Some NFL matches are thrillers, packed with touchdown-scoring action and drama, but sometimes the entertainment is slightly less gripping.
As this regular season moved into its final few weeks in the depths of winter, it is worth remembering those games when just one field goal was enough to settle affairs.
Pointless games used to be quite common but the last one was in 1943 between the New York Giants and the Detroit Lions.
Both teams were weakened by players being drafted to serve in World War Two and a sloppy Michigan pitch – this was a long time before the Lions were housed at the indoor Ford Field – but four missed field goals meant the teams could not be separated.
Overtime was introduced in 1974 and there have been five games settled by a 3-0 scoreline since.
Atlanta Falcons 0 Buffalo Bills 3 – 16 October 1977
Buffalo had lost their opening four games of the 1977 season despite the services of star running-back OJ Simpson.
He rushed for 136 yards in their clash with the Falcons, which was settled in the Bills’ favour by Neil O’Donoghue’s 30-year field goal in the second quarter.
Atlanta’s Scott Hunter and Buffalo’s Joe Ferguson completed just 17 of 50 pass attempts between them so it is not difficult to see where the problems stemmed from.
Kansas City Chiefs 0 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3 – 16 December 1979
Remarkably, O’Donoghue was also the hero in another 3-0 match just over two years later after he moved to play for Tampa Bay.
The Bucs were having a few wobbles as they looked to claim their first NFC Central division title and the mood was not good when a monsoon struck Florida.
The rain was falling down the steps in the stadium and those who braved the elements were hardly rewarded by a great game as passing became virtually impossible.
O’Donoghue had seen a snap dropped on a previous attempt and had had four efforts blocked in a defeat to Minnesota a few weeks earlier, but he kept his nerve to knock over a 19-yard effort in the final quarter.
Miami Dolphins 0 New England Patriots 3 – 12 December 1982
The most controversial 3-0 match was undoubtedly the Snowplow game at Foxborough in the strike-hit season of 1982 when New England beat Miami.
This was another game where the weather played a huge role.
The artificial surface was soaked by rain the day before the match and then froze overnight, but the real problems occurred when the match was hit by a snowstorm.
Tractors were used to clear the lines on the pitch, but Patriots coach Ron Meyer got ground staff to clear an area for kicker John Smith to use when he knocked over the winning score.
The Dolphins were left fuming and legendary coach Don Shula’s protestations that the result should be overturned fell on deaf ears.
They did gain revenge though when they beat the Patriots in the wildcard round before they lost to Washington in the Super Bowl.
New York Jets 3 Washington Redskins 0 – 11 December 1993
Sometimes a team can dominate a game but it’s not reflected in the scoreline, just as the Jets did when they won 3-0 in Washington in 1993.
Cary Blanchard’s 45-yarder in the first quarter put them in the driving seat, but they were unable to press it home.
It was a good job that Washington were unable to make much progress themselves.
The home side produced just 39 yards from 15 rushing attempts and their total yards measured a pretty miserable 150.
Miami Dolphins 0 Pittsburgh Steelers 3 – 26 November 2007
The most recent of the lowest scoring NFL games of all time took place on November 26th 2007 at Heinz Field when the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Miami Dolphins by a score of just 3 to 0.
The three points were scored from a field goal by kicker Jeff Reed in the fourth quarter.
Monday Night Football viewers may have anticipated a decent game between the Steelers and the Dolphins at Heinz Field in 2007 but that was not what materialised.
It became known as the Mud Bowl due to the state of the field in Pennsylvania and both teams struggled.
A pointless regulation-time clash looked a real possibility but Pittsburgh fans were finally rewarded with just 17 seconds remaining when Jeff Reed made the vital score from 24 yards.
Well spotted RB, and I have made the change you suggest. Sadly have yet to receive an invite to a party from Mr Brady but we live in hope.
Poorly written article. How can the game referenced in 2007 with Pittsburgh and Miami be the lowest scoring game of all-time when you referenced 5 others before it with the 1943 game being 0-0, which is a lower score than 3-0 but you say Pittsburgh has the “lowest of all time?”
Do you party with Tom Brady by any chance?
The Steelers kicker was Jeff REED, and American football is played on a field, not a pitch.
You make a good point Shannon, and I have changed both of those.
Lions lost to Bears 3-0 in 1962
As per the above answer Jerry, Ian decided to focus on games that took place after 1974 for the purpose of this article.
The Minnesota Vikings defeated the Green Bay Packers in Bloomington in 1971 3-0.
That’s right Terry, but in our list we focused on games that took place after overtime was introduced in ’74.