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The 1975 NFC Championship Game was the sixth title game[a] of the National Football Conference. Played on January 4, 1976, the game was hosted by the NFC West champion Los Angeles Rams who played the NFC East runner-up Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California. Along with the 1975 AFC Championship Game played on the same day, this game constituted the penultimate round of the 1975-76 NFL playoffs which had followed the 1975 regular season of the National Football League.
|Date||January 4, 1976|
|Stadium||Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, California|
|TV in the United States|
|Announcers||Vin Scully and Sonny Jurgensen|
This was the second consecutive NFC title game contested by the Rams and their seventh title game overall.[b] Los Angeles won the NFC West with a 12-2 regular season record and defeated the NFC East champion St. Louis Cardinals 35–23 at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in the Divisional Round to advance to the NFC Championship game.
Having already contested the first four NFC Championship Games, the Cowboys returned to the NFC title game after a one year absence. This was the Cowboys' seventh appearance in a Super Bowl era title game.[c]Dallas finished second in the NFC East with a 10-4 regular season record, one game behind the Cardinals, but managed to secure the then-one NFC wild card berth. Notably, the Cowboys were one of the two teams to defeat Los Angeles in the regular season, winning 18–7 in the season opener at Texas Stadium. Dallas defeated the NFC Central champion and two-time defending NFC champion Minnesota Vikings 17–14 at Metropolitan Stadium in the Divisional Round to reach the NFC title game.
This was the second playoff meeting between these teams and their first meeting in an NFC title game. Their only previous postseason meeting had been in the Divisional Round in the 1973 at Texas Stadium, with the Cowboys winning 27–16.
This was the first year the NFL used a seeding system to determine home field advantage for the playoffs. Under the tie-breakers then in force, the 12-2 Vikings had earned the number one seed in the NFC[d] and thus had the opportunity to become the first team to host consecutive conference title games. With Minnesota losing to Dallas, the right to host the NFC championship passed to the Rams, who were the number two seed. Furthemore, the NFC East champion Cardinals' defeat in Los Angeles meant the Cowboys became the first wild card team to face an opponent other than their own division champion in a conference championship game.
Quarterback Roger Staubach threw for 220 yards and 4 touchdown passes while also rushing for 54 yards as the Cowboys upset the favored Rams. The first passing attempt by Los Angeles quarterback James Harris, who was coming off an injury and making his first start since the 13th game of the season, was intercepted by Dallas linebacker D.D. Lewis. This set up Staubach's first touchdown pass, a screen to running back Preston Pearson for 18 yards. A 4-yard touchdown reception by Golden Richards and a diving catch in the end zone by Preston Pearson put the Cowboys up 21–0 by halftime. Dallas scored again on their first drive of the second half on a shovel pass to Preston Pearson for his third touchdown reception of the game. Toni Fritsch later added three field goals. Harris gave way to backup Ron Jaworski, but only John Cappelletti's 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter prevented the Rams from being shut out. Pearson finished the game with 7 receptions for 123 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 20 rushing yards. The Dallas defense allowed only 118 yards, a mere 22 on the ground, and sacked Jaworski 5 times.
- First Quarter
- DAL – Pearson 18 pass from Staubach (Fritsch kick) DAL 7–0
- Second Quarter
- DAL – Richards 4 pass from Staubach (Fritsch kick) DAL 14–0
- DAL – Pearson 15 pass from Staubach (Fritsch kick) DAL 21–0
- Third Quarter
- DAL – Pearson 19 pass from Staubach (Fritsch kick) DAL 28–0
- DAL – field goal Fritsch 40 DAL 31–0
- DAL – field goal Fritsch 26 DAL 34–0
- Fourth Quarter
- LA – Cappelletti 1 run (Dempsey kick) DAL 34–7
- DAL – field goal Fritsch 26 DAL 37–7
The NFC champion Cowboys were the first wild card team to win a conference title[e] and made their third Super Bowl appearance. Dallas lost 21–17 to the Pittsburgh Steelers of the American Football Conference in Super Bowl X.
This was the third of six consecutive NFC Championship Games involving only the Cowboys, Rams and Minnesota Vikings. The Rams would ultimately appear in five out of six games from 1974 through 1979. The Rams would avenge their loss to the Cowboys by beating them the following year at Texas Stadium in the Divisional Round. However, the Rams would once again lose again the title game to the Vikings. The Rams would face the Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game once again two years later at the Coliseum, but the result would be just as one-sided as their first title game meeting - a 28–0 shutout loss at home. After avenging that defeat as well in a similar manner to their 1975 title game loss, the Rams would finally win an NFC title when they defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (a team which only came in to existence the following season) in the 1979 NFC Championship Game.
The Cowboys would ultimately play two more NFC title games in the 1970s, first beating the Vikings before repeating once again as NFC champions with their aforementioned shut out of the Rams. Ultimately, least one of the Cowboys or Rams would appear in all of the first thirteen NFC Championship Games played.
This was the largest margin of victory in a post-merger conference championship game up to that point. When the mark was finally broken 15 years later, it would again be a Los Angeles team on the losing end when the then-Los Angeles Raiders were thrashed by the Buffalo Bills in the 1990 AFC Championship Game. The NFC title game record would be broken the following year by the Washington Redskins against the Detroit Lions. As of 2021, the 1975 NFC Championship remains the most lopsided victory by a visiting team in a post-merger conference championship game, with the Cowboys' own aforementioned shut out at the same venue three years later being the closest any subsequent visitor has come to breaking that record.
- In this series of articles, title game refers to pre-merger AFL and NFL Championship Games up to and including the 1969 season as well as post-merger AFC and NFC Championship Games from the 1970 season onward.
- The Rams contested five pre-Super Bowl era NFL Championship Games, winning two, from 1945 to 1955 inclusive. Their first NFL championship appearance (and victory) was in their last season in Cleveland.
- In addition to the 1970 NFC Championship Game, the Cowboys had previously appeared in the first two NFL title games of the Super Bowl era, losing both times to the Green Bay Packers.
- Minnesota was the top NFC playoff seed based on the point rating system then in use - the Vikings were 1st in NFC in points scored and 2nd in NFC in points allowed for a combined rating of 3 while the Rams were 5th in NFC in points scored and 1st in NFC in points allowed for a combined rating of 6. Had the Rams won the tie-breaker instead, they would have faced the Cowboys in the Divisional Round.
- The Super Bowl IV champion Kansas City Chiefs were the only other non-division champion to play in a Super Bowl prior to the Cowboys' Super Bowl X appearance. This had been possible due to the modified playoff format the American Football League used only in its final season.