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The NFL playoffs following the 1980 NFL season led up to Super Bowl XV.

Playoff seeds
1 San Diego Chargers (West winner) Atlanta Falcons (West winner)
2 Cleveland Browns (Central winner) Philadelphia Eagles (East winner)
3 Buffalo Bills (East winner) Minnesota Vikings (Central winner)
4 Oakland Raiders Dallas Cowboys
5 Houston Oilers Los Angeles Rams

Note: As per the rules of the NFL playoffs prior to the 1990 season (not withstanding the strike-shorten 1982 season), the San Diego Chargers (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.


Wild Card playoffs


December 28, 1980

AFC: Oakland Raiders 27, Houston Oilers 7

1 2 3 4 Total
Oilers 7 0 0 0 7
Raiders 3 7 0 17 27

at Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, California

Even though the Oilers recorded more yards, more first downs, and more time of possession, the Raiders scored on big plays to win, 27-7. Houston running back Earl Campbell lost a fumble on the first play of the game, setting up Oakland kicker Chris Bahr's 47-yard field goal. The Oilers responded with a 55-yard drive to score on Campbell's 1-yard touchdown run. In the second quarter, Raiders quarterback Jim Plunkett threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Todd Christensen. Oakland did not score again until the fourth quarter when Plunkett threw a 44-yard touchdown to Arthur Whittington, followed by Bahr's 37-yard field goal. With about 6 minutes left in the game, cornerback Lester Hayes returned an interception 20 yards to the end zone to clinch the Raiders' victory.

  • Scoring
    • OAK - field goal Bahr 47 OAK 0-3
    • HOU - Campbell 1 run (Fritsch kick) HOU 7-3
    • OAK - Christensen 1 pass from Plunkett (Bahr kick) OAK 7-10
    • OAK - Whittington 44 pass from Plunkett (Bahr kick) OAK 7-17
    • OAK - field goal Bahr 37 OAK 7-20
    • OAK - Hayes 20 interception return (Bahr kick)OAK 7-27

NFC: Dallas Cowboys 34, Los Angeles Rams 13

1 2 3 4 Total
Rams 6 7 0 0 13
Cowboys 3 10 14 7 34

at Texas Stadium, Irving, Texas

The Cowboys avenged a 38-14 loss to the Rams two weeks earlier (in a game they trailed 38-0) as Dallas running back Tony Dorsett rushed for 160 yards, caught 3 passes for 28 yards, and scored 2 touchdowns to lead his team to victory. After Dallas kicker Rafael Septien opened up the scoring with a 28-yard field goal, the Rams marched 73-yards to score on running back Jewerl Thomas' 1-yard run. However, the ensuing extra point was blocked and Septien later made a 29-yard field goal to tie the game, 6-6. In the second period, Los Angeles quarterback Vince Ferragamo completed a 21-yard touchdown pass to receiver Preston Dennard, but the Cowboys tied the game before halftime with Dorsett's 12-yard rushing touchdown. After the game was tied at halftime, 13-13, Cowboys quarterback Danny White threw 3 touchdown passes in the second half. In addition, Dallas coach Tom Landry went to a 5 man defensive front and they dropped various combinations into 7 and 8 man coverage to confuse the Rams potent passing game. The result was a combination of pressure on Ram QB Vince Ferragamo, and Dallas intercepted 3 passes. White then threw touchdown passes on Dallas' first three drives of the second half: A 10-yarder to Dorsett, a 35-yard one to Butch Johnson, and an 11-yarder to Drew Pearson. Dallas then turned to a potent rushing attack to chew up time and keep the Rams offense off the field. Dallas rushed 46 times for 338 yards, and the Rams were never able to score in the second half.

  • Scoring
    • DAL - field goal Septien 28 DAL 3-0
    • LA - Thomas 1 run (kick blocked) LA 3-6
    • DAL - field goal Septien 29 6-6
    • LA - Dennard 21 pass from Ferragamo (Corral kick) LA 6-13
    • DAL - Dorsett 12 run (Septien kick) 13-13
    • DAL - Dorsett 10 pass from White (Septien kick) DAL 20-13
    • DAL - Johnson 35 pass from White (Septien kick) DAL 27-13
    • DAL - Pearson 11 pass from White (Septien kick) DAL 34-13

Divisional playoffs

January 3, 1981

AFC: San Diego Chargers 20, Buffalo Bills 14

1 2 3 4 Total
Bills 0 14 0 0 14
Chargers 3 0 7 10 20

at Jack Murphy Stadium, San Diego

With 2:08 left in the game, Chargers quarterback Dan Fouts threw the 50-yard winning touchdown pass to receiver Ron Smith to defeat the Bills, 20-14. Buffalo jumped to a 14-3 halftime lead with running back Roosevelt Leaks' 1-yard touchdown run and quarterback Joe Ferguson's 9-yard pass to Frank Lewis. However, San Diego took the opening kickoff of the second half and marched 70 yards to score on quarterback Dan Fouts' 9-yard touchdown completion to Charlie Joiner. Then early in the fourth quarter, the Chargers added a field goal to cut the Bills' lead, 14-13. San Diego took over at their own 31-yard line with less than 4 minutes remaining, but Buffalo cornerback Charles Romes almost intercepted Fouts on the play before the winning touchdown. After the game it was revealed that Ferguson had been playing with a fractured ankle, suffered three weeks earlier in a game against the New England Patriots.

  • Scoring
    • SD - field goal Benirschke 22 SD 3-0
    • BUF - Leaks 1 run (Mike-Mayer kick) BUF 3-7
    • BUF - Lewis 9 pass from Ferguson (Mike-Mayer kick) BUF 3-14
    • SD - Joiner 9 pass from Fouts (Benirschke kick) BUF 10-14
    • SD - field goal Benirschke 22 BUF 13-14
    • SD - Smith 50 pass from Fouts (Benirschke kick)SD 20-14

NFC: Philadelphia Eagles 31, Minnesota Vikings 16

1 2 3 4 Total
Vikings 7 7 2 0 16
Eagles 0 7 14 10 31

at Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia

The Eagles forced 8 turnovers in the second half en route to a 31-16 victory. The Vikings scored 14 unanswered points in the first half with wide receiver Sammy White's 30-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Tommy Kramer and running back Ted Brown's 1-yard touchdown run. However, Philadelphia scored before halftime by finishing off an 85-yard drive with quarterback Ron Jaworski's 9-yard touchdown completion to wide receiver Harold Carmichael. The Eagles then tied the game on the opening possession of the second half with Wilbert Montgomery's 8-yard touchdown run. Minnesota scored a safety when Jaworski was sacked in the end zone, but Montgomery then scored on a 5-yard rushing touchdown. Then the Vikings lost two fumbles, which led to 10 points for the Eagles, and Kramer threw interceptions on each of his team's final 4 drives.

  • Scoring
    • MIN - White 30 pass from Kramer (Danmeier kick) MIN 7-0
    • MIN - Brown 1 run (Danmeier kick) MIN 14-0
    • PHI - Carmichael 9 pass from Jaworski (Franklin kick) MIN 14-7
    • PHI - Montgomery 8 run (Franklin kick) 14-14
    • MIN - Safety, Jaworski tackled in end zone by Blair and Martin MIN 16-14
    • PHI - Montgomery 5 run (Franklin kick) PHI 21-16
    • PHI - field goal Franklin 33 PHI 24-16
    • PHI - Harrington 2 run (Franklin kick) PHI 31-16

January 4, 1981

AFC: Oakland Raiders 14, Cleveland Browns 12

1 2 3 4 Total
Raiders 0 7 0 7 14
Browns 0 6 6 0 12

at Cleveland Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio

In a play that has become to be known as Red Right 88, Browns quarterback Brian Sipe's pass was intercepted in the end zone by Raiders safety Mike Davis with 41 seconds left in the game to preserve Oakland's 14-12 victory. Instead of opting for a game winning field goal, Cleveland decided to attempt a passing play because Browns kicker Don Cockroft had previously missed two of four field goal attempts, had another aborted following a bad snap, and had one extra point blocked. In addition, the field was frozen and slippery.

With the game-time temperature at 4°F, the coldest NFL game since the Ice Bowl of December 31, 1967, Cleveland scored first when Ron Bolton returned an interception 42 yards to the end zone. However, Cockroft's ensuing extra point was blocked and the Raiders responded by driving 64 yards to score on a 1 yard touchdown run by Mark van Eeghen. Cockroft made two field goals in the third quarter, but in the fourth period, Oakland marched 80 yards to score on van Eeghen's second touchdown.

The quarterbacks of both teams were completely dominated throughout the game. Sipe was held to just 13 of 40 completions for 183 yards and intercepted 3 times, while Oakland's Jim Plunkett completed only 14 of 30 passes for 149 yards, with 2 interceptions.

  • Scoring
    • CLE - Bolton 42 interception return (kick blocked) CLE 6-0
    • OAK - van Eeghen 1 run (Bahr kick) OAK 7-6
    • CLE - field goal Cockroft 30 CLE 9-7
    • CLE - field goal Cockroft 30 CLE 12-7
    • OAK - van Eeghen 1 run (Bahr kick) OAK 14-12

NFC: Dallas Cowboys 30, Atlanta Falcons 27

1 2 3 4 Total
Cowboys 3 7 0 20 30
Falcons 10 7 7 3 27

at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia

The Cowboys scored 3 touchdowns in the fourth quarter to come from behind and defeat the Falcons, 30-27. Atlanta jumped to a 10-3 lead, aided by quarterback Steve Bartkowski's 60-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Alfred Jenkins. In the second quarter, Dallas recovered a fumble in Atlanta territory and tied the game quarterback Danny White's 5-yard touchdown completion to tight end Billy Joe Dupree. However, the Falcons responded with a 1-yard touchdown run by Lynn Cain to take a 17-10 lead. Then after forcing a punt, Atlanta mounted another drive into Dallas territory, but defensive back Steve Wilson intercepted a pass from Bartkowski and the score remained 17-10 at halftime.

Dallas started out the second half with a drive to midfield, but lost the ball on a play that initially appeared to go in their favor. Running back Preston Pearson caught a short pass from Danny White and took off for a big gain, but linebacker Joel Williams, who initially pressured White into making the pass, managed to chase Pearson down and force a fumble on the 15-yard line. After recovering the fumble, Atlanta stormed down the field and increased their lead to 24-10 with Bartkowski's 12-yard touchdown pass to running back William Andrews.

Starting a drive with 3:38 left in the third quarter, Dallas mounted an 85-yard drive that ended with Robert Newhouse's 1-yard touchdown run with 13:50 left in the game. Dallas subsequently forced a punt, but Atlanta safety Tom Pridemore intercepted a pass from White and returned it 22 yards to the Cowboys 37-yard line, setting up an Atlanta field goal to increase the lead 27-17. Dallas then marched 62 yards to score on Drew Pearson's 14-yard touchdown reception with 3:04 left in the game. Then two plays after ensuing the kickoff, Dallas lineman Ed "Too Tall" Jones appeared to jump offsides, which would have given the Falcons a first down, but he somehow managed to maintain his footing and avoid crossing the line of scrimmage before the snap. As a result, his sudden movement threw off Atlanta's offense and he ended up making a key tackle to end the drive and force a punt. Following the punt, Dallas advanced 70 yards to score on Pearson's 23-yard touchdown catch with 47 seconds left.

Charlie Waters fumbled the snap on the extra point attempt, keeping the score at 30-27 and giving Atlanta a chance to drive for a tying field goal. But the Falcons turned the ball over on downs before they could move it out of their own territory

Jenkins finished the game with 4 receptions for 155 yards.

The game is featured as one of the NFL's Greatest Games as the Duel in Dixie.

  • Scoring
    • ATL - field goal Mazzetti 38 ATL 3-0
    • ATL - Jenkins 60 pass from Bartkowski (Mazzetti kick) ATL 10-0
    • DAL - field goal Septien 38 ATL 10-3
    • DAL - DuPree 5 pass from White (Septien kick) 10-10
    • ATL - Cain 1 run (Mazzetti kick) ATL 17-10
    • ATL - Andrews 12 pass from Bartkowski (Mazzetti kick) ATL 24-10
    • DAL - Newhouse 1 run (Septien kick) ATL 24-17
    • ATL - field goal Mazzetti 34 ATL 27-17
    • DAL - Pearson 14 pass from White (Septien kick) ATL 27-24
    • DAL - Pearson 23 pass from White (kick failed) DAL 30-27

Conference Championships

January 11, 1981

AFC: Oakland Raiders 34, San Diego Chargers 27

1 2 3 4 Total
Raiders 21 7 3 3 34
Chargers 7 7 10 3 27

at Jack Murphy Stadium, San Diego

In the first quarter alone, Raiders quarterback Jim Plunkett threw 2 touchdown passes and scored a rushing touchdown. By the time the first period ended, Oakland was up 21-7, with Plunkett recording a 65-yard touchdown on a pass to Raymond Chester that was tipped twice, once by the Raiders and once by the Chargers, a 21-yard touchdown to running back Kenny King, and a 5-yard scoring run. The Chargers lone score in the opening period was quarterback Dan Fouts's 48-yard touchdown completion to Charlie Joiner. Early in the second quarter, Oakland's Mark van Eeghen rushed for a 3-yard touchdown, but Fouts responded with an 8-yard touchdown to Joiner. Then San Diego scored on its first two drives of the second half to cut the Raiders lead, 28-24. However, Oakland scored two field goals by Chris Bahr. The Chargers then scored on a 27-yard field goal midway through the final period. The Raider defense was exhausted and they implored their offense by saying "don't let them have the damn ball back"! The Raiders then held onto the ball for the last 6:43 of the game, with Plunkett scrambling twice on 3rd down to pick up key first downs, to clinch the victory. Plunkett finished the game with 14 of 18 completions for 261 yards and 2 touchdowns.

  • Scoring
    • OAK - Chester 65 pass from Plunkett (Bahr kick) OAK 7-0
    • SD - Joiner 48 pass from Fouts (Benirschke kick) 7-7
    • OAK - Plunkett 5 run (Bahr kick) OAK 14-7
    • OAK - King 21 pass from Plunkett (Bahr kick) OAK 21-7
    • OAK - van Eeghen 3 run (Bahr kick) OAK 28-7
    • SD - Joiner 8 pass from Fouts (Benirschke kick) OAK 28-14
    • SD - field goal Benirschke 26 OAK 28-17
    • SD - Muncie 6 run (Benirschke kick) OAK 28-24
    • OAK - field goal Bahr 27 OAK 31-24
    • OAK - field goal Bahr 33 OAK 34-24
    • SD - field goal Benirschke 27 OAK 34-27

NFC: Philadelphia Eagles 20, Dallas Cowboys 7

1 2 3 4 Total
Cowboys 0 7 0 0 7
Eagles 7 0 10 3 20

at Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia

1980 NFC Championship Game.

Although Philadelphia quarterback Ron Jaworski completed only 9 of 29 passes for 91 yards and was intercepted twice, running back Wilbert Montgomery led the Eagles to a victory by rushing for 194 yards and a touchdown. Montgomery scored on Philadelphia's first drive of the game with a 42-yard rushing touchdown, but the Cowboys tied the game in the second quarter with running back Tony Dorsett's 3-yard touchdown. But from that point on, Dallas never posed a threat again. In the third quarter, a fumble recovery by Eagles defensive end Dennis Harrison on the Dallas 11-yard set up kicker Tony Franklin's 26-yard field goal. Then on the Cowboys next drive, Philadelphia linebacker Jerry Robinson picked up Dorsett's fumble and returned it 22 yards to the Dallas 38-yard line. Six plays later, running back Leroy Harris scored a 9-yard touchdown to give the Eagles a 17-7 lead. Franklin later added another field goal to close out the scoring. The Eagles, as home team, elected to wear their road white jerseys instead of their home green jerseys so as to force Dallas to wear their rarely-used dark blue jerseys rather than their familiar white jerseys; through the years, the Cowboys' blue jerseys were said to be jinxed since they often lost wearing them - especially in Super Bowl V.

  • Scoring
    • PHI - Montgomery 42 run (Franklin kick) PHI 7-0
    • DAL - Dorsett 3 run (Septien kick) 7-7
    • PHI - field goal Franklin 26 PHI 10-7
    • PHI - Harris 9 run (Franklin kick) PHI 17-7
    • PHI - field goal Franklin 20 PHI 20-7

Super Bowl

Oakland Raiders (AFC) 27, Philadelphia Eagles (NFC) 10, at Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana


*Note: Two teams from the same division were not allowed to play against each other in the Divisional playoff round.
Divisional Playoffs
    January 4 - Cleveland Stadium        
AFC Wild Card Game AFC Championship
 4  Oakland  14
December 28 - Oakland Coliseum     January 11 - Jack Murphy Stadium
 2*  Cleveland  12  
 5  Houston  7  4  Oakland  34
January 3 - Jack Murphy Stadium
 4  Oakland  27      1  San Diego  27   Super Bowl XV
 3  Buffalo  14
    January 25 - Louisiana Superdome
 1*  San Diego  20  
 A4  Oakland  27
January 4 - Fulton County Stadium
NFC Wild Card Game NFC Championship    N2  Philadelphia  10
 4  Dallas  30
December 28 - Texas Stadium     January 11 - Veterans Stadium
 1  Atlanta  27  
 5  L.A. Rams  17  4  Dallas  7
January 3 - Veterans Stadium
 4  Dallas  34      2  Philadelphia  20  
 3  Minnesota  16
 2  Philadelphia  31  


  • 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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