One of the unique themes in NFL history is whenever a team has a famous miracle playoff win, those teams rarely win the Super Bowl. Well even the NFL championship for that matter when you think back to Detroit’s 31-27 win over San Francisco in the 1957 playoffs. In that game the 49ers were up 24-7 in the 3rd quarter only to lose to a series of backups for the Lions. It was the only instance where a miracle playoff win would culminate with a league championship. Fast forward to The Immaculate Reception and the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1972 playoffs.
After winning their first ever playoff game over the Oakland Raiders, most people forget they ran smack into the undefeated Miami Dolphins. As far as the AFC Championship Game, the Steelers were playing with house money. They were one game away from the Super Bowl and were able to host the championship game since it was rotated by division back then.
Pete Rozelle didn’t institute home field advantage until 1978. He did it as a means to reward not only the team with the best record. He wanted to insure teams would play all the way through their schedule and not take the final weeks off. Yet in ’72, the 14-0 Miami Dolphins traveled to the 11-3 steel city to take on Franco’s Italian Army for the right to go to Super Bowl VII.
It was the first of only three times Don Shula and Miami would meet Chuck Noll’s Steelers in the playoffs during their coaching careers. Noll had served on Shula’s staff in Baltimore and had ties dating back to the Cleveland Browns of the 1950’s where they were both players.
Ironically the case remains. Why is it when a team should be riding an emotional lift like a miracle finish in the playoffs, they don’t win it all?? It’s easy to say they let down but would it be more that they’re an incomplete team that gets exposed as competition gets better?? The ’72 Steelers (Immaculate Reception) the ’72 Cowboys (Roger’s 1st comeback) the ’75 Cowboys (Hail Mary) ’80 Cowboys (Duel In Dixie) ’86 Denver Broncos (The Drive) ’99 Tennessee Titans (Homerun Throwback) all fell short of winning it all….. The lone exception would be the 1981 San Francisco 49ers with The Catch.
Chuck Noll would obviously make his mark, embarking on one of the greatest runs in history. Over the next 7 seasons, his team made the playoffs every year with their winning a Super Bowl in 4 of those seasons. We lost another legend with Noll’s passing Friday night. This article is dedicated to the Hall of Fame coach…