Super Bowl V Cowboys 13 - Baltimore 16
The Dallas Cowboys have come a step closer to the championship of professional football this season but there is still a step left. That step constitutes more broken hearts and bitterness than, perhaps, the club has ever experienced.
Dallas has suffered two very bitter losses to the Green Bay Packers in the fading seconds of the past two NFL title games but this time it was worse. This one was for everything, the Super Bowl championship...everything.
And it came at the end on a Sunday afternoon in which the Cowboys had just about had their hands on victory numerous times...numerous times.
THIS TIME the terrible swift sword was the foot of Jim O'Brien, a rookie placekicker from Cincinnati. O'Brien steadied himself to kick a 32-yard field goal out of the shadows of the Orange Bowl to lift the Baltimore Colts, another very frustrated team, to the top of the world of professional football. O'Brien literally powered, or drove the ball between the uprights and only five seconds were left. Actually, O'Brien had not kicked very well throughout the afternoon, but he hit the field solidly and in the end it was all that mattered.
Balitmore had won, 16-13. So after seven games of bucking the odds, time ran out for Tom Landry's Cowboys. Dallas had surprised everybody by getting to the Super Bowl and then surprised most everybody here by losing to the Colts, the AFC champions who are only a year removed from the old NFL alignment.
It appeared the Cowboys would have the last chance for victory before the game went into sudden death overtime. The game was tied, 13-13, going into the final two minutes of play, and Dallas had a first down at the Baltimore 48-yard line.
This came when Ron Widby's 40-yard punt was killed on an outstanding play by Cliff Harris, the weekend Cowboy who is in the Army. Harris flew downfield and dived to bat the ball down just before it went into the Colt end zone. Baltimore had to punt it out...and so Dallas had the first down at the Colt 48.
THE FRUSTRATION of the afternoon and this game witnessed by 80,055 then personified. Duane Thomas lost a yard and Ralph Neely was called for holding, and instead of being in the shadows of a field goal, the Cowboys were all the way back to their own 27-yard line, facing a second-and-34. Dallas went into its 2-minute offense - Landry did not call the play - and running back Danny Reeves, who had been a big factor for the Cowboys, was the receiver on a play called "13-takeoff."
Depending on the defense, Reeves was either to run a post or go into the hole left by the Colt zone. He went into the hole just as Craig Morton threw another high pass. Danny left the ground and the ball went off his hands and into the arms of the fine and surprised Baltimore middle linebacker Mike Curtis.
"There is no way I should have missed the ball," said Reeves. "You don't miss them like that when you get your hands on the ball. You just don't...miss them."
Curtis returned 13 yards to the Cowboy 27 with 1:09 to play. Baltimore let the clock run and got to the Dallas 28, and O'Brien settled a game that hadn't been settled for 59 minutes and 55 seconds.
Dallas had gotten here by playing defense and running the football. Baltimore kept its linebackers inside and stacked them and held the Cowboy running attack to only 104 net yards. Thomas could make only 37 on 18 carries - 2.1 average.
AND ONCE AGAIN, the Cowboys could not pass. Besides hoping to run the ball, the Dallas game plan had Morton hoping to lay off the ball to his backs against the Colt defense, which zones and cuts off most routes to wide receivers. He did not throw well, hitting 12 of 26 for 127 yards, yet it took another tipped pass to even get the Colts back into the game.
Dallas was leading, 13-6, midway into the final period when Morton threw high to Walt Garrison, the game's leading ground gainer with 65 yards on 12 carries. Walt deflected the ball and Colt safety Rick Volk caught it and returned 31 yards to the Cowboy 3. Tom Nowatzke, the Detroit Lion castoff, scored from the 2 with 7:35 to play.
It should never have been close enough for Baltimore to catch up. The Cowboy defense had dominated the game as Chuck Howley, voted the game's most valuable player, intercepted two passes and Mel Renfro got one and Baltimore also lost three fumbles.
Furthermore, Baltimore's first-half touchdown had been a fluke. Johnny Unitas, who could do nothing and left the game at halftime with injured ribs, threw the ball up for grabs just as the second period opened. Ed Hinton tipped it and an official ruled a Dallas player - though none recalled touching the ball - had tipped it again. John Mackey ran under the ball after the second deflection about the Dallas 49 and raced off into the sunset to complete a 75-yard scoring play. The pass is incomplete if two offensive players touch a pass consecutively . It is complete if a defensive player touches the ball after the first offensive player has his hands on it.
DALLAS SPAT out two other touchdowns. After Morton hit Bobby Hayes for a 41-yard gain, the Cowboys faced a first-and-6 at the Colt 6 at the end of the first period and with a 3-0 lead. Morton had Thomas wide open, with Neely to block, on a screen pass. Thomas could have walked into the end zone but Morton seemed to have a lapse. He waited too late and when he finally dropped the ball off to Thomas, Roy Hilton, the defensive end, blocked it. Dallas could not score, and Mike Clark, who had opened the scoring with a 14-yard field goal, came in to kick a 30-yarder after Morton was penalized for grounding the ball.
The Cowboys, leading 13-6, could probably have put the game away just as the second half opened but suffered the height of frustration. Jim Duncan fumbled the second-half kickoff, when busted by Harris and Claxton Welch, and Dallas drove to a first-and-2 at the Colt 2. Then Thomas, driving for the end zone, had the ball hooked loose by Curtis. Duncan recovered at the Colt 1-yard-line.
Ironically, Dallas got its touchdown on the same play, to the opposite direction. The play is not new. It has been in the Cowboy reportoire. It goes like this: Morton fakes a pitch to Thomas, going either to his right or left. The defense reacts to this and Morton fakes a trap to Garrison. This draws the defense back toward the inside. Thomas and the tackle on the right or left, depending on which way the play is being run, loaf out to the side of the field. Morton drops the ball to Duane.
WHEN THE play was blown it was going to the left. When it worked, for a 7-yard touchdown with 7:53 left in the first half, it went to the right. Rayfield Wright was the tackle and threw one block and Thomas - a guy Dallas would have never gotten here without - took the pass and bolted between Jerry Logan and Billy Ray Smith at the goalline to score. Dallas led, 13-6, and that would be all the Cowboys scoring.
Because of a fine rush and good coverage, Unitas could do nothing. Most experts felt the Baltimore veteran would be the deciding factor. But he hit only three of nine - remember one for 75 yards was a terrible throw - for 88 yards and also fumbled when hit by Howley and Lee Roy Jordan on a scramble, to set up the Cowboys' only touchdown.
So Earl Morrall came in out of the dark cloud he has lived in since being somewhat of a goat in the Colts' loss to the New York Jets here two years ago. Morrall was by far the best thrower on the fieldand hit 7 or 15 passes for 147 yards to put life in a Colt attack that had been knocked to its knees by the Cowboy defense.
The defense gave the Cowboys the ball at the Colt 47, 9, 29, 31 and 48-yard lines and only one touchdown was scored. The defense also pulled off one of the club's great stands as the first half ended. Morrall had passed the Colts to a first down at the Cowboy 2 1/2-yard line. Jordan, Bob Lilly and Jethro Pugh led the charge which left the Colts with a fourth-and-2 at the 2. Then on fourth down, Howley did his job and tied up tight end Tom Mitchell, causing him to be late for Morrall's pass in the end zone. Baltimore got nothing - Dallas led, 13-6, at halftime.
THEN JUST before Morton's first deflected pass in the fourth period, Baltimore pulled out its flea-flicker. Reserve halfback Sam Havrilak took a handoff from Morrall, went wide across the field, stopped and looked back for Earl. Pugh was in the way so Havrilak threw himself, hitting Hinton. Roy took off to the Cowboy 5. A 25-yard gain, but Cornell Green and Mel Renfro hit him and Green stripped him of the ball. Four or five players had a chance for the ball but only pushed it into and out of the end zone. Officials ruled the Cowboys had furnished the momentum to carry the ball out of the end zone and Dallas was given the ball at its own 20.
So the Big Sting Puller, who frowned on the Cowboys twice in title games with Green Bay, did it again at the end of this one, the biggest one. The deflected passes...Thomas' fumble...They were the difference.
Now the Cowboys, who had their hands on everything, feel as though they have nothing.
This feeling, the stake in the heart, will last a long time...A very long time.