NFL on Christmas evokes great Dolphins memories

AFC Divisional Playoffs - Miami Dolphins v Kansas City Chiefs
AFC Divisional Playoffs - Miami Dolphins v Kansas City Chiefs / Focus On Sport/GettyImages

There are three NFL games on Christmas. The Miami Dolphins aren’t one of the six participants as they were busy on Sunday hosting the Dallas Cowboys. The first of those contests on December 25 as the Chiefs are hosting the Raiders. When you think of Christmas and Kansas City, it’s worth revisiting a historic meeting in NFL annals.

The setting was Kansas City Municipal Stadium. The battle was the 1971 AFC Divisional Playoffs, a clash between the Dolphins and Chiefs. It would be the final game played at that venue by Hank Stram’s club. It would also prove to be one of the most fabled contests in league history.

The star of the game was Chiefs’ running back Ed Podolak, a second-round pick from the University of Iowa in 1969. He was a rookie on Hank Stram’s Super Bowl IV title team. On this day against Don Shula’s Dolphins, there simply was much more the versatile performer could do.

Podolak ran 17 times for 85 yards and one score, and totaled eight receptions for 110 yards and the game’s first touchdown. Podolak took back three kickoffs for 153 yards and a pair of punt returns added up to two more yards. Do the math and that’s 350 total combined yards, an NFL postseason record that stands to this day.

Unfortunately, Podolak’s amazing day simply wasn’t enough to ensure a victory. That was in part due to the fact that Stram’s team has twice as many turnovers (4) than the Dolphins (2). Hall of Fame wide receiver Paul Warfield had a big day for Shula’s club, catching seven passes for 140 yards. This back-and-forth clash saw the teams knotted at 24-all after regulation. These were the days of sudden death overtime, and this contest would wind up in a sixth quarter.

When it was all said and done, Dolphins’ kicker Garo Yepremian eventually nailed a 37-yard field goal to give his club a 27-24 victory, ending the longest game in NFL history. The number of playing minutes added up to 82:40. A week later, Shula’s team shut out the Baltimore Colts in the AFC title game and Miami was headed to Super Bowl VI.