Grading the first ever Super Bowl
With Super Bowl 50 approaching, PFF gets back to the roots of the big game by grading Super Bowl I.
Grading the first ever Super Bowl
The NFL season is almost over, but before it officially comes to a close on Sunday, PFF has the build-up to the big game. Today, we take a look at the very first Super Bowl, recently re-aired for the first time by NFL Network.
For anybody unfamiliar, this was the first time the NFL champions (Green Bay Packers) met the AFL champions (Kansas City Chiefs) in a game that would become to be known as the “Super Bowl.” Green Bay was the NFL’s juggernaut at the time, and was heavily favored to win the game, but the Chiefs proved that they (and the AFL) belonged at this level. In the end, the Packers did come away with a comfortable enough victory, but it wasn’t the walkover many had been expecting.
PFF recently took the opportunity to grade the very first Super Bowl; here, we present our game recap:
Green Bay Packers
– This was an era where defense had the advantage when it came to the rules, especially when it came to pass-rush versus pass-protection. Offensive linemen were not allowed to extend their arms and grab, and so pass-blocking became an exercise in trying to catch an onrushing defender almost between your elbows and absorb his momentum. Henry Jordan, DT for Green Bay, was arguably the best player on the field that day, generating a monstrous +12.6 overall grade, most of which came as a pass-rusher. Jordan had seven hurries, a hit, two sacks, and five more plays where he beat his man but the ball was out before he could pressure the quarterback. Over his career, he was a seven-time All-Pro, and on this evidence, I have no trouble believing why.
– Max McGee wasn’t quite the nobody that history suggests coming into the game. He had led the league in yards per catch in 1958 and had been a Pro-Bowler in 1961, but injuries and age had seen his role greatly reduced by the time of this game. Starting end Boyd Dowler went down hurt after just three snaps, and that brought McGee in, where he was targeted 11 times to lead the game, catching seven of them for 138 yards and two scores. Despite an interception thrown on a ball intended for McGee, QB Bart Starr had a passer rating of 112.5 when targeting a player who wasn’t supposed to feature in the game at all. McGee’s one-handed catch and run was one of the signature plays of the game, even if he was only trying to make sure the defensive back didn’t catch a poorly placed ball at the time.
– Green Bay’s offensive line was full of future Hall of Famers, or players like Jerry Kramer, whose Hall of Fame snub has developed its own cottage industry, but the best grade among the O-line in this game came from left tackle Bob Skoronski, a one-time Pro-Bowler whose Wikipedia page is one line long. Skoronski was a powerful force as a run blocker, ploughing into the Kansas City line and generating movement when he did in the technique of the day. He surrendered just one hurry over his 28 pass-blocking snaps and was by far the best Green Bay performer on the line, despite his more illustrious teammates.
– Bart Starr was by far the more accomplished performer of the two Hall of Fame quarterbacks in this game. He had a couple of wayward passes, but was accurate on 75.0 percent of his throws and 63.1 percent of the yardage came through the air. He did throw an interception, but also suffered from a drop by his receivers and was under a steady stream of pressure throughout the game.
– LB Ray Nitschke was another of the players that stood out as likely being able to handle himself 50 years later if he had to. He looked big, fast, and instinctive as a linebacker, and had the nasty streak that teams would have been searching for in the 1960s, but would probably see you collect an endless stream of penalty flags today.
Green Bay offensive grades
Green Bay defensive grades
Kansas City Chiefs
– DT Buck Buchanan was the standout for the Chiefs in this game, and was a visibly-imposing physical specimen for the day. He ended the game with three hurries, a sack, and two more plays in which he beat his man, but couldn’t cause pressure before the ball was away. With the rules for offensive line blocking the way they were, though, you came away perhaps expecting slightly more from a player that was obviously capable of it. When he won his battles at the line, it tended to be decisive, but he was moved in the run game, and it was as a pass-rusher that he had his biggest impacts in Super Bowl I.
– If Bart Starr looked accomplished and capable of playing in a modern offense, Len Dawson looked more of a maverick and akin to Johnny Manziel—capable of great things when the play breaks down, but somebody you can’t necessarily trust to make the routine plays. To be fair to Dawson, he was under a near constant stream of pressure from his offensive line. Both blocking units were overmatched, given the rules constraining them, but Kansas City was coming off worse. The Chiefs were regularly rolling Dawson out of the pocket to try and get him away from the rush, and Kansas City’s passers combined for four scrambles in the game to Green Bay’s zero. Dawson was accurate on just 55.2 percent of his passing attempts, and threw a killer interception that really dug the team a hole.
– Ed Budde was a three-time All-AFL player, a five-time AFL All-Star, and a seven-time Pro-Bowler during his career. In 1966, he was both an AFL All-Star and Pro-Bowl player, but in the Super Bowl, he was beat like a drum by Henry Jordan all game long, earning the worst grade of any player over the game (-13.3). Budde was beaten for six hurries, a hit, a sack, and on five more occasions, he was beaten on the line, but the ball was gone before Dawson could be pressured from it. The vast majority of his negative grade came as a pass-blocker, but his -2.2 run blocking grade was far from a fairytale. All five members of the Chiefs’ offensive line graded negatively in this game, and they were undoubtedly the most overmatched unit in the contest, but Budde was the biggest problem, despite his lofty career awards.
– Several Chiefs looked overmatched against the Packers, but there were several more that looked right at home against NFL competition. LB E.J. Holub was a five-time AFL All-Star, a two-time All-Pro, and is in the Chiefs Hall of Fame, and after Buck Buchanan, had the highest grade of any Chiefs player (+2.6). Holub played well as a pass-rusher, but also against the run, notching a hit and a sack, as well as a forced fumble as reward for his work.
– As is only logical in this game, there were more bad than good performances for the Chiefs, and DE Chuck Hurston (-7.1) along with CB Willie Mitchell (-4.0) were two of the worst performers. Mitchell was the guy on the receiving end of McGee’s big game, while Hurston was unable to hold up against the power running attack of the Packers on the edge.
Kansas City offensive grades
Kansas City defensive grades