During the opening weekend of the 1974 NFL Playoffs, the same weekend the Steelers were dispatching the Buffalo Bills in Pittsburgh, the Raiders had pulled off a dramatic win over the two-time defending champion Miami Dolphins in Oakland. The Dolphins had scored a late touchdown to take a 26-21 lead, but then Ken Stabler directed a perfect drive and capped it off with a touchdown pass in the final seconds to pull out a 28-26 win. In the early days of the Super Bowl, there were periods where teams took turns winning them, and the progression had been from Green Bay to Dallas to Miami. Everybody who watched the Raiders pull off that dramatic come-from-behind victory over the Dolphins simply assumed the torch had been passed.
“The two best teams in football played today,” said Dolphins guard Larry Little. Added Raiders coach John Madden, “When the best plays the best, anything can happen.”
A couple of time zones away, Noll was livid. He gathered his team on the Monday before the AFC Championship Game and delivered a succinct message.
Joe Greene remembered it this way: “The thing that really, really gave us the impetus and the mind-set, and gave us – as Chuck always said – the refuse-to-be-denied attitude – came on the Monday after we beat Buffalo in the first round of the playoffs in 1974. People on the outside would always hear things like the refuse-to-be-denied attitude and call it a cliché, but to us it was real. But anyway, we were sitting in the team meeting room over at Three Rivers Stadium, and Chuck said, ‘You know, the coach of the Raiders said the two best teams in football (Miami and Oakland) played yesterday, and that was the Super Bowl.’ Then he said, ‘Well, the Super Bowl is three weeks from now, and the best team in pro football is sitting right here in this room.’
“I’m telling you, I think I levitated right out of my seat when I heard that. Saying that was very un-Chuck-like, and that’s why it had so much power to it.”
Later when he met the media for his weekly news conference, Noll was no less defiant. “We always enjoy our games with Oakland because it’s a test. From what I understand, they’re the self-proclaimed best. But they still have the playoff system to determine that, I think.”