Championship Games


This was the first playoff tournament after the AFL-NFL Merger. An eight-team playoff tournament was designed, with four clubs from each conference qualifying. Along with the three division winners in each conference, one wild card team, the second place team with the best record from each conference, was added to the tournament. The first round was named the Divisional Playoffs, while the Conference Championship games were moved to the second playoff round and the Super Bowl became the league's championship game.


However, the home teams in the playoffs were still decided based on a yearly divisional rotation, excluding the wild card teams, who would always play on the road. Also, a rule was made that two teams from the same division could not meet in the Divisional Playoffs.


-From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


The Championship Games


AFC Championship
January 3, 1971

Baltimore Colts 27, Oakland Raiders 17

Memorial Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland


BALTIMORE (AP)- Johnny Unitas, who has been special for 15 years and a play tagged,  "This Week's Special," gave the Baltimore colts a 27-17 upset victory over the Oakland Raiders Sunday and a berth in the Super Bowl.


Outdueling middle-aged George Blanda in a dramatic, see-saw battle for the first American Football Conference Championship, Unitas used a play put into the Baltimore offense just this week to clinch the struggle before a snow ball throwing crowd of 56,368 in dreary Memorial Stadium.



"It was this week's special," Coach Don McCafferty explained in the winner's dressing room. "And we call it 'Cut left, double wing right.'"


On the play used early in the fourth quarter, Ray Perkins and Jimmy Orr join Eddie Hinton and Roy Jefferson as receivers while tight end John Mackey and running back Norm Bulaich come out of the line-up. It gives Unitas four quick receivers.


"I wanted to go to Orr," said Unitas, "but I saw Perkins had beat Nemiah Wilson, and I was able to get the ball to him."


Perkins raced down the left sidelines as Unitas arched the ball. Wilson seemed to misjudge how far it would carry, and when it came down at the Oakland 45, Perkins was there and Wilson was too far away to do any damage. Chased by Wilson the rest of the way, Perkins scored on the 68-yard play.


It gave Baltimore a 27-17 lead, put the game out of Oakland's reach and sent the Colts into the Super Bowl Jan. 17 against the Dallas Cowboys, who beat San Francisco 17-10 for the National Football Conference title.


The victory gave each member of the Colts a record guaranteed winning share of 58,500 and the considerable satisfaction in gaining the AFC title in their first year in the conference over the last remaining former AFL team to survive the new series of year-end playoffs.


And it brought Unitas, cunning and cool 37-year-old veteran of 15 pro seasons, all the praise the Raiders could muster.


"I have not seen Number 19 (Unitas) play better this year," said Raiders Coach John Madden. "He kept hitting those open guys."


"Unitas", said defensive back Willie Brown, "threw the ball as well as he ever has."


But Unitas wasn't the only aged marvel on the dirt of Memorial Stadium. There was also Blanda, the 43-year-old veteran whose career spanned four decades. And from the moment Blanda replaced the injured Daryle Lamonica in the second quarter, the battle resolved around the two heroes of the middle-aged set.


When it wound up, Blanda had two touchdowns and the better statistics, but Unitas had succeeded every time the Colts needed a key completion and by arching the clincher to Perkins for a 27-17 lead, had left the  Raiders with little chance to have operation overhaul succeed.


Blanda gathered all the skills of a career that spanned two decades but interceptions by Rich Volk and Ray May ended any chances for a comeback.


While Unitas brought the Colts in touchdown range twice, his only touchdown came on the pass to Perkins as he completed just 11 of 30 attempts for 245 yards. But Norm Bulaich got  two touchdowns on runs of two and and Jim O'Brien kicked field goals of 16 and 23 yards.


Blanda, meanwhile, connected on an AFC record 48-yard in the first half and the two touchdown passes- 38 to Fred Bilentnikoff and 15 yards yards Warren Wells. Overall, Blanda completed 17 of 32 passes for 271 yards.


The Colts owned a 10-3 halftime lead on O'Brien's 16-yard field goal and Bulaich's yard run. But not one person in the crowd- 3,500 under capacity- expected it to stay that way.


And it didn't.


Blanda, who came on for Lamonica who suffered a pulled left thigh muscle when he was tackled by defensive end Bubba Smith, came out throwing in the second half and immediately drove the Raiders 80 yards to tie the score.


The touchdown came on the 38-yard pass to Biletnikoff with just 4:58 gone in the third quarter and with Blanda laying on the ground, decked by Ron Hilton as he released the ball.


Unitas brought the Colts right back. A 30-yarder to Eddie Hinton brought the ball to the Oakland 37 and a 16-yarder to the same receiver moved it to the 18. The drive then stalled and O'Brien put the Colts ahead 13- 10 with his 23-yard field goal.


The Colts defense then stiffened, held Blanda and the Raiders, and Unitas went to work again from his own 35.


The Colts quarterback, whose career appeared at an end during the 1968 season when he was plagued by arm problems, hit Hinton for 13 yards and Roy Jefferson for 11 and 13 to bring the ball to the Oakland 11. Then he

called on Bulaich for a reverse and the rookie from TCU careened around left end for 11 yards and the touchdown for a 20-10 lead with 1:28 left in the third period.


Blanda, however, wasn't finished either. He hit rookie tight end Ray Chester with a 35-yarder and Wells with a 38-yarder as the Raiders pushed the Colts backwards. Then he finished off the 80-yard drive with his 15-yarder to Wells.


Wells was hit hard in the endzone, dropping the ball, but under the rules it was a touchdown as soon as he gained possession and crossed the goal line. The Colt fans, however, didn't see it that way, and snowballs were heaved from the stands as the teams lined up for the conversion.


With Baltimore leading now just 20-17, Unitas got the clincher three plays later, arching one down the left side to Perkins. Defensive back Nemiah Wilson seemed to misjudge the ball and when it came down at the Oakland 45, Perkins was there and Wilson was some five yards away.


Perkins, a four-year veteran who had scored only one previous touchdown this season, raced the remaining 45 yards to the clinching score.


The Colts took an early lead when Mike Eicheid's 23 yard punt put them in position for O'Brien's 16-yard field goal.


Another break enabled Unitas to put the Colts ahead 10-0. After Sam Havrilak recovered a George Atkinson fumble on the Oakland 45, Unitas hit Hinton with a 43-yard pass to the two.


Just before Oakland had punted, Lamonica had been thrown for a loss by Bubba Smith. He trotted to the sidelines, and when the Raiders came on the field after the Colt touchdown, Blanda was at quarterback.


Lamonica never got back in the game, an unfitting climax to a season that had seen him ranked statistically as the AFC's No. 1 passer while leading the Raiders to the Western title over defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City with an 8-4-2 record.


For the Colts, AFC East Division champions, it was their 13th victory of the season. They were 11-2-1 during the regular season and have posted playoff victories Cincinnati and Oakland enroute to Super Bowl redemption.


The Colts lost to the New York Jets in Super Bowl in, becoming the first National Football League team to lose to an American League team in pro football's premier spectacle.


The Raiders also were looking for Super Bowl redemption. They lost to Green Bay in Super Bowl II. But, despite winning their division for a fourth straight year, they won't get a chance at the $15,000 prize.


Instead, they will take away just the $5,500 that goes to each member of the losing team.





















Scoring Summary


First Quarter

BAL- FG O'Brien 16


Second Quarter

BAL- Bulaich 2 run (O'Brien kick)

OAK- FG Blanda 48 BAL


Third Quarter

OAK- Biletnikoff 38 yard pass from Blanda (Blanda kick)

BAL- FG O'Brien 23 BAL

BAL- Bulaich 11 run (O'Brien kick)


Fourth Quarter

OAK- Wells 15 yard pass from Blanda (Blanda kick)

BAL- Perkins 68 yard pass from Unitas (O'Brien kick)



NFC Championship

January 3, 1971

Dallas Cowboys 17, San Francisco 49ers 10

Kezar Stadium, San Francisco


Dallas topples favored 49ers; heads for Super Bowl


SAN FRANCISCO (AP)- Coach Tom Landry of the Dallas Cowboys readily admits he thought his team's chance of reaching the big money of the National Football League Super Bowl were a flat zero just six short weeks ago.


Yet these same big Cowboys now prepare to battle Baltimore's Colts in the premier football show at Miami on Jan. 17.


"Baltimore's offense will provide much the same challenge as did the 49ers," reasoned Landry after his team of desire beat San Francisco 17-10 on Sunday in chilly Kezar Stadium to capture the championship of the National Football Conference.


Going back less than two months, Dallas had just lost to St. Louis 38-0 and early in the season had fallen to Minnesota by an astounding 54-13.


And there was that history of the Cowboys losing big games- title battles to Green Bay in 1966 and 1967 and failing to get past the first playoff rounds the next two years.


History didn't repeat when they battled the 49ers. With a tremendous running game powered by rookie Dunne Thomas and gutsy Walt Garrison, Dallas beat the favored 49ers.


That knocked off the second West Coast hopeful for the Super Bowl. Only hours earlier in Baltimore the Colts whipped Oakland 27-17 in the American Conference finale.


Landry declared the victory over the 49ers must take the "loser onus" off his Cowboys although he pointed out quickly "there is one game left.


He feels quarterbacks John Brodie of the 49ers and Johnny Unitas of the Colts present similar problems.


"Brodie was fabulous this season and I think I aged 20 years in the second half Sunday," he declared. "When you play Baltimore, you're playing another great pro in Unitas.


"Baltimore, like San Francisco, is a passing team with great receivers. They'll give us about the same challenge as did the 49ers."


Rookie Duane Thomas, who gained 143 yards on 27 carries, broke a 3-3 tie with a 13-yard TD run in the third period after linebacker Lee Roy Jordan intercepted a John Brodie pass.


Later in the period, Brodie fired a long pass which Mel Renfro intercepted and set up a 62-yard Dallas drive culminated by a 5-yard TD pass from Craig Morton to Walter Garrison, which made it 17-3. Garrison scored on the first play after the 49ers' Mel Phillips was charged with interference at the five on a pass intended for Bob Hayes- a 24-yard penalty on a pass which obviously was far over the intended receiver.


Brodie, the NFC's leading passer in 1970, later tossed a 26-yard scoring strike to Dick Witcher, but that was the last gasp for the 49ers, who have yet to win a title in 25 years.


First-half scoring came on a 16-yard field goal by Bruce Gossett of the 49ers and a 21-yarder by Dallas' Mike Clark.


There were keys to the victory and keys to the previous six games the Cowboys had won in succession after being only 5-4 after that one-sided loss to St. Louis.


"Lee Roy Jordan's interception was the real key play," Landry declared in a steaming, jam-packed dressing room. "But the key to the game was our ability to run the football."


A later key was a pass interference penalty.


On Jordan's interception, Brodie had been dropped at his 14 for a seven-yard loss by Dave Edwards. He threw next, a low one that Jordan caught at his shoe tops at the 17 and returned to the 13, setting up Thomas' run for the game's first touchdown with four minutes gone in the second half.


"I was trying to throw it into the ground," Brodie admitted. "The guy made a great play."


Thomas, who gained 143 yards rushing during the game, credited his offensive line for the Dallas touchdown on the ensuing play.


"I misread the blocks and started to go outside before I realized I was supposed to go inside tackle and when I corrected, the hole was still there," Thomas declared. "That shows just how great our line really is."





















Scoring Summary


First Quarter

SF- FG Gossett 16


Second Quarter

DA- FG Clark 21


Third Quarter

DAL- Thomas 13 run (Clark kick)

DAL- Garrison 15 yard pass from Morton (Clark kick)

SF- Witcher 26 yard pass from Brodie (Gossett kick)