1973 NFL season

The 1973 NFL season was the 54th regular season of the National Football League. The season was highlighted by O.J. Simpson becoming the first player to rush for 2,000 yards in one season.

1973 National Football League season
Regular season
DurationSeptember 16 – December 16, 1973
Start dateDecember 22, 1973
AFC ChampionsMiami Dolphins
NFC ChampionsMinnesota Vikings
Super Bowl VIII
DateJanuary 13, 1974
SiteRice Stadium, Houston, Texas
ChampionsMiami Dolphins
Pro Bowl
DateJanuary 20, 1974
SiteArrowhead Stadium,
Kansas City, Missouri
Simpson pictured in the game where he became the first running back to gain over 2,000 yards in a season on Dec. 16, 1973.

The season ended with Super Bowl VIII when the Miami Dolphins repeated as league champions by defeating the Minnesota Vikings 24–7 at Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas. The Pro Bowl took place on January 20, 1974, at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri; the AFC beat the NFC 15–13.


The 1973 NFL Draft was held from January 30 to 31, 1973 at New York City's Americana Hotel. With the first pick, the Houston Oilers selected defensive end John Matuszak from the University of Tampa.

Major rule changesEdit

Jersey numbering systemEdit

  • A jersey numbering system is adopted (players who played in 1972 are grandfathered):
    • 1–19: Quarterbacks and specialists
    • 20–49: Running backs and defensive backs
    • 50–59: Centers and linebackers
    • 60–79: Defensive linemen and offensive linemen other than centers
    • 80–89: Wide receivers and tight ends
    • Numbers 0, 00, and 90 to 99 are no longer allowed to be issued, even though these numbers were rarely issued anyway (two players wearing 00 at the time, Jim Otto and Ken Burrough, were grandfathered). Numbers 90 to 99 would be allowed again for defensive linemen from 1979 and for linebackers from 1984 in addition to the above-mentioned numbers.

Other new rulesEdit

  • Defensive players cannot jump or stand on a teammate while trying to block a kick.
  • The clock is to start at the snap following all changes of possession. Previously, the clock started on a change of possession when the ball was spotted ready for play by the referee, except if the ball went out of bounds on the change of possession, there was an incomplete pass on fourth down, or the change of possession occurred on the final play of the first or third quarters; in those cases, the clock started on the snap.
  • If there is a foul by the offensive team, and it is followed by a change of possession, the period can be extended by one play by the other team.
  • If the receiving team commits a foul after the ball is kicked, possession will be presumed to have changed; the receiving team keeps the ball.

Television Blackout rulesEdit

Up until the 1972 season, all NFL games (including championship games and Super Bowls) were blacked-out on television in each team's home city. In 1973, the league changed their policy to black out games in the team's home city only if tickets to the game had not sold out. This expanded the league's television presence in teams' home cities on gameday.

The policy was put into effect when, in 1972, the Washington Redskins made the playoffs for only the second time in 27 seasons. Because all home games were blacked-out, politicians — including devout football fan President Richard Nixon — were not able to watch their home team win. NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle refused to lift the blackout, despite a plea from United States Attorney General Richard Kleindienst. Kleindienst was to suggest that the United States Congress re-evaluate the NFL's antitrust exemption. Rozelle agreed to lift the blackout for Super Bowl VII on an "experimental basis". But Congress intervened before the 1973 season anyway, passing Public Law 93-107, which eliminated the blackout of games in the home market so long as the game was sold out by 72 hours before game time.[1]

Division racesEdit

Starting in 1970, and until 2002, 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, records against common opponents, and records in conference play.

National Football ConferenceEdit

Week Eastern Central Western Wild Card
1 4 teams 1–0–0 2 teams 1–0–0 2 teams 1–0–0 5 teams 1–0–0
2 Dallas, St. Louis (tie) 2–0–0 Minnesota 2–0–0 Los Angeles 2–0–0 Dallas, St. Louis (tie) 2–0–0
3 Dallas 3–0–0 Minnesota 3–0–0 Los Angeles 3–0–0 St. Louis 2–1–0
4 Washington* 3–1–0 Minnesota 4–0–0 Los Angeles 4–0–0 Dallas 3–1–0
5 Washington 4–1–0 Minnesota 5–0–0 Los Angeles 5–0–0 Dallas 3–2–0
6 Washington 5–1–0 Minnesota 6–0–0 Los Angeles 6–0–0 Dallas 4–2–0
7 Washington 5–2–0 Minnesota 7–0–0 Los Angeles 6–1–0 Dallas* 4–3–0
8 Washington* 5–3–0 Minnesota 8–0–0 Los Angeles 6–2–0 Atlanta* 5–3–0
9 Washington* 6–3–0 Minnesota 9–0–0 Los Angeles 7–2–0 Atlanta* 6–3–0
10 Washington* 7–3–0 Minnesota 9–1–0 Los Angeles 8–2–0 Atlanta* 7–3–0
11 Washington 8–3–0 Minnesota 10–1–0 Los Angeles 9–2–0 Atlanta 8–3–0
12 Washington* 9–3–0 Minnesota 10–2–0 Los Angeles 10–2–0 Atlanta* 8–4–0
13 Dallas* 9–4–0 Minnesota 11–2–0 Los Angeles 11–2–0 Washington 9–4–0
14 Dallas 10–4–0 Minnesota 12–2–0 Los Angeles 12–2–0 Washington 10–4–0
  • For the last time until 1997, the last two unbeaten teams in the league met in Week 7,[2] with the Vikings tipping the Rams 10–9.

American Football ConferenceEdit

Week Eastern Central Western Wild Card
1 Buffalo, Miami (tie) 1–0–0 Cleveland, Pittsburgh (tie) 1–0–0 Denver 1–0–0 2 teams 1–0–0
2 NY Jets 1–1–0 Pittsburgh 2–0–0 4 teams 1–1–0 7 teams 1–1–0
3 Buffalo 2–1–0 Pittsburgh 3–0–0 Kansas City 2–1–0 3 teams 2–1–0
4 Buffalo, Miami (tie) 3–1–0 Pittsburgh 4–0–0 Kansas City 3–1–0 Buffalo, Miami (tie) 3–1–0
5 Buffalo, Miami (tie) 4–1–0 Pittsburgh 4–1–0 Kansas City 3–1–1 Buffalo, Miami (tie) 4–1–0
6 Miami 5–1–0 Pittsburgh 5–1–0 Kansas City 3–2–1 Cincinnati* 4–2–0
7 Miami 6–1–0 Pittsburgh 6–1–0 Oakland 4–2–1 Buffalo 5–2–0
8 Miami 7–1–0 Pittsburgh 7–1–0 Oakland 5–2–1 Buffalo 5–3–0
9 Miami 8–1–0 Pittsburgh 8–1–0 Oakland* 5–3–1 Kansas City* 5–3–1
10 Miami 9–1–0 Pittsburgh 8–2–0 Kansas City 6–3–1 Cleveland 6–3–1
11 Miami 10–1–0 Pittsburgh 8–3–0 Denver 6–3–2 Cleveland 7–3–1
12 Miami 11–1–0 Cincinnati* 8–4–0 Oakland 7–4–1 Pittsburgh 8–4–0
13 Miami 11–2–0 Cincinnati* 9–4–0 Oakland 8–3–1 Pittsburgh 9–4–0
14 Miami 12–2–0 Cincinnati* 10–4–0 Oakland 9–4–1 Pittsburgh 10–4–0

Final standingsEdit


  • N.Y. Jets finished ahead of Baltimore in the AFC East based on head-to-head sweep (2–0).
  • Cincinnati finished ahead of Pittsburgh in the AFC Central based on better conference record (8–3 to Steelers' 7–4).
  • Kansas City finished ahead of Denver in the AFC West based on better division record (4–2 to Broncos' 3–2–1).
  • Dallas finished ahead of Washington in the NFC East based on better point differential in head-to-head games (13 points).
  • San Francisco finished ahead of New Orleans in the NFC West based on better division record (2–4 to Saints' 1–5).


Note: Prior to the 1975 season, the home teams in the playoffs were decided based on a yearly rotation. Had the 1973 playoffs been seeded, the AFC divisional matchups would have been #3 Oakland at #2 Cincinnati and #4 wild card Pittsburgh at #1 Miami; the NFC matchups would not have changed, although #3 Dallas would have had to travel to #2 Los Angeles, and #1 Minnesota would have had home field for the NFC championship game.
Divisional PlayoffsConf. Championship GamesSuper Bowl VIII
December 22 – Metropolitan Stadium
December 30 – Texas Stadium
December 23 – Texas Stadium
Los Angeles16
January 13 – Rice Stadium
December 22 – Oakland Coliseum
December 30 – Miami Orange Bowl
December 23 – Miami Orange Bowl


Most Valuable Player O.J. Simpson, Running Back, Buffalo
Coach of the Year Chuck Knox, Los Angeles
Offensive Player of the Year O.J. Simpson, Running Back, Buffalo
Defensive Player of the Year Dick Anderson, Safety, Miami
Offensive Rookie of the Year Chuck Foreman, Running Back, Minnesota
Defensive Rookie of the Year Wally Chambers, Defensive Tackle, Chicago
Man of the Year Len Dawson, Quarterback, Kansas City
Comeback Player of the Year Roman Gabriel, Quarterback, Eagles
Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Larry Csonka, Running Back, Miami

Coaching changesEdit



Stadium changesEdit

The Buffalo Bills moved from their original home at War Memorial Stadium and played their first season at Rich Stadium.

From October 7, the New York Giants moved from Yankee Stadium to the Yale Bowl in New Haven, Connecticut, where they would play the rest of 1973 and all of 1974. The Giants were forced out of Yankee Stadium after it closed to be renovated to a baseball-only venue. Also, a new Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey was already under construction by 1973, but it would not open until 1976.

Uniform changesEdit

  • The Buffalo Bills added blue pants to be worn with their white jerseys.
  • The Chicago Bears changed their "C" helmet logo from white to orange with white trim
  • The Los Angeles Rams introduced new uniforms, reverting their white-and-blue helmets back to the gold-and-blue helmets last used in 1963. The new design included gold pants, blue jerseys with white numbers and white jerseys with blue numbers. Both jerseys included curling rams horns on the sleeves: yellow horns on the blue jerseys and blue horns against yellow sleeves on the white jerseys.
  • The Miami Dolphins added stripes to their aqua jerseys, while standardizing their white jerseys to include stripes. During their undefeated season, most Dolphins wore white jerseys with stripes, but some did not, including Bob Griese and Larry Csonka. Also, the Dolphins added orange-topped socks with aqua and white stripes.
  • The New England Patriots added blue outlines to the numbers of both their red and white jerseys. Stripes were also added to the sleeve ends: blue and white for the red jerseys, and blue and red for the white jerseys.


  1. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com blog: Rubin, Rozelle, the Redskins, and Super Bowl Blackouts
  2. ^ "Last Undefeated NFL Teams in Each Season". Archived from the original on January 17, 2013. Retrieved December 26, 2012.