1974 Football Preview: Raise the Steel Curtain

1974 NFL: Raise the Steel Curtain
By Glenn Guzzo
            Strat-O-Matic will re-create two classic NFL seasons this summer, 1956 and 1974. Here is a preview of the 1974 NFL.
            Oakland’s No. 1 offense produced the best season record, but Pittsburgh’s supreme defense won the Super Bowl, the Steelers’ first title of any kind in its 42-year existence.
            Long a non-factor in the NFL East dominated by Cleveland, New York and Dallas, then the AFC dominated by Miami, Pittsburgh began a dynasty in 1974 that would claim four Super Bowl victories in a six-year span.
            Despite Pittsburgh’s dominance in the 1974 post-season, rolling over Buffalo, Oakland and Minnesota, six teams matched or bettered the Steelers’ 10 regular-season wins, offering Strat-O-Matic gamers a terrific “six-pack” of carded teams and a rich collection of other stars in the complete NFL offered in the game company’s Windows game.
            Here’s a preview of this set, updated in current ratings format:
Pittsburgh (10-3-1): Good luck running or passing against this defense, which led the league at both. The Steel Curtain led the league in sacks (52) by far, takeaways (47), yards allowed (330 better than the next best team) and completion percentage (a suffocating 43.4 percent), among other categories and was second in rushing average (3.4). In the post-season, this D shut down O.J. Simpson, stifled Oakland’s league-best offense and outscored Minnesota’s offense in the Super Bowl, 2-0. Mean Joe Greene, Jack Ham, Mel Blount, Jack Lambert and others dominated. On offense, FB Franco Harris rushed for 1,006 yards at 4.8/carry and HBs Rocky Bleier and Preston Pearson topped 4/carry to help Pittsburgh score 20 or more 10 times while yielding that many only twice.
Minnesota (10-4): Though it didn’t show in the post-season, the Vikings had offense as well as its dominant Purple People Eater defense. Fran Tarkenton completed 57 percent of his passes, HB Chuck Foreman had 1,363 yards from scrimmage and led the NFL with 15 TDs. WRs Jeff Lash and John Gilliam topped 20 yards per catch. Ron Yary was an All-Pro tackle. Meanwhile, only four teams scored 20 points against the Vikings, none more than 24. DLs Alan Page and Carl Eller and DBs Paul Krause and Nate Wright starred.
Oakland (12-2): The NFL’s top offense could dominate with Ken Stabler’s league-leading 28 TD passes (13 to league-leading WR Cliff Branch, who also had a league-best 1,082 yards) or with a punishing ground game led by FB Marv Hubbard (4.6 average) and Clarence Davis (4.3). The pass D was second in INTs (27) and fifth in completion percentage (47.7) and sacks (36).
Los Angeles (10-4): Stifling defense and versatile offense propelled the Rams to the top of the NFC West. HB Lawrence McCutcheon led the NFC in rushing (1,100 yards, 4.7/carry) and the team in receiving. QB James Harris ranked second in the NFC passing with a downfield game that featured WRs Harold Jackson and Jack Snow (17 ypc each) and TE Bob Klein (14 ypc). The Rams yielded the fewest points in the NFL (181), only 3.4 yards/rush, was second in sacks (44) with All-Pro DE Jack Youngblood, DE Fred Dryer, DT Merlin Olsen, All-Pro DT Larry Brooks and ballhawk DBs Dave Elmendorf and Charlie Stukes (7 INTs each).
Miami (11-3): After three straight trips to the Super Bowl, and two straight wins there, the Dolphins won the AFC East again, despite a flurry of injuries to its familiar stars, Larry Csonka, Mercury Morris, Paul Warfield and Manny Fernandez. Still, Miami was third in the NFL in scoring and the defense led by Jake Scott held five foes to 7 points or fewer and nine foes under 20 as the Dolphins won eight of their last nine – before losing to Oakland in the playoffs on a last-minute touchdown.
St. Louis (10-4): The Cardinals started 7-0 and all four of their losses were by 3-4 points. They beat division rival Washington twice to win the tie-breaker for the NFC East title. QB Jim Hart led the NFC with 20 TD passes and a 2 percent interception rate. HB Terry Metcalf led the NFC by averaging 4.7/carry, caught 50 passes, returned a kickoff for a TD and averaged 13 yards on punt returns. In all, Metcalf had 2,058 all-purpose yards. FB Jim Otis averaged 4.2/carry and WR Mel Gray averaged 20 per catch.

            As always, Strat-O-Matic will have the entire NFL in its computer game. Highlights from some of the uncarded teams:
Buffalo (9-5): O.J. Simpson ran for 1,125 yards, third best in the NFL.
Cincinnati (7-7): Ken Anderson was the NFL’s No. 1 passer, leading with 65 percent completions, 2,667 yards and 8.1 ypp. HBs Charlie Davis and Lenvil Elliott each topped 5 yards per carry. WR Isaac Curtis averaged 21 per catch and was second in the NFL with 10 TD catches. Lemar Parrish averaged 18.8 on punt returns, including two scores.
Dallas (8-6): Calvin Hill (eighth in rushing yards) and Robert Newhouse gave the Cowboys a strong running attack, Drew Pearson lead all NFL wideouts with 62 catches and was second with 1,087 yards receiving (18 per catch) and Dallas had the NFC’s highest-scoring offense (No. 2 scoring team). The Cowboys also allowed a league-low 3.2 yards/rush.
Denver (7-6-1): With the NFL’s leading rusher, Otis Armstrong (1,407 yards, 5.3 average), and FB John Keyworth combining for 19 rushing TDs, the Broncos also had All-Pro TE Riley Odoms. They topped 20 points eight times and held eight foes to fewer than 20, but still won only seven.
New England (7-7): HB Mack Herron and FB Sam Cunningham each were top-10 rushers, topping 800 yards rushing and combining for 16 rushing TDs on the second-highest scoring team in the NFL.
Philadelphia (7-7): TE Charlie Young led the NFC with 63 catches. HB Tom Sullivan led the league with 11 rushing TDs.
San Diego (5-9): HB Don Woods ran for 1,162 yards and a 5.1 average, both second best in the NFL.
Washington (10-4): The Redskins led the NFC in scoring and had a +124 scoring differential (although one-third of that came in one game, a 42-0 season-ending win over Chicago). Billy Kilmer and Sonny Jurgensen combined for 21 TD passes. Larry Jones returned a kickoff 102 yards for a TD.