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1974 NFL season

Updated: 2017-07-22T02:41Z
1974 National Football League season
Regular season
DurationSeptember 15 – December 15, 1974
Start dateDecember 21, 1974
AFC ChampionsPittsburgh Steelers
NFC ChampionsMinnesota Vikings
Super Bowl IX
DateJanuary 12, 1975
SiteTulane Stadium, New Orleans, Louisiana
ChampionsPittsburgh Steelers
Pro Bowl
DateJanuary 20, 1975
SiteMiami Orange Bowl

The 1974 NFL season was the 55th regular season of the National Football League. The season ended with Super Bowl IX when the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Minnesota Vikings. Players held a strike from July 1 until August 10,[1] prior to the regular season beginning;[2] only one preseason game (that year's Chicago College All-Star Game) was canceled, and the preseason contests were held with all-rookie rosters.

Major rule changes

The following changes were adopted to add tempo and action to the game [3][4] (and to help counter the proposed changes announced by the World Football League to their games):

  • One sudden death overtime period (15 minutes) was added to all preseason and regular season games; if no team scored in this period, the game would result in a tie. This rule was enacted to decrease the number of tie games. The first ever regular season overtime, a September 22 game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Denver Broncos, ended in a 35–35 draw. It was not until November 10, when the New York Jets defeated the New York Giants, 26–20, that an overtime game would produce a winner. Since the 2012 season teams get one possession to score unless the team scores a touchdown or safety.
  • Goal posts: moved from the goal line to the end line, where they were since 1933. This was to reduce the number of games being decided on field goals, and to increase their difficulty, as well as to reduce the risk of player injuries.
  • Missed field goals: The defensive team takes possession of the ball at the line of scrimmage or the 20-yard line, whichever is farther from the goal line. (In 1994, that reference to the line of scrimmage was changed to the kick spot, which is usually 7 yards behind the line of scrimmage.) Notice that the 20-yard line is where the defense takes possession after a touchback.
  • Kickoffs: moved to the 35-yard line (from the 40-yard line) to reduce touchbacks, promoting more excitement with kickoff returns. In 1994, the kickoff would be moved farther back, to the 30-yard line, where it remained before it returned to the original 1974 position since the 2011 season.
  • Punt returns: members of the kicking team cannot go beyond the line of scrimmage until the ball is kicked, except the player at the farthest end of each side of the snapper. The original rule change would have prohibited any player from crossing the line of scrimmage prior to the ball being kicked.
  • An eligible pass receiver can only be contacted once by defenders after the receiver has gone 3 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
  • When the defensive team commits an illegal use of hands, arms, or body foul from behind the line of scrimmage, the penalty will be assessed from the previous spot instead of the spot of the foul.
  • The penalties for offensive holding, illegal use of hands, and tripping were reduced from 15-yards to 10-yards.
  • Wide receivers blocking back towards the ball within three yards from the line of scrimmage may not block below the waist.

Division races

Starting in 1970, and until 2002, there were three divisions (Eastern, Central and Western) in each conference. The winners of each division, and a fourth "wild card" team based on the best non-division winner, qualified for the playoffs. The tiebreaker rules were changed to start with head-to-head competition, followed by division records, common opponents records, and conference play.

National Football Conference

WeekEasternCentralWesternWild Card
1St. Louis, Washington, Dallas1–0–0Chicago, Minnesota1–0–0Los Angeles, San Fran.1–0–04 teams1–0–0
2St. Louis2–0–0Minnesota2–0–0Los Angeles, San Fran.2–0–0Los Angeles, San Fran.2–0–0
3St. Louis3–0–0Minnesota3–0–0Los Angeles, San Fran.2–1–04 teams2–1–0
4St. Louis4–0–0Minnesota4–0–0Los Angeles3–1–0Philadelphia3–1–0
5St. Louis5–0–0Minnesota5–0–0Los Angeles3–2–0Philadelphia4–1–0
6St. Louis6–0–0Minnesota5–1–0Los Angeles4–2–0Philadelphia4–2–0
7St. Louis7–0–0Minnesota5–2–0Los Angeles5–2–0Washington4–3–0
8St. Louis7–1–0Minnesota6–2–0Los Angeles6–2–0Washington5–3–0
9St. Louis7–2–0Minnesota7–2–0Los Angeles7–2–0Washington6–3–0
10St. Louis8–2–0Minnesota7–3–0Los Angeles7–3–0Washington7–3–0
11St. Louis9–2–0Minnesota7–4–0Los Angeles8–3–0Washington8–3–0
12St. Louis9–3–0Minnesota8–4–0Los Angeles9–3–0Washington8–4–0
13St. Louis9–4–0Minnesota9–4–0Los Angeles9–4–0Washington9–4–0
14St. Louis10–4–0Minnesota10–4–0Los Angeles10–4–0Washington10–4–0

American Football Conference

WeekEasternCentralWesternWild Card
1Buffalo, New England1–0–0Pittsburgh, Houston, Cincinnati1–0–0Kansas City1–0–0Denver, Kansas City, San Diego1–0–0
2New England2–0–0Pittsburgh1–0–1Oakland*1–1–08 teams1–1–0
3New England3–0–0Cincinnati2–1–0Oakland*2–1–03 teams2–1–0
4New England4–0–0Cincinnati3–1–0Oakland3–1–0Pittsburgh2–1–1
5New England5–0–0Cincinnati4–1–0Oakland4–1–0Buffalo4–1–0
6Buffalo5–1–0Pittsburgh4–1–1Oakland5–1–0New England5–1–0
7Buffalo6–1–0Pittsburgh5–1–1Oakland6–1–0New England6–1–0
8Buffalo7–1–0Pittsburgh6–1–1Oakland7–1–0New England6–2–0

Final standings

W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, PCT= Winning Percentage, PF= Points For, PA = Points Against

 x  – clinched wild card berth,  y  – clinched division title

AFC East
y-Miami Dolphins1130.786327216
x-Buffalo Bills950.643264244
New England Patriots770.500348289
New York Jets770.500279300
Baltimore Colts2120.143190329
AFC Central
y-Pittsburgh Steelers1031.750305189
Houston Oilers770.500236282
Cincinnati Bengals770.500283259
Cleveland Browns4100.286251344
AFC West
y-Oakland Raiders1220.857355228
Denver Broncos761.536302294
Kansas City Chiefs590.357233293
San Diego Chargers590.357212285
NFC East
y-St. Louis Cardinals1040.714285218
x-Washington Redskins1040.714320196
Dallas Cowboys860.571297235
Philadelphia Eagles770.500242217
New York Giants2120.143195299
NFC Central
y-Minnesota Vikings1040.714310195
Detroit Lions770.500256270
Green Bay Packers680.429210206
Chicago Bears4100.286152279
NFC West
y-Los Angeles Rams1040.714263181
San Francisco 49ers680.429226236
New Orleans Saints590.357166263
Atlanta Falcons3110.214111271


  • New England finished ahead of N.Y. Jets in the AFC East based on better record against common opponents (5–4 to Jets' 4–5).
  • Houston finished ahead of Cincinnati in the AFC Central based on head-to-head sweep (2–0).
  • Kansas City finished ahead of San Diego in the AFC West based on better record against common opponents (4–6 to Chargers' 3–7).
  • St. Louis finished ahead of Washington in the NFC East based on head-to-head sweep (2–0).


Note: Prior to the 1975 season, the home teams in the playoffs were decided based on a yearly rotation.
Divisional PlayoffsConf. Championship GamesSuper Bowl IX
December 22 – Three Rivers Stadium    
 Buffalo 14
December 29 – Oakland Coliseum
 Pittsburgh 32 
 Pittsburgh 24
December 21 – Oakland Coliseum
   Oakland 13 
 Miami 26
January 12 – Tulane Stadium
 Oakland 28 
 Pittsburgh 16
December 22 – L.A. Coliseum  
  Minnesota 6
 Washington 10
December 29 – Metropolitan Stadium
 Los Angeles 19 
 Los Angeles 10
December 21 – Metropolitan Stadium
   Minnesota 14 
 St. Louis 14
 Minnesota 30 


Most Valuable PlayerKen Stabler, Quarterback, Oakland
Coach of the YearDon Coryell, St. Louis Cardinals
Offensive Player of the YearKen Stabler, Quarterback, Oakland
Defensive Player of the YearJoe Greene, Defensive End, Pittsburgh
Offensive Rookie of the YearDon Woods, Running Back, San Diego
Defensive Rookie of the YearJack Lambert, Linebacker, Pittsburgh


  1. ^ Seppy, Tom (August 12, 1974). "Players halt strike - for 2 weeks". St. Petersburg Times. Florida. Associated Press. p. 1C. 
  2. ^ "'Critical stage' for strike talks". St. Petersburg Times. Florida. AP, UPI wires. July 31, 1974. p. 1C. 
  3. ^ "NFL rule changes". Toledo Blade. Ohio. Associated Press. April 26, 1974. p. 26. 
  4. ^ "NFL rule changes bring mixed reactions". Milwaukee Sentinel. Associated Press. April 26, 1974. p. 1, part 2. 
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