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NFL playoffs, 1972-73

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Title: NFL playoffs, 1972-73  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Washington Redskins, History of National Football League Championship, AFC Championship Game, NFC Championship Game, NFC West, AFC East, AFC North, AFC West, National Football League lore, Pittsburgh sports lore
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

NFL playoffs, 1972-73

The NFL playoffs following the 1972 NFL season led up to Super Bowl VII. Like the previous NFL seasons, the home teams in the playoffs were decided based on a yearly divisional rotation, excluding the wild card teams who would always play on the road.


Note: Prior to the 1975 season, the home teams in the playoffs were decided based on a yearly rotation.
Divisional Playoffs Conf. Championship Games Super Bowl VII
December 24 - Miami Orange Bowl        
 Cleveland Browns  14
December 31 - Three Rivers Stadium
 Miami Dolphins  20  
 Miami Dolphins  21
December 23 - Three Rivers Stadium
     Pittsburgh Steelers  17  
 Oakland Raiders  7
January 14 - L.A. Coliseum
 Pittsburgh Steelers  13  
 Miami Dolphins  14
December 23 - Candlestick Park    
   Washington Redskins  7
 Dallas Cowboys  30
December 31 - RFK Stadium
 San Francisco 49ers  28  
 Dallas Cowboys  3
December 24 - RFK Stadium
     Washington Redskins  26  
 Green Bay Packers  3
 Washington Redskins  16  

Divisional playoffs

December 23, 1972

AFC: Pittsburgh Steelers 13, Oakland Raiders 7

Game summary
1 2 34Total
Raiders 0 0 077
Steelers 0 0 31013

at Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  • Game time: 1:00 p.m. Boxscore

Steelers fullback Franco Harris scored the winning touchdown on what became known as the Immaculate Reception. In a game that was mostly dominated by defense, the contest remained scoreless throughout the entire first half. In the second half, however, Pittsburgh kicker Roy Gerela kicked an 18-yard field goal in the third quarter. He added a 29-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to increase Pittsburgh's lead, 6-0. But then Raiders backup quarterback Ken Stabler, who had replaced starter Daryle Lamonica, ran for a 30-yard touchdown to give Oakland a 7-6 lead with 1:13 left in the game.

Facing fourth and ten on their own 40-yard line with 22 seconds left, Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw threw the ball toward running back John "Frenchy" Fuqua. But the pass bounced off Raiders safety Jack Tatum and was caught by Harris, who then ran the rest of the way downfield to score a touchdown that gave the Steelers a 12-7 lead with five seconds left in the game.

NFC: Dallas Cowboys 30, San Francisco 49ers 28

Game summary
1 2 34Total
Cowboys 3 10 01730
49ers 7 14 7028

at Candlestick Park, San Francisco

  • Game time: 4:00 p.m. Boxscore

Backup quarterback Roger Staubach led the Cowboys to score 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to overcome a 28-13 San Francisco lead and five turnovers. This was the third consecutive year Dallas elimintated San Francisco from the playoffs.

The 49ers jumped to a 7-0 early lead when Vic Washington returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. Dallas cut the deficit to 7-3 with kicker Toni Fritsch's 37-yard field goal. In the second quarter, 49ers receiver Gene Washington's 52-yard reception moved the ball deep into Dallas territory, only to have Cowboys cornerback Charlie Waters end the drive with an interception on the 1-yard line. But shorty after the turnover, Dallas quarterback Craig Morton lost a fumble while being hit by Windlan Hall and Tommy Hart, which linebacker Ed Beard recovered it on the Cowboys 15-yard line. This led to Larry Schreiber's 1-yard run, making the score 14-3. Later in the quarter, Morton was intercepted by linebacker Skip Vanderbundt on the Dallas 32, setting up Schreiber's second rushing touchdown that increased the lead to 21-3. But Morton rallied his team back with 10 unanswered points, Fritsch's 45-yard field goal and Lance Alworth's 28-yard touchdown reception, cutting the deficit to 21-13.

In the second half, the Niners blew a chance to increase their lead when Bruce Gossett missed a 40-yard field goal attempt, but then got the ball back on Vanderbundt's second interception. Dallas managed to force a punt, which Jim McCann sent out of bounds at the Cowboys 5-yard line. A few plays later, defensive tackle Charlie Krueger stripped the ball from running back Calvin Hill on the 1 and the 49ers recovered, leading to Schreiber's third 1-yard touchdown run and giving team a commanding 28-13 lead.

Shortly before the end of the third quarter, coach Tom Landry replaced Morton with Roger Staubach, but it didn't seem to help. On his first drive, Staubach lost a fumble while being tackled by Bob Hoskins. San Francisco was in prime position to put the game away with another score, but they couldn't get the ball into the end zone and Gossett missed a 32-yard field goal attempt, causing a huge reversal of momentum. Now with the ball, Hill ripped off a 48-yard gain on a draw play to set up Fritsch's 27-yard field goal, trimming the lead to 28-16. Later in the quarter, a poor punt from McCann gave Dallas the ball at the 49ers 45-yard line. Staubach then led the team to the end zone, completing two passes to fullback Walt Garrison for 16 yards and two more to Billy Parks, the second a 20-yard touchdown completion to cut the score to 28-23 with less than two minutes left.

With time running out, Dallas had to attempt an onside kick. 49ers receiver Preston Riley briefly handled the ball, but couldn't hang on and it was recovered by Cowboys defensive back Mel Renfro. On the first play after the recovery, Staubach gained 21 yards on a quarterback scramble. Then he found parks for a 19-yard gain before running out of bounds at the San Francisco 10-yard line. On the next play, Staubach threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to receiver Ron Sellers, giving Dallas a 30-28 lead with just 52 seconds left. However, the 49ers were not quite out of the game. Needing only a field goal to win, Brodie completed three consecutive passes, but a 23-yard completion to Riley that would have put the 49ers in field goal range was eliminated by a holding penalty, and Brodie was intercepted by Watters on the next play.

This game would mark the end of the four year battle for the starting quarterback position on Dallas between Morton and Staubach. With his outstanding performance of 12/20 completions for 172 yards and 2 touchdowns, with no interceptions and 23 rushing yards in just over one quarter of play, Staubach became the Cowboys permanent starter and would not relinquish the position until the end of his career after the 1979 season, while Morton was traded to the New York Giants in 1974 and later became the starting quarterback of the Denver Broncos. Morton and Staubach would later meet again and face off against each other in Super Bowl XII.

Dallas' comeback from an 18-point deficit was the second largest comeback in NFL postseason history at the time. The Cowboys outgained the 49ers in total yards 402-255, and fist downs 22-13, although they lost five turnovers and their quarterbacks were sacked five times. Brodie was not sacked at all. Hill finished the game with a career postseason high 125 rushing yards, and one reception for six yards. Parks caught 7 passes for 136 yards. Vic Washington had 200 all-purpose yards (3 KR for 136 yards, 56 rushing yards, 1 rec for 8 yards) Defensive end Cedrick Hardman had 3.5 sacks.[1][2]

December 24, 1972

AFC: Miami Dolphins 20, Cleveland Browns 14

Game summary
1 2 34Total
Browns 0 0 7714
Dolphins 10 0 01020

at Miami Orange Bowl, Miami, Florida

  • Game time: 3:00 p.m. Boxscore

An 8-yard rushing touchdown by Jim Kiick in the fourth quarter kept the Dolphins' hopes alive for an undefeated season. Miami scored first in the opening quarter when Charlie Babb blocked a Cleveland punt, picked it up, and returned it for a touchdown. The Dolphins then increased their lead to 10-0 with kicker Garo Yepremian's 40-yard field goal. But in the third quarter, Cleveland's Mike Phipps scored on a 5-yard touchdown run. Then after Yepremian added another field goal, Phipps threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Fair Hooker to give the Browns the lead, 14-13. The Dolphins then marched 80 yards to set up Kiick's winning touchdown, aided by Paul Warfield's 10-and 15-yard receptions, and a pass interference penalty. Miami intercepted 5 of Phipps' passes.

NFC: Washington Redskins 16, Green Bay Packers 3

Game summary
1 2 34Total
Packers 0 3 003
Redskins 0 10 0616

at RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C.

  • Game time: 12:00 p.m. Boxscore

Using a five-man defensive line, the Redskins limited the Packers to only a field goal and held Green Bay running back John Brockington (who rushed for 1,027 yards during the season) to just 9 yards on 13 carries. Meanwhile, Washington kicker Curt Knight scored 3 field goals, while running back Larry Brown rushed for 101 yards.

The Packers scored first on Chester Marcol's 17-yard field goal in the second quarter. But then Redskins quarterback Billy Kilmer threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Roy Jefferson. With 33 seconds left in the first half, Knight kicked a 42-yard field goal to give Washington a 10-3 halftime lead. The Redskins then dominated the second half, with Knight adding two more field goals.

Conference championships

December 31, 1972

AFC Championship: Miami Dolphins 21, Pittsburgh Steelers 17

Game summary
1 2 34Total
Dolphins 0 7 7721
Steelers 7 0 3717

at Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  • Game time: 12:00 p.m. Boxscore

The Dolphins continued their unbeaten streak by scoring two touchdowns in the second half. The Steelers scored first after Pittsburgh quarterback Terry Bradshaw's fumble rolled into the Miami end zone, and was recovered by offensive lineman Gerry Mullins. Unfortunately for the Steelers, Bradshaw was injured on play and did not return until the fourth quarter. The Dolphins tied the game after punter Larry Seiple 37-yard run on a fake punt set up Larry Csonka's 9-yard touchdown catch. In the third quarter, kicker Roy Gerela's 14-yard field goal gave Pittsburgh a 10-7 lead. Quarterback Bob Griese, who had been sidelined with a broken leg for 10 weeks, replaced starter Earl Morrall, and threw a 52-yard pass to Paul Warfield to set up a Jim Kiick 2-yard touchdown run. Griese led the Dolphins on a 49-yard drive to score on a Jim Kiick 3-yard touchdown run. While Bradshaw returned with about 7 minutes left the game and threw a 12-yard touchdown pass, he also threw two interceptions to Miami linebackers Nick Buoniconti and Mike Kolen.

NFC Championship: Washington Redskins 26, Dallas Cowboys 3

Game summary
1 2 34Total
Cowboys 0 3 003
Redskins 0 10 01626

at RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C.

  • Game time: 3:00 p.m. Boxscore

Charley Taylor led the Redskins to the victory by recording 7 receptions for 146 yards and 2 touchdowns. Washington massively outgained Dallas in total yards (316–169), first downs (16–8), and third-down conversions (10/18–3/12), while holding them to a single field goal and shutting them out in the second half.

However, the game seemed close before the final period. Washington took the opening kickoff and drove to the Cowboys 31-yard line, but Larry Brown lost a fumble there and safety Cliff Harris recovered the ball. However, Dallas fared no better, and ended up running just six plays in the entire quarter. Following a punt, Washington scored on a 13-play, 9-minute drive, with Brown rushing for 31 yards and catching a pass for 9. Curt Knight finished the drive with an 18-yard field goal in the second quarter. Later on, Redskins quarterback Billy Kilmer smoked the Cowboys with a 51-yard completion to Taylor, and eventually scored on a 15-yard touchdown pass to Taylor that gave his team a 10–0 lead. Near the end of the half, Dallas quarterback Roger Staubach's 29-yard run set up a Toni Fritsch field goal from 35 yards, cutting the score to 10–3. Fritsch later got another attempt on the last play before halftime, but missed a 23-yard attempt, his first miss of the season from under 30 yards.

The third quarter was scoreless, with Dallas unable to move the ball past their own 30-yard line, but they still had a few chances to score. At one point, Kilmer fumbled the ball at his own 32-yard line, and it rolled all the way back to the 18, but Washington recovered it. Mike Bragg's ensuing punt went 36 yards to the Dallas 44, but defensive back Charlie Waters lost five yards while attempting a return and a clipping penalty cost them another 15, pushing the Cowboys all the way back to the 24. To make matters worse, Waters (who was a starter on defense) suffered a broken arm on the play and had to miss the rest of the game.

Taylor had already had an excellent game while being covered by Waters, and now that he was matched up against second stringer Mark Washington, Kilmer sensed a huge opportunity to break the game open. On their next drive, he completed four passes, the last a 45-yard touchdown bomb to Taylor on the second play of the fourth quarter, increasing Washington's lead to 17-3. The Redskins then dominated the rest of the game, scoring with field goals from Knight on each of their next three drives to make the final score 26–3.[3]

Knight had a dismal season, making just 14 of 30 field goal attempts, but he had proven to be unusually effective in the playoffs, making all three of his kicks against Green Bay in the divisional round. On this day, he came through with another big performance, finishing a perfect 4/4 by making his final three field goals from 39, 46, and 45 yards. Kilmer also had one the best performances of his career, completing 14 of 18 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions, while also rushing for 15 yards. Brown was the top rusher of the game with 88 yards, and caught 2 passes for 16. Staubach completed just 9 of 20 passes for 98 yards, and was the Cowboys leading rusher with 5 carries for 59 yards.[4]

Super Bowl VII: Miami Dolphins 14, Washington Redskins 7

Further information: Super Bowl VII
Game summary
1 2 34Total
Dolphins (AFC) 7 7 0014
Redskins (NFC) 0 0 077

at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles

  • Date: January 14, 1973
  • Game attendance: 90,182
  • Referee: Boxscore


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