NFL on Christmas Day: Some of probably the most memorable video games

Hank Stram roams the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs sideline in December 1971.

(Related Press)

The NFL first experimented with Christmas Day video games in 1971, again when the common season was 14 video games and led to mid-December. That yr, the league staged two divisional playoff video games: Dallas at Minnesota and Miami at Kansas Metropolis.

These matchups featured a parade of busts — 33 future Corridor of Fame members, together with all 4 head coaches: Tom Landry, Bud Grant, Don Shula and Hank Stram.

The Dolphins-Chiefs showdown wound up going into double-overtime and stays the longest recreation in league historical past. It was 82 minutes and 40 seconds on the clock earlier than Miami’s Garo Yepremian kicked a 37-yard subject purpose for a 27-24 victory.

The entire thing lasted greater than seven hours, so all these followers packed into Kansas Metropolis’s Memorial Stadium needed to admire that it was an unseasonably heat day within the low 60s. Arrowhead Stadium opened the next season.

It was the primary playoff win in franchise historical past for the Dolphins, who finally superior to the Tremendous Bowl, the place they misplaced to Dallas. Miami would win the following two Tremendous Bowls, together with a 17-0 end in 1972, nonetheless the league’s solely “perfect” season.

Dropping that Christmas Day recreation had a longstanding adverse impression on Stram’s Chiefs, who had gained the Tremendous Bowl two years earlier. There was one play specifically that triggered some Kansas Metropolis gamers to lose religion of their coach.

“We could have easily won the damn game.”

— Corridor of Fame linebacker Willie Lanier on the Chiefs’ loss to the Dolphins on Dec. 25, 1971

The play in query was a missed 29-yard subject purpose by Jan Stenerud within the second quarter that will have allowed the Chiefs to construct on their slim lead. Kansas Metropolis had deliberate a pretend, and Stram wished Bobby Bell to snap the ball on to Stenerud for a run round the correct finish.

However unhealthy communication and execution foiled the plan. Stram had advised Stenerud to have a look at the spot on the bottom, fairly than tipping his hand by wanting up on the lengthy snapper. However Bell didn’t get that message. All Bell knew as he appeared backward by means of his legs was that the clock was winding down, and the kicker wasn’t wanting up at him.

So, as a substitute of a direct snap to Stenerud, Bell snapped the ball to holder Len Dawson. Caught off-guard, Stenerud scrambled to regain his steadiness and rushed the kick, narrowly lacking. It was one among three misses that day for the Corridor of Famer, as a later kick was blocked.

What was deeply troubling to Kansas Metropolis gamers and triggered them to lose religion in Stram was the coach didn’t confess to reporters after the sport that the Chiefs had been making an attempt a pretend. As a substitute, by saying nothing, he rested the blame for that second-quarter fiasco on the shoulders of his kicker.

“We could have easily won the damn game,” recalled Corridor of Fame linebacker Willie Lanier of the Chiefs. “But it was appearing that [Stram] wanted this acknowledgment as though he was this fabulous coach that was innovative. So he never took responsibility.

“If you talk to Jan, he’ll refuse to talk about that. He is still bothered about that. Because it made it appear as if he missed three field goals. He only missed one; the first one was Hank’s foolishness, and another one was blocked.”

Lanier mentioned the botched pretend had an impact that far outlasted the sport.

“The domino effect was, if you’re the captain of the ship, you’ve got to take responsibility,” he mentioned. “It was years after years after years before any of the sports writers knew anything about that.”

Lanier mentioned that Stram, who died in 2005, “lost the team” by not standing up for Stenerud after the sport.