Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins still hold the NFL record for longest game
This weekend's playoff matchup is reigniting memories of a 1971 divisional game that included two overtimes and more than 22 minutes of extra time.
Lifelong Chiefs fan Dave Gershon clearly remembers how he felt after the NFL’s longest game, in the 1971 playoffs, between Kansas City and the Miami Dolphins. It’s not a particularly good memory for Gershon.
“That was depressing,” said Gershon, of Kansas City, Missouri. Gershon was just out of college and in his early 20s when he attended the game as a fan.
The game clock that day ticked off more than 82 minutes, including two overtimes — 22 more minutes than a normal four-quarter game. The Chiefs lost after Dolphins kicker Garo Yepremian booted a 30-yard field goal. It was the last football game ever played at Kansas City’s old Municipal Stadium.
“I thought we had the best kicker in football, Jan Stenerud,” said Gershon.
This Saturday night’s playoff game between the Chiefs and the Dolphins is stirring up memories of that ‘71 Christmas Day game for former players, too.
Former Chiefs linebacker Bobby Bell, who played in that game, will attend this week’s Arrowhead game as a fan.
He brought up a little-known kicking-team distinction from that game: long snapper Bell, holder Len Dawson and Stenerud, the kicker, all became members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“If I’d have messed up, it would’ve been known who in the world messed up,” Bell said. “But it never happened.”
Instead, on a fourth-quarter, 32-yard kick that could have won the game; the snap was good, Dawson’s hold was good but Stenerud’s kick was wide to the right.
“There was a lot of hurt after that game,” former Chiefs running back Ed Podolak said in a 1990 interview. “It took a long time for our team to recover and I’m not sure we really did. It was a game we should have won.”
Podolak had 350 yards in rushing, receiving, and returns — still an NFL playoff record.
“He was just running like a crazy man out there,” said Gershon, who knew Podolak through his roommate at the time, former Chiefs backup linebacker Bob Stein.
“It was fun to watch him because I knew him,” said Gershon.
Podolak thought the ‘71 Chiefs were even better than the team that beat Minnesota in the 1970 New Orleans Super Bowl.
“I really think that we had a real shot at being the world champions that year,” said Podolak, now 76.
So much for thinking a team from south Florida couldn’t win a winter game in Kansas City — the Dolphins won 27-24.
And there were players on that Miami team who were accustomed to playing in the cold.
“Chicago, Green Bay, Milwaukee, and Detroit,” growled former Dolphins guard Bob Kuechenberg in 1995. They’re the cities where he played with the little-known Professional Football of America league in the 1960s.
Kuechenberg also played college football at Notre Dame, in northern Indiana. He was a Miami offensive line mainstay even before prevailing against the Chiefs in 1971.
And Dolphins quarterback Bob Griese was an alum of Purdue (just like Len Dawson), not far from Notre Dame.
Current Chiefs linebacker Drue Tranquil cited this week his days playing for the Fighting Irish when asked about his coldest game.
“Low teens, 10 to 15 degrees,” said Tranquil, who’s bracing for colder temperatures this weekend.
But Miami’s starting quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, will be playing in conditions he’s never experienced. Tagovailoa is a Hawaii native and former University of Alabama signal caller.
No matter how cold game conditions will be this week, Dave Gershon thinks the Chiefs are warmed up to the task.
“It’s payback time,” he said.