Within each conference, the three division winners and one wild card teams (the top non-division winner with the best overall records of all remaining teams in the conference) qualified for the playoffs. The NFL did not use a seeding system until the 1975 season, and instead home teams during the first two rounds of the playoffs alternated by division. Thus it was possible for a team to host another club with a better regular season record. For the Super Bowl, the third and final round played at a neutral site, the designated home team was based on an annual rotation by conference.
Note: Prior to the 1975 season, the home teams in the playoffs were decided based on a yearly rotation. Had the 1973 playoffs been seeded, the AFC divisional matchups would have been #3 Oakland at #2 Cincinnati and #4 wild card Pittsburgh at #1 Miami; the NFC matchups would not have changed, although #3 Dallas would have had to travel to #2 Los Angeles, and #1 Minnesota would have had home field for the NFC championship game.
PIT – Pearson 4 pass from Bradshaw (Gerela kick) OAK 10–7
OAK – field goal Blanda 31 OAK 13–7
OAK – field goal Blanda 22 OAK 16–7
OAK – W. Brown 54 interception return (Blanda kick) OAK 23–7
OAK – field goal Blanda 10 OAK 26–7
PIT – Lewis 26 pass from Bradshaw (Gerela kick) OAK 26–14
OAK – Hubbard 1 run (Blanda kick) OAK 33–14
The Raiders scored 16 unanswered points in the second half to defeat the Steelers. Oakland scored first on Marv Hubbard's 1-yard touchdown run in the opening period. But with the Raiders leading 10–0 in the second period, Pittsburgh quarterback Terry Bradshaw threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Barry Pearson to cut Oakland's lead 10–7 at halftime. However, Raiders kicker George Blanda added two more field goals, and cornerback Willie Brown blew the game wide open by intercepting a pass from Bradshaw and returning it 54 yards for a touchdown. After Blanda kicked his fourth field goal of the game to make the score 26–7, Bradshaw threw a 26-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. But the Raiders put the game away when Hubbard scored his second 1-yard touchdown run.
MIN – Gilliam 28 pass from Tarkenton (Cox kick) MIN 17–13
MIN – Gilliam 8 pass from Tarkenton (Cox kick) MIN 24–13
WAS – Jefferson 28 pass from Kilmer (Knight kick) MIN 24–20
MIN – field goal Cox 30 MIN 27–20
Quarterback Fran Tarkenton threw 2 touchdowns in the fourth quarter to lead the Vikings to a victory. After a scoreless first quarter, Minnesota scored first on kicker Fred Cox's 19-yard field goal. But then a fumbled punt set up Larry Brown's 3-yard touchdown run to give the Redskins a 7–3 lead. The Vikings then took the opening kickoff of the second half and marched 79 yards to score on Bill Brown's 2-yard rushing touchdown. After the Redskins retook the lead, 13–10, with 2 field goals, Tarkenton threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to John Gilliam. Nate Wright's interception then set up Gilliam's 8-yard touchdown reception. Although Washington quarterback Billy Kilmer threw a 28-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter, Cox kicked his second field goal to close out the scoring.
MIA – Mandich 7 pass from Griese (Yepremian kick) MIA 28–16
MIA – field goal Yepremian 50 MIA 31–16
MIA – field goal Yepremian 46 MIA 34–16
The Dolphins outgained Cincinnati in total yards, 400–194, and first downs, 27–11, while also scoring on three of their first four possessions and shutting out the Bengals in the second half. The Dolphins racked up 241 yards on the ground, including 106 from Mercury Morris and 71 from Larry Csonka, while receiver Paul Warfield caught 5 passes for 95 yards and a score.
Miami dominated the game early on, scoring on their opening drive with Bob Griese's 13-yard touchdown pass to Warfield. Morris racked up 33 rushing yards on the way to Miami's next first quarter touchdown, a 1-yard run by Csonka. In the second quarter, faced with 3rd and 1 from his own 44, Griese completed a 48-yard bomb to Warfield that set up Morris' 4-yard touchdown run. Miami's three touchdowns came on drives of 80, 80, and 73 yards, while all Cincinnati could manage in the first 26 minutes of the contest was 24-yard field goal by Horst Muhlmann on their first drive of the game. Even that drive caused a major setback for the team, as running back Essex Johnson, the team's leading rusher during the season with 997 yards, suffered a game-ending injury after picking up 14 yards on his first carry.
Facing the prospect of going into their locker room with a 21-3 deficit, the Bengals suddenly stormed back with 13 points in the final 3:26 of the second quarter. First, defensive back Neal Craig intercepted Griese's pass intended for Jim Mandich near the sideline and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown. Then Bengals safety Tommy Casanova ended Miami's next drive by picking off a pass from Griese on the Cincinnati 33 with just under two minutes left. It took nearly all of that time for the team to cross midfield, but quarterback Ken Anderson finally got them into scoring range with a 22-yard scramble to the Dolphins 38, where Muhlman made a 46-yard field goal that cut the score to 21-13. Now with just 8 seconds left until halftime, Morris fumbled the ensuing kickoff, which Bengals linebacker Jim LeClair recovered on the Dolphins 3-yard line. On the next play, Muhlman kicked a 12-yard field goal that sent both teams into their locker rooms with a score of 21-16.
However, Cincinnati's hope of a comeback was quickly crushed in the second half. On the third play of the third quarter, Anderson tried to connect on a deep pass to tight end Bob Trumpy, but it was intercepted by Dick Anderson, who returned the ball 19 yards to the Bengals 28. Seven plays later, Miami went up 28-16 with Griese's 7-yard touchdown pass to Mandich. Dolphins kicker Garo Yepremian put the finishing touches on his team's victory with field goals from 50 and 46 yards.
DAL – Pearson 4 pass from Staubach (Fritsch kick) DAL 14–0
DAL – field goal Fritsch 39 DAL 17–0
LA – field goal Ray 33 DAL 17–3
LA – field goal Ray 37 DAL 17–6
LA – field goal Ray 40 DAL 17–9
LA – Baker 5 run (Ray kick) DAL 17–16
DAL – Pearson 83 pass from Staubach (Fritsch kick) DAL 24–16
DAL – field goal Fritsch 12 DAL 27–16
The Cowboys avenged a 37–31 regular season loss to L.A. as two Rams turnovers in the first quarter gave the Cowboys a 14–0 lead. Lee Roy Jordan's interception of a John Hadl pass on the first play of the game led to Calvin Hill's 3-yard touchdown run. Mel Renfro then recovered a Lawrence McCutcheon fumble on the L.A. 35-yard line to set up the Cowboys again which later resulted in Drew Pearson's 4-yard touchdown reception. Toni Fritsch then added a 39-yard field goal to increase Dallas' lead by 17. But the Rams were able to cut the Cowboys lead 17–16 by the fourth quarter with David Ray's 3 field goals and Tony Baker's 5-yard rushing touchdown and a relentless pass rush that sacked Staubach seven times (2½ by Jack Youngblood, 2 by Merlin Olsen). However, quarterback Roger Staubach threw a short pass over the middle to Drew Pearson, and as the Rams were about to stop Pearson for a short gain, defensive backs Dave Elmendorf and Steve Preece collided and fell, allowing Pearson to scamper untouched for an 83-yard touchdown that effectively clinched the game. Fritsch added another field goal for the 27–16 final.
OAK – Siani 25 pass from Stabler (Blanda kick) MIA 17–10
MIA – field goal Yepremian 26 MIA 20–10
MIA – Csonka 2 run (Yepremian kick) MIA 27–10
Running back Larry Csonka led the Dolphins to a victory with 117 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns. Miami scored on their first drive of the game when quarterback Bob Griese's 27-yard run set up Csonka's 11-yard rushing touchdown. Csonka scored again late in the second quarter on a 2-yard touchdown run to make the score 14–0 at halftime. However, after the teams exchanged field goals, Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Mike Siani to cut the lead, 17–10. In the fourth quarter, after Dolphins kicker Garo Yepremian made a 26-yard field goal, the Raiders were faced with fourth down and inches and were forced to "go for it". But the Miami defense stopped Oakland, and the Dolphins used their running game to take time off the clock and set up Csonka's third touchdown to clinch the game.
DAL – Richards 63 punt return (Fritsch kick) MIN 10–7
MIN – Gilliam 54 pass from Tarkenton (Cox kick) MIN 17–7
DAL – field goal Fritsch 17 MIN 17–10
MIN – Bryant 63 interception return (Cox kick) MIN 24–10
MIN – field goal Cox 34 MIN 27–10
The Vikings forced 4 interceptions and 2 fumbles en route to a 27–10 victory over the Cowboys. With the loss of running back Calvin Hill and defensive tackle Bob Lilly to injuries, Dallas could not get anything going. Minnesota jumped to a 10–0 lead by halftime with a Fred Cox field goal and an 86-yard drive that ended with a 5-yard rushing touchdown by Chuck Foreman. The Vikings converted a fourth down situation on both drives. The Cowboys finally scored on Golden Richards' 63-yard punt return for a touchdown. But Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton then threw a 54-yard touchdown pass to John Gilliam. After Toni Fritsch's 17-yard field goal cut the lead to 17–10, Minnesota then converted two fourth-quarter turnovers into 10 points: Bobby Bryant returned an interception 63 yards to the endzone, and Jeff Wright's interception set up Cox's 34-yard field goal.
Super Bowl VIII: Miami Dolphins 24, Minnesota Vikings 7