The NFL playoffs following the 1972 NFL season led up to Super Bowl VII. 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.
Steelers running backFranco Harris scored the winning touchdown on what became known as the Immaculate Reception. In a game that was mostly dominated by defense, the contest remained scoreless throughout the entire first half. In the second half, however, Pittsburgh kicker Roy Gerela kicked an 18-yard field goal in the third quarter. He added a 29-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to increase Pittsburgh's lead, 6-0. But then Raiders backup quarterbackKen Stabler, who had replaced starter Daryle Lamonica, ran for a 30-yard touchdown to give Oakland a 7-6 lead with 1:13 left in the game.
Facing fourth and ten on their own 40-yard line with 22 seconds left, Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw threw the ball toward fullback John "Frenchy" Fuqua. But the pass bounced off Raiders safety Jack Tatum and was caught by Harris, who then ran the rest of the way downfield to score a touchdown that gave the Steelers a 12-7 lead with five seconds left in the game.
DAL - Alworth 28 pass from Morton (Fritsch kick)SF 21-13
SF - Schreiber 1 run (Gossett kick) SF 28-13
DAL - field goal Fritsch 27 SF 28-16
DAL - Parks 20 pass from Staubach (Fritsch kick) SF 28-23
DAL - Sellers 10 pass from Staubach (Fritsch kick) DAL 30-28
Backup quarterback Roger Staubach led the Cowboys to score 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to overcome a 28-13 San Francisco lead. The 49ers jumped to a 7-0 early lead when Vic Washington returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. Dallas cut the deficit to 7-3 with kicker Toni Fritsch's 37-yard field goal, but a fumble by Cowboys starting quarterback Craig Morton set up Larry Schreiber's 1-yard run. Schreiber scored another touchdown after a Morton interception, making it a 21-3 deficit. The Cowboys cut the deficit to 21-13 at halftime with Fritsch's 45-yard field goal and Lance Alworth's 28-yard touchdown reception.
However, Schreiber scored his third touchdown of the game to increase San Francisco's lead, 28-13, in the third period. Staubach replaced Morton and led the Cowboys to Fritsch's 27-yard field goal. Then with less than two minutes remaining in the game, Staubach threw a 20-yard touchdown to Billy Parks. Mel Renfro recovered the ensuing onside kick, and Ron Sellers scored the winning touchdown on a 10-yard reception with 52 seconds left.
Cowboys running back Calvin Hill finished the game with a career postseason high 125 rushing yards, and one reception for six yards.
An 8-yard rushing touchdown by Jim Kiick in the fourth quarter kept the Dolphins' hopes alive for an undefeated season. Miami scored first in the opening quarter when Charlie Babb blocked a Cleveland punt, picked it up, and returned it for a touchdown. The Dolphins then increased their lead to 10-0 with kicker Garo Yepremian's 40-yard field goal. But in the third quarter, Cleveland's Mike Phipps scored on a 5-yard touchdown run. Then after Yepremian added another field goal, Phipps threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Fair Hooker to give the Browns the lead, 14-13. The Dolphins then marched 80 yards to set up Kiick's winning touchdown, aided by Paul Warfield's 10-and 15-yard receptions, and a pass interference penalty. Miami intercepted 5 of Phipps' passes.
WAS - Jefferson 32 pass from Kilmer (Knight kick) WAS 7-3
WAS - field goal Knight 42 WAS 10-3
WAS - field goal Knight 35 WAS 13-3
WAS - field goal Knight 46 WAS 16-3
Using a five-man defensive line, the Redskins limited the Packers to only a field goal and held Green Bay running back John Brockington (who rushed for 1,027 yards during the season) to just 9 yards on 13 carries. Meanwhile, Washington kicker Curt Knight scored 3 field goals, while running back Larry Brown rushed for 101 yards.
The Packers scored first on Chester Marcol's 17-yard field goal in the second quarter. But then Redskins quarterback Billy Kilmer threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Roy Jefferson. With 33 seconds left in the first half, Knight kicked a 42-yard field goal to give Washington a 10-3 halftime lead. The Redskins then dominated the second half, with Knight adding two more field goals.
December 31, 1972
AFC Championship: Miami Dolphins 21, Pittsburgh Steelers 17
PIT - Mullins recovered fumble in end zone (Gerela kick) PIT 7-0
MIA - Csonka 9 pass from Morrall (Yepremian kick) 7-7
PIT - field goal Gerela 14 PIT 10-7
MIA - Kiick 2 run (Yepremian kick) MIA 14-10
MIA - Kiick 3 run (Yepremian kick) MIA 21-10
PIT - Young 12 pass from Bradshaw (Gerela kick) MIA 21-17
The Dolphins continued their unbeaten streak by scoring two touchdowns in the second half. The Steelers scored first after Pittsburgh quarterback Terry Bradshaw's fumble rolled into the Miami end zone, and was recovered by offensive lineman Gerry Mullins. Unfortunately for the Steelers, Bradshaw was injured on play and did not return until the fourth quarter. The Dolphins tied the game after punter Larry Seiple 37-yard run on a fake punt set up Larry Csonka's 9-yard touchdown catch. In the third quarter, kicker Roy Gerela's 14-yard field goal gave Pittsburgh a 10-7 lead. Quarterback Bob Griese, who had been sidelined with a broken leg for 10 weeks, replaced starter Earl Morrall, and threw a 52-yard pass to Paul Warfield to set up a Jim Kiick 2-yard touchdown run. Griese led the Dolphins on a 49-yard drive to score on a Jim Kiick 3-yard touchdown run. While Bradshaw returned with about 7 minutes left the game and threw a 12-yard touchdown pass, he also threw two interceptions to Miami linebackers Nick Buoniconti and Mike Kolen.
NFC Championship: Washington Redskins 26, Dallas Cowboys 3
WAS - Taylor 15 pass from Kilmer (Knight kick)WAS 10-0
DAL - field goal Fritsch 35 WAS 10-3
WAS - Taylor 45 pass from Kilmer (Knight kick) WAS 17-3
WAS - field goal Knight 39 WAS 20-3
WAS - field goal Knight 46 WAS 23-3
WAS - field goal Knight 45 WAS 26-3
Charley Taylor led the Redskins to the victory by recording 7 receptions for 146 yards and 2 touchdowns. Meanwhile, Washington limited Dallas to only a field goal, and prevented the Cowboys from crossing midfield in the entire second half. However, the game seemed close before the final period. After the first quarter was scoreless, the Redskins jumped to a 10-0 lead with kicker Curt Knight's 18-yard field goal and Taylor's 15-yard touchdown. However, the halftime score was 10-3 and neither team scored in the third quarter. But Taylor's 45-yard touchdown and Knight's three field goals in the fourth period broke the game open.