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On This Date in Sports December 25, 1971: Working Overtime on Christmas

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

The Miami Dolphins beat the Kansas City Chiefs 27-24 in the longest game in NFL history. The Divisional Playoff matchup at Kansas City Municipal Stadium ends 7:40 into double overtime when it is decided by a 37-yard field goal by Garo Yeprmian. It is the first playoff win in Dolphins' history. Miami would lose Super V to the Dallas Cowboys 24-3. Ed Podolak set a postseason record with 350 All-Purpose Yards in a losing effort. 

The Miami Dolphins were a team on the rise in 1971. They had played in their first playoff game in 1970, losing to the Oakland Raiders 21-14. In their first four seasons, the Dolphins floundered as an AFL expansion team. Hiring Don Shula, the Dolphins began to rise into an NFL power. They won their first division title in 1971, with a record of 10-3-1. 

Before the merger, the Kansas City Chiefs were an AFL power under coach Hank Stram. They played in the first Super Bowl and won Super Bowl IV against the Minnesota Vikings. Kansas City struggled in 1970, posting a record of 7-5-2. They rebounded in 1971, winning the AFC West with a record of 10-3-1. 

The 1971 Divisional Playoffs were the first time the NFL had played on Christmas Day, a controversial move at the time. The Dallas Cowboys defeated the Minnesota Vikings 20-12 at Metropolitan Stadium earlier in the day. The Chiefs were set to move into a new stadium in 1972, so the 1971 postseason marked the end of Kansas City Municipal Stadium. 

The Chiefs dominated the first quarter taking a 10-0 lead. Jan Stenarud opened the scoring with a 24-yard field goal. Willie Lanier intercepted Bob Griese to set up a seven-yard touchdown run by Ed Podolak. Podolak set a playoff record with 350 all-purpose yards (eight receptions for 110 yards, 17 carries for 85 yards, three kickoff returns for 154 yards, and two punt returns for two yards). However, two Ed Podolak fumbles would help keep the Dolphins in the game. 

Miami began clawing their way back in the second quarter as Bob Griese led a long touchdown drive, with Larry Csonka scoring a one-yard run. The Dolphins would tie the game just before halftime on a 14-yard field goal by Garo Yepremian, following an Ed Podolak fumble. The Chiefs regained the lead in the third quarter as Jim Otis capped a ten-minute drive with a one-yard run. Miami quickly answered as Jim Kiick had a one-yard run for a touchdown.

The game was tied 17-17 at the end of the third quarter. Miami had a chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter when Nick Buoniconti recovered Ed Podolak's second fumble. However, Jim Lynch picked off Bob Griese to keep the game deadlocked. The Chiefs marched 91 yards, with Len Dawson completing a 63-yard pass to Elmo Wright. Podolak capped the drive on a three-yard touchdown run, giving Kansas City a 24-17 lead. The Dolphins would answer as Marv Fleming caught a five-yard touchdown pass. Ed Podolak returned the ensuing kickoff 78 yards to the Miami 22-yard line, but Jan Stenarud missed 32-yard field goal wide-right sending the game to overtime. 

The Chiefs got another long run by Ed Podolak on the kickoff to start overtime. However, the usually reliable Stenarud missed again from 42 yards. Garo Yepremian missed a 52-yard field goal as the game continued deep into sudden death. The game would need a sixth quarter, as it was the first NFL Playoff game to go into double-overtime. An AFL Championship Game in 1962 had gone 2:54 into a second overtime, but this game would surpass that record by nearly five minutes. After the Dolphins and Chiefs traded punts, Larry Csonka had a 29-yard run to set up Yepremian to win the game with a 37-yard field goal. 

The Dolphins beat the Baltimore Colts 21-0 in the AFC Championship Game. However, they lost Super Bowl V to the Dallas Cowboys 24-3. The Dolphins began the 1972 season with a win at Arrowhead Stadium, starting their run to 17-0 and two straight Lombardi Trophies. The Chiefs, meanwhile, went on a decade-long tailspin and did not make the playoff again until 1986 and did not win a playoff game until 1991.