Seven 1970s Rivalries That Made the NFL ‘Super’: Steelers-Raiders Take # 1
In the late 1970s, NFL Films created a video highlighting the greatest moments of the previous decade in professional football. The film was aptly dubbed “The Super Seventies”, a title that perfectly summed up this chapter in the rich history of the NFL.
Following the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, professional football picked up where it left off in the 1960s, when football really started to make the leap as America’s No.1 pastime. -United. This era of NFL football has seen the Cowboys, after years of heartbreaking league losses, finally break through as champions. The decade also witnessed the perfect season for the Dolphins, the rise of the Raiders under Hall of Fame coach John Madden, and the birth of the Steelers dynasty. Arguably, this period of professional football had more dominant teams at one point than at any time in the NFL’s 100-year history.
This era also included several compelling rivalries between teams that were constantly in the mix for Super Bowl material. These rivalries helped start or end some of the greatest dynasties in NFL history. In the process, rivalries further increased the league’s popularity, with the NFL being the undisputed king of the hill when it came to professional sports in the late ’70s.
Without further ado, we bring you the seven best rivalries of the ’70s, rivalries that continue to be celebrated by fans who witnessed the legendary clashes.
Global head-to-head match over the decade: Vikings, 6-5-1
Playoff record over the decade: Vikings, 3-1
Best game: Division round, 1977 Playoffs: Vikings 14, Rams 7
Despite guiding the Rams to five straight division titles, coach Chuck Knox is widely known for his team’s shortcomings against Bud Grant’s Vikings during the playoffs. From 1974 to 1977, the Rams fell to the Vikings three times in the playoffs, two of which were in the NFC title game.
Playing inside a mud-soaked Los Angeles Coliseum in the 77th divisional playoff round, the Vikings took a 14-0 lead before hanging on for a 14-7 victory. Despite the mud, both teams found considerable traction in their racing games. The Rams, running back Lawrence McCutcheon and Vikings running back Chuck Foreman each rushing over 100 yards. As Minnesota managed to break away with a seven-point victory, the Rams ultimately earned their coveted playoff victory over the Vikings the following season. In week 14 of the 1979 season, Los Angeles beat Minnesota in overtime en route to their first NFC Championship.
6. Cowboys vs. Rams
Global head-to-head match over the decade: Cowboys, 6-4
Playoff record over the decade: Cowboys, 3-2
Best game: Divisional round, 1979 playoffs: Rams 21, Cowboys 19
A year after being eliminated at home by the Cowboys in the NFC Championship game, the underdog Rams relied on three long touchdown passes from quarterback Vince Ferragamo to beat the Cowboys in the divisional playoff round of 79. 43-yard touchdown pass from Ferragamo to Ron Smith gave the Rams a 14-5 halftime lead. His 50-yard touchdown pass to Billy Waddy turned out to be the winning score. The Rams’ defense, led by Jack Youngblood (who has played all of the playoffs with a broken leg) also had a big day, holding Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett to less than 100 rushing yards while limiting the quarterback. back Roger Staubach just 13 of 28 assists.
The victory helped propel the Rams to a Super Bowl XIV appearance, while the loss marked the end of an era in Dallas, as Staubach retired in the offseason.
5. Dolphins vs. Raiders
Global head-to-head match over the decade: Raiders, 5-3
Playoff record over the decade: Raiders, 2-1
Best game: Divisional round, 1974 playoffs: Raiders 28, Dolphins 26
In 1974, the two-time defending champions Dolphins were looking to become the first team to win three straight Super Bowls when they arrived in Oakland for their playoff showdown with the Raiders, a team they easily beat in the 1973 AFC Championship game. Miami immediately took the lead when Nat Moore ran the opening kickoff 89 yards for a score. And after Ken Stalber’s 72-yard touchdown pass to Cliff Branch gave Oakland a lead in the fourth quarter, a 23-yard scoreline by Dolphins backer Benny Malone paved the way for one of the finishes. most spectacular in NFL playoff history.
Trailing 21-19, Stalber furiously pushed the Raiders towards the Dolphins 8-yard line. Seconds to the end, Stalber made a desperate pass into the end zone to running back Clarence Davis, who managed to catch Stalber’s pass despite being surrounded by Dolphins defenders. The game, known as “Sea of Hands”, gave Oakland victory while ending Miami’s championship reign.
4. Cowboys vs. Vikings
Global head-to-head match over the decade: Cowboys, 5-4
Playoff record over the decade: Cowboys, 3-1
Best game: Divisional round, 1975 playoffs: Cowboys 17, Vikings 14
After splitting their first two playoff games against each other earlier in the decade, the two-time defending Vikings champion welcomed the Cowboys in the first round of the 1975 playoffs. Trailing 14-10 with only 32 seconds to go, Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach landed a 50-yard touchdown pass to Drew Pearson that gave Dallas a 17-14 victory. After the game, Staubach inadvertently coined the term “Hail Mary” to describe a desperate last second pass while explaining the winning game.
“I was a Catholic kid from Cincinnati, and they asked me what were you thinking when you threw the ball,” Staubach recalls, via the team’s official website. “I said,” When I closed my eyes, I said a Hail Mary. I could have said Our Father, Glory to the Father, The Symbol of the Apostles.
“So he picked it up and gradually, instead of the bomb or the alley, it was sort of the big winning games back then, he made up the phrase and sure enough I said it , the NFL admits I said it, and slowly but surely it took off. Now it’s used for everything. “
3. Cowboys vs. Washington
Global head-to-head match over the decade: Cowboys, 12-9
Playoff record over the decade: Washington, 1-0
Best game: December 16, 1979: Cowboys 35, Washington 34
While Clint Longley’s Thanksgiving Day Miracle in 1974 was incredible, the best game between these two division rivals in the 1970s was their final clash. In what was the last regular season game of his Hall of Fame career, Staubach pulled the Cowboys 17 and 13 points behind to defeat Washington, 35-34. Running back John Riggins’ two touchdowns in the fourth quarter gave Washington a 34-21 lead, but a pair of touchdown passes from Staubach to Ron Springs and Tony Hill gave the Cowboys the victory as well as the division title. The loss knocked Washington out of the playoffs. The loss was so devastating for Washington that it drove Riggins, future Super Bowl and League MVP, into temporary retirement.
2. Cowboys vs. Steelers
Global head-to-head match over the decade: Steelers, 4-1
Playoff record over the decade: Steelers, 2-0
Best game: Super Bowl XIII: Steelers 35, Cowboys 31
Three years after the two teams met in Super Bowl X, the Cowboys and Steelers played in the first Super Bowl rematch in Super Bowl XIII. The winner would not only become the first franchise to win three Lombardi Trophies, but he would also win the accolade as a team of the 70s.
Publicly criticized by pre-game Cowboys linebacker Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson, Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw, who threw two touchdown passes in Pittsburgh wins 21-17 over Dallas in Super Bowl X, responded by throwing for 318 yards and four touchdowns, the two Super Bowl records at the time. Despite a late rally by Staubach and the Cowboys, Pittsburgh held on for a four-point victory. While the Cowboys may have been considered “the American team,” the Steelers won the title of top professional football team around this time. This fact was further reinforced after Pittsburgh closed the decade by winning its fourth Super Bowl in a six-year span.
1. Raiders vs. Steelers
Global head-to-head match over the decade: Raiders, 6-5
Playoff record over the decade: Steelers, 3-2
Best game: 1972 Divisional Round: Steelers 13, Raiders 7
Arguably the meanest rivalry in the history of professional football, no love was lost between the Raiders and the Steelers, who faced each other in the playoffs every year from 1972 to 1976. Pittsburgh, led by its steel curtain defense, upset the Oakland Raiders in the AFC 74 championship game before winning their first Super Bowl. After defeating Oakland again in the AFC title game in 75, Pittsburgh’s quest to become the first team to win three Super Bowls came to an end in the title game in 76, as Ken ” The Snake “Stabler and the Raiders finally conquered the Steelers en route to their first Super Bowl victory.
The rivalry began on December 23, 1972, when the underdog Steelers hosted the Raiders in their very first playoff game. After a touchdown from Stabler gave Oakland a 7-6 lead, Pittsburgh faced a fourth and 10 at its own 40-yard line with 22 seconds left. Needing a miracle, Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw eluded tackles before his deflected pass found the hands of Franco Harris, who shouted near the sideline while completing one of the games most unlikely in NFL history. The play, eternally known as the “Immaculate Reception,” kicked off the Steeler dynasty while also launching the biggest rivalry of the decade.