The NFL playoffs following the 1975 NFL season led up to Super Bowl X. This was the first season in which the league used a seeding system in the playoffs. Thus, the surviving clubs with the higher seeds were made the home teams for each playoff round. The three division champions in each conference were seeded 1 through 3 based on their regular season won-lost-tied record, and the wild card qualifier in each conference became the 4 seed.
However, the league continued to prohibit meetings between two teams from the same division in the Divisional Playoffs. Thus, there would be times when the pairing in that round would be the 1 seed vs. the 3 seed and 2 vs. 4.
BAL - Doughty 5 pass from Domres (Linhart kick)7-7
BAL - field goal Linhart 27 BAL 10-7
PIT - Bleier 7 run (Gerela kick) PIT 14-10
PIT - Bradshaw 2 run (Gerela kick) PIT 21-10
PIT - Russell 93 fumble return (Gerela kick) PIT 28-10
The Steelers defense forced 4 turnovers and held the Colts to 154 total yards of offense, while Pittsburgh's Franco Harris shreded Baltimore's defense with 153 rushing yards and a touchdown. The Steelers scored first after linebacker Jack Ham's interception set up running back Harris' 8-yard rushing touchdown. Baltimore responded when Lloyd Mumphord returned a 58-yard interception to set up Glenn Doughty's 5-yard touchdown reception. With the Colts leading 10-7 in the third quarter, Pittsburgh cornerback Mel Blount intercepted a pass and returned to the Baltimore 7-yard line. From there, Rocky Bleier scored on a 7-yard rushing touchdown. Quarterback Terry Bradshaw recorded a 2-yard touchdown run, and Andy Russell picked up a Colts fumble and returned it for an NFL playoff record 93 yards to the end zone.
The game is also notable in that it was the debut game for the Terrible Towel.
NFC: Los Angeles Rams 35, St. Louis Cardinals 23Edit
LA - Youngblood 47 interception return (Dempsey kick) LA 14-0
LA - Simpson 65 interception return (Dempsey kick) LA 21-0
STL - Otis 3 run (kick blocked) LA 21-6
LA - Jackson 66 pass from Jaworski (Dempsey kick) LA 28-6
STL - field goal Bakken 39 LA 28-9
STL - Gray 11 pass from Hart (Bakken kick) LA 28-16
LA - Jessie 2 fumble return (Dempsey kick) LA 35-16
STL - Jones 3 run (Bakken kick) LA 35-23
The Rams defense scored 2 touchdowns in the first half while running back Lawrence McCutcheon ran for an NFL playoff record of 37 carries for 202 yards. Los Angeles built a 21-0 lead off of quarterback Ron Jaworski's 5-yard touchdown run, and interception returns for touchdowns by Jack Youngblood and Bill Simpson for 47 and 65 yards, respectively. The Cardinals came back to score on a rushing touchdown by running back Jim Otis, but the Rams responded on the first play of their next drive with Jaworski's 66-yard touchdown pass to Harold Jackson. After St. Louis cut the score to 28-16 with a field goal and a touchdown pass from quarterback Jim Hart, Simpson intercepted another pass to set up the Rams final touchdown.
Youngblood had an outstanding performance. In addition to his 47-yard interception return for a touchdown, he also recorded a sack, blocked an extra point, and forced a fumble
OAK - Siani 9 pass from Stabler (Blanda kick) OAK 10-3
CIN - Fritts 1 run (Green kick) OAK 10-7
OAK - Moore 8 pass from Stabler (Blanda kick) OAK 17-7
OAK - Banaszak 6 run (Blanda kick) OAK 24-7
CIN - Elliott 6 run (Green kick) OAK 24-14
OAK - Casper 2 pass from Stabler (Blanda kick) OAK 31-14
CIN - Joiner 25 pass from Anderson (Green kick) OAK 31-21
CIN - Curtis 14 pass from Anderson (Green kick) OAK 31-28
The Raiders outgained Cincinnati in total yards, 358-258, and first downs, 27-17, while also recording five sacks, jumping to a 31-14 lead, and holding off a Bengals comeback in the final period.
Oakland kicker George Blanda made a 31-yard field goal, while quarterback Ken Stabler threw two touchdown passes in the first half, one for 9 yards to Mike Siani and an 8 yard one to Bob Moore. Cincinnati's lone score in the first was a 1-yard run by running back Stan Fritts. The Raiders then scored on their first drive of the second half with running back Pete Banaszak's 6-yard touchdown run to take a 24-7 lead. Then after the Bengals marched 91 yards to cut the lead, 24-14, with Lenvil Elliott's 6-yard touchdown run, Stabler threw his third touchdown pass of the game, this time a 2-yard pass to tight end Dave Casper.
Trailing 31-14 in the fourth quarter, the Bengals managed to come back with two unanswered touchdowns. First, Cincinnati defensive back Ken Riley intercepted a pass from Stabler and returned it 34 yards to the Raiders 34-yard line, setting up Ken Anderson's 25-yard touchdown pass to Charlie Joiner. Then the Bengals defense forced Oakland to punt for the first time in the game, and Ray Guy's kick went just 38 yards. Three minutes later, Anderson's 14-yard touchdown pass to Isaac Curtis cut the score to 31-28. With 4:19 left in the game, Bengals defensive lineman Ron Carpenter recovered a Banaszak fumble on the Raiders 37-yard line. But on the next play, linebacker Ted Hendricks sacked Anderson for an 8-yard loss, pushing the Bengals out of field goals range. Two plays later, the Raiders stopped the Cincinnati offense on fourth down and ran out the last two minutes of the game.
Stabler threw for 199 yards and three touchdowns, with 1 interception. Anderson threw for 201 yards and two touchdowns.
DAL - Pearson 50 pass from Staubach (Fritsch kick) DAL 17-14
With 24 seconds left in the game, Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach threw the 50-yard winning touchdown pass to wide receiver Drew Pearson on a play that became known as the Hail Mary pass. After a scoreless first quarter, Fred McNeill recovered a muffed punt for Minnesota to set up a 1-yard touchdown run by running back Chuck Foreman. Dallas did not tie the game until the third quarter when Doug Dennison scored on a 4-yard touchdown run. Then after the Cowboys added a fourth-quarter field goal, the Vikings took the lead, 14-10, with 5:24 remaining in the game by marching 70 yards to score on running back Brent McClanahan's 1-yard touchdown run. The Cowboys got the ball back on its own 15-yard line with only 1:51 left, but Staubach's fourth-down-and-16 pass to Pearson set up the winning "Hail Mary pass." The fourth and 16 completion proved to be a forshadowing of events to come, as this play had its own minor controversy, as Minnesota argued that Pearson was out of bounds when he made this catch. The official ruled that he was forced out by Nate Wright, which replay appeared to confirm. These two would of course participate in a more controversial play two plays later, as Drew Pearson caught a 50-yard pass on what Staubach called (in the postgame interview) a "Hail Mary" pass, the first time that term was used to describe such a play. Wright fell down as the ball came down, and the Vikings argued that Pearson pushed off and should have been flagged for offensive interference. The play drew the ire of Minnesota's Alan Page, who was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct, a 15-yard penalty that allowed Dallas to kick off from the 50, and ejected. Fran Tarkenton then vehemently argued with the referees, inspiring fans to throw objects onto the field, one of which was a liquor bottle that struck official Armen Terzian in the head, creating a large forehead gash and rendering him unconscious. Terzian had to wear a bandage, later requiring 11 stitches, as he walked off the field and replaced by substitute official Charley Musser for the final two plays. The NFL later banned glass bottles from being sold at stadiums.
It was another disappointing end to a spectacular season for the Vikings. They had finished the season with an NFC best 12-2 record and quarterback Fran Tarkenton won the NFL Most Valuable Player Award, and the NFL Offensive Player of the Year Award, while Foreman amassed 1,761 all-purpose yards and 22 touchdowns. The day only got worse for Tarkenton, as he soon learned his father had died of a heart attack while watching the game. The upstart and youthful Cowboys, not expected to do much after an 8-6 season in 1974 and the loss of several key veterans, would go on to defeat the Rams and lose to Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl.
A defensive struggle turned into an offensive battle as the Steelers managed to stop the Raiders' final drive for the winning score as time ran out. Only Pittsburgh could manage to score during the first three quarters, with Roy Gerela's 36-yard field goal. But late in the third period, Steelers linebacker Jack Lambert recovered a fumble at the Pittsburgh 30-yard line. The turnover set up running back Franco Harris' 25-yard touchdown run to give the Steelers a 10-0 lead. Oakland responded with Mike Siani's 14-yard touchdown reception, but was countered by John Stallworth's 20-yard touchdown catch. But the Steelers' ensuing extra point was missed, and with the score 16-7, the Raiders found themselves at the Pittsburgh 24-yard line, third down and 2 yards to go, with 18 seconds left in the game. They opted to have George Blanda kick a 41-yard field goal to pull the deficit to 6 points. Then Marv Hubbard recovered the ensuing onside kick with 9 seconds remaining to give Oakland one last attempt to win the game. Cliff Branch then caught a 37-yard reception, but he was stopped at the Pittsburgh 15-yard line before he could get out of bounds and the clock ran out. Harris had a superb performance, rushing for 79 yards and a touchdown, while also catching 5 passes for 58 yards
NFC Championship: Dallas Cowboys 37, Los Angeles Rams 7Edit
DAL - Pearson 18 pass from Staubach (Fritsch kick) DAL 7-0
DAL - Richards 4 pass from Staubach (Fritsch kick) DAL 14-0
DAL - Pearson 15 pass from Staubach (Fritsch kick) DAL 21-0
DAL - Pearson 19 pass from Staubach (Fritsch kick) DAL 28-0
DAL - field goal Fritsch 40 DAL 31-0
DAL - field goal Fritsch 26 DAL 34-0
LA - Cappelletti 1 run (Dempsey kick) DAL 34-7
DAL - field goal Fritsch 26 DAL 37-7
Quarterback Roger Staubach threw for 220 yards and 4 touchdown passes while also rushing for 54 yards as the Cowboys upset the favored Rams. The first passing attempt by Los Angeles quarterback James Harris, who was coming off an injury and making his first start since the 13th game of the season, was intercepted by Dallas linebacker D.D. Lewis. This set up Staubach's first touchdown pass, a screen to running back Preston Pearson for 18 yards. A 4-yard touchdown reception by Golden Richards and a diving catch in the end zone by Preston Pearson put the Cowboys up 21-0 by halftime. Dallas scored again on their first drive of the second half on a shovel pass to Preston Pearson for his third touchdown reception of the game. Toni Fritsch later added three field goals. Harris gave way to backup Ron Jaworski, but only John Cappelletti's 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter prevented the Rams from being shut out. Pearson finished the game with 7 receptions for 123 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 20 rushing yards. The Dallas defense allowed only 118 yards, a mere 22 on the ground, and sacked Jaworski 5 times.