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The NFL playoffs following the 1977 NFL season led up to Super Bowl XII.

Due to Christmas, the Divisional playoff games were held in a span of three days. The AFC playoff games were played on December 24 while the NFC games were held on December 26. It also marked the only year since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 that one conference held both of its divisional playoff games on one day and the other conference held both of its games on the other day. In every other season since 1970, the conferences have split their playoff games over the two days.

This was also the last season that the NFL used an eight-team playoff tournament.

Playoff seeds
Seed AFC NFC
1 Denver Broncos (West winner) Dallas Cowboys (East winner)
2 Baltimore Colts (East winner) Los Angeles Rams (West winner)
3 Pittsburgh Steelers (Central winner) Minnesota Vikings (Central winner)
4 Oakland Raiders Chicago Bears

Note: As per the rules of the NFL playoffs prior to the 1990 season (not withstanding the strike-shorten 1982 season), the Denver Broncos (the AFC 1 seed) did not play the Oakland Raiders (the 4 seed) in the Divisional playoff round because both teams were in the same division.

Contents

Divisional playoffs

December 24, 1977

AFC: Oakland Raiders 37, Baltimore Colts 31 (2OT)

1 2 3 4 OT 2OT Total
Raiders 7 0 14 10 0 6 37
Colts 0 10 7 14 0 0 31

at Memorial Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland

On a play known as the Ghost to the Post, Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler threw a 42-yard completion to tight end Dave Casper to set up the game-tying field goal with 29 seconds left in regulation. Casper, nicknamed "The Ghost" by his teammates, also caught a 10-yard touchdown pass 43 seconds into the second overtime period to win the game.

In a game that had eight lead changes, Oakland scored first with running back Clarence Davis's 30-yard touchdown run. However, the Colts scored 10 unanswered points before halftime, including Bruce Laird's 61-yard interception return for a touchdown. The Raiders scored on their first drive of the second half with Stabler's 8-yard touchdown pass to Casper, but Baltimore's Marshall Johnson returned the ensuing kickoff 87 yards to the end zone. Casper caught a 10-yard touchdown before the end of the third quarter, but it was offset by Ron Lee's 1-yard rushing touchdown. The teams exchanged touchdowns for the third time with another Lee score and Raiders running back Pete Banaszak's score. With the Colts leading 31-28 with time running out, the "Ghost to the Post" to Casper advanced the Raiders to the Baltimore 14-yard line, where Errol Mann kicked the tying field goal to send the contest into overtime.

  • Scoring
    • OAK - Davis 30 run (Mann kick) OAK 7-0
    • BAL - Laird 61 interception return (Linhart kick) 7-7
    • BAL - field goal Linhart 36 BAL 10-7
    • OAK - Casper 8 pass from Stabler (Mann kick) OAK 14-10
    • BAL - Johnson 87 kickoff return (Linhart kick) BAL 17-14
    • OAK - Casper 10 pass from Stabler (Mann kick) OAK 21-17
    • BAL - Lee 1 run (Linhart kick) BAL 24-21
    • OAK - Banaszak 1 run (Mann run) OAK 28-24
    • BAL - Lee 13 run (Linhart kick) BAL 31-28
    • OAK - field goal Mann 22 31-31
    • OAK - Casper 10 pass from Stabler OAK 37-31

AFC: Denver Broncos 34, Pittsburgh Steelers 21

1 2 3 4 Total
Steelers 0 14 0 7 21
Broncos 7 7 7 13 34

at Mile High Stadium, Denver, Colorado

Broncos linebacker Tom Jackson's 2 interceptions and a fumble return set up 17 Denver points as the Broncos defeated the Steelers. Denver scored first after John Schultz's blocked punt set up running back Rob Lytle's 7-yard rushing touchdown. Pittsburgh responded with quarterback Terry Bradshaw's 1-yard rushing touchdown. But in the second quarter, Jackson picked up a fumble by Steelers running back Franco Harris and returned it 35 yards to the Pittsburgh 10-yard line. On play later, running back Otis Armstrong ran the ball into the end zone to give the Broncos a 14-7 lead. Harris later tied the game before halftime with a 1-yard touchdown run. After the teams exchanged touchdowns in the second half, Denver kicker Jim Turner made a 44-yard field goal to give the Broncos a 24-21 lead. Then on the Steelers ensuing possession, Jackson intercepted a pass from Bradshaw to set up another Turner field goal. Jackson later recorded his second interception of the game, leading to wide receiver Jack Dolbin's 34-yard touchdown reception to put the game away. Harris finished the game with 92 rushing yards, 4 receptions for 20 yards, and a touchdown.

  • Scoring
    • DEN - Lytle 7 run (Turner kick) DEN 7-0
    • PIT - Bradshaw 1 run (Gerela kick) 7-7
    • DEN - Armstrong 10 run (Turner kick) DEN 14-7
    • PIT - Harris 1 run (Gerela kick) 14-14
    • DEN - Odoms 30 pass from Morton (Turner kick) DEN 21-14
    • PIT - Brown 1 pass from Bradshaw (Gerela kick) 21-21
    • DEN - field goal Turner 44 DEN 24-21
    • DEN - field goal Turner 25 DEN 27-21
    • DEN - Dolbin 34 pass from Morton (Turner kick) DEN 34-21

December 26, 1977

NFC: Dallas Cowboys 37, Chicago Bears 7

1 2 3 4 Total
Bears 0 0 0 7 7
Cowboys 7 10 17 3 37

at Texas Stadium, Irving, Texas

Safety Charlie Waters led the Cowboys to a 37-7 victory by setting an NFL playoff record of 3 interceptions. Dallas built a 17-0 halftime lead, with the aid of running back Doug Dennison's 2-yard touchdown run and quarterback Roger Staubach's 28-yard scoring pass to tight end Billy Joe Dupree. In the second half, running back Tony Dorsett recorded two rushing touchdowns and Efren Herrera added two more field goals. The Bears were limited to 224 total yards and did not score until the fourth quarter when the game was already out of reach.

  • Scoring
    • DAL - Dennison 2 run (Herrera kick) DAL 7-0
    • DAL - DuPree 28 pass from Staubach (Herrera kick) DAL 14-0
    • DAL - field goal Herrera 21 DAL 17-0
    • DAL - Dorsett 23 run (Herrera kick) DAL 24-0
    • DAL - field goal Herrera 31 DAL 27-0
    • DAL - Dorsett 7 run (Herrera kick) DAL 34-0
    • DAL - field goal Herrera 27 DAL 37-0
    • CHI - Schubert 34 pass from Avellini (Thomas kick) DAL 37-7

NFC: Minnesota Vikings 14, Los Angeles Rams 7

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

at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles

The Rams had easily defeated an aging Vikings team in the regular season, and after years of frustrating playoff losses in the cold of Green Bay and Minnesota, the Rams finally had a home playoff game against a cold weather team. In addition, Viking quarterback Fran Tarkenton was injured. But as luck would have it, Los Angeles was engulfed in a torrential rainstorm. In the game known as the "Mud Bowl", running back Chuck Foreman led the Vikings to a victory by recording 101 rushing yards in a torrential rainstorm. Minnesota Head Coach Bud Grant's strategy was to have quarterback Bob Lee throw early before the field lost traction. The Vikings scored first on Foreman's 5-yard touchdown run which capped a 70-yard drive. From that point on until the fourth quarter, both teams remained scoreless while the field turned into a quagmire. The Rams had two chances to score, but quarterback Pat Haden threw an interception in the end zone and kicker Rafael Septien missed a field goal. Then early in the final period, Sammy Johnson scored on a 1-yard rushing touchdown. With less than a minute left in the game, Haden threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Harold Jackson to cut the score 14-7. The Rams then recovered the ensuing onside kick, but Haden threw another interception to end the game.

  • Scoring
    • MIN - Foreman 5 run (Cox kick) MIN 7-0
    • MIN - Johnson 1 run (Cox kick) MIN 14-0
    • LA - Jackson 1 pass from Haden (Septien kick) MIN 14-7

Conference Championships

January 1, 1978

AFC: Denver Broncos 20, Oakland Raiders 17

1 2 3 4 Total
Raiders 3 0 0 14 17
Broncos 7 0 7 6 20

at Mile High Stadium, Denver, Colorado

  • Game time: 2:00 p.m. EST
  • Game weather: 20 °F (−7 °C) (approx.), sunny
  • TV announcers (NBC): Dick Enberg and Len Dawson
  • Referee: Chuck Heberling

After the Raiders cut the Broncos lead 20-17 with 3:16 left in the game, Denver was able to run out the clock. Oakland scored first on the opening drive of the contest with Errol Mann's 20-yard field goal. But on the Broncos' second play, quarterback Craig Morton threw a 74-yard touchdown to wide receiver Haven Moses.

The score remained 7-3 until the third period. The Broncos recovered a fumble at the Oakland 17-yard line and then advanced the ball to the 2-yard line. On the next play, running back Rob Lytle was hit in mid-air by Raiders safety Jack Tatum, and lost the ball. Oakland nose tackle Mike McCoy picked up the loose ball and began returning it for an easy touchdown, but the play was prematurely blown dead by an official on the opposite side of the field. The officials ruled that Lytle was stopped before the fumble, even though replays clearly showed the ball was knocked free at the moment of contact. With no instant replay challenge rules available to Oakland at the time, Denver retained possession. The Raiders were then penalized half the distance to the goal for arguing the call, and Jon Keyworth scored a Denver touchdown on the next play to give Denver a commanding 14-3 lead.

Early in the fourth quarter, Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dave Casper, cutting the Broncos' lead to 14-10. However, linebacker Bob Swenson intercepted Stabler on Oakland's next drive, and three plays later, Moses caught a 12-yard touchdown pass. With 3:16 left in the game, Casper scored on a 17-yard touchdown pass to cut the score, 20-17, but the Broncos' held the ball for the rest of the game and ran out the clock.

  • Scoring
    • OAK - Mann 20 field goal OAK 3-0
    • DEN - Moses 74 pass from Morton (Turner kick) DEN 7-3
    • DEN - Keyworth 1 run (Turner kick) DEN 14-3
    • OAK - Casper 7 pass from Stabler (Mann kick) DEN 14-10
    • DEN - Moses 12 pass from Morton (kick failed) DEN 20-10
    • OAK - Casper 17 pass from Stabler (Mann kick) DEN 20-17

NFC: Dallas Cowboys 23, Minnesota Vikings 6

1 2 3 4 Total
Vikings 0 6 0 0 6
Cowboys 6 10 0 7 23

at Texas Stadium, Irving, Texas

The Cowboys defense held the Vikings to 66 rushing yards and 6 points. Minnesota again started quarterback Bob Lee, who was playing for the injured Fran Tarkenton. Dallas took the early lead after defensive end Harvey Martin's fumble recovery set up wide receiver Golden Richards' 32-yard touchdown reception. In the second quarter, another fumble recovery by Martin led to a 46 yard drive, which featured Danny White's 22-yard run on a fake punt and running back Robert Newhouse's 5-yard rushing touchdown. In the fourth quarter, Cowboys linebacker Thomas Henderson forced Vikings punt returner Manfred Moore to fumble and it was recovered by Dallas tight end Jay Saldi. Five plays later, running back Tony Dorsett rushed for an 11-yard touchdown to put the game away.

  • Scoring
    • DAL - Richards 32 pass from Staubach (kick blocked) DAL 6-0
    • DAL - Newhouse 5 run (Herrera kick) DAL 13-0
    • MIN - field goal Cox 33 DAL 13-3
    • MIN - field goal Cox 37 DAL 13-6
    • DAL - field goal Herrera 21 DAL 16-6
    • DAL - Dorsett 11 run (Herrera kick) DAL 23-6

Super Bowl

Dallas Cowboys (NFC) 27, Denver Broncos (AFC) 10, at Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana

Bracket

*Note: Two teams from the same division were not allowed to play against each other in the Divisional playoff round.
Divisional Playoffs Conf. Championship Games Super Bowl XII
                   
December 26 - L.A. Memorial Coliseum        
 (3) Minnesota Vikings  14
January 1 - Texas Stadium
 (2) Los Angeles Rams  7  
 (3) Minnesota Vikings  6
December 26 - Texas Stadium
     (1) Dallas Cowboys  23  
 (4) Chicago Bears  7
January 15 - Louisiana Superdome
 (1) Dallas Cowboys  37  
 (N1) Dallas Cowboys  27
December 24 - Memorial Stadium    
   (A1) Denver Broncos  10
 (4) Oakland Raiders (2OT)  37
January 1 - Mile High Stadium
 (2)* Baltimore Colts  31  
 (4) Oakland Raiders  17
December 24 - Mile High Stadium
     (1) Denver Broncos  20  
 (3) Pittsburgh Steelers  21
 (1)* Denver Broncos  34  
 

Trivia

  • The Denver Broncos were making their first trip to the postseason. Denver was the last of the old AFL teams to make it to the playoffs.
  • Denver was the first team to win a conference championship in their first playoff appearance. The only team to accomplish that feat since were the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, who were officially considered a new team even though they inherited their original roster from the Cleveland Browns in 1996.
  • This was the only time that both conference champions defeated their conference's defending champion in the playoffs, with Denver beating Oakland and Dallas downing Minnesota.
  • The Raiders-Colts divisional round game was the third playoff game to go into double overtime. The two previous ones were the 1962 AFL Championship (Dallas Texans vs. Houston Oilers) and the 1971 AFC divisional round game (Miami Dolphins vs. Kansas City Chiefs.)

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)
AFC East Central West East Central West NFC
Baltimore Cincinnati Denver Dallas Chicago Atlanta
Buffalo Cleveland Kansas City NY Giants Detroit Los Angeles
Miami Houston Oakland Philadelphia Green Bay New Orleans
New England Pittsburgh San Diego St. Louis Minnesota San Francisco
NY Jets Seattle Washington Tampa Bay
1977 NFL DraftNFL PlayoffsPro BowlSuper Bowl XII







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