall of Fame players. Kansas City hung in for a half, but Green Bay scored 21 points after the break and allowed none.

The Packers’ hero of the game wasn’t even one of their stars. Wide receiver Max McGee, who caught four passes the entire regular season, went out the night before since he didn’t think he would play much. He instead played a starring role after an injury to starter Boyd Dowler, catching seven passes from quarterback Bart Starr for 138 yards and two touchdowns.

Super Bowl 4 (1970): Chiefs 23, Vikings 7

All Stram wanted was for his team to “keep matriculating the ball down the field.” And matriculate the Chiefs did.

Stram, who became the first coach to wear a microphone during the championship game, exuded confidence as his team pulled off one of the largest upsets in Super Bowl history.

Few folks gave the AFL a chance after Lombardi’s Packers won two straight titles in decisive fashion. But then the New York Jets shocked the world in Super Bowl 3, and Stram’s squad got it done in Super Bowl 4.

Hall of Fame quarterback Len Dawson helped Kansas City’s offense score on four of its first five possessions to build a 16-0 lead after two quarters.

The Vikings couldn’t gain any traction of their own. Dawson answered Minnesota’s lone touchdown in the third quarter with a 46-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Otis Taylor.

Super Bowl 54 (2020): Chiefs 31, 49ers 20

The Chiefs made sure their fans’ 50-year wait between Super Bowls was a sweet one.

Kansas City, behind the Super Bowl MVP in Mahomes, scored 21 fourth-quarter points to deliver the franchise’s second Lombardi Trophy.

The Chiefs trailed the 49ers 20-10 entering the final frame before getting on a roll. The comeback was sparked by one of the best plays of Mahomes’ career. He called “Jet Chip Wasp” in the huddle with 7:13 remaining, then completed a 44-yard pass to wide receiver Tyreek Hill to convert a third-and-15.

Mahomes hit Kelce for a touchdown soon after, then threw for another score on Kansas City’s next possession to put his team up 24-20 with 2:44 left in the game.

The 49ers failed to answer back and turned the ball over on downs. Running back Damien Williams proceeded to seal the Chiefs’ victory with a 38-yard rushing touchdown.

Super Bowl 55 (2021): Buccaneers 31, Chiefs 9

This seemed like a showdown for the ages.

Tom Brady was trying to add to his legacy as the greatest quarterback of all time. Mahomes was attempting to reach for the throne.

It didn’t quite live up to the billing.

The Buccaneers closed Brady’s first season with the team with a dominant performance that earned the franchise its second championship. Brady won his seventh Super Bowl, his fifth Super Bowl MVP award and became the second quarterback in history to lead two different teams to titles, along with Peyton Manning.

Mahomes, on the other hand, spent most of the game running for his life. The Chiefs’ offensive line sustained injuries throughout the season, and the absences caught up to the team at the worst possible time. Kansas City trailed 21-6 at halftime and didn’t score a touchdown all game.

Super Bowl 57 (2023): Chiefs 38, Eagles 35

The Chiefs came back with a vengeance two years later.

Kansas City won its second championship in four years after rallying from a 24-14 halftime deficit to win the third-highest-scoring Super Bowl in NFL history.

Mahomes threw three touchdowns to win his second Super Bowl MVP trophy and give Kelce bragging rights for life. Kelce’s older brother Jason was the Eagles’ starting center, leading the game to be nicknamed the “Kelce Bowl.”

Philadelphia, Reid’s former team, scored the most points ever by a Super Bowl loser behind quarterback Jalen Hurts. The Eagles responded to the Chiefs’ furious comeback with a touchdown that tied the game at 35 with 5:15 remaining.

Mahomes closed the game out once he got the ball back. The Chiefs — thanks in part to a crucial holding call on Philadelphia cornerback James Bradberry — drove down the field to set up kicker Harrison Butker’s game-winning 27-yard field goal, which went through the uprights with eight seconds left on the clock.

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on X.

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