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1975 NFC Playoffs Cowboys 17 Vikings 14
The Cowboys win it on Roger Staubach's famous 50-yd "Hail Mary" pass to Drew Pearson, who outmaneuvers CB Nate Wright for the slightly underthrown ball, cuts underneath to make the catch on his hip, then backs into the end zone between a pair of stunned Viking defenders with 24 seconds remaining! Critics will call for offensive pass interference on the play, but IMO, Pearson had every right to come back and get the ball and the contact, while something more than incidental, was not worthy of a flag in such a critical moment. Minnesota was a great team, but they are outplayed in every phase of this game and would've been throttled again in the Super Bowl by Pittsburgh, so it's good that the wild card Cowboys get the upset win.
1978 Oilers 26 at Patriots 23
The Oilers overcome a 23-0 first half deficit to defeat the Patriots, who despite scoring the first 5 times they have the ball, bungle their way to a loss thanks to terrible special teams and an offense that fails to gain a single first down in the 2nd half. Momentum shifts late in the first half when the Pats fumble a punt. The Oilers immediately capitalize on Rob Carpenter's 8-yd TD run to make it 23-7. The Pats miss a FG to end the first half, then miss another FG to start the 3rd quarter. Houston takes advantage with a 17 play, 80-yd drive to narrow the score to 23-14 on another Carpenter TD run. Following the kickoff, Houston picks off Grogan's first pass and the Oilers grind out another marathon drive, extended by a brilliant fake FG in which Pastorini shovels a trick pass to Carpenter, and capped by a 1-yd Earl Campbell TD lunge. The extra point fails on a bad snap, but Houston now trails only 23-20. On the ensuing drive, New England surprisingly goes for it on 4th and 1 at the Oiler 41. Even more surprisingly, they call a play action rollout pass and turn the ball over on downs when Grogan fails to get the ball to a WIDE open Russ Francis for a sure TD. The Oilers drive deep into New England territory, and facing a 4th and inches at the 9 in easy FG range to tie the game, Bum Phillips gambles and goes for it. Earl Campbell smashes into the line for a first down, and 2 plays later, Pastorini lofts a sweet touch pass to Rich Caster in the corner of the end zone for the 10-yd game-winner. Game missing significant action, includes some post game material.
1978 Oilers 35 vs Dolphins 30 MNF
The "Luv 'Ya Blue" pom-poms are rockin' the Astrodome as rookie sensation Earl Campbell delivers a Monday Night masterpiece, rushing 28 times for 199 yds and 4 TDs. QB Bob Griese is no slouch, either, hitting 22 of 33 for 349 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT in a back-and-forth thriller between two playoff-bound teams. Griese strikes first with a 10-yd TD to Nat Moore less than 5 minutes into the game. Campbell answers with a leaping 1-yd TD to tie the game. In the second quarter, the teams trade TDs and head into the locker room tied at 14. Campbell breaks loose in the 2nd half, scoring on a 6-yd run early in the 3rd to give the Oilers a 21-14 lead. But the Dolphins again respond, driving 88 yds to tie the game on a Leroy Harris one yard crash heading into the the final period, and the Dolphins take a 23-21 lead early in the 4th when A.J. Duhe sacks Pastorini for a safety. But Miami fails to build on its lead, and with less than 5 minutes to go, Campbell caps a 80-yd drive (keyed by several flanker screens) on a 12-yd quick toss right for a TD to put Houston up 28-23. With plenty of time remaining, Miami begins to drive down the field. But Houston intercepts a batted Griese pass at the Oilers 19 with a little more than two minutes to go. On 2nd and 8, just looking to run out the clock, Campbell takes a simple pitch, sidesteps a tackle, breaks outside and streaks untouched into NFL legend on a scintillating 81-yd TD to seal the game.
1978 AFC Playoffs Oilers 17 at Dolphins 9
In a rematch of their exciting regular season classic, Dan Pastorini -- who's status is questionable coming into the game with rib, knee, elbow and hamstring issues -- toughs it out to have a career day. Pastorini hits 6 of 7 for 66 yds and a TD on Houston's opening drive, finishing 20 of 29 for 306 yds. While the Oilers score only 17 points, they pile up 455 yds and force 5 Miami turnovers, finally breaking the game open in the 4th. The great Earl Campbell is held to just 16 yds in the first half, but takes over in the 2nd half with 68 yds and a late TD to ice the game. Although Campbell's numbers aren't eye-popping, his presence forces Miami to stack the box, leaving them vulnerable to play-action passes. Pastorini takes full advantage by repeatedly freezing the defense with fakes to Campbell, allowing receivers like Ken Burrough (6 catches, 103 yds) to run wild in the secondary.
1979 Browns 26 vs Cowboys 7 MNF
The Browns move to 4-0 on the strength of a stunning first-quarter blitz in which Brian Sipe hits a pair of long TD passes and Thom Darden returns an INT for another score to open up a 20-0 lead. Cleveland caps their 63-yard opening drive with an acrobatic 23-yd TD catch by Dave Logan just 2:40 into the game. After a Dallas punt, Sipe strikes again with a scrambling 52-yd bomb to Ozzie Newsome. Three plays later, Darden steps in front a Staubach pass and races 39 yds untouched into the end zone and just like that, it's 20-0. The Cowboys quickly strike back on a 48-yd bomb to a WIDE open Tony Hill moments after Darden's touchdown, but even though Dallas statistically dominates the rest of the game, mistakes and turnovers kill them. Dallas suffers 3 lost fumbles, a second Darden INT, a blocked FG and a missed 47-yd FG before Cleveland seals the game on a short Mike Pruitt TD run early in the 4th following a backbreaking fumble on a Staubach scramble.
1979 Oilers 30 at Cowboys 24
The incomparable Earl Campbell bulldozes for 195 yards and 2 TDs on 33 carries en route to a thrilling Houston victory in a Thanksgiving Day shootout, outshining Roger Staubach's impressive 21 of 30 passing performance. Staubach opens the game with a 56-yd TD bomb to Drew Pearson, but Campbell immediately answers with an electrifying 61-yd TD blast down the right sideline. And so it goes, back and forth. Dallas opens up a 21-10 lead at one point, but Houston's defense stiffens, intercepting Roger Staubach twice and limiting Tony Dorsett to just 54 yards rushing, setting the table for beautiful 32-yd deep post to Kenny Burrough in the 4th quarter to win the game. The Cowboys have one last chance, driving to the Oiler 19 with 2 minutes remaining, but turn it over on downs. A very entertaining game from start to finish and perhaps my personal favorite "non-Steelers" game.
1979 AFC Wild Card Oilers 13 vs Broncos 7
Houston survives the loss of Campbell, Pastorini and Burrough in a slugfest. Campbell (16 att, 50 yds) comes out after smashing through Denver's defense for Houston's only TD, a 3-yd blast at the end of the half. Pastorini pulls a stomach muscle early in the 3rd and from there, the Oilers roll with backups and leave the outcome up to their defense. Led by Curley Culp, the Houston defenders are up to the challenge, sacking Craig Morton 6 times (5 in the 2nd half) and limiting him to just 7 of 16 for 77 yds after halftime. Denver squanders their best opportunity after Nielsen throws an ill-advised INT early in the 4th. The Broncos get as close as the Houston 16, but Culp sacks Morton for a 9 yd loss, then gets him again for a 5-yd loss on the next play, turning a chip shot FG into a 50-yd attempt which hits the goal post and falls away. The next time Denver gets the ball, Bingham picks off Morton setting up a Fritsch FG to give Houston a 13-7 lead. Denver gets one last chance, but Oiler DBs knock away Denver's desperation passes into the end-zone to preserve a costly victory.
1979 AFC Playoffs Oilers 17 at Chargers 14
If you've ever rooted for the underdog, you've GOT to love the Oilers in this game. With their offense crippled by the absence of Earl Campbell and Dan Pastorini, the tenacious Houston defense simply refuses to give up, upsetting the overconfident and heavily favored Chargers on their home turf. Strong performances come from multiple players usually relegated to supporting roles (Gifford Nielson, Rob Carpenter, Boobie Clark, Mike Renfro), but the key player of the game is without question Houston safety Vernon Perry who has a game for the ages. Perry not only sets a post season record by intercepting Dan Fouts 4 times, he also blocks a FG and leads the team in tackles.
1979 NFC Playoffs Rams 21 at Cowboys 19
Vince Ferragamo, in only his 6th NFL start, throws a trio of long TD passes to shock the heavily favored Cowboys. Neither team is terribly impressive offensively, but the Rams make 3 big plays, and that's the difference. Ferragamo's first TD pass goes to Wendell Tyler, who gets behind the defense on a wheel route for a 32-yd 2nd quarter score. Ferragamo strikes again just before the half, this time hitting Rod Smith on a 43-yd bomb in double coverage with just 3 seconds left. Randy Hughes and Aaron Kyle are all over Smith in the end zone, but Smith gets underneath the coverage and outleaps the Cowboys to give the Rams a 14-5 lead. Dallas scores twice in the second half to take a 19-14 lead, but Ferragamo strikes again with 2:06 left. From midfield, Billy Waddy lines up right, then cuts across the middle about 20 yds deep. Ferragamo fires the ball hard down the middle, just over the outstretched hands of Mike Hegman, who actually tips the ball. The tipped pass goes right to Waddy, who gathers it in waist-high and races the remaining 27 yds into the end zone for a 50-yd game-winning score.
1980 Oilers 38 vs Patriots 34 MNF
A thriller on Monday Night! The Oilers jump out to a 24-6 halftime lead, but the Patriots fight back in the second half and the game isn't decided until Greg Stemrick picks off Steve Grogan in the end zone with 20 seconds left. Earl Campbell is a wrecking ball with 130 yds (his 5th consecutive 100-yd game) and 2 TDs on 30 carries. Stabler throws sparingly but is near-perfect, hitting 15 of 17 for 258 yds, 3 TDs and 1 INT. Grogan (25 of 39, 374 yds, 3 TD, 2 INT) brings the Pats roaring back in the 3rd quarter with a pair of TD drives, including a 39-yd TD bomb to Harold Jackson, whose sideline tightrope act narrows the score to 24-20. Things heat up even more in the 4th. Campbell scores on a 7-yd run up the gut, but Grogan comes right back with a 21-yd TD to Russ Francis. Stabler hits Mike Renfro for a 16-yd TD, but Grogan comes back to Francis for another TD pass with 1:28 left to make it 38-34. The Patriots recover the onside kick and drive all the way to the Houston 19 before Stemrick ends the threat with his INT.
1980 Browns 23 at Vikings 28
The Miracle at the Met! Needing a win to clinch the NFC Central and trailing 23-9 in the 4th quarter, the Vikings pull off a miracle when Tommy Kramer throws for 2 TDs to Ahmad Rashad in final 2 minutes, including a 46-yd TD on a Hail Mary as time expires. Following a Cleveland punt, the Vikings take over at their own 20 with only 14 seconds left and no times outs. A brilliant, perfectly executed "hook and lateral" play results in a 39-yd gain. On the final play, Kramer heaves a deep desperation pass down the right sideline into a crowd. The ball is tipped by a Brown at the 5-yd line and reeled in with one hand by Ahmad Rashad, who backs into the end zone for the score as time expires.
1980 AFC Playoffs Raiders 14 at Browns 12
A classic. The "Kardiac Kids" lose a heartbreaker in a -37 degree wind-chill when Brian Sipe, poised to win the game at the Oakland 15 yard line with less than a minute to play, throws his infamous "Red Right 88" interception in the endzone to seal it for Oakland. You could hear a pin drop in Cleveland Municiple Stadium after the pick. Kicker Don Cockroft puts on a pitiful display for Cleveland, missing 2 FGs and a PAT, perhaps prompting Sipe's ill-fated pass from within chip-shot FG range. I remember watching this game at my aunt's house with my Browns-loving older brother. As a Steelers young fan, 1980 was a very difficult season for me and I was absolutely gleeful when Cleveland lost, even though I also hated the Raiders. But in hindsight, I can't help but feel a little sorry for the Brownies... after all, the '94 AFC Championship game is still remarkably fresh in MY mind, even after 25 years. What a horrible feeling! That '80 Browns team was something special and was probably Cleveland's best shot at winning a Super Bowl. Video includes nearly 40 minutes of pregame material.
1980 NFC Championship Eagles 20 vs Cowboys 7
The thing that stands out to me about this game, even more than Wilbert Montgomery's early 42-yd TD run and later 55-yd run en route to 194 yds on 26 carries, is the unbridled enthusiasm of Philadelphia's long-suffering fans, especially the 71,000 souls who braved the -17 degree wind chill to cheer their team on to glory. Montgomery's effort might not have been enough, as Ron Jaworski struggles to complete just 9 of 29 passes for 91 yds with 2 INTs. But a devastating Tony Dorsett fumble late in the 3rd gives Philly a short field, setting up a TD for an insurmountable 17-7 lead and sending them to their first-ever Super Bowl.