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The NFL playoffs following the 1974 NFL season led up to Super Bowl IX. This was the last season in which the sites for the playoff games annually alternated by division.

Contents

Divisional playoffs

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December 21, 1974

AFC: Oakland Raiders 28, Miami Dolphins 26

1 2 3 4 Total
Dolphins 7 3 6 10 26
Raiders 0 7 7 14 28

at Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, California

In a play that became known as the Sea of Hands, the Raiders' Clarence Davis somehow caught the winning touchdown pass with 24 seconds left in the game among "the sea of hands" of three Dolphins defenders.

The game began when Nat Moore returned the opening kickoff 89 yards for a Miami touchdown. After an exchange of punts, Oakland tied the game with Ken Stabler's 31-yard touchdown pass to Charlie Smith. But with 1:01 left in the half, Miami's Garo Yepremian kicked a 33-yard field goal to put the Dolphins back in the lead.

The Raiders scored on their opening drive of the third quarter with Stabler's 13-yard touchdown pass to Fred Biletnikoff, giving them a 14-10 lead. Aided by a 29-yard pass interference penalty against the Raiders on third down, Miami struck back with Bob Griese's 16-yard touchdown pass to Paul Warfield. But Oakland lineman Bubba Smith blocked the extra point attempt, keeping the Miami lead at just 2 points, 16-14.

Early in the fourth quarter, Yepremian increased Miami's lead to 19-14 with a 46-yard field goal. Later in the period, Oakland got the ball on their own 17-yard line. Stabler started the drive with an 11-yard completion to Biletnikoff. On the next play, he threw a pass to Cliff Branch at the Dolphins 27-yard line. Branch made a spectacular diving catch and then got back up and ran the rest of the way to the end zone for a 72-yard touchdown reception, giving the Raiders a 21-19 lead with 4:37 left in the game. With 2:08 left to play, the Dolphins took a 26-21 lead with a 68-yard, 4-play drive that ended with Benny Malone's 23-yard touchdown run.

Following a 20-yard kickoff return by Ron Smith, the Raiders got the ball on their own 32-yard line with 2 minutes left to play and all three timeouts left. After a 6-yard completion to tight end Bob Moore and a short run, Stabler went deep to Biletnikoff, completing two consecutive passes to him for gains of 18 and 20 yards. Then after a 4-yard catch by Branch, Frank Pitts made a bobbling first down catch at the Dolphins 14-yard line. On the next play, Clarence Davis ran the ball 6 yards to the 8-yard line, where the Raiders called their final timeout. On the next play, Stabler dropped back to pass and looked for Biletnikoff in the end zone, but he was tightly covered. With Dolphins defensive end Vern Den Herder dragging him down, Stabler threw a desperate pass to the left side of the end zone into a "sea of hands", where Davis fought his way through the Dolphins defenders to make the touchdown catch.

Trailing 28-26, the Dolphins got the ball back with 24 seconds left. But on their second play of the drive, Oakland linebacker Phil Villapiano intercepted Griese's pass at the Raiders 45-yard line, allowing his team to run out the rest of the clock.

"This has to be the toughest loss I've ever suffered," said Miami coach Don Shula, "The Raiders are a great credit to professional football," he added. "They needed touchdowns to win and they got them."[1]

  • Scoring
    • MIA - N. Moore 89 kickoff return (Yepremian kick) MIA 7-0
    • OAK - C. Smith 31 pass from Stabler (Blanda kick) 7-7
    • MIA - field goal Yepremian 33 MIA 10-7
    • OAK - Biletnikoff 13 pass from Stabler (Blanda kick) OAK 14-10
    • MIA - Warfield 16 pass from Griese (kick failed) MIA 16-14
    • MIA - field goal Yepremian 46 MIA 19-14
    • OAK - Branch 72 pass from Stabler (Blanda kick) OAK 21-19
    • MIA - Malone 23 run (Yepremian kick) MIA 26-21
    • OAK - Davis 8 pass from Stabler (Blanda kick) OAK 28-26

NFC: Minnesota Vikings 30, St. Louis Cardinals 14

1 2 3 4 Total
Cardinals 0 7 0 7 14
Vikings 0 7 16 7 30

at Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington, Minnesota

Aided by the Cardinals' turnovers, the Vikings scored 16 points in less than 7 minutes in the third quarter. After a scoreless first quarter, St. Louis got onto the scoreboard first with quarterback Jim Hart's 13-yard touchdown pass, but Minnesota counter when quarterback Fran Tarkenton completed a 16-yard touchdown pass to John Gilliam. Then, Jeff Wright's interception on the opening drive of the second half led to Fred Cox's 37-yard field goal to give the Vikings the lead, 10-7. On the Cardinals' ensuing drive, Terry Metcalf fumbled and Nate Wright picked up the loose ball and returned it 20-yards to the end zone. Tarkenton later threw his second touchdown pass to Gilliam, and Chuck Foreman recorded a 4-yard touchdown run to give Minnesota a 30-7 lead. By the time Metcalf and rushed for an 11-yard fourth quarter touchdown, the game was already out of reach for the Cardinals.

  • Scoring
    • STL - Thomas 13 pass from Hart (Bakken kick)STL 7-0
    • MIN - Gilliam 16 pass from Tarkenton (Cox kick)7-7
    • MIN - field goal Cox 37 MIN 10-7
    • MIN - Wright 20 fumble return (Cox kick)MIN 17-7
    • MIN - Gilliam 38 pass from Tarkenton (kick failed) MIN 23-7
    • MIN - Foreman 4 run (Cox kick) MIN 30-7
    • STL - Metcalf 11 run (Bakken kick) MIN 30-14

December 22, 1974

AFC: Pittsburgh Steelers 32, Buffalo Bills 14

1 2 3 4 Total
Bills 7 0 7 0 14
Steelers 3 26 0 3 32

at Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Running back Franco Harris led the Steelers to the victory by scoring 3 touchdowns in the second quarter. Pittsburgh scored on their first possession with Roy Gerela's 21-yard field goal, but the Bills responded with tight end Paul Seymour's 27-yard touchdown reception. The Steelers then scored 26 unanswered points in the second quarter, starting with quarterback Terry Bradshaw's 27-yard pass to running back Rocky Bleier. The Steelers lead 29-7 at halftime. Harris then scored his first touchdown of the game on a 67-yard Pittsburgh drive. A Buffalo fumble led to Harris' second touchdown, and his third score came with 16 seconds left in the first half. The Steelers recorded 438 yards of total offense, while limiting Bills running back O.J. Simpson to 49 rushing yards.

  • Scoring
    • PIT - field goal Gerela 21 PIT 3-0
    • BUF - Seymour 22 pass from Ferguson (Leypoldt kick) BUF 7-3
    • PIT - Bleier 27 pass from Bradshaw (kick blocked) PIT 9-7
    • PIT - Harris 1 run (Gerela kick) PIT 16-7
    • PIT - Harris 4 run (kick blocked)PIT 22-7
    • PIT - Harris 1 run (Gerela kick) PIT 29-7
    • BUF - Simpson 3 pass from Ferguson (Leypoldt kick) PIT 29-14
    • PIT - field goal Gerela 22 PIT 32-14

NFC: Los Angeles Rams 19, Washington Redskins 10

1 2 3 4 Total
Redskins 3 7 0 0 10
Rams 7 0 3 9 19

at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles

Linebacker Isiah Robertson returned an interception 59 yards in the fourth quarter to clinch the Rams victory. Los Angeles scored on the opening drive of the game with quarterback James Harris' 10-yard touchdown pass to tight end Bob Klein. However, the Redskins scored 10 unanswered points before halftime. First Mike Bragg kicked a 35-yard field goal, then Pat Fischer's interception set up Moses Denson's 1-yard rushing touchdown. Two Washington turnovers in the second half set up two field goals by Rams kicker David Ray. With the Redskins driving for the possible tying field goal, defensive tackle Merlin Olsen pressured quarterback Sonny Jurgensen into throwing the game clinching interception to Robertson, who weaved his way back and forth across the field as he ran to the end zone. Olsen then recorded two more sacks, preventing any hopes of a Redskins comeback. Joe Theismann was returning punts for the Redskins at this time.

  • Scoring
    • LA - Klein 10 pass from Harris (Ray kick)LA 7-0
    • WAS - field goal Bragg 35 LA 7-3
    • WAS - Denson 1 run (Bragg kick) WAS 10-7
    • LA - field goal Ray 37 10-10
    • LA - field goal Ray 26 13-10
    • LA - Robertson 59 interception return (kick failed) LA 19-10

Conference Championships

December 29, 1974

AFC: Pittsburgh Steelers 24, Oakland Raiders 13

1 2 3 4 Total
Steelers 0 3 0 21 24
Raiders 3 0 7 3 13

at Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, California

After trailing 10-3 at the end of the third quarter, the Steelers scored three touchdowns in the final period. The first half was controlled by both defenses, leading to a 3-3 score at halftime. However, the Raiders took the lead in the third quarter with Ken Stabler's 38-yard touchdown pass Cliff Branch. But Pittsburgh tied the game again six seconds into the fourth quarter with Franco Harris' 6-yard touchdown reception from Terry Bradshaw. Then linebacker Jack Ham intercepted a pass, and Bradshaw threw a 6-yard touchdown to Lynn Swann. Faced with third down at the Pittsburgh 12-yard line, Stabler was forced to throw an incomplete pass, and the Raiders had to settle for a field goal to cut the Steelers' lead, 17-13. But Harris then scored on a 21-yard rushing touchdown to put the game away.

  • Scoring
    • OAK - field goal Blanda 40 OAK 3-0
    • PIT - field goal Gerela 23 3-3
    • OAK - Branch 38 pass from Stabler (Blanda kick) OAK 10-3
    • PIT - Harris 8 run (Gerela kick) 10-10
    • PIT - Swann 6 pass from Bradshaw (Gerela kick) PIT 17-10
    • OAK - field goal Blanda 24 PIT 17-13
    • PIT - Harris 21 run (Gerela kick) PIT 24-13

NFC: Minnesota Vikings 14, Los Angeles Rams 10

1 2 3 4 Total
Rams 0 3 0 7 10
Vikings 0 7 0 7 14

at Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington, Minnesota

The Vikings were able to hold onto the ball for the final 5:37 of the game to preserve a 14-10 victory. After a scoreless first quarter, Minnesota quarterback Fran Tarkenton threw a 29-yard touchdown to Jim Lash. Rams kicker David Ray later added a 27-yard field goal to cut the lead to 7-3 before halftime. In the third quarter, Los Angeles advanced the ball from their own 1-yard line to the Minnesota 1-yard line. The big play on the drive was a 73-yard pass play to Harold Jackson, who was finally pushed out of bounds at the Vikings 2 by safety Jeff Wright. A controversial illegal procedure penalty on Rams guard Tom Mack (TV replays showed Mack did not move), on which Alan Page appeared to have jumped offsides, pushed the ball back to the 6-yard line, and two plays later Vikings linebacker Wally Hilgenberg intercepted the ball in the end zone for a touchback. Minnesota then went on a 15-play drive that took almost eight minutes off the clock to score on Dave Osborn's 4-yard touchdown run. With 7:15 left to play in the game, the Rams then cut the deficit to 14-10 with Harold Jackson's 44-yard touchdown reception. Then after forcing the Vikings to punt, Los Angeles drove to the Minnesota 45-yard line. But a third down sack forced the Rams to punt again and the Vikings kept the ball to run out the clock.

  • Scoring
    • MIN - Lash 29 pass from Tarkenton (Cox kick) MIN 7-0
    • LA - field goal Ray 27 MIN 7-3
    • MIN - Osborn 4 run (Cox kick)MIN 14-3
    • LA - Jackson 44 pass from Harris (Ray kick)MIN 14-10

Super Bowl

Pittsburgh Steelers (AFC) 16, Minnesota Vikings (NFC) 6, at Tulane Stadium, New Orleans, Louisiana

Bracket

Note: Prior to the 1975 season, the home teams in the playoffs were decided based on a yearly rotation.
Divisional Playoffs Conf. Championship Games Super Bowl IX
                   
December 22 - Three Rivers Stadium        
 Buffalo Bills  14
December 29 - Oakland Coliseum
 Pittsburgh Steelers  32  
 Pittsburgh Steelers  24
December 21 - Oakland Coliseum
     Oakland Raiders  13  
 Miami Dolphins  26
January 12 - Tulane Stadium
 Oakland Raiders  28  
 Pittsburgh Steelers  16
December 22 - L.A. Coliseum    
   Minnesota Vikings  6
 Washington Redskins  10
December 29 - Metropolitan Stadium
 Los Angeles Rams  19  
 Los Angeles Rams  10
December 21 - Metropolitan Stadium
     Minnesota Vikings  14  
 St. Louis Cardinals  14
 Minnesota Vikings  30  
 

References

  • Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League (ISBN 0-06-270174-6)
  • The Sporting News Complete Super Bowl Book 1995 (ISBN 0-89204-523-X)

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