1976–77 NFL playoffs

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The NFL playoffs following the 1976 NFL season led up to Super Bowl XI.

Playoff seeds
Seed AFC NFC
1 Oakland Raiders (West winner) Minnesota Vikings (Central winner)
2 Baltimore Colts (East winner) Dallas Cowboys (East winner)
3 Pittsburgh Steelers (Central winner) Los Angeles Rams (West winner)
4 New England Patriots Washington Redskins

Bracket[edit]

Divisional Playoffs Conf. Championship Games Super Bowl XI
                   
December 19 – Memorial Stadium        
 3) Pittsburgh Steelers  40
December 26 – Oakland Coliseum
 2) Baltimore Colts  14  
 3) Pittsburgh Steelers  7
December 18 – Oakland Coliseum
     1) Oakland Raiders  24  
 4) New England Patriots  21
January 9 – Rose Bowl
 1) Oakland Raiders  24  
 A1) Oakland Raiders  32
December 19 – Texas Stadium    
   N1) Minnesota Vikings  14
 3) Los Angeles Rams  14
December 26 – Metropolitan Stadium
 2) Dallas Cowboys  12  
 3) Los Angeles Rams  13
December 18 – Metropolitan Stadium
     1) Minnesota Vikings  24  
 4) Washington Redskins  20
 1) Minnesota Vikings  35  
 

Divisional playoffs[edit]

December 18, 1976[edit]

AFC: Oakland Raiders 24, New England Patriots 21[edit]

Game summary
1 2 3 4 Total
Patriots 7 0 14 0 21
Raiders 3 7 0 14 24

at Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, California

The Patriots scored first after an 86-yard drive was capped by running back Andy Johnson's 1-yard touchdown run. However, Oakland scored 10 straight points, including a 31-yard touchdown reception to wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff with 39 seconds left in the first half. The Patriots then scored two touchdowns of their own in the third period to regain the lead, 21–10. In the fourth quarter, the Raiders marched 70 yards to score on a 1-yard touchdown run by Mark van Eeghen to pull it to 21–17. Late in the final period, a Patriots drive that threatened either a clinching score or running out the game clock was stopped after Raiders linebacker Phil Villapiano was able to hold Patriots tight end Russ Francis on a third-down pass play without drawing a pass interference penalty, stalling the drive and leading to a missed 50-yard field goal attempt. On the ensuing Raiders drive, a controversial roughing the passer penalty called by referee Ben Dreith on Patriots tackle Ray "Sugar Bear" Hamilton nullified a third down incompletion and gave the Raiders an automatic first down deep in New England territory (instead of 4th and 18). The call setup Stabler's game-winning touchdown. Biletnikoff finished the game with 9 receptions for 137 yards and a touchdown. Oakland avenged its only loss of the year, which came at the hands of the Patriots.

NFC: Minnesota Vikings 35, Washington Redskins 20[edit]

Game summary
1 2 3 4 Total
Redskins 3 0 3 14 20
Vikings 14 7 14 0 35

at Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington, Minnesota

The Vikings jumped to a 35–6 lead by the end of the third quarter, led by running backs Chuck Foreman and Brent McClanahan who each rushed for more than 100 yards. McClanahan's 41-yard run on Minnesota's first play of the game set up quarterback Fran Tarkenton's 18-yard touchdown pass to tight end Stu Voigt. Then after Washington kicked a field goal, Tarkenton threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Sammy White, who managed to catch it after it was tipped in the air. Foreman added two rushing touchdowns and White caught a second touchdown pass. By the time Redskins quarterback Billy Kilmer completed two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, the game was already out of reach.

December 19, 1976[edit]

AFC: Pittsburgh Steelers 40, Baltimore Colts 14[edit]

Game summary
1 2 3 4 Total
Steelers 9 17 0 14 40
Colts 7 0 0 7 14

at Memorial Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland

The Steelers dominated the Colts with 526 yards of total offense, while limiting Baltimore to only 170. Quarterback Terry Bradshaw completed 14 of 18 passes for 267 yards and three touchdowns, including a 76-yard one to Frank Lewis on the third play of the game, giving him the first perfect 158.3 passer rating in NFL playoff history. Steelers running back Franco Harris racked up 132 rushing yards on 18 carries, and caught 3 passes for 24 yards. The Colts scored late in the first period with Bert Jones' 17-yard touchdown pass to Roger Carr, but the Steelers then scored 24 unanswered points. Bradshaw threw 29 and 11-yard touchdowns to wide receiver Lynn Swann, while running back Reggie Harrison had two rushing scores.

Less than ten minutes after the conclusion of the game, a small charter plane crashed into the upper deck at Memorial Stadium. There were no deaths or injuries in the accident.[1]

NFC: Los Angeles Rams 14, Dallas Cowboys 12[edit]

Game summary
1 2 3 4 Total
Rams 0 7 0 7 14
Cowboys 3 7 0 2 12

at Texas Stadium, Irving, Texas

The Rams overcame two blocked punts by the Cowboys to come away with a 14–12 win in a defense dominated physical game. Dallas opened the scoring with a 44-yard field goal, but Los Angeles responded with quarterback Pat Haden's 4-yard touchdown run. Late in the first half, Charlie Waters blocked a punt to set up running back Scott Laidlaw's 1-yard touchdown to give the Cowboys a 10–7 lead. Early in the final period, Rams kicker Tom Dempsey made what would have been a game-tying field goal, but Cliff Harris was called for a running into the kicker penalty on the play. The usually conservative Ram coach Chuck Knox uncharacteristically took the points off the board, giving Los Angeles a first down. A few plays later, Lawrence McCutcheon vindicated Knox's decision as he ran for a one-yard touchdown to give the Rams the lead, 14–10. With 1:59 remaining in the game, Waters blocked another punt and the Cowboys recovered the ball at the Los Angeles 17-yard line. On first down, Butch Johnson's reception was ruled incomplete because he could only get one foot down in bounds in the end zone. On 4th and two, the Rams stopped Staubach for a one-yard gain and took possession on their own 8-yard line. After three "kneel downs" and Cowboy time outs, the Rams faced a 4th and 14 with seconds left in the game. Wary of another blocked punt, Coach Knox ordered Ram punter Rusty Jackson to step out of the back of the end zone for an intentional safety, and the Rams won 14–12. The Ram defense held Dallas to only 85 rushing yards; Dallas' defense was equally stingy, allowing 120 rushing yards but the Rams needed 49 attempts to achieve this. Constant Ram pressure caused Staubach to have one of his worst playoff games ever as he was 15 of 37 for 150 yards; he was sacked 4 times and threw 3 interceptions. In addition, Staubach, who had hurt the Rams the year before with his scrambling runs, gained only 8 yards rushing. Ram QB Pat Haden couldn't do much better vs. Dallas' tough defense; he was 10 for 21 for 152 yards and also threw 3 interceptions.

Conference championships[edit]

December 26, 1976[edit]

AFC Championship: Oakland Raiders 24, Pittsburgh Steelers 7[edit]

Game summary
1 2 3 4 Total
Steelers 0 7 0 0 7
Raiders 3 14 7 0 24

at Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, California

Pittburgh had defeated the Raiders in the AFC championship game in each of the last two seasons. But with Steelers running backs Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier out of the game with injuries, this time the Raiders easily shut down Pittsburgh's offense.

Late in the first quarter, a partially blocked punt gave Oakland the ball at the Steelers 38, setting up Oakland Errol Mann's 39-yard field goal. Then in the second quarter, Raiders linebacker Willie Hall intercepted a pass from Terry Bradshaw and returned it 25 yards to the Steelers 1-yard line. Three plays later, Clarence Davis' 1-yard touchdown run gave them a 10-0 lead. Although the game would end up as a defensive struggle with both teams combining for 14 punts (7 each) and only 457 yards (237 for Pittsburgh, 220 for Oakland), Hall's interception would be the only turnover of the day for either team.

The Steelers responded with Bradshaw's completions to Lynn Swann for gains of 18 and 30 yards leading to Reggie Harrison's 3-yard rushing touchdown. Oakland responded with a methodical 14-play, 69-yard scoring drive. With 19 seconds left in the first half, the Raiders faced first down at the Pittsburgh 4-yard line. Oakland lined up three tight ends as if they were to run the ball, but quarterback Ken Stabler threw a play action pass to Warren Bankston for a touchdown to give the Raiders a 17–7 lead at halftime. Oakland controlled the entire second half, including a 12-play, 63-yard drive that featured a 28-yard completion from Stabler to receiver Cliff Branch. Stabler finished the drive with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Pete Banaszak that put the game out of reach at 24-7.[2]

The Raiders would not host another AFC Title game again until 2001 (although they hosted the title game in 1983 when they were the Los Angeles Raiders).

NFC Championship: Minnesota Vikings 24, Los Angeles Rams 13[edit]

Game summary
1 2 3 4 Total
Rams 0 0 13 0 13
Vikings 7 3 7 7 24

at Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington, Minnesota

The Vikings forced a blocked field goal, a blocked punt, and two interceptions en route to the victory over the Rams. On offense, running back Chuck Foreman rushed for 118 yards and a touchdown on just 15 carries while also catching 5 passes for 81 yards. In the first quarter, the Rams got off to a good start as they marched down the field to the Viking's 2-yard line. The drive stalled there, and coach Chuck Knox, recalling the NFC championship game in Minnesota two years ago (when the Rams were intercepted in the end zone after driving to the Viking's 2-yard line) ordered a field goal attempt. Nate Allen blocked the field goal attempt, and the ball bounced off the ground right into the waiting arms of Bobby Bryant, who returned it 90 yards for a Minnesota touchdown. Then in the second quarter, linebacker Matt Blair recovered a blocked punt to set up Fred Cox's 25-yard field goal to give the Vikings a 10–0 lead before halftime. Then in the third period, Foreman rushed 62 yards to the Los Angeles 2-yard line, and scored on a 1-yard touchdown run two plays later to increase the lead 17–0. The Rams rallied back with two quick touchdowns in the third. After a Dave Elmendorf interception gave the Rams the ball at midfield, Pat Haden hit Harold Jackson for 40 yards, followed by a 10-yard touchdown run by Lawrence McCutcheon. The PAT was blocked, however. On the Vikings next drive, Fred Dryer hit Fran Tarkenton on a sack, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Jack Youngblood at the Viking 11. Two plays later, Haden hit Jackson for a 5-yard touchdown pass. With 2:40 left in the game, Los Angeles advanced to the Minnesota 39-yard line. On fourth down and needing more than a field goal, Haden thought he had Jackson open deep near the goal line, but Bryant intercepted the pass (his second of the game) rather than batting it down. A few plays later, Tarkenton dumped a short pass off to Foreman, which he turned into a 57-yard gain. Backup running back Sammy Johnson scored the clinching touchdown from 12 yards out.

This turned out to be the last playoff game at Metropolitan Stadium. The Vikings played four playoff games between 1977 and 1981, all on the road. Minnesota's next home playoff game came after the strike-shortened 1982 season, the Vikings' first in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.

To date, this is the most recent NFC Championship that the Vikings have won.

Super Bowl XI: Oakland Raiders 32, Minnesota Vikings 14[edit]

Further information: Super Bowl XI
Game summary
1 2 3 4 Total
Raiders (AFC) 0 16 3 13 32
Vikings (NFC) 0 0 7 7 14

at Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California

References[edit]