Super Bowl IX (9): Minnesota Vikings vs Pittsburgh Steelers
Super Bowl IX was an American football game played between the American Football Conference (AFC) champion Pittsburgh Steelers and the National Football Conference (NFC) champion Minnesota Vikings to decide the National Football League (NFL) champion for the 1974 season. The game was played on January 12, 1975, at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans, Louisiana, the last professional American football game played at that venue (the game was originally planned to be held at the Louisiana Superdome, but that stadium was not completed yet). The Steelers defeated the Vikings by the score of 16–6 to win their first Super Bowl championship.
This game matched two of the NFL's best defenses and two future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Led by quarterback Terry Bradshaw and the Steel Curtain defense, the Steelers advanced to their first Super Bowl after posting a 10–3–1 regular season record and playoff victories over the Buffalo Bills and the Oakland Raiders. The Vikings were led by quarterback Fran Tarkenton and the Purple People Eaters defense; they advanced to their second consecutive Super Bowl and third overall after finishing the regular season with a 10–4 record and defeating the St. Louis Cardinals and the Los Angeles Rams in the playoffs.
The first half of Super Bowl IX was a defensive struggle, with the lone score being the first safety in Super Bowl history when Tarkenton was downed in his own end zone. The Steelers then recovered a fumble on the second half kickoff, and scored on fullback Franco Harris's 9-yard run. The Vikings cut the score, 9–6, early in the fourth quarter by recovering a blocked punt in Pittsburgh's end zone for a touchdown, but the Steelers then drove 66 yards on their ensuing possession to score on Larry Brown's 4-yard touchdown reception to put the game out of reach.
In total, the Steelers limited the Vikings to Super Bowl record lows of nine first downs, 119 total offensive yards, 17 rushing yards, and no offensive scores (Minnesota's only score came on a blocked punt, and they did not even score on the extra point attempt). The Steelers accomplished this despite losing starting linebackers Andy Russell and Jack Lambert, who were injured and replaced by Ed Bradley and Loren Toews for most of the second half. On the other hand, Pittsburgh had 333 yards of total offense. Harris, who ran for a Super Bowl record 158 yards (more than the entire Minnesota offense) and a touchdown, was named the Super Bowl's Most Valuable Player.
For the first time in four years, the Miami Dolphins were not able to advance to the Super Bowl. While the Steelers defeated the Buffalo Bills 32–14 in the first round, the favored Dolphins lost to the Oakland Raiders 28–26, giving up Raiders running back Clarence Davis' 8-yard touchdown reception with 26 seconds remaining in the game with a play now known as the Sea of Hands. The key play in the game occurred when the Dolphins were in control and were leading the Raiders 19–14 midway through the fourth quarter. Cliff Branch hauled in a 72-yard touchdown pass from Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler when third-year Dolphin defensive back Henry Stuckey, the man assigned to cover Branch on the play, fell down, and the resultant wide open Branch caught the bomb and sprinted to the end zone. After George Blanda kicked the PAT, the Raiders led 21-19. Dolphin fans were furious because fan favorite Lloyd Mumphord was replaced with Stuckey. Mumphord and head coach Don Shula were involved in a feud at the time, and it is thought that Stuckey was given the starting job for this game because of Shula's and Mumphord's differences of opinion. Afterwards, Stuckey was released in the offseason. Many believed that had Mumphord been in the game, there would have been no "Sea of Hands" play.
The Steelers defeated the Buffalo Bills 32–14 at home in the divisional round, then won the AFC Championship Game over the host Raiders, 24–13.
Meanwhile, Minnesota allowed only a combined 24 points in their playoff wins against the St. Louis Cardinals, 30–14, and their narrow defeat of the Los Angeles Rams, 14–10, after their defense stopped an attempted comeback touchdown drive from the Rams on the Vikings' own 2-yard line.
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