First NFL Christmas games

33 Hall of Famers took part in first Christmas Day games in 1971

While the tradition of football on Thanksgiving has become a part of our culture, playing NFL games on Christmas Day is relatively rare.

The first time that a pro football game was played on Christmas came in 1971 with a pair of playoff games slated for the holiday.  As many members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame will recall, they spent their Christmas that year competing in one of the two divisional playoff games scheduled that day.

Cowboys vs. Vikings

Hall of Fame WR Bob Hayes hauls in a pass for a first down against the Vikings on Christmas Day '71.
 1 of 2 
Associated Press
The NFC divisional playoff featured the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings played at Metropolitan Stadium.   A combined 17 Hall of Fame members were part of this history-making game.  Led by a pair of Hall of Fame coaches – Bud Grant and Tom Landry – and two front office personnel who’ve earned election to the Hall – Tex Schramm and Jim Finks, the game also included 13 Hall of Fame players.  

The Cowboys players were Herb Adderley, Lance Alworth, Mike Ditka, Forrest Gregg,  Bob Hayes, Bob Lilly, Mel Renfro, Roger Staubach, and Rayfield Wright. 

The Vikings players were led by Carl Eller,  Paul Krause, Alan Page, and Ron Yary .

Chiefs vs. Dolphins

Fifteen members of the Hall of Fame were part of the famous AFC playoff game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins.  The double-overtime game remains the longest game ever played in NFL history. 

The Chiefs Hall of Famers involved in the game were owner Lamar Hunt and coach Hank Stram, and six players – Bobby Bell, Buck Buchanan, Curley Culp, Len Dawson, Willie Lanier, Jan Stenerud, and Emmitt Thomas. 

The Dolphins were led by coach Don Shula, and six players – Nick Buoniconti, Larry Csonka, Bob Griese, Jim Langer, Larry Little, and Paul Warfield.

 More on the Chiefs-Dolphins game>>>

Recent Comments
  • charles burkes - December 24 2009 09:20 AM

    that was one of the most exciting games i have ever watched,those guys played for the love of the sport.the players now Is a different breed (money and greed)and a bunch of crybabies,I would think twice about spending my hard earned money to watch a bunch of overpriced players today.

    Report Violation

First time posting? A confirmation email will be sent to you after submitting.

Your Comments

Your email address is required to confirm your comments. Email addresses are never displayed to other users and they are not used for any other purposes other than story comments.

Once you enter your email address, name, and comment, you will be emailed a link to confirm your comment. Additionally, you will be sent a password. In the future, if you wish to leave other comments, use the password that is provided in the email.