Pivotal Pro Football Moments
pivotal NFL postseason moment: A decision by a coach or an action by a player that establishes, continues or changes the momentum of a playoff game.
1974: Zebras Did Us In!
NFC Championship: Los Angeles Rams @ Minnesota Vikings
The Rams had reached the playoffs three times in the last seven years but didn't escape the first round until 1974 when they defeated the Washington Redskins 19-10 to advance to the NFC championship game against Minnesota.
The Rams beat the Vikings 20-17 in late November and believed they could do it again. However, that game was in sunny California. This one would be on the "frozen tundra" of Met­ropolitan Stadium in Bloomington MN. The thermometer read 29° at kickoff which, coupled with a wind of 10 mph, created a wind chill of 19°.
The defenses dominated the scoreless first quarter. The Rams gained two first downs on a march from midfield to the Minnesota 19 only to have RB Lawrence McCutcheon fumble the ball away.
Vikings Take the Lead
Minnesota scored a touchdown midway through the second quarter when QB Fran Tarken­ton threw 29y into the end zone to WR Jim Lash to finish the seven-play, 60y drive. The key gains came on another Tarkenton pass to Lash for 11y and Fran's 18y strike to John Gilli­am on third and 10 from the LA 49. Vikings 7 Rams 0 (8:00)

Larry Brooks (90) and Fred Dryer (89) rush Fran Tarkenton.
Rams Get on the Board
Later in the second quarter, the visitors moved from midfield to the Minnesota 10. On second and two, McCutcheon dropped a pass that would have moved the chains. On third down, WR Lance Rentzel wasn't where QB James Harris expected him to be at the sideline. The misfire brought on K David Ray, who nailed a 27y field goal. Vikings 7 Rams 3 (1:18)

James Harris prepares to elude from Jim Marshall (70) and Doug Sutherland (69).
Rams March 98y But Gain No Points
Starting from their one, the Rams marched to the Viking 1' line in the third quarter. The big play was Harris's 73y pass and run to WR Harold Jackson. Scrambling away from a Minne­sota blitz, Harris threw to Jackson, who caught the ball on the Viking 43, changed directions twice, then headed for the flag. With his speed, a touchdown seemed assured. But he was run out of bounds on the two by SS Jeff Wright.
"I thought I had Wright beat," Jackson said. "I didn't know he was that close. I thought I could make it to the corner of the end zone, but as it turned out, I should have cut back."
Rams left guard Tom Mack recalled the play: "Harris called a pass play. He dropped back and began scrambling. He broke away from two Minnesota tacklers and threw to Harold Jackson, who ran to the two-yard line before he was forced out of bounds.
"Tommy Bell was the head referee that day and, after that pass play was over, he turned to me and (right guard) Joe Scibelli and said, 'That's the greatest play I've ever seen a quarter­back make in terms of ad-libbing.' He didn't know how Harris did it. That, to me, was a fantas­tic comment, coming from a guy who had pretty much seen everything during his many years associated with the game."

L: Merlin Olsen rushes Tarkenton. R: Harris calls signals at the 1' line.
Phantom Penalty Thwarts Rams
On a quarterback sneak on second and goal from the 1' line, officials flagged Mack for being offside. He recalled: "The first mistake we made on the quarterback sneak was making it a long count. Harris called the snap count on two, and he held it for a long time, going through a set, an audible system, then a non-rhythmic count. The whole process took about five seconds, and that's tough on your linemen when they all have their weight forward and are just itching to fire out.
"The Vikings were playing a gap defense, and Gary Larsen was on my inside. With the long count, Gary jumped but not offside. When that happened, (DE Alan) Page charged for­ward and knocked me over backwards. Alan immediately began pointing and yelling, 'He moved! He moved!' One official threw his flag and immediately signaled the Vikings offside. Then this side judge ... raced in and overturned the other official. He said that somebody in the Rams' interior line had moved, and that it must have been the guard. Those were his exact words. I hadn't moved a muscle until Page knocked me over, and I was being called for the penalty. I couldn't believe it."
Two plays later, Harris threw a pass toward TE Pat Curran, who was open in the end zone, but CB Jackie Wallace made one of the plays of the day by tipping the ball into the hands of LB Wally Hilgenberg to end the Rams' threat.
Harris: "It was an option. Pass first, run second. Curran broke free, and I didn't think Wal­lace could get to the ball. He just made a good play."
Los Angeles Times writer Bob Oates summarized the Rams' frustration this way: "When a Ram pass was deflected, the Viking caught it. When a Viking fumbled, a Viking usually re­covered. When both teams seemed offside, the Rams were called. When Jackson was in the open and running for a touchdown, he didn't quite get there."
Years later, Mack said, "That really seemed to take the wind out of our sails, especially for the defense, which had played so well up to that point. The Vikings took the ball at their 20 and drove for a touchdown and a 14-3 lead."
Vikings Add to Their Lead
The Rams disputed another key penalty on the drive. Minnesota faced third-and-four on the Rams 12. Fran Tarkenton faded to pass but was dumped by DE Fred Dryer on the 20. That would have forced the Vikings to try a field goal. However, Dryer was flagged for offside.
"I wasn't offsides," Dryer insisted. "I move only when Tarkenton moves. He was moving backwards all day—pulling out before he got the ball. When I saw the flag, I couldn't believe it." Dryer said he didn't complain about the call. "I merely asked the official to take into con­sideration Tarkenton's movement. There is no way I'm going to move unless Fran moves."
RB Dave Osborn scored the touchdown on a 1y dive to complete the 15-play 80-yard drive. Vikings 14 Rams 3 with 12:29 left in the fourth quarter.
The Rams answered with a five-play 65y touchdown drive. The last 44y came on another spectacular Harris-Jackson hookup. Vikings 14 Rams 10 (9:27)
The Rams were still upset about the officiating afterward. DE Jack Youngblood had tor­mented Ron Yary, Minnesota's All-Pro tackle, throughout the game. "The guys in the white caps (officials) were always looking at us instead of the people in purple. It's just a shame that the best football team in the league will have to be home in January watching television when we should be in the Super Bowl."