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Old 03-01-2007, 03:54 PM   #39 (permalink)
Hurkman
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1971 AFC Playoffs: Taking a Trip to Super Bowl VI

AFC Divisional Playoffs

Kansas City Chiefs (10-3-1)
vs. Miami Dolphins (10-3-1)
Municipal Stadium, Kansas City, MO

After a year away from the playoffs, the Kansas City Chiefs returned with one of the top teams in the AFC to take on the Miami Dolphins, who were looking to win their first playoff game after falling short against Oakland last year. Kansas City was still banking on Len Dawson and Otis Taylor to connect through the air, while Miami had a focused ground attack with Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick.

As the game started, Kansas City had the advantage first. Quarterback Len Dawson was able to pass over and around Miami defenders on the Chiefs' opening drive, guiding them 69 yards in 11 plays and putting Kansas City on the board first with an Otis Taylor three yard touchdown reception. It did not take long for Miami to respond, handing the ball to Kiick and Csonka on four straight plays, the last being a Csonka 39 yard touchdown run after Kiick gained 44 on the play before.

The second quarter featured the Chiefs attempting to take a page out of the Dolphins' playbook. Kansas City decided to shelve its passing game for much of the quarter, going instead with running backs Warren McVea and Ed Podolak, who were able to bash into the Miami defense for large portions of yardage. Unfortunately for Kansas City, this strategy only got them three points at the start of the quarter. Miami tied the score with just over two minutes remaining in the half, and both teams had turnovers cost them scoring chances on their last full possessions of the quarter. At the half, the Chiefs and Dolphins were tied at 10-10.

While the first two quarters had been more defined by offense, the third quarter would be defined by defense. The Dolphins struck first, blocking a Kansas City punt on their first drive of the half. Miami would get a field goal out of the block, and took their first lead of the game. Neither team could do anything the rest of the quarter, as the Chiefs still continued to run the ball straight into Miami's defensive front, shocking and angering fans who thought the best way to beat the Dolphins would be to pass over their front seven and test their secondary. With Miami up by just a field goal, the game entered its final quarter.

The fourth quarter proved to be Miami's undoing. Kansas City's running attack began to tire out the defense for the Dolphins, and Warren McVea retook the lead for the Chiefs with a 36 yard touchdown scramble up the middle. Miami caught a break on Kansas City's next drive when Len Dawson was intercepted as the Chiefs were getting closer to the end zone again. However, with the lead, Kansas City's defense now knew they had to hold on, and Brian Griese was hit by Bruce Bergey and fumbled. The Chiefs recovered deep in Miami territory, and Wendell Hayes found the end zone from 5 yards out to put the final nail in Miami's coffin. Kansas City racked up 230 rushing yards on the day, while holding the Dolphins to just 273 total yards. Miami was left battered by an AFC West opponent once again, and the Chiefs were going to their third AFC Championship.

Final Score: Kansas City-24 Miami-13

Real Life Score: Miami-27 Kansas City-24/2OT (Longest game in NFL history)


Cleveland Browns (9-5) vs. Baltimore Colts (10-4)
Cleveland Municipal Stadium, Cleveland, OH

Much like the Kansas City Chiefs, the Cleveland Browns were returning to the playoffs after a year's absence, although they were playing on the AFC side of the playoffs for the first time. The Browns relied heavily on running back Leroy Kelly to batter opposing defenses into surrender, while the Colts had one of the better defenses in all of football, and were rallying behind Johnny Unitas, whose time in football was almost up.

Baltimore set the tone of the game from the opening kickoff. After a good return, the Colts set about punishing the Cleveland's defense, first passing over top of them with Earl Morrall, then running right through them on the first running play of the game, which resulted in a 34 yard touchdown for Norm Bulaich. The Colts then set about containing Leroy Kelly and forcing quarterback Bill Nelsen to beat them. The plan worked to perfection in the first quarter, as Kelly was bottled up by Baltimore defenders, and Nelsen was totally ineffective.

The second quarter was more about sloppiness than anything else. Neither team could put together a sustained drive, as the Colts turned the ball over twice, and Cleveland missed two field goals that would have put them right back into the game. Morrall looked lost at times for Baltmore, while Nelsen hadn't even found the field yet for the Browns. Baltimore went into the half ahead 7-0, but even they knew they should have been holding on to a much slimmer lead at that time.

In the third, Baltimore fans got their wish, as Johnny Unitas entered the game to replace Morrall. Though his knees weren't what they used to be, and his once powerful arm couldn't throw the ball nearly as far as he used to, he was still able to lead the Colts on the only scoring drive of the quarter, completing three of four passes before Don Nottingham finished things with a 14 yard touchdown run. With the way Baltimore's defense was pounding the Browns, Cleveland would need a miracle to come back and win.

Whatever prayers they had were never answered. Kicker Don Cockroft missed his third field goal of the game early in the fourth, and the game was effectively over at that point. Baltimore continued to run time off the clock with their running game, while Cleveland's passing game was as ineffective as it had been all season. The Colts would add a late field goal and finished the shutout of Cleveland, while the Browns were left to wonder if they would get another chance at the Super Bowl next season.

Final Score: Baltimore-17 Cleveland-0

Real Life Score: Baltimore-20 Cleveland-3


AFC Championship Game

Municipal Stadium, Kansas City, MO

Kansas City Chiefs (10-3-1) vs. Baltimore Colts (10-4)

In the final football game played at Municipal Stadium, the Kansas City Chiefs faced off against the Baltimore Colts for the right to go to Super Bowl VI. The Chiefs won the AFC title just two years before, while the Colts fell short in the AFC title game against the Raiders last year. Both teams brought punishing defenses and older quarterbacks that each wanted one last shot at Super Bowl glory.

Much like their game the week before against the Browns, the Colts were able to start the AFC Championship off with a bang. On the first drive of the game, Earl Morrall, who started the game over Johnny Unitas, led the Colts down the field with a mixture of run and pass, and capped the drive with a Norm Buliach 35 yard touchdown run into the teeth of the Kansas City defense. Baltimore's defense stopped the Chiefs cold on their first drive, and Morrall stepped back out onto the field and promptly marched Baltimore right back down the field. Morrall was responsible for 45 of the 51 yards on Baltimore's drive, including the one yard touchdown pass to Tom Mitchell that put the Colts up 14-0 as the first quarter came to a close.

The second quarter was not much better for the Chiefs. Baltimore missed an early field goal attempt that would have put them up 17-0, but Kansas City could do nothing, and had to punt. On their next possession, Len Dawson was intercepted deep in Baltimore territory, ending a scoring drive that could have cut the Colts' lead in half. The Chiefs finally did get on the scoreboard with just 44 seconds to go in the half on a Jan Stenerud 30 yard field goal. The only problem was Kansas City's defense apparently thought the half was over, and they let the Colts head right back down the field and kick a field goal of their own as the half came to a close to make the score 17-3.

The remainder of the game was dominated by defense. The Colts attempted to use their running game to just take time off the clock while stopping the Chiefs both on the ground and through the air. Dawson was intercepted again in Baltimore territory, while Stenerud inexplicably missed another short field goal midway through the third. Kansas City would add one more field goal at the start of the fourth quarter, but after that, the Colts kept the ball away from their offense for the remained of the game. The running attack that had worked so well against the Dolphins could not get started, and the Chiefs were forced to watch as another team celebrated an AFC title as they closed down their old stadium.

Final Score: Baltimore-17 Kansas City-6

Real Life Score (In Miami): Miami-21 Baltimore-0
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