Throwback Thursday: Chiefs at Patriots opening week 1977

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When the Patriots host the Kansas City Chiefs on September 7th and raise their fifth Super Bowl banner, it will be the third time that the teams have met in a season opener. The first was in 1977 and the second, 2008 in Kansas City.

Most Patriots’ fans remember what happened in Kansas City in 2008, but what about 40 years ago?


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The 1977 Patriots

Head Coach: Chuck Fairbanks
Stadium: Schaefer Stadium
Starting Quarterback: Steve Grogan

Passing Table
No. Player Age Pos G GS QBrec Cmp Att Yds TD Int Lng Rate
14 Steve Grogan 24 QB 14 14 9-5-0 160 305 2162 17 21 68 65.2

The 1977 season was the seventh as the New England Patriots. From 1960-1971 they were known as the Boston Patriots. This was primarily in the AFL (American Football League). Coming off an 11-3 record and a second-place finish in the AFC East in 1976, the Patriots lost a 24-21 decision against the Oakland Raiders in the Divisional Round of the Patriots.

Entering the 1977 season, expectations were growing for the Patriots and third-year starter Steve Grogan. In the draft, the Patriots added wide receiver Stanley Morgan and cornerback Raymond Clayborn. Clayborn has recently been announced as the 2017 inductee to the Patriots Hall of Fame. Morgan joined the Hall at Patriot Place in 2007, at the time owning a majority of the Patriots’ receiving records.

Patriots were one of the hottest up and coming teams in the NFL. Most pundits pegged the Patriots as the team poised to take the next step towards a Super Bowl.

1977 Kansas City Chiefs

Head Coach: Tom Bettis, Paul Wiggin
Stadium:
Arrowhead Stadium
Starting Quarterback:
Mike Livingston

Passing Table
No. Player Age Pos G GS QBrec Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Int Lng Rate
10 Mike Livingston 32 QB 13 11 1-10-0 143 282 50.7 1823 9 15 49 59.8
11 Tony Adams 27 qb 14 3 1-2-0 47 92 51.1 691 2 11 63 43.6
Team Total 26.1 14 2-12-0 190 374 50.8 2514 11 26 63 53.3

The 1976 season was the third consecutive season with a 5-9 record for the Chiefs. The second under head coach Paul Wiggin. It was also the first season as the starter for quarterback Mike Livingston, replacing Len Dawson.

Expectations weren’t as high for the Chiefs. Facing one of the toughest schedules in the league in 1977, the immediate future for the Chiefs was quite bleak. Despite a passing attack that ranked second in 1976, most expected this to be a bad team from the get go.

Coach Wiggin lasted seven games in 1977, going 1-6 before being replaced by Tom Bettis. Until 2008, 1977 was the worst season in Chiefs franchise history. Ironically, 2008 is the only other time the Patriots and Chiefs have met in the season opener.

1977 Season Opener: Chiefs at Patriots (9/18/1977)

Schaefer Stadium in Foxboro played host to the 1977 season opener between the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots. Patriots’ starter Steve Grogan was coming off a 1,903 yard season with 18 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. Mike Livingston threw for 2,682 yards for the Chiefs in 1976. He tossed 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

The Chiefs jumped out to a 14-0 lead on the Patriots, with rushing touchdowns from MacArthur Lane and Tony Reed. The second interception of Patriots’ quarterback Steve Grogan in the first quarter set up Layne’s touchdown that gave the Chiefs a 7-0 lead. Reed scored on the Chiefs next drive for the 14-0 advantage.

However, the two touchdown lead was short lived. Grogan and tight end Russ Francis got things going for the Patriots, connecting on two early throws to start the drive. On the Chiefs 34-yard line, a reverse to wide receiver Darryl Stingley, turned into a touchdown for the Patriots. Cutting the Chiefs lead in half to close out the first quarter.

After fumbling on the goal line, the Patriots’ halted the Chiefs ensuing drive with their second fumble recovery in as many drives. A Tim Fox forced fumble set the Patriots up in Chiefs’ territory. Then, Stingley struck again on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Grogan to tie the game heading into halftime.

Halftime. Patriots-14 Chiefs-14

With under two minutes remaining in the third quarter, running back Jess Phillips gave the Patriots the lead for good. Phillips 11-yard scamper to the endzone capped 21 unanswered points from the Patriots.

The Chiefs added a field goal from Jan Stenerud to cut the lead to four, with 10 minutes to go. A would be 43-yard touchdown run from Sam Cunningham was called back due to a false start on Francis.

With the lead still at four with under two minutes remaining, the Chiefs’ Wilbur Young knocked the ball out of the hands of Cunningham. The turnover set the Chiefs up in Patriots territory. However, they could not move the ball and the Patriots held on for a 21-17 victory.

The Aftermath

The Patriots

The Patriots lost their next two games to the Jets and Browns before rattling off four wins in a row. They would have another four-game winning streak later in the season but fell short of the playoffs. The Baltimore Colts finished first in the AFC East with a 10-4 record. The Patriots, with hopes of a Super Bowl birth, finished the year at 9-5 and third in the AFC East.

Rushing & Receiving Table
Game Game Rush Rush Rush Rush Rece Rece Rece Rece
No. Player Age Pos G GS Att Yds TD Lng Rec Yds TD Lng
39 Sam Cunningham 27 FB 14 14 270 1015 4 31 42 370 1 35
44 Don Calhoun 25 RB 14 14 198 727 4 25 13 152 0 47
38 Ike Forte 23 13 0 62 157 2 16 8 88 0 22
14 Steve Grogan 24 QB 14 14 61 324 1 41
35 Jess Phillips 30 14 0 5 27 1 13
84 Darryl Stingley 26 WR 14 14 3 33 1 34 39 657 5 68
23 Horace Ivory 23 5 0 3 10 0 9
86 Stanley Morgan 22 WR 14 14 1 10 0 10 21 443 3 64
81 Russ Francis* 24 TE 10 10 0 0 0 0 16 229 4 31
80 Don Hasselbeck 22 te 14 1 0 0 0 0 9 76 4 21
87 Al Chandler 27 te 14 3 0 0 0 0 7 68 0 16
82 Steve Burks 24 13 0 0 0 0 0 5 79 0 22
Team Total 26.2 14 603 2303 13 41 160 2162 17 68

The Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs went on to start the season 0-5. They were 1-6 when they fired Paul Wiggin in favor of Tom Bettis. They would pick up wins in Week 6 and Week 8 against the Chargers and Packers before dropping the final six games of the season. All but two of those losses came by double-digits. The Chiefs finished the season 2-12, their worst season until the 2008 Chiefs went 2-14.

Rushing & Receiving Table
Game Game Rush Rush Rush Rush Rece Rece Rece Rece
No. Player Age Pos G GS Att Yds TD Lng Rec Yds TD Lng
14 Ed Podolak 30 13 6 133 550 5 41 32 313 0 23
32 Tony Reed 22 RB 14 8 126 505 2 59 12 125 0 20
39 Mark Bailey 23 rb 14 4 66 266 2 37 17 206 1 47
43 John Brockington 29 FB 10 7 54 161 1 12 19 222 1 48
42 MacArthur Lane 35 3 3 25 79 1 9 3 40 0 21
10 Mike Livingston 32 QB 13 11 19 78 1 13
22 Ted McKnight 23 13 0 11 74 0 19 1 11 0 11
89 Henry Marshall 23 WR 14 13 7 11 0 7 23 445 4 49
11 Tony Adams 27 qb 14 3 5 21 0 8
21 Arnold Morgado 25 14 0 3 12 0 9 2 21 0 12
88 Walter White 26 TE 13 12 2 -3 0 3 48 674 5 48
83 Larry Brunson 28 PR/WR 11 9 2 8 0 11 20 295 0 63
80 Lawrence Williams 24 KR 6 5 2 30 1 17 7 94 0 24
59 Raymond Burks 22 13 0 1 51 0 51
81 Tony Samuels 23 te 14 2 0 0 0 0 5 65 0 32
85 Ed Beckman 22 te 14 1 0 0 0 0 1 3 0 3
Team Total 26.1 14 456 1843 13 59 190 2514 11 63

– Ian Glendon is the Managing Editor for cover32/Patriots and covers the NFL and New England Patriots. Like and follow on and Facebook.

 

 

 

 

 

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