1974 NFL season

1974 National Football League season
Regular season
Duration September 15 – December 15, 1974
Start date December 21, 1974
AFC Champions Pittsburgh Steelers
NFC Champions Minnesota Vikings
Super Bowl IX
Date January 12, 1975
Site Tulane Stadium,
New Orleans, Louisiana
Champions Pittsburgh Steelers
Pro Bowl
Date January 20, 1975
Site Orange Bowl, Miami, Florida

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 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 (originally 15 minutes; since 2017, 10) 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–all 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 to the end line from the goal 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, through 1993 and since 2011. From 1994 to 2010, the kickoff was moved farther back, to the 30-yard line.
  • 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 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

From 1970 to 2001, 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, records against common opponents, and records in conference play.

National Football Conference

Week Eastern Central Western Wild Card
1 St. Louis, Washington, Dallas 1–0–0 Chicago, Minnesota 1–0–0 Los Angeles, San Fran. 1–0–0 4 teams 1–0–0
2 St. Louis 2–0–0 Minnesota 2–0–0 Los Angeles, San Fran. 2–0–0 Los Angeles, San Fran. 2–0–0
3 St. Louis 3–0–0 Minnesota 3–0–0 Los Angeles, San Fran. 2–1–0 4 teams 2–1–0
4 St. Louis 4–0–0 Minnesota 4–0–0 Los Angeles 3–1–0 Philadelphia 3–1–0
5 St. Louis 5–0–0 Minnesota 5–0–0 Los Angeles 3–2–0 Philadelphia 4–1–0
6 St. Louis 6–0–0 Minnesota 5–1–0 Los Angeles 4–2–0 Philadelphia 4–2–0
7 St. Louis 7–0–0 Minnesota 5–2–0 Los Angeles 5–2–0 Washington 4–3–0
8 St. Louis 7–1–0 Minnesota 6–2–0 Los Angeles 6–2–0 Washington 5–3–0
9 St. Louis 7–2–0 Minnesota 7–2–0 Los Angeles 7–2–0 Washington 6–3–0
10 St. Louis 8–2–0 Minnesota 7–3–0 Los Angeles 7–3–0 Washington 7–3–0
11 St. Louis 9–2–0 Minnesota 7–4–0 Los Angeles 8–3–0 Washington 8–3–0
12 St. Louis 9–3–0 Minnesota 8–4–0 Los Angeles 9–3–0 Washington 8–4–0
13 St. Louis 9–4–0 Minnesota 9–4–0 Los Angeles 9–4–0 Washington 9–4–0
14 St. Louis 10–4–0 Minnesota 10–4–0 Los Angeles 10–4–0 Washington 10–4–0

American Football Conference

Week Eastern Central Western Wild Card
1 Buffalo, New England 1–0–0 Pittsburgh, Houston, Cincinnati 1–0–0 Kansas City 1–0–0 Denver, Kansas City, San Diego 1–0–0
2 New England 2–0–0 Pittsburgh 1–0–1 Oakland* 1–1–0 8 teams 1–1–0
3 New England 3–0–0 Cincinnati 2–1–0 Oakland* 2–1–0 3 teams 2–1–0
4 New England 4–0–0 Cincinnati 3–1–0 Oakland 3–1–0 Pittsburgh 2–1–1
5 New England 5–0–0 Cincinnati 4–1–0 Oakland 4–1–0 Buffalo 4–1–0
6 Buffalo 5–1–0 Pittsburgh 4–1–1 Oakland 5–1–0 New England 5–1–0
7 Buffalo 6–1–0 Pittsburgh 5–1–1 Oakland 6–1–0 New England 6–1–0
8 Buffalo 7–1–0 Pittsburgh 6–1–1 Oakland 7–1–0 New England 6–2–0
9 Miami 7–2–0 Pittsburgh 6–2–1 Oakland 8–1–0 Buffalo 7–2–0
10 Miami 8–2–0 Pittsburgh 7–2–1 Oakland 9–1–0 Buffalo 7–3–0
11 Miami 8–3–0 Pittsburgh 8–2–1 Oakland 9–2–0 Buffalo 8–3–0
12 Miami 9–3–0 Pittsburgh 8–3–1 Oakland 10–2–0 Buffalo 9–3–0
13 Miami 10–3–0 Pittsburgh 9–3–1 Oakland 11–2–0 Buffalo 9–4–0
14 Miami 11–3–0 Pittsburgh 10–3–1 Oakland 12–2–0 Buffalo 9–5–0

Final standings


  • 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. Had the 1974 playoffs been seeded, the AFC divisional matchups would have been #3 Pittsburgh at #2 Miami and #4 wild card Buffalo at #1 Oakland; the NFC matchups would not have changed, although #1 Los Angeles would have had home field for the NFC championship game due to its head-to-head victory over #2 Minnesota in week 11.
Divisional PlayoffsConf. Championship GamesSuper Bowl IX
December 22 – Three Rivers Stadium
Buffalo Bills14
December 29 – Oakland Coliseum
Pittsburgh Steelers32
Pittsburgh Steelers24
December 21 – Oakland Coliseum
Oakland Raiders13
Miami Dolphins26
January 12 – Tulane Stadium
Oakland Raiders28
Pittsburgh Steelers16
December 22 – L.A. Coliseum
Minnesota Vikings6
Washington Redskins10
December 29 – Metropolitan Stadium
Los Angeles Rams19
Los Angeles Rams10
December 21 – Metropolitan Stadium
Minnesota Vikings14
St. Louis Cardinals14
Minnesota Vikings30


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
Man of the YearGeorge Blanda, Quarterback, Oakland
Comeback Player of the YearJoe Namath, Quarterback, New York
Super Bowl Most Valuable PlayerFranco Harris Running Back, Pittsburgh


The 1974 NFL Draft was held from January 29 to 30, 1974 at New York City's Americana Hotel. With the first pick, the Dallas Cowboys selected defensive end Ed "Too Tall" Jones from the Tennessee State University.


American Football Conference

National Football Conference


  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.
  • NFL Record and Fact Book (ISBN 1-932994-36-X)
  • NFL History 1971–1980 (Last accessed December 4, 2005)
  • Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League (ISBN 0-06-270174-6)
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