Dolphins and Chiefs play NFL’s Longest Game on Christmas Day

On December 25, 1971 the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs played in an epic playoff battle which would become the NFL’s longest game ever.  By official record, the AFC Divisional playoff double overtime thriller, lasted eighty-two minutes and forty seconds.

The Chiefs began the contest on their home field jumping out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, scoring on their first two possessions.  The Dolphins however answered the Chiefs’ early momentum with 10 points of their own as the two teams went into halftime at 10-10.

The Chiefs scored the first touchdown in the third quarter only to have the Dolphins answer once again.  Tied at 17 in the fourth quarter, the Chiefs on the shoulders of Ed Podolak took a 24-17 lead.  The Dolphins answered in the clutch with just 1:25 left on the clock tying the game at 24 all.

Ed Podolak wasn’t about to let this one slip away however.  On the ensuing kickoff, the Chiefs multi-purpose back returned the ball all the way to the Dolphins 22 yard line.  Playing conservative, the Chiefs moved to the 15 with 35 seconds left and brought in future Hall of Fame kicker Jan Stenerud to seal the game.

He missed.

After a scoreless overtime period, Miami ended the game when kicker Garo Yepremian sliced the ball through the uprights from 37 yards out, giving the Dolphins a 27-24 win.  The Dolphins trailed the entire game until Yepremian’s field goal in the second overtime period.

It is no coincidence that one of the greatest games in NFL history featured future Hall of Fame head coaches, Don Shula and Hank Stram at opposite sides of the field.  It also featured two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks in Bob Griese and Len Dawson.

In all, twelve future Hall of Famers went toe-to-toe in one of the finest displays of passion and zeal on the gridiron ever.

Kansas City Chiefs’ Hall of Fame linebacker Willie Lanier reflected on the game in the December 2011 issue of NFL Magazine.

“We lost, but walking off the field, I didn’t feel crushed” Lanier expressed to hall of fame sportswriter Ray Didinger.  “I knew I was part of something great, something memorable.”

Despite losing the game, Lanier knew he was part of something bigger than himself, and even bigger than the Miami Dolphins.  He is a part of history and part of an awesome presentation of the greatest game on Earth.  Willie Lanier gets it.

It was a game in which Kansas City Chiefs’ running back Ed Pololak would have one of the greatest games in playoff history.  He amassed 350 yards of offense and two touchdowns as a runner, receiver, and kick returner.  Yet according to the scoreboard, he lost.

The Dolphins had plenty of outstanding performances as well.  Hall of Fame running back Larry Csonka ran for 86 yards and a touchdown.  Hall of fame quarterback Bob Griese would throw for 263 yards, 140 of them to hall of fame wide receiver Paul Warfield .

Win or lose, the game is bigger than all of us.

That’s not to say the NFL’s longest game didn’t have any fallout.  Prior to the game, the Miami Dolphins had never won a playoff game.  The win catapulted them to three consecutive Super Bowl appearances as they became the next great NFL dynasty after the Green Bay Packers of the 1960’s.

The Chiefs however, would not return to the playoffs, for another fifteen years.

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