The NFC Championship Games
The NFC Championship Game is one of the two semi-final playoff games of the National Football League, the largest professional American football league in the United States. The game is played on the penultimate Sunday in January and determines the champion of the National Football Conference.
The AFC Championship Games
The AFC Championship Game is one of the two semi-final playoff games of the National Football League, the largest professional American football league in the United States. The game is played on the penultimate Sunday in January and determines the champion of the American Football Conference.
The 1968 National Football League championship game was the 36th annual championship game. The winner of the game represented the NFL in the third AFL-NFL World Championship Game also called the Super Bowl. The NFL title game was held December 29 at Cleveland Municipal Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio.
The Baltimore Colts (13–1) won the Coastal Division and defeated the Minnesota Vikings 24–14 in the Western Conference championship game. The Colts were led by head coach Don Shula and reserve quarterback Earl Morrall. This was the Colts' fourth championship game appearance since joining the NFL in 1953, with a 2–1 record in the title game.
Cleveland Browns (10–4) were the only team to defeat Baltimore during the regular season, and won the Century Division. The Browns defeated the Dallas Cowboys 31–20 in the Eastern Conference championship game. The Browns were led by head coach Blanton Collier, running back Leroy Kelly, and quarterback Bill Nelsen. This was the Browns' tenth NFL championship game appearance since joining the NFL in 1950, with a 4–5 record in the title game.
Cleveland won the regular season game 30–20 ten weeks earlier in Baltimore, but the Colts were six-point favorites for the championship game. The 1968 game was a rematch of the 1964 title game and at the same venue, but with far different results.
This was the sixth and final NFL championship game held at Cleveland Municipal Stadium.
The 1969 NFL Championship Game was the 37th and final championship game prior to the AFL–NFL merger, played January 4, 1970, at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minnesota, a suburb south of Minneapolis. The winner of the game earned a berth in Super Bowl IV in New Orleans against the champion of the American Football League.
The Minnesota Vikings of the Western Conference hosted the Cleveland Browns of the Eastern Conference. It was the Vikings' first appearance in the title game, while the Browns were making their second straight appearance and fourth of the 1960s.
Minnesota had a regular season record of 12–2, including a 51–3 defeat of the Browns eight weeks earlier on November 9. The Vikings defeated the Los Angeles Rams 23–20 in the Western Conference championship a week earlier at Met Stadium. They were coached by Bud Grant and led on offense by quarterback Joe Kapp and wide receiver Gene Washington. The defense allowed only 133 points (9½ per game) during the regular season and their four defensive linemen were known as the "Purple People Eaters."
Cleveland was 10–3–1 during the regular season and had upset the Dallas Cowboys 38–14 at the Cotton Bowl for the Eastern Conference title. The Browns were coached by Blanton Collier; Bill Nelsen was the starting quarterback and Gary Collins and Paul Warfield were star wide receivers for the team.
Although not as severe as the "Ice Bowl" of 1967, the weather conditions were bitterly cold at 8 °F (−13 °C), with a sub-zero wind chill factor. Cleveland linebacker Jim Houston suffered frostbite during the game and was hospitalized.
Minnesota was favored by nine points to win the title game at home, and they won, 27–7.
Of the four NFL teams that joined the league during the AFL era (1960s), Minnesota was the sole winner of a pre-merger NFL championship. The Dallas Cowboys entered the league in 1960 and lost two NFL title games to the Green Bay Packers, in 1966 and 1967. The expansion Atlanta Falcons (1966) and New Orleans Saints (1967) did not qualify for the postseason until 1978 and 1987, respectively.
The Vikings would go on to lose Super Bowl IV 23-7 to the AFL champion Kansas City Chiefs. Starting with the 1970 season, the NFL champion was determined in the Super Bowl, beginning with Super Bowl V.
Cleveland had lost the previous season's NFL title game 34–0 at home, and this time fared little better. The Vikings dominated the game, racking up 381 yards with no turnovers, while Cleveland gained just 268 yards and turned the ball over three times.
The Vikings took a lead just four minutes into the first quarter, driving 70 yards for a touchdown in 8 plays. The key play of the drive was a pass from Joe Kapp to receiver Gene Washington that was nearly 5 yards short of the mark. Despite the short throw, Washington was able to come back and haul it in for a 33-yard gain to the Browns' 24-yard line. Two plays later, Dave Osborn's 12-yard run moved the ball to the 7. Then two plays after that, Bill Brown accidentally slipped and bumped into Kapp while moving up to take a handoff, but Kapp simply kept the ball himself and ran it 7 yards for a touchdown.
The situation never got any better for Cleveland. The next time Minnesota got the ball, defensive back Erich Barnes slipped while in one on one coverage with Washington, enabling him to catch a pass from Kapp and take off for a 75-yard touchdown completion. Barnes had been knocked down by linebacker Jim Houston, his teammate, and this made the score 14-0 after only a few seconds more than 7 minutes of play. Near the end of the first quarter, Browns running back Leroy Kelly lost a fumble that was recovered by linebacker Wally Hilgenberg on the Cleveland 43. Kapp then completed a 12-yard pass to Washington before Fred Cox finished the drive with a 30-yard field goal, putting the Vikings up 17–0. Later in the second period, Hilgenberg snuffed out a Cleveland scoring threat by intercepting a pass from Bill Nelsen on the Vikings' 33-yard line. Minnesota subsequently drove 67 yards in 8 plays. Kapp started the drive with a pair of completions to John Henderson for 17 total yards, while Osborn broke off a 16-yard run and ended up finishing the drive with a 20-yard touchdown burst, giving the Vikings a 24–0 lead with 4:46 left in the first half. Cleveland responded with a drive to the Vikings' 17, but turned the ball over on downs when Nelsen overthrew receiver Gary Collins in the end zone on 4th and 3.
Date: January 4, 1970
Game time: 12:00 p.m. CST  
Game weather: 8 °F (−13 °C), wind 9 mph (14 km/h), wind chill −6 °F (−21 °C), relative humidity 75%
Game attendance: 46,503
Referee: Tommy Bell
The 1980 NFC Championship Game was the shining moment of the Dick Vermeil era in Philadelphia. The game, played at the Vet against the hated Cowboys propelled the Eagles into Super Bowl XV. Played on January 11, 1981 , a team that featured Ron Jaworski as QB and Vince Papale on Special Teams. Nostalgia plus action plus Eagles glory, as they took down their rivals, the Dallas Cowboys.
at Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Game time: 12:30 p.m. EST
Game weather: 17 °F (−8 °C), sunny, breezy
Game attendance: 71,522
Referee: Jerry Markbreit
TV announcers (CBS): Pat Summerall (play-by-play) and Tom Brookshier (color commentator)
Although Philadelphia quarterback Ron Jaworski completed only nine of 29 passes for 91 yards and was intercepted twice, running back Wilbert Montgomery led the Eagles to a victory by rushing for 194 yards and a touchdown. Dallas had been the highest scoring team in the NFL during the regular season, but against the Eagles defense, they could only gain 206 yards and score a single touchdown. They also fumbled five times, losing three of them.
Dallas was forced to a three and out on their opening drive, and the kick from quarterback Danny White (who also served as the team's punter) went just 26 yards before John Sciarra returned it to the Cowboys 42-yard line. One play later, Montgomery scored on a 42-yard rushing touchdown. The Eagles earned themselves chances to score on their next two drives. However, they were stopped both times and their special teams unit failed to capitalize. First, they drove to the Dallas 23-yard line, only to have Tony Franklin's field goal attempt blocked by Dallas cornerback Aaron Mitchell. Then they drove to the Cowboys 16-yard line, where Harvey Martin sacked Jaworski on third down and a high snap on the field goal try sailed right through Jaworski's hands.
Midway through the second quarter, White, who had been held to negative passing yardage, finally got the Cowboys going on a 10-play, 68-yard drive, completing an 18-yard screen pass to Tony Dorsett and a 12-yarder to Drew Pearson before Dorsett wrapped it up with a 3-yard touchdown run to tie the game. The score would remain 7–7 at halftime, due to another blown scoring chance by the Eagles when Jaworski's touchdown pass to Harold Carmichael was canceled out by a 15-yard personal foul penalty on guard Woody Peoples.
In the third quarter, the first turnover of the game occurred when Philadelphia's Billy Campfield recovered a fumbled punt return from James Jones. Dallas quickly took the ball back with Anthony Dickerson's interception, but they only held on for a few plays before White lost a fumble due to a massive hit from Carl Hairston, which defensive end Dennis Harrison recovered on the Dallas 11-yard line to set up Franklin's 26-yard field goal. Dallas seemed to be in position to respond when tight end Jay Saldi made a leaping catch on the Eagles 40-yard line for a 28-yard gain, White's longest completion of the day. On the next play rookie cornerback Roynell Young stripped the ball from Dorsett, and linebacker Jerry Robinson returned it 22 yards to the Dallas 38-yard line. Six plays later, running back Leroy Harris scored a 9-yard touchdown to give the Eagles a 17–7 lead. Later on, Montgomery's 55-yard carry put the Eagles in position to put the game away, but Mitchell kept Dallas' chances alive by intercepting a pass from Jaworski in the end zone.
Despite the interception, the Cowboys' offense was still unable to move the ball. For the rest of the game, the Cowboys never made it into Eagles territory, and after Philadelphia put together a 62-yard drive to score the final points of the game on Franklin's 20-yard field goal with 2:10 remaining, Young intercepted a pass from White on their final play of the game with 30 seconds remaining.
The Eagles, as the home team, elected to wear their road white jerseys instead of their home green jerseys so as to force Dallas to wear their rarely used blue jerseys rather than their familiar white jerseys; through the years, the Cowboys' blue jerseys were said to be jinxed since they often lost wearing them – especially in Super Bowl V. This would be the last game in which the Cowboys wore their royal blue jerseys; in 1981, they debuted a new navy blue uniform with a significantly different and darker shade of blue than that still used for the numbers on their white jerseys.
Montgomery finished with more all-purpose yards (208) then the entire Cowboys offense. This was the first time Dallas had ever allowed an opposing player to rush for over 100 yards in team postseason history. This would be the Eagles' last playoff victory until the 1992 season. Super Bowl XV began a five-game postseason losing streak for the franchise.
The 1982 regular season was shortened by a lockout, but that did not stop the Washington Redskins from rolling to an 8-1 record. The franchise looked poised to make it to their second Super Bowl appearance. The Dallas Cowboys would met them in the NFC Championship and the Redskins clung to a seven point lead in the fourth quarter. The game was finally sealed by a Darryl Grant pick six, sending Washington to Super Bowl they would go on to win.
The 1982 Washington Redskins season was the team's 50th in the National Football League, and 45th in Washington, D.C.. Although the Redskins lost all their preseason games, they were to advance from an 8–8 record the previous season to become the only team in NFL History to win the Super Bowl after not winning a pre-season game. Only the 1990 Buffalo Bills and the 2000 New York Giants have since made it to the Super Bowl after a winless pre-season.
The 1982 NFL season was shortened from sixteen games per team to nine because of a players’ strike. The NFL adopted a special 16-team playoff tournament; eight teams from each conference were seeded 1–8, and division standings were ignored. Washington had the best record in the NFC, and were the number one seed in the conference for the playoff tournament.
The Redskins marched through the NFC playoffs, beating each of their opponents by an average of 19 points. In a rematch of Washington's only prior Super Bowl appearance ten years prior, the Redskins – in a game famous for Washington's "70 Chip’ play on fourth-and-1 – went on to beat the Miami Dolphins 27–17 to win Super Bowl XVII. It was the Redskins’ first ever Super Bowl victory, and their first NFL Championship in forty years. Combining the post-season and their first Super Bowl victory, the Redskins finished the season with an overall record of 12–1.
12:04 Septien 27-yard Field Goal
16:26 Joe Theismann Escapes rush and delivers strike
19:46 Theismann 19-yard TD Pass
37:17 Moseley misses field goal
40:01 Tony Dorsett stopped on 3rd and 1
43:45 Cowboys Botch Punt, Redskins recover
47:30 Riggins 1-yard TD Run
1:11:51 Drew Pearson 6-yard TD Catch
1:17:41 Riggins 4-yard TD Run
1:25:58 Butch Johnson 23-yard TD catch
1:37:55 Septien Missed Field Goal
1:47:15 Moseley 29-yard Field Goal
1:48:51 Darryl Gant Pick Six
1:56:57 Redskins Stop Cowboys on 4th Down
2:06:26 Redskins Celebration
Jan. 8, 1989
Their second NFC championship game of the decade was played in ''Bear weather,'' 17 degrees and wind gusts up to 30 miles an hour.
The 49ers turned it into a gentle bay breeze, with Montana finding Rice twice for touchdowns in the first half. After completing 17 of 27 passes and another touchdown to John Frank, Montana`s performance was called by Walsh
''his greatest game under the conditions.''
McMahon was starting his first game since a knee injury Oct. 29. He completed 14 of 29 passes before he was replaced by Tomczak in the fourth quarter. It was McMahon`s second playoff loss in Soldier Field in two years, and though it was his first loss to the 49ers in four starts, it turned out to be his final Chicago appearance in a Bear uniform.
The 49ers had helped mold and end an era. They went on to win their third Super Bowl.
''You have to look at it this way: Personnel-wise, they`re a little better than us,'' Ditka said. ''It will be a tough road back, but we`ll be back. It`s not the end of the world.''
Just the end of the decade. The Bears aren`t back yet and the 49ers never went anywhere. For the first time, their game Sunday means nothing to either team.