1977 NFL season

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1977 National Football League season
Regular season
Duration September 18, 1977 – December 18, 1977
Playoffs
Start date December 24, 1977
AFC Champions Denver Broncos
NFC Champions Dallas Cowboys
Super Bowl XII
Date January 15, 1978
Site Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana
Champions Dallas Cowboys
Pro Bowl
Date January 23, 1978
Site Tampa Stadium, Tampa, Florida
National Football League seasons
 < 1976 1978 > 

The 1977 NFL season was the 58th regular season of the National Football League. The Seattle Seahawks were placed in the AFC West while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were slotted in the NFC Central.

Instead of a traditional Thanksgiving Day game hosted by the Dallas Cowboys, the league scheduled a Miami Dolphins at St. Louis Cardinals contest. This would be only the second season since 1966 that the Cowboys did not play on that holiday. As of 2013, it marked the last time that the Cowboys did not play on Thanksgiving.

This was the last NFL regular season with 14 games. The regular season was expanded to 16 games in 1978, with the preseason reduced from six games to four. It was also the final season of the eight-team playoff field in the NFL, before going to ten the following season.

The 1977 season is considered the last season of the "Dead Ball Era" of professional football (1970–1977). The 17.2 average points scored per team per game was the lowest since 1942. In 1978, the league made significant changes to allow greater offensive production.[1]

The season ended with Super Bowl XII when the Cowboys defeated the Denver Broncos.

Major rule changes[edit]

  • The head slap is outlawed. This change is referred to as the "Deacon Jones Rule"; the Rams' defensive end frequently used this technique.
  • Any shoe worn by a player with an artificial limb must have a kicking surface that conforms to that of a normal kicking shoe. Informally referred to as the "Tom Dempsey Rule." Dempsey is a record-breaking placekicker whose modified shoe (having a flattened and enlarged toe area) on his deformed kicking foot generated controversy during his career.
  • Defenders are only permitted to make contact with receivers once.
  • Defenders are not allowed to make contact with an opponent above the shoulders with the palms of their hands, except to ward him off the line.
  • Offensive linemen are not allowed to thrust their hands to a defender's neck, face, or head.
  • Wide receivers are not allowed to clip defenders.

Division races[edit]

Tampa Bay and Seattle continued as "swing" teams that didn't participate in regular conference play. Every other NFL team played a home-and-away series against the other members in its division, three interconference games, and the remainder of their 14 game schedule against other conference teams. Tampa Bay switched to the NFC and played the other 13 members of the conference, while Seattle did the same in the AFC. The teams met in Week Five, with Seattle winning 30–23.

Starting in 1970, and through 2001, except for the strike-shortened 1982 season, there were three divisions (Eastern, Central and Western) in each conference. The winners of each division, and a fourth "wild card" team based on the best non-division winner, qualified for the playoffs. The tiebreaker rules were changed to start with head-to-head competition, followed by division records, common opponents records, and conference play.

National Football Conference

Week Eastern Central Western Wild Card
1 3 teams 1–0 (Chicago, Green Bay) 1–0 Atlanta 1–0 3 teams 1–0
2 Dallas 2–0 4 teams 1–1 Atlanta* 1–1 8 teams 1–1
3 Dallas 3–0 Minnesota 2–1* Atlanta 2–1 3 teams 2–1
4 Dallas 4–0 Minnesota 3–1 Atlanta 3–1 Washington 3–1
5 Dallas 5–0 Minnesota 4–1 Atlanta* 3–2 3 teams 3–2
6 Dallas 6–0 Minnesota 4–2 Atlanta* 4–2 Los Angeles 4–2
7 Dallas 7–0 Minnesota 5–2 Atlanta* 4–3 St. Louis* 4–3
8 Dallas 8–0 Minnesota 5–3 Los Angeles 5–3 St. Louis* 5–3
9 Dallas 8–1 Minnesota 6–3 Los Angeles 6–3 St. Louis* 6–3
10 Dallas 8–2 Minnesota 6–4 Los Angeles 7–3 St. Louis 7–3
11 Dallas 9–2 Minnesota 7–4 Los Angeles 8–3 St. Louis 7–4
12 Dallas 10–2 Minnesota 8–4 Los Angeles 8–4 St. Louis* 7–5
13 Dallas 11–2 Chicago* 8–5 Los Angeles 10–3 Washington* 8–5
14 DALLAS 12–2 MINNESOTA* 9–5 LOS ANGELES 10–4 CHICAGO* 9–5

* other teams with same W-L record

American Football Conference

Week Eastern Central Western Wild Card
1 (Baltimore, Miami) 1–0 3 teams 1–0 (Denver, Oakland) 1–0 5 teams 1–0
2 (Baltimore, Miami) 2–0 (Cleveland, Houston) 2–0 (Denver, Oakland) 2–0 3 teams 2–0–0
3 (Baltimore, Miami) 3–0 Cleveland* 2–1 (Denver, Oakland) 3–0 2 teams 3–0
4 Baltimore 4–0 Houston 3–1 (Denver, Oakland) 4–0 2 teams 4–0
5 Baltimore 5–0 Pittsburgh* 3–2 Denver 5–0 Oakland* 4–1
6 Baltimore* 5–1 Pittsburgh* 3–2 Denver 6–0 Oakland* 5–1
7 Baltimore 6–1 Cleveland 5–2 Oakland* 6–1 Denver 6–1
8 Baltimore 7–1 Cleveland 5–3 Oakland* 7–1 Denver 7–1
9 Baltimore 8–1 Pittsburgh* 5–4 Oakland* 8–1 Denver 8–1
10 Baltimore 9–1 Pittsburgh* 6–4 Denver 9–1 Oakland 8–2
11 Baltimore* 9–2 Pittsburgh 7–4 Denver 10–1 Oakland 9–2
12 Baltimore* 9–3 Pittsburgh 8–4 Denver 11–1 Oakland 9–3
13 Baltimore* 9–4 Pittsburgh* 8–5 Denver 12–1 Oakland 10–3
14 BALTIMORE* 10–4 PITTSBURGH 9–5 DENVER 12–2 OAKLAND 11–3

* other teams with same W-L record

Final standings[edit]

W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, PCT = Winning Percentage, PF= Points For, PA = Points Against

  x  – clinched wild card berth,   y  – clinched division title

AFC East
Team W L T PCT PF PA
y-Baltimore Colts 10 4 0 .714 295 221
Miami Dolphins 10 4 0 .714 313 197
New England Patriots 9 5 0 .643 278 217
New York Jets 3 11 0 .214 191 300
Buffalo Bills 3 11 0 .214 160 313
AFC Central
Team W L T PCT PF PA
y-Pittsburgh Steelers 9 5 0 .643 283 243
Cincinnati Bengals 8 6 0 .571 238 235
Houston Oilers 8 6 0 .571 299 230
Cleveland Browns 6 8 0 .429 269 267
AFC West
Team W L T PCT PF PA
y-Denver Broncos 12 2 0 .857 274 148
x-Oakland Raiders 11 3 0 .786 351 230
San Diego Chargers 7 7 0 .500 222 205
Seattle Seahawks 5 9 0 .357 282 373
Kansas City Chiefs 2 12 0 .143 225 349
NFC East
Team W L T PCT PF PA
y-Dallas Cowboys 12 2 0 .857 345 212
Washington Redskins 9 5 0 .643 196 189
St. Louis Cardinals 7 7 0 .500 272 287
Philadelphia Eagles 5 9 0 .357 220 207
New York Giants 5 9 0 .357 181 265
NFC Central
Team W L T PCT PF PA
y-Minnesota Vikings 9 5 0 .643 231 227
x-Chicago Bears 9 5 0 .643 255 253
Detroit Lions 6 8 0 .429 183 252
Green Bay Packers 4 10 0 .286 134 219
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2 12 0 .143 103 223
NFC West
Team W L T PCT PF PA
y-Los Angeles Rams 10 4 0 .714 302 146
Atlanta Falcons 7 7 0 .500 179 129
San Francisco 49ers 5 9 0 .357 220 260
New Orleans Saints 3 11 0 .214 232 336


Tiebreakers[edit]

  • Baltimore finished ahead of Miami in the AFC East based on better conference record (9–3 to Dolphins' 8–4).
  • Cincinnati finished ahead of Houston in the AFC Central based on better division record (6–3 to Oilers' 5–4).
  • Minnesota finished ahead of Chicago in the NFC Central based on fewer losses by common opponents (Vikings lost to common opponents with a total of 11 losses while Bears lost to common opponents with a total of 14 losses).
  • Chicago won the NFC Wild Card over Washington based on better net points in conference games (48 to Redskins' 4).
  • Philadelphia finished ahead of N.Y. Giants in the NFC East based on head-to-head sweep (2–0).

Playoffs[edit]

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  
 

*Denver (the AFC 1 seed) did not play Oakland (the 4 seed) in the Divisional playoff round because both teams were in the same division.

Awards[edit]

Most Valuable Player Walter Payton, Running Back, Chicago
Coach of the Year Red Miller, Denver
Offensive Player of the Year Walter Payton, Running Back, Chicago
Defensive Player of the Year Harvey Martin, Defensive End, Dallas
Offensive Rookie of the Year Tony Dorsett, Running Back, Dallas
Defensive Rookie of the Year A.J. Duhe, Defensive End, Miami

References[edit]