The NFL playoffs following the 1971 NFL season led up to Super Bowl VI. Like the previous NFL seasons, the home teams in the playoffs were decided based on a yearly divisional rotation, excluding the wild card teams who would always play on the road. It was the first time that the NFL scheduled games on Christmas Day, a decision that drew considerable criticism.
MIA - Fleming 5 pass from Griese (Yepremian kick)24-24
MIA - field goal Yepremian 37 MIA 27-24
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, 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 Buoniconti racked up 20 tackles.
DAL - Hayes 9 pass from Staubach (Clark kick) DAL 20-3
MIN - Safety, Page tackled Staubach in end zone DAL 20-5
MIN - Voigt 6 pass from Cuozzo (Cox kick) DAL 20-12
Although the Vikings outgained the Cowboys 311-183, Dallas converted turnovers into 13 points en route to a 20-12 win. The Cowboys jumped to a 6-3 halftime lead after converting a fumble recovery and an interception into field goals. Then, Cliff Harris' 30-yard interception return on the second play of the third quarter set up Duane Thomas' 13-yard touchdown run to give Dallas a 13-3 lead. Quarterback Roger Staubach then extended the lead with his 9-yard touchdown pass to Bob Hayes. The Vikings scored 9 unanswered points in the fourth quarter but it was not enough to make up for the deficit.
Don Nottingham scored two touchdowns as the Colts limited the Browns to only 3 points. Nottingham's first score, a 1-yard touchdown run, was set up after Bubba Smith blocked Cleveland kicker Don Cockroft's 4-yard field goal attempt. Then in the second quarter, Safety Rick Volk's 37-yard interception return set up Nottingham's 7-yard touchdown run. Colts kicker Jim O'Brien also contributed with 2 field goals.
WAS - Smith 5 pass from Kilmer (Knight kick) WAS 7-0
SF - field goal Gossett 23 WAS 7-3
WAS - field goal Knight 40 WAS 10-3
SF - Washington 78 pass from Brodie (Gossett kick) 10-10
SF - Windsor 2 pass from Brodie (Gossett kick) SF 17-10
WAS - field goal Knight 35 SF 17-13
SF - Hoskins recovered fumble in end zone SF 24-13
WAS - Brown 16 pass from Kilmer (Knight kick) SF 24-20
The 49ers defense made key plays to lead San Francisco to a 24-20 victory over the Redskins. Washington scored first after Jon Jaqua blocked a punt to set up quarterback Billy Kilmer's 5-yard pass. Then after the teams exchanged field goals, the Redskins took the opening kickoff of the second half and drove to the San Francisco 11-yard line. But on fourth down and inches to go, Frank Nunley tackled Larry Brown for a 2-yard loss. Three plays later, 49ers quarterback John Brodie threw a 78-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Gene Washington to tie the game. Then, Roosevelt Taylor's interception set up Bob Windsor's 2-yard touchdown reception to give San Francisco a 17-10 lead. The 49ers later put the game away in the fourth quarter after defensive tackle Bob Hoskins recovered a bad snap on a Washington punt attempt in the end zone.
January 2, 1972
AFC Championship: Miami Dolphins 21, Baltimore Colts 0
MIA - Warfield 75 pass from Griese (Yepremian kick) MIA 7-0
MIA - Anderson 62 interception return (Yepremian kick)MIA 14-0
MIA - Csonka 5 run (Yepremian kick)MIA 21-0
Although Miami quarterback Bob Griese completed only 4 passes, the Dolphins defense shut out the Colts. Defensive back Dick Anderson intercepted 3 passes, returning one of them 62 yards for a touchdown. Paul Warfield recorded a 75-yard touchdown reception midway through the first quarter. Then in the fourth quarter, Griese's 50-yard pass to Warfield set up Larry Csonka's 5-yard touchdown run.
NFC Championship: Dallas Cowboys 14, San Francisco 49ers 3
In the first playoff game at Texas Stadium, the Cowboys defense dominated the 49ers offense by only allowing 61 rushing yards, 9 first downs, and forcing 3 interceptions. In the second quarter, Dallas defensive end George Andrie intercepted a screen pass at the San Francisco 8-yard line to set up Calvin Hill's 1-yard touchdown run. Then in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys marched 80 yards in 14 plays to score on Duane Thomas' 2-yard touchdown run.