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HOW TO MAKE THREE THE HARD WAY
December 20, 1976
If you 're the Steelers, you win two straight Super Bowls and, going for a record third straight, lose four of your first five games. Now, as the playoffs begin, Baltimore tries to stop Pittsburgh; Oakland and L.A. look for revenge; Minnesota for redemption
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December 20, 1976

How To Make Three The Hard Way

If you 're the Steelers, you win two straight Super Bowls and, going for a record third straight, lose four of your first five games. Now, as the playoffs begin, Baltimore tries to stop Pittsburgh; Oakland and L.A. look for revenge; Minnesota for redemption

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Not even Pete Rozelle could have written a better script for the final weekend of the NFL's regular schedule. By routing the Dolphins 29-7 in sunny Miami, Minnesota gained the advantage of its frozen home field for however long it survives in the NFC playoffs. Under the dome in Houston, the Pittsburgh Steelers—left for dead nine weeks ago—beat the Oilers 21-0 for their ninth straight victory and now storm into the playoffs favored to win their third straight Super Bowl. In scenic East Rutherford, N.J., the St. Louis Cardinals—needing a win to keep their playoff hopes alive—scraped past the New York-New Jersey Giants 17-14. In Irving, Texas, the Washington Redskins, aware of the St. Louis victory as they took to the Tartan Turf against the Dallas Cowboys, knew they had to win or Coach George Allen would have ice cream all over his face. Two touchdowns late in the final quarter earned the Redskins a playoff spot against the Vikings. Bye-bye, Birds. And in Baltimore, the Colts overran Buffalo 58-20 to wrap up the AFC East while the Bills' O. J. Simpson ran for 171 yards to finish with 1,503 and win his fourth NFL rushing championship. Chicago's Walter Payton, the leader most of the schedule, got only 49 yards against Denver before being sidelined with an ankle injury. Alas, Rozelle's playoff script has no parts for Simpson or Payton.

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