After winning back-to-back AFL Championships in 1964 and 1965, the Buffalo Bills were one of the most successful AFL teams in the league's short existence. In 1966, though, chinks began to show in Buffalo's armor. They lost their opening two games and were 3-3-1 halfway through the season after going 10-3-1 the year before. The offense turned it on down the stretch and despite the loss of Cookie Gilchrist in the off-season, Buffalo was able to post a 9-4-1 record in 1966 and win their third consecutive AFL East title.
But this AFL Championship game was different. Having agreed to a merger, the NFL and AFL champions would each play each other for the right to call themselves the world champion. So when the Kansas City Chiefs traveled to Buffalo for the AFL Championship game, it wouldn't be the winner's last game of the year.
The optimism of past experience (yes there was a time when Bills fans were optimistic) was quickly dulled at the Rockpile when Buffalo tackle Dudley Meredith fielded the opening kickoff and fumbled at his 31 giving the Chiefs the ball and a short field to start the game. Coach Hank Stram's offense took over led by quarterback Len Dawson and the Chiefs were on the board 7-0.
The Bills fought right back as Jack Kemp's first pass found the end zone on the Golden Wheels of Elbert Dubenion. (Check out this video of Dubenion outrunning the defenders.) After another Chiefs score the Bills were threatening at the KC 10 when Kemp fired an interception that was returned deep into Buffalo territory setting up a late first-half field goal.
The Bills offensive ineptitude continued into the second half and they were shut out the rest of the way. The final score read 31-7. Buffalo's offense managed only nine first downs, their lowest output of the season, turned the ball over four times at crucial times and places, and gained only 186 yards after Dubenion's score.
Sports Illustrated's recount of the game, which noted the inadequacy of the War Memorial, had this to say about the fans' reaction:
"From the bleachers at Buffalo's inadequate stadium, snowballs, rocks and chunks of ice began to fly toward the field. The Chiefs were soundly pelted but they escaped and clattered into their locker room for a few gargles [of celebratory mouthwash]."
The Chiefs and not the longtime champions of the AFL would represent the league in the world championship. That game went much like this game with the Chiefs hanging in during the first half but ultimately getting blown out by the Green Bay Packers 35-10.
The 1966 season was the great Bills team's last hurrah. In 1967 they finished 4-12 after going through several quarterbacks after Kemp was injured in training camp. They didn't win nine games again until they 1973 and weren't playoff bound until 1974.