THE PLAYOFF BOWL

1961-1970

 

The Playoff Bowl is the familiar name for a postseason game formerly played in the National Football League. Its official name was the Bert Bell Benefit Bowl, but it was also called the Pro Playoff Classic. It is also sometimes referred to as the "Runner-Up Bowl".  Bell, a founding owner of the Philadelphia Eagles and later, owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, was the Commissioner of the NFL from 1946 to 1959.  Among his notable contributions to the game was his conceptualizing of an NFL player draft, his successful battle with the rival upstart AAFC, the authorization for local blackouts of televised games to encourage attendance and the recognition of the NFL Players Association. He died suddenly of a heart attack suffered at Franklin Field, Philadelphia, during the last two minutes of a game between the Eagles and the Steelers on October 11, 1959.

From 1960 through 1966, the memorial Bert Bell Playoff Bowl matched up the teams that finished in second place in the two conferences (Eastern and Western) that the league had at that time.  From 1967 to 1969, the losers of the Eastern and Western Conference championship games met (the conference title games having become necessary because in 1967 the conferences were further split up into two divisions each, the first-place finishers from which competed in these games).  All ten games in the series were contested at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida.

The game had no real meaning to the final season standings or statistically.  For that reason, Vince Lombardi called it "a rinky-dink game". At the time of the games, CBS-TV advertised them as "playoff games for third place in the NFL".  But, the actual purpose for the game was to serve as a postseason exhibition intended to draw fans and help coaches plan for the following season.  Today the NFL views them as exhibition games and does not include records of the game participants or results in league playoff statistics.  Interest in the game was slight in the early years with attendance averaging 32,000 the first three years.  Attendance peaked at 65,659 for the 1966 game between Baltimore and Dallas.  It waned in the latter years with a low of 22, 941 in 1969.

When the NFL and AFL merged effective with the 1970 football season (the corporate merger having been consummated three years earlier), there was some discussion about continuing the Playoff Bowl, with the losers of the AFC and NFC Championship Games.  The game was to be held during the idle week between these games and the Super Bowl. However, this was not ultimately proceeded with, and the Playoff Bowl came to an end.

Two vestiges of the Playoff Bowl does remain today, in that the head coaches of the two teams that lost the AFC and NFC championship games do become the head coaches of the AFC and NFC Pro Bowl teams, which play one another one week after the Super Bowl. And, the game was played at a neutral, warm-weather site, which would characterize the Super Bowl in future years.

 

Year by Year Playoff Bowl Results

(Click on the score below to read more about that year's Playoff Bowl)

 

January 7, 1961- Detroit Lions 17, Cleveland Browns 16 

January 6, 1962- Detroit Lions 38, Philadelphia Eagles 10
January 6, 1963- Detroit Lions 17, Pittsburgh Steelers 10
January 5, 1964- Green Bay Packers 43, Cleveland Browns 20
January 3, 1965- St. Louis Cardinals 24, Green Bay Packers 17
January 9, 1966- Baltimore Colts 35, Dallas Cowboys 3
January 8, 1967- Baltimore Colts 20, Philadelphia Eagles 14
January 7, 1968- Los Angeles Rams 30, Cleveland Browns 6
January 5, 1969- Dallas Cowboys 17, Minnesota Vikings 13
January 3, 1970- Los Angeles Rams 31, Dallas Cowboys 0

Significant Single Game Records

Record Name Team Year Total Opponent
Passing Yards Milt Plum Detroit 1963 274 yds. Pittsburgh
Longest Play (scrimmage) Tom Moore Green Bay 1964 99 yds. Cleveland
Longest Pass Play Bart Starr to Tom Moore Green Bay 1964 99 yds. Cleveland
Receiving Yards Billy Gambrell St. Louis 1965 184 yds. Green Bay
Field Goals Bruce Gossett Los Angeles 1968 3 Cleveland
Touchdown Passes Roman Gabriel Los Angeles 1970 4 Dallas
Interceptions Gary Lowe Detroit 1961 3 Cleveland
Punt Return Bobby Bryant Minnesota 1969 81 yds. Dallas
Rushing Nick Pietrosante Detroit 1961 89 yds. Cleveland
  Jerry Hill Baltimore 1966 89 yds. Dallas
 

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