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1977 NFL season

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

1977 National Football League season
The Cowboys playing against the Broncos in Super Bowl XII
Regular season
DurationSeptember 18 – December 18, 1977
Start dateDecember 24, 1977
AFC ChampionsDenver Broncos
NFC ChampionsDallas Cowboys
Super Bowl XII
DateJanuary 15, 1978
SiteLouisiana Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana
ChampionsDallas Cowboys
Pro Bowl
DateJanuary 23, 1978
SiteTampa Stadium, Tampa, Florida
1977 NFL season is located in the United States
AFC teams: West, Central, East
1977 NFL season is located in the United States
NFC teams: West, Central, East

The 1977 NFL season was the 58th regular season of the National Football League. The two second-year expansion teams switched conferences, with the Seattle Seahawks moving from the NFC West to the AFC West, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers transferring from the AFC West to the NFC Central.

Instead of a traditional Thanksgiving Day game hosted by the Dallas Cowboys, the league scheduled a Miami Dolphins at St. Louis Cardinals contest. This would be only the second season since 1966 that the Cowboys did not play on that holiday. It marked the last time that the Cowboys did not play on Thanksgiving.

This was the last NFL regular season with 14 games. The regular season was expanded to 16 games in 1978, with the preseason reduced from six games to four. It was also the final season of the eight-team playoff field in the NFL, before going to ten the following season.

The 1977 season is considered the last season of the “Dead Ball Era” of professional football (1970 to 1977). The 17.2 average points scored per team per game was the lowest since 1942, and it was the only post-merger NFL season where no player surpassed 1,000 receiving yards. For 1978, the league made significant changes to allow greater offensive production.[1]

The season ended with Super Bowl XII when the Cowboys defeated the Denver Broncos.

YouTube Encyclopedic

  • 1/5
    14 153
    8 752
    13 690
    7 761
  • 1977 NFL Season Highlights & Super Bowl XII Highlights
  • 1977-11-6 NFL Broadcast Highlights Week 8
  • 1977-11-13 NFL Broadcast Highlights Week 9
  • The NFL Project: 1977 NFL Season Timeline
  • 1977-10-30 NFL Broadcast Highlights Week 7


Player movement


  • May 2, 1977: Earl Morrall, the oldest player on the 1972 Miami Dolphins championship roster announced his retirement from professional football.[2]


The 1977 NFL Draft was held from May 3 to 4, 1977 at New York City’s Roosevelt Hotel. With the first pick, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected running back Ricky Bell from the University of Southern California.

New Referees

Tommy Bell retired after the 1976 season. His line judge, Jerry Markbreit, was named his successor. Bell worked two Super Bowls, III and VII. Markbreit would work four Super Bowls, and is (as of 2022) the only referee to achieve this.

Major rule changes

  • The head slap is outlawed.[3] This change is referred to as the "Deacon Jones Rule"; the Los Angeles Rams' defensive end frequently used this technique.
  • Any shoe worn by a player with an artificial limb must have a kicking surface that conforms to that of a normal kicking shoe.[3] Informally referred to as the "Tom Dempsey Rule." Dempsey was a record-breaking placekicker whose modified shoe (having a flattened and enlarged toe area) on his deformed kicking foot generated controversy during his career.
  • Defenders are only permitted to make contact with receivers once.
  • Defenders are not allowed to make contact with an opponent above the shoulders with the palms of their hands, except to ward him off the line.
  • Offensive linemen are not allowed to thrust their hands to a defender’s neck, face, or head.
  • Wide receivers are not allowed to clip defenders.
  • This was the first season when the statistic for time of possession began to be recorded.

Division races

Tampa Bay and Seattle continued as "swing" teams that did not participate in regular conference play. Every other NFL team played a home-and-away series against the other members in its division, two or three interconference games, and the remainder of their 14-game schedule against other conference teams. Tampa Bay switched to the NFC and played the other 13 members of the conference, while Seattle did the same in the AFC. The teams met in Week Five, with Seattle winning 30–23.

Starting in 1970, and through 2001, except for the strike-shortened 1982 season, there were three divisions (Eastern, Central and Western) in each conference. This was the final season as 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

Week Eastern Central Western Wild Card
1 3 teams 1–0 (Chicago, Green Bay) 1–0 Atlanta 1–0 3 teams 1–0
2 Dallas 2–0 4 teams 1–1 Atlanta* 1–1 8 teams 1–1
3 Dallas 3–0 Minnesota 2–1* Atlanta 2–1 3 teams 2–1
4 Dallas 4–0 Minnesota 3–1 Atlanta 3–1 Washington 3–1
5 Dallas 5–0 Minnesota 4–1 Atlanta* 3–2 3 teams 3–2
6 Dallas 6–0 Minnesota 4–2 Atlanta* 4–2 Los Angeles 4–2
7 Dallas 7–0 Minnesota 5–2 Atlanta* 4–3 St. Louis* 4–3
8 Dallas 8–0 Minnesota 5–3 Los Angeles 5–3 St. Louis* 5–3
9 Dallas 8–1 Minnesota 6–3 Los Angeles 6–3 St. Louis* 6–3
10 Dallas 8–2 Minnesota 6–4 Los Angeles 7–3 St. Louis 7–3
11 Dallas 9–2 Minnesota 7–4 Los Angeles 8–3 St. Louis 7–4
12 Dallas 10–2 Minnesota 8–4 Los Angeles 8–4 St. Louis* 7–5
13 Dallas 11–2 Chicago* 8–5 Los Angeles 10–3 Washington* 8–5
14 Dallas 12–2 Minnesota* 9–5 Los Angeles 10–4 Chicago* 9–5

* other teams with same W-L record

American Football Conference

Week Eastern Central Western Wild Card
1 (Baltimore, Miami) 1–0 3 teams 1–0 (Denver, Oakland) 1–0 5 teams 1–0
2 (Baltimore, Miami) 2–0 (Cleveland, Houston) 2–0 (Denver, Oakland) 2–0 3 teams 2–0–0
3 (Baltimore, Miami) 3–0 Cleveland* 2–1 (Denver, Oakland) 3–0 2 teams 3–0
4 Baltimore 4–0 Houston 3–1 (Denver, Oakland) 4–0 2 teams 4–0
5 Baltimore 5–0 Pittsburgh* 3–2 Denver 5–0 Oakland* 4–1
6 Baltimore* 5–1 Pittsburgh* 3–2 Denver 6–0 Oakland* 5–1
7 Baltimore 6–1 Cleveland 5–2 Oakland* 6–1 Denver 6–1
8 Baltimore 7–1 Cleveland 5–3 Oakland* 7–1 Denver 7–1
9 Baltimore 8–1 Pittsburgh* 5–4 Oakland* 8–1 Denver 8–1
10 Baltimore 9–1 Pittsburgh* 6–4 Denver 9–1 Oakland 8–2
11 Baltimore* 9–2 Pittsburgh 7–4 Denver 10–1 Oakland 9–2
12 Baltimore* 9–3 Pittsburgh 8–4 Denver 11–1 Oakland 9–3
13 Baltimore* 9–4 Pittsburgh* 8–5 Denver 12–1 Oakland 10–3
14 Baltimore* 10–4 Pittsburgh 9–5 Denver 12–2 Oakland 11–3

* other teams with same W-L record

Regular season

Highlights of the 1977 season included:

  • Thanksgiving: Two games were played on Thursday, November 24, featuring Chicago at Detroit. Chicago would prevail in a 31-14 final. The Miami Dolphins visited St. Louis to play the Cardinals, defeating them by a 55-14 mark. Dolphins quarterback Bob Griese would throw for six touchdown passes versus the Cardinals.[4] The Dolphins would set a franchise record for most points scored in one game with 55.[5] Of note, the Dolphins would score eight touchdowns and accumulate 34 first downs.

Final standings


  • Baltimore finished ahead of Miami in the AFC East based on better conference record (9–3 to Dolphins’ 8–4).
  • N.Y. Jets finished ahead of Buffalo in the AFC East based on better point-differential in head-to-head competition (1 point).
  • Houston finished ahead of Cincinnati in the AFC Central based on better point-differential in head-to-head competition (2 points).
  • Minnesota finished ahead of Chicago in the NFC Central based on better point-differential in head-to-head competition (3 points).
  • Chicago won the NFC Wild Card over Washington based on better net points in conference games (48 to Redskins’ 4).
  • Philadelphia finished ahead of N.Y. Giants in the NFC East based on head-to-head sweep (2–0).


Dec 26 – Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
3 Minnesota 14
Jan 1 – Texas Stadium
2 Los Angeles 7
3 Minnesota 6
Dec 26 – Texas Stadium
1 Dallas 23
NFC Championship
4 Chicago 7
Jan 15 – Louisiana Superdome
1 Dallas 37
Divisional playoffs
N1 Dallas 27
Dec 24 – Memorial Stadium
A1 Denver 10
Super Bowl XII
4 Oakland 37**
Jan 1 – Mile High Stadium
2* Baltimore 31
4 Oakland 17
Dec 24 – Mile High Stadium
1 Denver 20
AFC Championship
3 Pittsburgh 21
1* Denver 34

* The Denver Broncos (the AFC 1 seed) did not play the Oakland Raiders (the 4 seed) in the Divisional playoff round because both teams were in the same division.


Most Valuable Player Walter Payton, running back, Chicago
Coach of the Year Red Miller, Denver
Offensive Player of the Year Walter Payton, running back, Chicago
Defensive Player of the Year Harvey Martin, defensive end, Dallas
Offensive Rookie of the Year Tony Dorsett, running back, Dallas
Defensive Rookie of the Year A. J. Duhe, defensive end, Miami
Man of the Year Walter Payton, running back, Chicago
Comeback Player of the Year Craig Morton, quarterback, Denver
Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Randy White, defensive tackle, Dallas and Harvey Martin, defensive end, Dallas

Coaching changes



Uniform changes

  • The Pittsburgh Steelers changed from gray to black facemasks.
  • The Tampa Bay Buccaneers changed the color scheme of the numbers on their white jerseys. In 1976, the numbers were orange with red trim; in 1977, they became red with orange trim to increase visibility.


This was the fourth and final year under the league's broadcast contracts with ABC, CBS, and NBC to televise Monday Night Football, the NFC package, and the AFC package, respectively. All three networks renewed their deals for another four years. Don Meredith returned to ABC after spending three seasons at NBC, while Alex Karras returned to his acting career. John Brodie was promoted to replace Meredith as NBC's lead color commentator, while Merlin Olsen replaced Brodie on the network's #2 team. NBC also renamed its pregame show, referring to it as NFL '77 to start and updating the program's title every new season.[6]


  1. ^ NFL Season By Season Scoring Summary
  2. ^ 100 Things Dolphins Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die, Armando Salguero, Triumph Books, Chicago, 2020, ISBN 978-1-62937-722-3, p.49
  3. ^ a b "NFL restricts line blocks, outlaws defensive head slap". Chicago Tribune. wire services. June 16, 1977. p. 3, sec. 4.
  4. ^ 100 Things Dolphins Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die, Armando Salguero, Triumph Books, Chicago, 2020, ISBN 978-1-62937-722-3, p.44
  5. ^ 100 Things Dolphins Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die, Armando Salguero, Triumph Books, Chicago, 2020, ISBN 978-1-62937-722-3, p.176
  6. ^ Brulia, Tim. "A CHRONOLOGY OF PRO FOOTBALL ON TELEVISION: Part 2" (PDF). Pro Football Researchers.
This page was last edited on 18 September 2023, at 23:39
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