The Longest Game Ever

The Longest Game Ever
by Rob Holecko

While Tim's Christmas Eve post yesterday summed up our feelings around here and gratitude to everyone who has helped us make this website be what it is during this first year, those feelings of gratitude are dwarfed by the excitement that we feel in anticipation for how much this site can and will grow in the next couple years as we see just how little we have on the site as compared with what it will be when complete.

To that end we offer another small Christmas present to our visitors.  We have slightly revamped the navigation for the 'Head-to-Head Matchups.'  You will now see on the front page to the left of the web-visitor counter (which by the way is now at 95,000) links which will help you easily find matchups by week, by team, and by year.  Also there are links to the 'Randomly Added', 'All-Time Post-Season' and 'Historical Head-To-Head' matchups.  When clicking on to these pages, you can see truly how little of the vast collection of complete head-to-head matchups we have done, and how much work there is to go.  But, of course all of the yearly graphics, which are accessible by the year and team links down either side of the webpage, are available, and if there is a particular past head-to-head matchup you would like added to the database, just let us know and we'll add it.

Another new feature, to the right of the web-counter, you will now see links to the most recent blog entries, so you do not have to click into the blog to see if and when it has been updated.  I know at times we have updated daily, while at times during the school year we just haven't had time to update it more than weekly, so now you will know wherever something new is there just by a quick look at the front page.  You can also subscribe to the blog here.

Now onto the main subject of today's Christmas Day blog, the "On This Day..."

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"On This Day..."

In 1971, the Chiefs and Dolphins met in an AFC Divisional Playoff game.  The Chiefs had been to two of the first five Super Bowls, having won Super Bowl IV, while the Dolphins were making their second consecutive playoff appearance, in Don Shula's second year.  Both teams were 10-3-1 and had the two best records in the conference, but under the system then teams in the NFL playoffs were not seeded, but merely rotated among the three division winners and one wild card team.  (The same system, which would the following year see the 15-0 Dolphins play on the road in the AFC Championship game at Pittsburgh, would be abandoned a few years later.)  So the top two seeds met in the divisional playoff round on Christmas Day, while the Central Division champion Browns and wild card Colts would meet in the other divisional playoff, the following day.

What makes this game special is that it was tied at the end of regulation, and after a 15 minute overtime period with no scoring, for the first time ever, an NFL game went to a second overtime.  To this day, only four games have gone into a second overtime, yesterday we told you about the 1977 Oakland-Baltimore game, and a game in 1987 between the Jets and Browns and the Panthers-Rams game a few years ago were the other two.

This exciting game is described as follows in Wikipedia:

In the longest NFL game played to date at 82 minutes, 40 seconds (and the Chiefs' last-ever game at Municipal Stadium), Miami kicker Garo Yepremian kicked the winning 37-yard field goal after 7:40 of double-overtime. The Chiefs jumped to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter with Jan Stenerud's 24-yard field goal and quarterback Len Dawson's 7-yard touchdown pass to Ed Podolak. But the Dolphins tied the game in the second quarter with Yepremian's 14-yard field goal and running back Larry Csonka's 1-yard touchdown run. The teams exchanged touchdowns in the third quarter before Podolak scored on a 3-yard run in the fourth period. But Miami quarterback Bob Griese threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to tight end Marv Fleming to tie the game. Podolak returned the ensuing kickoff 78 yards to the Dolphins 22-yard line before being shoved out of bounds by Miami's Curtis Johnson (cornerback), giving Stenerud a chance to win the game for the Chiefs in the final minute of regulation. But he missed the field goal attempt from 31 yards and the game went into overtime.
Kansas City took the opening kickoff of the first overtime period, but Stenerud 42-yard field goal attempt was blocked. Yepremian also attempted a 52-yard field goal later in the period, but missed. Csonka's 29-yard run in the second quarter set up Yepremian's game-winning score.

Podolak's 350 all-purpose yards (8 receptions for 110 yards, 17 carries for 85 yards, 3 kickoff returns for 154 yards, two punt returns for two yards) in this game remain an NFL playoff record, and is still the fourth highest total in NFL history. "I don't think any one player in a big game, a monumental game like that, had a day like Eddie Podolak had," said Chiefs coach Hank Stram after the game.  Dolphins receiver Paul Warfield finished with 7 receptions for a career postseason high 140 yards, while Dolphins linebacker Nick Buonticonti racked up 20 tackles.
The NFL drew criticism for scheduling games for the first time on Christmas.  The Vikings-Cowboys NFC playoff game was first at 1:00 Eastern, and the Dolphins-Chiefs was the late game at 4:00.  The NFL had previously avoided playing on Christmas, moving both the 1955 and 1960 NFL Championships to Monday the 26th, and in most earlier years, the season was over before Christmas.

Since this game ran so long, it went well into Christmas evening.  The following year, 1972, Christmas Eve fell on a Sunday, and the NFL played two divisional playoff games on Christmas Eve.  The next time that Christmas fell on a weekend in 1977, the NFL played the two AFC divisional games on Christmas Eve on Saturday and the two NFC games on Monday the 26th.  

Over the last few decades, as the season has grown longer, and later, and the regular season now stretches into January, the NFL does regularly play games on and around Christmas, but not night games on Christmas Eve, nor a full slate of day games on Christmas Day.  This year, like in 2005, the majority of the day games were moved to early Saturday Christmas Eve starts, with one or two late games on Christmas Day.  

In '05, the Bears played the Packers at 5 PM on Christmas on FOX, followed by the usual ESPN Sunday Night game between Minnesota and Baltimore, and the Packers-Bears will face off again tonight on NBC.  

NFL Network today will be airing a special on this 1971 Dolphins-Chiefs game, sure to be something not to miss.

We are proud to add this game to Gridiron Uniform Database's collection of randomly added single-game matchups.

You can view other randomly added past games here.


  1. Just a reminder that the Minnesota-Dallas game was played earlier that day and shared in the Christmas scheduling criticism.

  2. Thanks, I rewrote the paragraph to include that!



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