NFL’s Longest Game on Christmas Day

In 1971, Christmas dinners from Maine to California, from Miami to Seattle, from New York to Kansas City and everywhere in between were delayed. Children had to wait patiently to open their presents. Christmas music was put on mute.

The longest game in NFL history was played that day, December 25, 1971.

The Kansas City Chiefs and the Miami Dolphins engaged in a marathon double overtime playoff game that lasted 82 minutes and 40 seconds. Garo Yepremian’s 37-yard field goal won it for the Dolphins, 27-24.

Kansas City, less than two years removed from a Super Bowl championship, was favored in the contest, the final NFL game played in KC’s old Municipal Stadium. The Dolphins, an AFL expansion team, were an up and coming power, destined for a Super Bowl run of their own.  Both teams entered the game 10-3-1.

Hall of Fame quarterbacks Len Dawson of Kansas City and Bob Griese of Miami led their teams up and down the field in a seesaw battle.

Podolak’s Finest Hour
Chiefs’ running  back Ed Podolak (not a Hall of Famer), shown below, had the best day of anyone with 350 all-purpose yards, still an NFL playoff record. After Miami tied the game at 24 on a Griese pass to Marv Fleming with 1:25 remaining, Podolak ran back the ensuing kickoff 78 yards to the Miami 22.

However, Kansas City’s Jan Stenerud, the only kicker in the Hall of Fame, missed a game-winning field goal and the contest went into overtime.

In the first OT, Stenerud had a 42-yard field goal attempt blocked and Yepremian missed a 52-yarder.

Finally, midway through the second overtime, Miami moved the ball close enough for Yepremian to win it.

The Dolphins went on the beat the Baltimore Colts, 21-0, to win the AFC championship the following week before losing to Dallas, 24-3, in Super Bowl VI.

in 1972 the Dolphins completed a perfect season with a 14-7 win over the Washington Redskins. The Dolphins beat the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl VIII the following year for their second straight title. Although they’ve returned, they’ve never won another..

Kansas City, which lost the first Super Bowl to the Green Bay Packers and then beat the Vikings, 23-7,  in Super Bowl IV, hasn’t been back since.

See what happens when you ruin Christmas dinner.

4 Comments on “NFL’s Longest Game on Christmas Day”

  1. Ross Rayner says:

    Have you ever run across a copy of the game film? My father 83 and I would like very much to see this game again, as we are from Iowa, home of Ed Podolak.

    Any leads, thoughts, suggestions are welcomed. Please e-mail me.

    Thank you.
    Ross Rayner
    Safety Harbor, FL

    • sportslifer says:

      Thanks for your note Ross. I remember watching the game on TV, but have never seen a game film. You might want to check with NBC which I believe aied the game. Or perhaps he NFL Network might be able to help.

  2. I believe NBC wiped the tape of this game, so I seriously doubt any full broadcast exists. NBC was terrible about not preserving broadcasts until 1980. In fact, most of Super Bowl V, played in January 1971 and broadcast by NBC, has been mostly wiped; only 30 minutes of the second quarter is known to exist.

    CBS stopped this practice for football games before the AFL-NFL merger, and for all shows by the end of 1974

    • SportsLifer says:

      Good info David, thanks. I recall Christmas dinner was delayed that day at my house — and we were Giants fans.

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