Super Bowl XI
Super Bowl XI pitted the near-perfect 13-1 Oakland Raiders against the Minnesota Vikings who were making their fourth appearance in the Super Bowl. Oakland dominated the AFC with the likes of Hall of Fame wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff, tight end Dave Casper, tackle Art Shell, linebacker Ted Hendricks and guard Gene Upshaw as well as All-Pro quarterback Kenny Stabler and wide receiver Cliff Branch. Their single loss came in a 48-17 thrashing at the hands of the New England Patriots, but Oakland had the last laugh as they eliminated the Pats in the divisional playoff game 24-21. The Raiders then clobbered two-time reigning Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers 24-7 in the AFC Conference Championship Game. The NFC Champion Minnesota Vikings, on the other hand, had a somewhat aging core, which centered around 37-year old quarterback Fran Tarkenton and the famed "Purple People Eater" defense that included future Hall of Famers Carl Eller and Alan Page. Despite his age, Tarkenton had led the NFL in completions, attempts, completion percentage and touchdown passes in the 1975 previous season and was among the leaders once again on nearly all offensive categories. The defense allowed the fewest number of points with 176 and only Pittsburgh allowed fewer with a remarkable 138. Minnesota went 11-2-1 during the regular season, winning the NFC Central for the eighth time on the last nine years, then beat the Washington Redskins in the divisional playoff and the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Conference Championship Game. (Los Angeles accounted for the Vikings only tie of the regular season.)
Super Bowl XI was played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California on January 9, 1977 in front of a crowd of 103,438. This was the largest attendance of any previous Super Bowl and it was the first of five times that the NFL's title game was played at the historic Rose Bowl. The game began as a defensive war, but was also marked by a few foibles like a field goal denial by an upright, a fumble and a blocked punt. (It was one of only three times that Oakland Raiders' punter Ray Guy suffered a blocked punt in his 14-year career.) Oakland was first on the board with a 24-yard field goal 48 seconds into the second quarter. The Raiders then scored two touchdowns on a 1-yard pass from Ken Stabler to Dave Casper and a 1-yard rush from Pete Banaszak giving Oakland a 16-0 lead heading into halftime. Opening the second half, Raiders kicker Errol Mann started the scoring with a 40-yard field goal to go up 19-0. On the ensuing punts after the Vikings went three and out on the next drive, linebacker Ted Hendricks was called for roughing the punter so Minnesota was given the ball back. They capitalized as Fran Tarkenton threw an 8-yard pass to Sammy White, cutting the lead to 19-7. In the fourth quarter, however, the Raiders put the game out of reach with another 2-yard Pete Banaszak rushing touchdown and then a 75-yard Willie Brown interception return for a score. Late in the game, Minnesota's Stu Voight scored on a 13-yard pass from Bob Lee, but their dreams were dashed once again. Oakland toppled the Vikings 32-14 making Minnesota the first four-time loser of the Super Bowl. Oakland Raiders' wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff was named Super Bowl XI Most Valuable Player based upon his four receptions for 79 yards. In a truly classy move, head coach John Madden literally used his whole team and inserted every member of his squad at one point during the game so that each player contributed to one of the biggest games in his life. Defensive ends John Matuszak (6'8") and Charlie Philyaw (6'9") hoisted Madden onto their shoulders at the game's end and carried the beloved coach into the locker room giving the NFL one of the most iconic images in Super Bowl history.