The 1970 NFL season was the 51st regular season of the National Football League, and the first one after the AFL–NFL merger. The season concluded with Super Bowl V when the Baltimore Colts beat the Dallas Cowboys 16–13 at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida. The Pro Bowl took place on January 24, 1971, where the NFC beat the AFC 27–6 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
|1970 National Football League season|
|Duration||September 18 – December 20, 1970|
|Start date||December 26, 1970|
|AFC Champions||Baltimore Colts|
|NFC Champions||Dallas Cowboys|
|Super Bowl V|
|Date||January 17, 1971|
|Site||Orange Bowl, Miami, Florida|
|Date||January 24, 1971|
|Site||Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum|
The merger forced a realignment between the combined league's clubs. Because there were 16 NFL teams and 10 AFL teams, three teams were transferred to balance the two new conferences at 13 teams each. In May 1969, the Baltimore Colts, Cleveland Browns, and the Pittsburgh Steelers agreed to join all ten AFL teams to form the American Football Conference (AFC). The remaining NFL teams formed the National Football Conference (NFC).
Replacing the old Eastern and Western conferences (although divisions from those conferences still existed but were renamed to suit the realignment), the new conferences, AFC and NFC, function similar to Major League Baseball's American and National leagues, and each of those two were divided into three divisions: East, Central, and West. The two Eastern divisions had five teams; the other four divisions had four teams each. The realignment discussions for the NFC were so contentious that one final plan, out of five of them was selected from an envelope in a vase by Commissioner Pete Rozelle's secretary, Thelma Elkjer on January 16, 1970.
The format agreed on was as follows:
This arrangement would keep most of the pre-merger NFL teams in the NFC and the AFL teams in the AFC. Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Baltimore were placed in the AFC in order to balance it out, while the NFC equalized the competitive strength of its East and West divisions rather than sorting out teams just geographically.
Division alignment in 1970 was largely intended to preserve the pre-merger setups, keeping traditional rivals in the same division. Plans were also made to add two expansion teams—the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks—but this would not take place until 1976, seven years after the merger.
Prior to 1966, the NFL had two seven-team conferences:
Atlanta was added as an expansion franchise in 1966 and placed in the Eastern Conference. Every team had a bye week during the 1966 season.
When New Orleans was awarded an expansion franchise for 1967, the NFL divided its teams into two eight-team conferences, with two four-team divisions in each conference as follows:
The Giants and Saints swapped divisions in 1968, and then returned to the 1967 alignment in 1969.
Meanwhile, the AFL for entire its 10-year existence had:
The 26-team league began to use an eight-team playoff format, four from each conference, that included the three division winners and a wild card team, the second-place team with the best record. The season concluded with the Colts defeating the Dallas Cowboys 16–13 in Super Bowl V, the first Super Bowl played for the NFL Championship. The game was held at the Orange Bowl in Miami, and was the first Super Bowl played on artificial turf (specifically, Poly-Turf).
Seven teams played their home games on artificial turf in 1970. This was up from 2 teams in both the NFL and AFL in 1969. The teams were: Cincinnati, Dallas, Miami, Pittsburgh and St. Louis, who joined Houston and Philadelphia, the two teams which played on turf in 1969. Cincinnati and Pittsburgh opened new stadiums: Riverfront Stadium and Three Rivers Stadium.
To televise their games, the combined league retained the services of CBS and NBC, who were previously the primary broadcasters of the NFL and the AFL, respectively. It was then decided that CBS would televise all NFC teams (including playoff games) while NBC all AFC teams. For interconference games, CBS would broadcast them if the visiting team was from the NFC and NBC would carry them when the visitors were from the AFC. At the time, all NFL games were blacked out in the home team's market, so this arrangement meant that fans in each team's home market would see all of their team's televised Sunday afternoon games on the same network (CBS for NFC teams and NBC for AFC teams). The two networks also divided up the Super Bowl on a yearly rotation.
Meanwhile, with the debut of Monday Night Football on ABC September 21, 1970, the league became the first professional sports league in the United States to have a regular series of nationally televised games in prime-time, and the only league ever to have its games televised on all of the then-three major broadcast networks at the same time. Both teams that advanced to the Super Bowl, the Baltimore Colts and the Dallas Cowboys, had suffered humiliating defeats at home on Monday Night Football during the season. Adding ABC to the list gave the newly merged NFL television coverage on all of the Big Three television networks.
Before the season, the league had demanded that the Chicago Bears find a new home field: Wrigley Field was too small, as it did not meet the new stadium requirement to seat at least 50,000, and it did not have lights installed (and would not install them until 1988), meaning it was unavailable for late afternoon and night games. The Chicago Cubs baseball team, which shared the stadium with the Bears, did not want to convert it to a football configuration while the Cubs were still in playoff contention.
As a result, the Chicago Bears' first home game of the season against the Philadelphia Eagles was played at Northwestern University's Dyche Stadium; the Bears also treated this game as a trial run for possibly moving their home games to Evanston.
Dyche Stadium (since renamed Ryan Field), which did not have lights at the time (nor does it have permanent standards today), was planned to make the Bears' new home, but a deal fell through due to strong opposition from several athletic directors in the Big Ten Conference and residents of Evanston. After negotiations with the Cubs' ownership for continued use of Wrigley Field collapsed, the Bears moved to Soldier Field in 1971 where they remain to the present day, save for a temporary relocation in 2002 to the University of Illinois' Memorial Stadium while Soldier Field was completely renovated.
The Boston Patriots played in their fourth different facility in 11 seasons, leaving Alumni Stadium at Boston College for Harvard Stadium, the only facility in Massachusetts at that time which met the NFL's 50,000-seat minimum. The struggles to find a home led the Patriots to hastily construct Schaeffer Stadium in Foxborough, which opened in 1971. The Patriots, who were renamed from "Boston" to "New England" when they moved, continue to play in Foxborough in Gillette Stadium, which opened in 2002.
On November 8, New Orleans Saints placekicker Tom Dempsey kicked a record 63-yard field goal. The record stood for 43 years (tied in 1998, 2011 and 2012) until it was broken in 2013 by Denver Broncos' Matt Prater.
The NFL rules became the standardized rules for the merged league, with two exceptions that were both carried over from the AFL:
After experimenting with compromise rules regarding the two-point conversion (then exclusive to the AFL) during the late 1960s preseasons, the NFL decided not to use that feature and use its previous rule only allowing one point for any conversion. The two-point conversion would not be added to the NFL rules until 1994.
Starting in 1970, 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, common opponents records, and conference play.
The New York Giants lost their last regular-season game. Had they won that game, they would have tied for first place in the NFC East division and taken the division championship on a tie-breaker; then, the tie-breakers would have simply led to a coin toss between Dallas and Detroit for the NFC wild card. Because of this close call regarding possible use of coin toss, future tie-breakers would be expanded to have more competitive aspects.
National Football Conference
|1||Dallas||1–0–0||3 teams||1–0–0||3 teams||1–0–0||4 teams||1–0–0|
|2||Dallas||2–0–0||3 teams||2–0–0||2 teams||2–0–0||3 teams||2–0–0|
|3||St. Louis*||2–1–0||Detroit||3–0–0||Los Angeles||3–0–0||6 teams||2–1–0|
|4||St. Louis*||3–1–0||Detroit*||3–1–0||San Francisco*||3–1–0||4 teams||3–1–0|
|5||St. Louis||4–1–0||Detroit*||4–1–0||Los Angeles||4–1–0||Minnesota||4–1–0|
|6||St. Louis*||4–2–0||Detroit*||5–1–0||San Francisco||4–1–1||Minnesota||5–1–0|
|7||St. Louis*||5–2–0||Minnesota||6–1–0||San Francisco||5–1–1||3 teams||5–2–0|
|8||St. Louis||6–2–0||Minnesota||7–1–0||San Francisco||6–1–1||Los Angeles||5–2–1|
|9||St. Louis||7–2–0||Minnesota||8–1–0||San Francisco||7–1–1||N.Y. Giants||6–3–0|
|10||St. Louis||7–2–1||Minnesota||9–1–0||San Francisco||7–2–1||Los Angeles||6–3–1|
|11||St. Louis||8–2–1||Minnesota||9–2–0||Los Angeles*||7–3–1||San Francisco||7–3–1|
|12||St. Louis||8–3–1||Minnesota||10–2–0||Los Angeles*||8–3–1||San Francisco||8–3–1|
|13||N.Y. Giants*||9–4–0||Minnesota||11–2–0||San Francisco||9–3–1||Dallas*||9–4–0|
American Football Conference
|1||2 teams||1–0–0||3 teams||1–0–0||Denver||1–0–0||3 teams||1–0–0|
|2||4 teams||1–1–0||3 teams||1–1–0||Denver||2–0–0||6 teams||1–1–0|
|3||Baltimore*||2–1–0||2 teams||2–1–0||Denver||3–0–0||2 teams||2–1–0|
W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, PCT= Winning Percentage, PF= Points For, PA = Points Against
wild card berth, – clinched division title– clinched
Note: Prior to 1972, the NFL did not include tie games when calculating a team's winning percentage in the official standings
|New York Jets||4||10||0||.286||255||286|
|Kansas City Chiefs||7||5||2||.583||272||244|
|San Diego Chargers||5||6||3||.455||282||278|
|New York Giants||9||5||0||.643||301||270|
|St. Louis Cardinals||8||5||1||.615||325||228|
|Green Bay Packers||6||8||0||.429||196||293|
|y-San Francisco 49ers||10||3||1||.769||352||267|
|Los Angeles Rams||9||4||1||.692||325||202|
|New Orleans Saints||2||11||1||.154||172||347|
|Divisional Playoffs||Conf. Championship Games||Super Bowl V|
|December 27 – Oakland Coliseum|
|January 3 – Memorial Stadium|
|December 26 – Memorial Stadium|
|January 17 – Miami Orange Bowl|
|December 26 – Cotton Bowl|
|January 3 – Kezar Stadium|
|December 27 – Metropolitan Stadium|
The 1970 NFL Draft was held from January 27 to 28, 1970 at New York City's Belmont Plaza Hotel. With the first pick, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected quarterback Terry Bradshaw from Louisiana Tech University.
William Henry Johnson III (born July 9, 1944) is a former NFL football player with the New York Giants during the 1970s, as a punter. He played 11 games with the Giants during the 1970 NFL season.Bill Nelsen
William Keith Nelsen (born January 29, 1941) is a former football player who played collegiately for the University of Southern California and professionally with both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns. He was known for his leadership ability and ability to play with pain, having endured a series of knee injuries during the course of his career. He later served as an assistant coach with four NFL teams.Clive Rush
Clive H. Rush (February 14, 1931 – August 22, 1980) was an American football player and coach at both the professional and collegiate levels. He served as the head football coach at Toledo University from 1960 to 1962. Rush was the head coach of the Boston Patriots during the 1969 American Football League (AFL) season and the 1970 National Football League (NFL) season.Cowboys–Steelers rivalry
The Cowboys–Steelers rivalry is a rivalry in the NFL. The Cowboys currently lead the all-time series 17–15. As the two teams met in the Super Bowl 3 times and play in different conferences (In which the Dallas Cowboys are in the NFC East and the Pittsburgh Steelers are in the AFC North), they only meet once every 4 regular seasons and occasionally in the preseason.Danny Pierce
John Daniel Pierce (born January 17, 1948 in Laurel, Mississippi) is a former American football running back in the National Football League for the Washington Redskins. He played college football at the University of Memphis and Mississippi State University and was drafted in the fifth round of the 1970 NFL Draft.Pierce appeared in two games during the 1970 NFL season, carrying five times for six yards and catching one pass for six yards.Gil Santos
Gilbert A. Santos (April 19, 1938 – April 19, 2018) was an American radio play-by-play announcer for the New England Patriots of the National Football League, and morning sports reporter for WBZ radio in Boston. He was an inductee of the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame.He retired from WBZ radio in January 2009, and was inducted into the WBZ Radio Hall of Fame on July 9, 2009. The Patriots 2012 season was his final season of radio play-by-play.Homer Jones (American football)
Homer Carroll Jones (born February 18, 1941 in Pittsburg, Texas) is a former American football wide receiver, who played for the National Football League's New York Giants from 1964 to 1969, and for the Cleveland Browns in 1970.Husky Stadium
Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium (colloquially known as simply Husky Stadium) is an outdoor football stadium in the northwest United States, located on the campus of the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington.
It has been the home of the Washington Huskies of the Pac-12 Conference since 1920, hosting its football games. The university also holds its annual commencement at the stadium in June. It is located at the southeastern corner of campus, between Montlake Boulevard N.E. and Union Bay, just north of the Montlake Cut. The stadium is served by the University of Washington Link light rail station, as well as several bus routes.
The stadium underwent a $280 million renovation that was completed in 2013. Its U-shaped design was specifically oriented (18.167° south of due east) to minimize glare from the early afternoon sun in the athletes' eyes. The stadium's open end overlooks scenic Lake Washington and the Cascade Mountains, including Mount Rainier. Prior to the 2013 renovation, its total capacity of 72,500 made it the largest stadium in the Pacific Northwest and one of the largest stadiums in college football.Jack Faulkner
Jack Faulkner (April 4, 1926 – September 28, 2008) was an American football coach and administrator who most prominently served as head coach of the American Football League's Denver Broncos from 1962 to 1964. He also has been an integral part of the Los Angeles Rams organization, dating back to the team's first tenure in LAJack Gregory (defensive end)
Earl Jackson Gregory Jr. (October 3, 1944 – March 2, 2019) was an American football defensive end in the National Football League (NFL) who played for the Cleveland Browns and the New York Giants in a 13-year career that lasted from 1967 through 1979. He is unofficially credited with 103 quarterback sacks for his career (38 with the Browns and 65 with the Giants). The Browns credit him with 14 sacks for the 1970 NFL season, the second-best total in team history.Gregory played college football at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Delta State University. He was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 2000. His father, Jack Gregory Sr., played with the Cleveland Rams in 1941.
Gregory died March 2, 2019, in Monroe County, Mississippi.John Mazur
John Edward Mazur (June 17, 1930 – November 1, 2013) was an American football player and coach. He was a quarterback for the University of Notre Dame and also served as head coach for the New England Patriots from 1970 to 1972.List of Monday Night Football results (1970–89)
Beginning in the 1970 NFL season, the National Football League began scheduling a weekly regular season game on Monday night before a national television audience. From 1970 to 2005, the ABC television network carried these games, with the ESPN cable television network taking over beginning in September 2006. Listed below are games played from 1970 to 1989.List of Monday Night Football results (1990–2009)
Beginning in the 1970 NFL season, the National Football League began scheduling a weekly regular season game on Monday night before a national television audience. From 1970–2005, the ABC television network carried these games, with the ESPN cable television network taking over beginning in September 2006. Listed below are games played from 1990 to 2009.List of Monday Night Football results (2010–present)
Beginning in the 1970 NFL season, the National Football League began scheduling a weekly regular season game on Monday night before a national television audience. From 1970 to 2005, the ABC television network carried these games, with the ESPN cable television network taking over beginning in September 2006. Listed below are games played from 2010 to the most recent season.Mike Phipps
Michael Elston Phipps (born January 19, 1947) is a former American college and professional football player who was a quarterback in the National Football League (NFL) for twelve seasons during the 1970s and 1980s. Phipps played college football for Purdue University, and was recognized as an All-American. He was the third overall pick in the 1970 NFL Draft, and played professionally for the Cleveland Browns and Chicago Bears of the NFL.National Football League Century Division
The NFL Century Division was one of the four divisions of the National Football League during the 1967 through 1969 seasons. (The other divisions were named Capital, Central, Coastal; each name began with C and consisted of seven letters). The NFL, previously, consisted of the Eastern Conference and Western Conference. The four-division setup was used in the preparation of the merger of the NFL and American Football League (AFL) for the 1970 NFL season.
The NFL Century Division had four teams in each season; however, it had five different members: Cleveland Browns, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers, and St. Louis Cardinals. In 1967 and 1969 the four teams were the Browns, Cardinals, Giants, and Steelers. For the 1968 season, the Giants were placed in the Capital Division, with the Saints switching to the Century.
The Century Division was the only one not based on geography; the Capital Division's teams were in the eastern U.S., the Central Division in the upper Midwest, and the Coastal had two teams on each coast. The the origin of name Century Division reminds uncertain; there is speculation that it was a reference to the 20th Century Limited, a passenger train which connected the division's original four cities. As such, the Century Division's teams varied widely by geography, although not to the extent of the Coastal Division.
The Cleveland Browns won all three division titles in the Century Division. After the AFL–NFL merger in 1970, the division was disbanded; the Giants joined the NFC East; the Cardinals also joined the NFC East before moving to the NFC West in 2002. New Orleans became a member of the NFC West, moving to the newly-formed NFC South in 2002. Cleveland and Pittsburgh joined the AFC Central (later the AFC North), with the Cincinnati Bengals (from the AFL West) and Houston Oilers (from the AFL East).Steelers–Titans rivalry
The Steelers–Titans rivalry is a National Football League rivalry between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Tennessee Titans that dates back to the 1970s when the Steelers and then-Houston Oilers played in the AFC Central. The two teams were realigned into separate divisions for the 2002 NFL season, however matchups are still considered heated between the two teams.Tom Fears
Thomas Jesse Fears (December 3, 1922 – January 4, 2000) was an American football split end for the Los Angeles Rams in the National Football League (NFL), playing nine seasons from 1948 to 1956. He was later an NFL assistant coach and head coach of the New Orleans Saints, and is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He played college football for the UCLA Bruins football team and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.Vanderbilt Stadium
Vanderbilt Stadium is a football stadium located in Nashville, Tennessee. Completed in 1922 (then named Dudley Field) as the first stadium in the South to be used exclusively for college football, it is the home of the Vanderbilt University football team. Vanderbilt Stadium hosted the Tennessee Oilers (now Titans) during the 1998 NFL season and the first Music City Bowl in 1998 and also hosted the Tennessee state high school football championships for many years.
Vanderbilt Stadium is the smallest football stadium in the Southeastern Conference, and was the largest stadium in Nashville until the completion of the Titans' Nissan Stadium in 1999.
1970 NFL season