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NFL playoffs, 1997-98

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Title: NFL playoffs, 1997-98  
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Subject: New England Patriots, Superman, Washington Redskins, Terrell Davis, History of National Football League Championship, Randall Cunningham, Bill Cowher, Marty Schottenheimer, AFC Championship Game, Jim Fassel
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NFL playoffs, 1997-98

The NFL playoffs following the 1997 NFL season led up to Super Bowl XXXII.

Playoff seeds
1 Kansas City Chiefs (West winner) San Francisco 49ers (West winner)
2 Pittsburgh Steelers (Central winner) Green Bay Packers (Central winner)
3 New England Patriots (East winner) New York Giants (East winner)
4 Denver Broncos Tampa Bay Buccaneers
5 Jacksonville Jaguars Detroit Lions
6 Miami Dolphins Minnesota Vikings


  Wild Card Playoffs Divisional Playoffs Conference Championships Super Bowl XXXII
5  Detroit 10  
4  Tampa Bay 20  
  4  Tampa Bay 7  
    2  Green Bay 21  
  2  Green Bay 23  
  1  San Francisco 10  
6  Minnesota 23  
3  N.Y. Giants 22  
  6  Minnesota 22
    1  San Francisco 38  
  N2  Green Bay 24
  A4  Denver 31
5  Jacksonville 17  
4  Denver 42  
  4  Denver 14
    1  Kansas City 10  
  4  Denver 24
  2  Pittsburgh 21  
6  Miami 3  
3  New England 17  
  3  New England 6
    2  Pittsburgh 7  

Wild Card playoffs

December 27, 1997

NFC: Minnesota Vikings 23, New York Giants 22

Game summary
1 2 34Total
Vikings 0 3 71323
Giants 6 13 0322

at Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey

The Vikings scored 10 points in the final 90 seconds of the game to stun the Giants, 23-22. Quarterback Danny Kanell and the Giants scored 16 unanswered points to build a 19-3 lead at halftime. But New York running back Tiki Barber lost a fumble on the Giants 4-yard line that led to Leroy Hoard's 4-yard touchdown run, and Eddie Murray's 26-yard field goal cut the lead 19-13 in the fourth quarter. New York then went on a 74-yard drive, capped with Brad Daluiso's 22-yard field goal, that seemed to put the game out of reach at 22-13 with 7:42 left in the game. However, Vikings quarterback Randall Cunningham threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Jake Reed with 90 second left and Minnesota recovered the ensuing onside kick after it bounced off the chest of Giants receiver Chris Calloway. Cunningham then completed passes to Andrew Glover and Cris Carter for gains of 11 and 24 yards. Following a 12-yard pass interference penalty on defensive back Phillipi Sparks, Robert Smith ran for a 16-yard gain to set up Murray's game-winning 24-yard field goal.

AFC: Denver Broncos 42, Jacksonville Jaguars 17

Game summary
1 2 34Total
Jaguars 0 7 10017
Broncos 14 7 02142

at Mile High Stadium, Denver, Colorado

Denver compiled 310 rushing yards and 511 total yards of offense in a 42-17 win, and avenged their playoff loss to the Jaguars the year before. The Broncos built a 21-0 lead in the second quarter before the Jaguars cut it to 21-17 in the third quarter, including a 29-yard blocked punt return by Travis Davis. The Broncos then scored another 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to pull the game out of reach. Denver running back Terrell Davis rushed for 184 yards and 2 touchdowns, while running back Derek Loville had 103 yards and 2 touchdowns on just 11 carries. Broncos quarterback John Elway completed 16 of 24 passes for 223 yards and a touchdown.

December 28, 1997

AFC: New England Patriots 17, Miami Dolphins 3

Game summary
1 2 34Total
Dolphins 0 0 033
Patriots 0 7 10017

at Foxboro Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts

The Patriots' defense held Miami to 162 total yards of offense, 42 rushing yards and forced three Dolphins turnovers. Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino was held to just 17 of 43 completions for 141 yards and was intercepted twice. Marino's first interception, which was returned 22 yards by New England linebacker Chris Slade off of a deflected pass, set up quarterback Drew Bledsoe's 24-yard touchdown pass to receiver Troy Brown. Linebacker Todd Collins then returned Marino's other interception 40 yards for a touchdown. Adam Vinatieri capped the Patriots' scoring with a 22-yard field goal. Miami's lone score was Olindo Mare's 38-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.

NFC: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20, Detroit Lions 10

Game summary
1 2 34Total
Lions 0 0 3710
Buccaneers 3 10 7020

at Houlihan's Stadium, Tampa, Florida

The Buccaneers won their first playoff game since 1979, in what turned out to be their final game at Houlihan's Stadium. Tampa Bay built a 20-0 lead midway through the third quarter. Quarterback Trent Dilfer threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to receiver Horace Copeland, running back Mike Alstott had a 31-yard touchdown run, and Michael Husted made two field goals. The Bucs defense limited Lions quarterback Scott Mitchell to just 10 of 25 completions for 78 yards, and running back Barry Sanders to 18 carries for 65 yards. Frank Reich replaced Mitchell after he suffered a concussion late in the third quarter. Detroit then scored 10 points to cut the lead in half midway through the fourth quarter, with Jason Hanson's 33-yard field goal and Tommy Vardell's 1-yard touchdown run. But the comeback was short-lived when, after completing a long pass on third down during the final minutes of the game, Reich accidentally spiked the ball on fourth down, giving the ball to Tampa Bay.


Divisional playoffs

January 3, 1998

AFC: Pittsburgh Steelers 7, New England Patriots 6

Game summary
1 2 34Total
Patriots 0 3 036
Steelers 7 0 007

at Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Quarterback Kordell Stewart's 40-yard touchdown run was the difference in a defense-dominated game, and rookie lineman/linebacker Mike Vrabel's late sack and forced fumble on quarterback Drew Bledsoe sealed the victory for Pittsburgh. For the 3rd time in 4 years, Pittsburgh would play and host the AFC Championship Game.

NFC: San Francisco 49ers 38, Minnesota Vikings 22

Game summary
1 2 34Total
Vikings 7 0 7822
49ers 7 14 10738

at 3Com Park at Candlestick Point, San Francisco, California

49ers running back Terry Kirby ran for a career-high 120 yards and two touchdowns and 49ers receiver J.J. Stokes caught a career-high nine passes for 101 yards. Steve Young threw for 220 yards and a touchdown, while also rushing for 37. Vikings quarterback Randall Cunningham had three touchdown passes, but also threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown.

January 4, 1998

NFC: Green Bay Packers 21, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7

Game summary
1 2 34Total
Buccaneers 0 0 707
Packers 7 6 0821

at Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin

Packers running back Dorsey Levens rushed for a team playoff record of 112 yards and a touchdown while also catching 4 passes for 29 yards as the Green Bay defense held Tampa Bay to 90 rushing yards and intercepted 2 passes from Trent Dilfer, who finished the game with only 11 of 36 completions for 200 yards.

Early in the game, Tampa Bay had a chance to score first, but Packers defensive tackle Bob Kuberski blocked Michael Husted's 43-yard field goal attempt. Green Bay then drove for the first touchdown of the game with Brett Favre's 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Mark Chmura. Early in the second quarter, Packers receiver Robert Brooks' 28-yard punt return and 21-yard reception set up a field goal by Ryan Longwell. And later on, defensive back Tyrone Williams intercepted a pass from Dilfer and returned it 14 yards, setting up Longwell's second field goal with six seconds left in the half, making the score 13-0.

Green Bay receiver Antonio Freeman returned the second half kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown, but a holding penalty on Darren Sharper eliminated the score and moved the ball all the way back to their own 11-yard line. Green Bay still managed to drive into scoring range, but on the eighth play of the drive, Bucs defensive back Donnie Abraham intercepted a pass from Favre on the Tampa Bay 6-yard line. Dilfer subsequently led the Bucs offense 94 yards in 8 plays to score on fullback Mike Alstott's 6-yard touchdown run, cutting the score to 13-7. But two possessions later, the Packers drove 54 yards and scored with a 2-yard touchdown run by Levens. Then, Favre closed out the scoring by running in the 2-point conversion on a quarterback draw.

AFC: Denver Broncos 14, Kansas City Chiefs 10

Game summary
1 2 34Total
Broncos 0 7 0714
Chiefs 0 0 10010

at Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri

For the third consecutive year the AFC's top seed fell in the divisional playoffs. One week after avenging last year's playoff loss against Jacksonville, the Broncos avenged their 24-22 regular season loss in Kansas City by knocking the Chiefs out of the playoffs. Denver running back Terrell Davis ran for 101 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Broncos to victory. Chiefs quarterback Elvis Grbac threw for 260 yards, but his team could only score 10 points. Receiver Andre Rison caught 8 passes for 110 yards.

Midway through the second quarter, Chiefs kicker Pete Stoyanovich appeared to open the scoring with a 34-yard field goal, but it was eliminated by a holding penalty and his second attempt hit the crossbar from 44 yards. Denver then went on an 8-play, 65-yard drive on the way to a 1-yard touchdown run by Davis on the first play after the two minute warning, including John Elway's 27-yard completion to tight end Dwayne Carswell and a critical 3rd and 7 completion to Rod Smith for 17 yards on the KC 4-yard line to keep the drive going. This was the first rushing touchdown surrendered by Kansas City at home since the 1996 season, a string of 42 quarters.

In the second half, Kansas City drove 67 yards to the Broncos 3-yard line, starting with Grbac's 34-yard pass to Rison on the first play. But on third and goal, rookie tight end Tony Gonzalez was unable to keep both feet in bounds while making a catch, so they had to settle for Stoyanovich's 20-yard field goal that made the score 7-3. Denver had a big opportunity to response on their next drive when Terrell Davis ran for a 41-yard gain to the Chiefs 11-yard line. But Derek Loville ended up losing a fumble that safety Reggie Tongue recovered. Following an exchange of punts, Grbac's 50-yard completion to receiver Joe Horn advanced the ball to the Broncos 15-yard line, and Gonzalez eventually caught a 12-yard pass to give Kansas City first first lead of the game, 10-7, going into the fourth quarter.

Early in the final period, Elway completed a 43-yard pass to Ed McCaffrey that set up Davis' second 1-yard touchdown run, giving the lead back to Denver at 14-10. Kansas City responded with a drive to the Denver 32-yard line. On fourth and six, they attempted to fool the Broncos with a fake field goal attempt, but holder Louie Aguiar was tackled by Darrien Gordon after picking up just three yards.

The Chiefs had one last opportunity to go ahead near the end of the game, moving the ball to the Broncos 20-yard line on a drive that included a 29-yard pass interference penalty against Denver and Grbac's 12-yard completion to Lake Dawson on 4th down and 9. Grbac later completed a 23-yard throw to Rison at the Broncos 28, but after the next plays netted 8 yards, Gordon deflected Grbac's 4th down pass in the end zone with 12 seconds left.

For the second time in 3 years, Kansas City was eliminated as a #1 seed. The Chiefs lost despite outgaining Denver in total yards (303 to 272), first downs (18 to 16) and time of possession (31:06 to 28:54). Elway finished with 10 of 19 completions for 170 yards. Denver linemen Alfred Williams and Neil Smith (A former Chief) each had two sacks. This was the last game in the hall of fame career of Chiefs running back Marcus Allen.[1][2]

Conference championships

January 11, 1998

AFC Championship: Denver Broncos 24, Pittsburgh Steelers 21

Game summary
1 2 34Total
Broncos 7 17 0024
Steelers 7 7 0721

at Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

For the second week in a row, Denver eliminated a team on the road who had beat them in the regular season. In week 15, Pittsburgh had defeated the Broncos 35-24, but this game would have a very different outcome.

Denver forced three interceptions and a fumble from Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart. Most of the scoring was in the first half. In the first quarter, Denver running back Terrell Davis's 8-yard touchdown run was answered by Stewart's 33-yard scramble for a score. Jerome Bettis's 1-yard touchdown run then put the Steelers up 14-7 early in the second quarter. The Broncos responded by scoring 17 unanswered points to go up 24-14 at halftime. Both defenses controlled most of the second half until Stewart threw a 14-yard touchdown pass with 2:46 left in the game to cut the lead to 24-21. With 2:00 left, and facing third down and 5 on their own 15-yard line on their ensuing drive, John Elway connected on an 18-yard completion to Shannon Sharpe to get the first down and allow Denver to run out the clock. Sharpe later said that Elway made up the converting play in the huddle, seconds before the snap. Terrell Davis rushed for 139 yards and a touchdown. Bettis rushed for 105 yards and a score. This would turn out to be the final playoff game at Three Rivers Stadium.

NFC Championship: Green Bay Packers 23, San Francisco 49ers 10

Game summary
1 2 34Total
Packers 3 10 01023
49ers 0 3 0710

at 3Com Park at Candlestick Point, San Francisco

Green Bay opened the game by driving to the 3-yard line before a pass was deflected falling short of a wide open fullback William Henderson, forcing the Packers to settle for a field goal. Later in the first half, Packers safety Eugene Robinson intercepted Steve Young's pass and returned it 58 yards in what turned out to be a crucial play. Quarterback Brett Favre would then find wide receiver Antonio Freeman slicing across the middle on a slant for a 29-yard touchdown to give the Packers a 10-0 lead. The Packers led 13-3 at the half and although the 49ers would manage a field goal in the second quarter, they would not manage a touchdown until the closing minutes of the game on a kickoff return by Chuck Levy. Favre finished the game with 16 of 27 pass completions for 222 yards, while the Green Bay defense held the 49ers to 33 rushing yards and forced two turnovers. Running back Dorsey Levens recorded a then-playoff team record of 116 rushing yards and a touchdown, while also catching 6 passes for 37 yards. And in addition to his touchdown reception, Freeman caught 4 passes for 107 yards. This was the third year in a row the Packers defeated the 49ers in the playoffs, twice in San Francisco.

Super Bowl XXXII: Denver Broncos 31, Green Bay Packers 24

Further information: Super Bowl XXXII
Game summary
1 2 34Total
Packers (NFC) 7 7 3724
Broncos (AFC) 7 10 7731

at Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California

  • Date: January 25, 1998
  • Game attendance: 68,912
  • Referee: Ed Hochuli
  • TV announcers (NBC): Dick Enberg, Phil Simms, and Paul Maguire


  • Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League (ISBN 0-06-270174-6)

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