Tag: Roger Staubach

This Day in Dallas Cowboys History- The Staubach/Morton Saga

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Born one year apart on February 5th, the careers of Craig Morton and Roger Staubach were linked in many ways.

On February 5, 1942, future Dallas Cowboys legend Roger Staubach was born in Cincinnati, Ohio.   Exactly one year later in Flint, Michigan, Larry Craig Morton was born in Flint, Michigan.  No one could have known at that time how the lives of the two would be intertwined.

By 1964, the Dallas Cowboys were beginning to see some progress in their growth from an inept expansion team to an NFL power.  Coach Tom Landry had building blocks in place in the form of star players Bob Lilly, Lee Roy Jordan, Don Meredith and Don Perkins, but the team needed to continue to add talent.  The 1964 NFL draft brought that to Dallas, as the Cowboys selected future Hall of Famers Mel Renfro, Bob Hayes and Heisman Trophy Award winner Roger Staubach.  Staubach’s pick was made with the future in mind, as the Navy graduate would not be able to play for the Cowboys until 1969 when he has fulfilled his military obligation (Hayes’ selection was also made with the future in mind, but Dallas only had to wait one year to see Bullet Bob burst onto the NFL scene in 1965).

A year later in the 1965 NFL draft, Dallas selected strong-armed quarterback Craig Morton with the fifth pick in the first round.   The 6’4″, 214 pound University of California star looked the part of a budding NFL star, and the Cowboys had a young understudy to Meredith who could step in and do the job if something happened to Dandy Don.

Following the 1968 season, Meredith retired at the age of 31 leaving the Cowboys’ quarterbacking duties in the capable hands of Morton. In his two seasons at the helm, Morton led Dallas to 11-2-1 and 10-4 records with the team reaching its first Super Bowl in the 1970 season.  Dallas lost to Baltimore in the big game with Morton making a few key mistakes in the game’s final quarter and it looked as though Staubach, who had joined the Cowboys in 1969, would have a chance to at least compete for the starting job in 1971.

The saga of the 1971 Cowboys’ quarterback debate is well chronicled. After seven games with no clear starter at the position established, Coach Landry decided to select Staubach for the job and Roger the Dodger did not disappoint him.  Staubach led Dallas to seven consecutive wins to end the regular season, beat Minnesota and San Francisco to get Dallas back to the Super Bowl and threw two scoring passes and won the game’s MVP award as the Cowboys beat Miami 24-3 to become World Champions.

An exhibition season injury to Staubach put Morton back in the driver’s seat in 1972, and he led Dallas to a 10-4 record and a NFC wildcard playoff spot.  The pendulum swung back in Staubach’s direction on December 23rd of that year in a first round playoff game at San Francisco , when he brought Dallas back from a 15 point fourth quarter deficit to shock the 49ers 30-28 (it is interesting to note that the winning score on the day came on a Staubach pass to Ron Sellers, who was also born on February 5th!).

Staubach returned to the top spot in 1973 and led Dallas to a NFC East title with a 10-4 record. Dallas beat the Rams in a first round playoff game with Staubach throwing two touchdown passes, but lost to Minnesota in the NFC title game.

By 1974, it was becoming evident that Morton’s future was not in Dallas.  The Cowb0ys eventually dealt Morton to the New York Giants for a 1975 first round draft pack that the team shrewdly turned into future Hall of Famer Randy White.

Morton was battered and bruised during his time in New York, with several brutal beatings coming at the hands of his former teammates in Dallas. Meanwhile, Staubach led Dallas to a surprising NFC championship in 1975 and was firmly established as one of the NFL’s best at the quarterback position.

1977 saw Morton end up in Denver, and the veteran signal caller found new life in the Rocky Mountains. Morton and the Broncos had a magical year, winning the AFC Championship and earning a berth in Super Bowl 12.  Unfortunately for the star-crossed passer, awaiting him in New Orleans for the big game were the Cowboys.  The Doomsday Defense made life miserable for Morton and the Broncos, forcing turnover after turnover as Dallas won its second World Championship by a 27-10 score.

Staubach’s NFL journey ended in Canton where he took his place among the all-time greats in the league.  Few players were more respected than Staubach, whose never say die attitude made him probably the best quarterback in NFL history in bringing his team back from late deficits.  Morton fought through numerous injuries to have a good NFL career, but never reached the heights achieved by his one time teammate in Dallas.

 

 

This Day in Dallas Cowboys History-Picking Up Where They Left Off

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Harvey Martin recovers a first quarter Minnesota fumble in Vikings’ territory to set up Dallas’ first score in the Cowboys’ 23-6 NFC Championship Game victory on January 1, 1978.

The Dallas Cowboys were the NFL’s most dominant team during the 1977 regular season.  Dallas started out winning its first eight games, many by substantial margins.  After a two week slump in which they lost to St. Louis at home and the Steelers at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, the Cowboys rattled off four straight victories to end the season to finish at 12-2.  A first round playoff rout of the Chicago Bears sent Dallas into the NFC title game, where they’d face a Minnesota Vikings team Dallas had beaten 16-10 at Minnesota in the first week of the season.

The first day of 1978 was  cold one in Dallas, with wind chill readings below the freezing mark. However the cold weather didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd of almost 62,000 at Texas Stadium, a group that believed its team was on a direct path to represent the NFC in Super Bowl 12.  After 60 minutes of football, it was clear that they were right.

Dallas jumped on the visitors right from the start.   An early first quarter Minnesota fumble was recovered by Harvey Martin at the Vikings 39 yard line to put the Cowboys in scoring position right off the bat.  A first down run by Robert Newhouse netted seven yards, and Dallas cashed in on the next play due to a tremendous play design.  The Cowboys lined up with flanker Drew Pearson wide to the right. Before the snap, Pearson came in motion all the way across the field.  On the snap, quarterback Roger Staubach faked a hand off to rookie sensation Tony Dorsett and then gave the impression that he was throwing a wide receiver screen to Pearson. The Vikings, undoubtedly aware that Pearson was the Cowboys’ number one threat at receiver, bit on the fake and Pearson’s partner Golden Richards escaped behind the Vikings’ defense. Staubach’s pass to Richards was slightly overthrown, but the fourth year receiver cradled it as he fell into the end zone and Dallas was ahead 6-0 after usually reliable kicker Efren Herrera missed the extra point.

The Cowboys struck again in the second quarter, aided by a 14 yard run for a first down on a fake punt by Danny White.  Newhouse’s five yard touchdown run and Herrera’s extra point put Dallas up 13-0.    Minnesota got two Fred Cox field goals in the second quarter to draw within a touchdown at 13-6, but Herrera’s short field goal near the end of the quarter expanded Dallas’ lead to 10 points at the half.

Dallas’ defense, led by Ed Jones who had eight solo tackles, dominated in the second half, and some help from the special teams and the offense sealed the victory for the Cowboys.  Thomas Henderson (who had an interception in the game) was a dominant force at outside linebacker for Dallas in his third NFL season, and he also excelled on special teams. His brutal hit on Minnesota punt returner Manfred Moore in the fourth quarter caused Moore to fumble, with Dallas’ Jay Saldi recovering in Minnesota territory. Dallas then drove for the score that put the game away, with the final points coming on a beautiful Dorsett touchdown scamper around right end on which the Pitt product displayed his trademark acceleration.

On the day, Dallas caused four Minnesota turnovers, sacked Vikings’ quarterback Bob Lee twice and outgained the visitors by 114 yards.  A potent Dallas’ rushing attack  gained 170 yards on the day, with Newhouse posting a game high 81 and Dorsett chipping in with 71 more.

With team that had numerous stars on both offense and defense, a special teams group that could make big plays and a head coach whose innovation and game planning were second to none, the Cowboys made short work of the NFC in 1977.   Two weeks after their championship game win over Minnesota, the Cowboys would prove that they were the NFL’s best with a convincing victory over Denver in Super Bowl 12.

 

 

This Day in Dallas Cowboys History-Big Plays Made Richards Valuable to Cowboys in Mid-70s

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Receiver Golden Richards’ most famous catch for the Cowboys came in Super Bowl 12 when he snagged a 29 yard scoring pass from fullback Robert Newhouse to seal the Cowboys’ 27-10 victory over the Denver Broncos.

Great football teams are generally blessed to have great football players.   During their glory years in the 1970s, the Cowboys were fortunate to have many stars. One look at the roster of the NFL Hall of Fame or at the Ring of Honor in Texas Stadium will reveal that fact.

Very successful teams also have players who may not be stars but are able to do their part to keep the machine running successfully.  Former Cowboy wide receiver Golden Richards, who turns 66 today, was one of those players.

Richards came to the Cowboys in the 1973 NFL Draft, the same draft that saw Billy Joe DuPree and Harvey Martin selected by Dallas.  The Hawaii and BYU product’s game featured breakaway speed, and he was groomed to eventually take Bob Hayes’ spot as the Cowboys’ big play receiver.  Richards caught only six balls in his rookie season, one of them a 53 yard scoring pass from Craig Morton in a Cowboys’ rout of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Richards joined 1973 free agent pickup Drew Pearson as receivers in the Cowboys’ starting lineup in the 1974 season.  He caught three passes for 84 yards, including a 52 yard touchdown, in Dallas’ opening day 24-0 win at Atlanta.  Later in the year, Richards caught a pair of long touchdown passes (from 41 and 35 yards) and gained a career high 92 yards on his three receptions in Dallas’ 41-17 victory over Cleveland.

The 1975 Cowboys’ team shocked the NFL by winning the NFC Championship, and Richards played his part in the team’s success.  Richards averaged 21.5 yards per catch and had four scoring catches, including a 57 yard catch and run for a score in Dallas’ 31-10 smashing of the Redskins in week 13 that clinched a playoff spot for the Cowboys.  He also returned a punt for a score on the year.   In the post-season, Richards caught a four yard touchdown pass from Roger Staubach in Dallas’ 37-7 thrashing of the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC title game.

The speedy receiver posted a career best 21.8 yards per catch mark in 1976.  His best game of the year came in a week three thriller in which he scored two touchdowns (one on a 31 yard pass from Staubach and another on a 39 yard toss from fellow receiver Pearson) in Dallas’ 30-27 win.

Richards shared the split end spot in Dallas’ lineup with second year man Butch Johnson in the Cowboys’ Super Bowl Championship year of 1977, but was able to make some big plays to help the Cowboys to a title.  His acrobatic 17 yard fourth quarter touchdown catch from Staubach provided the winning points in Dallas’ 30-24 win in week four at St. Louis, and he scored on a 50 yard bomb from Staubach in the following game as Dallas drubbed Washington 34-16.   He also came up big in the post-season, catching touchdown passes in both the NFC Championship win over Minnesota and in Super Bowl 12 against Denver.

The emergence of Johnson and the selection of Tony Hill in the 1977 draft made Richards expendable, and he was traded to the Chicago Bears.  Richards caught one touchdown pass in his two seasons in Chicago, and fittingly it was from long range on a 57 yard strike from Vince Evans in the Bears 24-20 loss to the Cowboys at Texas Stadium in week three of the 1979 season.

Richards 18.3 yards per catch mark is fifth in Cowboys’ history for receivers with at least 100 catches. He is the only Cowboy to score a touchdown on a punt return in the post-season in team history, going all the way on a 63 yard return in Dallas’ 27-10 loss to Minnesota in the 1973 NFC Championship game.

The blonde haired wideout brought style and flash to the Cowboys in his time with the team, and made enough big plays to have earned a solid spot in Cowboys’ lore.

 

 

This Day in Dallas Cowboys History- Cowboys Advance on a Wing and a Prayer

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The iconic Roger Staubach to Drew Pearson “Hail Mary” touchdown pass to beat Minnesota in the NFC playoffs was probably the highlight moment of the entertaining and unexpectedly successful 1975 season for the Dallas Cowboys.

Loyal fans of all NFL teams can recall plays or games that make their blood boil or cause them to be overcome with nausea.   As a Cowboys fan, I still cannot watch a replay of “The Catch” without muttering about how lucky the 49ers were to be advancing to the Super Bowl that should have rightfully involved Tom Landry and his 1981 Cowboys’ team.  When one is around Redskins’ fans, particularly in late November, it is advisable not to mention the name “Clint Longley”.   For fans of the Oakland Raiders, the term “tuck rule” usually is uttered with the use of a preceding adjective that sounds somewhat like “tuck”.

41 years ago today, events unfolded at old Bloomington Stadium in Minnesota that haunt fans of the purple and gold to this day.  With a playoff victory over NFC rival Dallas all but locked up, the Viking and their fans saw Roger Staubach and Drew Pearson take the victory away from them in the most unlikely of circumstances.

The 1975 season was a memorable one in Cowboys’ history. Coming off of a 8-6 mark in 1974 that left Dallas out of the playoffs for the first time since 1965, the Cowboys shocked the NFL world by rebounding to make the playoffs with a 10-4 record.  In Dallas’ way for the first round of the playoffs was an experienced and talented Vikings’ squad that was eager to make it back to the Super Bowl to avenge defeats in three previous appearances in the NFL’s ultimate game.

The Cowboys-Vikings game was a rough affair, with defenses dominating for most of the day.  A Chuck Foreman touchdown run in the second quarter gave the home team a 7-0 lead at the half, but the Dallas offense drove to a score of its own (coming on a four yard scoring run by Doug Dennison) to even the score at 7-7 heading into the final period.

The upstart Cowboys scored next, as Toni Fritsch’s short field goal gave the visitors a 10-7 lead. Fran Tarkenton and the Vikes were not done however, and Minnesota reclaimed the lead on a one yard run by Brent McClanahan that put the Vikes on top 14-10.

The game’s crucial drive started with a little more than two minutes to go and the Cowboys deep in their own territory.  To that point, Dallas’ star receiver Drew Pearson had not caught a pass on the game and Dallas’ chances of success against Minnesota’s imposing defense appeared bleak.  Shortly, however, bleak would be the word used to describe the Vikings’ situation as Staubach and Pearson went to work.

The first big connection between the longtime teammates came on a fourth and 16 play from the Cowboys’ 25 yard line.  Staubach found Pearson on a deep out on the right side of the field for 25 yards to keep Dallas’ hopes alive with less than a minute left to play.

After Preston Pearson fortuitously could not catch a short pass from Staubach, Dallas faced a second and ten from midfield.   Operating out of the shotgun formation, Staubach faked to his left to draw cagey Minnesota free safety Paul Krause’s attention away from Pearson, and threw a deep pass down the right side of the field toward trusty #88. The pass was under thrown somewhat, a fact that worked to Dallas’ advantage when Pearson was able to adjust to the ball and Minnesota’s Nate Wright was not.  Pearson caught the ball against his hip and stepped into the end zone with the game winning score.  The touchdown sent the Vikings home for the winter and propelled Dallas to its fifth NFC Championship game appearance in six years.  After the game, Staubach famously indicated that he said a Hail Mary as he threw the pass.

The controversy over the play continues to this day. Loyal Minnesota fans insist that Pearson pushed off on Wright to get an advantage that he exploited to make the grab. Cowboy fans disagree, saying that the play was just another example of how the resourceful Staubach-Pearson combination came through in the clutch.

After the game Landry told reporters, “This has to rank as our second-best win ever. Our Super Bowl victory, of course, is still the all-time most rewarding, but this will be another we’ll never forget”.   The Hall of Fame coach was right, the game will never be forgotten by Cowboys fans…..or by those from Minnesota.

This Day in Dallas Cowboys’ History- Waters Washes Chicago Away

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On December 26, 1977, Cowboys’ safety Charlie Waters set an NFL record for most interceptions in a post-season game with three as Dallas routed Chicago 37-7 in a first round NFC playoff contest.

On a cold mid-December early evening at Texas Stadium in 1976, veteran safety Charlie Waters had done everything he could to help the Dallas Cowboys try to defeat the Los Angeles Rams in the teams’ first round NFC playoff game. Waters had blocked two punts, including one that gave Dallas a chance deep in Rams’ territory in the final minutes, and had intercepted a pass but his sterling efforts could not stop the Rams from posting a 14-12 upset win that ended the season for the reigning NFC Champion Cowboys.

53 weeks later on the day after Christmas in 1977, Waters and a fortified group of teammates looked to erase the memory of that loss when they took on the Chicago Bears in the first round of the post-season. Dallas had dominated in the regular season, going 12-2 and showing star power in all aspects of the game.  Unlike at the end of 1976, quarterback Roger Staubach was fully healthy and was passing with his usual superb ability.  Rookie Tony Dorsett had added an element that the 1976 Cowboys’ backfield lacked, breakaway speed.   And on defense, Waters and his teammates (particularly the dynamic defensive line that featured pass rushing force Harvey Martin and all-around star defensive tackle Randy White) had made Doomsday II a force to be reckoned with.  This playoff game would be vastly different than the one that saw the Rams shock the football world one year earlier.

Waters set an NFL record with three interceptions and the Cowboys’ defense forced seven turnovers as Dallas cruised pass the Bears 37-7.   The Cowboys forced seven Bears turnovers on the day, with linebacker D.D. Lewis joining Waters in the interception column  on the stat sheet.  Dallas’ pass rush contributed to Chicago quarterback Bob Avellini’s bad day, sacking the former University of Maryland signal caller three times and knocking him to the turf numerous other times.

On offense, the Cowboys’ ground attack kept the Bears defense reeling.  Dallas rushed for 233 yards, the fourth highest rushing yards total in the post-season in franchise history, with rookie Dorsett gaining 85 yards on 17 carries and scoring two touchdowns.  Dorsett’s effort included a beautiful 23 yard touchdown run in the third quarter that expanded Dallas’ lead to 24-0, and left several Bear defenders grasping for air when he cut through the hole and accelerated into the end zone.

Staubach threw for one touchdown (a 28 toss to Billy Joe DuPree) and ran for 25 yards of his own as Dallas scored the first 37 points of the game to take all of the drama out of the Bears’ first post-season game in 14 years.

Waters had nine interceptions in the post-season in his Cowboys’ career, a mark that is Dallas’ all-time high (Thurman is next with seven and Waters’ running partner in the Cowboys’ defensive backfield in the 1970s Cliff Harris is third with six).

 

 

 

This Day in Dallas Cowboys’ History- Vikings’ Christmas Day Generosity Helps Cowboys to Playoff Win

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Bob Lilly (#74) and the Doomsday Defense forced five Minnesota turnovers to lead the Dallas Cowboys to a 20-12 victory over the Vikings in a first round playoff game in Bloomington, Minnesota on December 25, 1971.

In most cases, it is truly better to give than receive.  On a Christmas Day 45 years ago, the Minnesota Vikings played the role of generous hosts  as their five turnovers gift-wrapped a playoff victory for the visiting Dallas Cowboys.

Dallas’ Doomsday Defense had something to do with the turnovers, as its active front line anchored by Hall of Famer Bob Lilly, tackle mate Jethro Pugh and pass rushing force George Andrie forced Vikings’ quarterbacks into four interceptions that derailed the Minnesotans hopes of getting back to the Super Bowl two years after their loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl IV.

Savvy linebackers Lee Roy Jordan and Chuck Howley had interceptions for Dallas, as did Hall of Fame veteran cornerback Herb Adderly and should be Canton bound hard hitting safety Cliff Harris to help Dallas to a victory on a day when its offense could only muster 183 yards against Minnesota’s tough defense.

Dallas’ defensive effort was typical of the Cowboys’ performance down the stretch of their first Super Bowl winning season.  Dallas’ regular season December games saw the Cowboys defeat the Jets at home 52-10, rout the Giants 42-14 at Yankee Stadium and toy with St. Louis 31-12 at Texas Stadium in the season finale.

The offense did just enough to win, scoring two third quarter touchdowns that expanded Dallas’ 6-3 halftime edge into an insurmountable 20-3 lead. First, second year back Duane Thomas scored on a 13 yard run to give Dallas a 13-3 advantage. Later in the quarter, quarterback Roger Staubach kept a play alive long enough to find speedy Bob Hayes streaking across the back of the end zone for a nine yard touchdown throw that all but sealed the victory for Dallas.

The Vikings scored the final nine points on this cold and gloomy Christmas Day in the far north, but Dallas held on for a 20-12 victory that put the Cowboys two wins away from their first Super Bowl title.  Thanks to its defense that would give up a total of only six points in the NFC Championship and in Super Bowl VI, a world’s championship was the late Christmas present Dallas would deliver to its fans three weeks after it ruined the holiday for the Vikings and their followers.

 

This Day in Cowboys’ History- Cowboys Crush Californians’ Holiday Dreams in Consecutive Seasons

cowboyscelebrateThe defending Super Bowl Champion Dallas Cowboys celebrate Roger Staubach’s last minute touchdown pass to Ron Sellers that gave the Cowboys a 30-28 comeback victory over the San Francisco 49ers in a NFC Divisional Playoff game on December 23, 1972 at Candlestick Park.

Instead of sugar plums and candy, two California-based teams found their stockings filled with coal courtesy of the Dallas Cowboys in consecutive years on December 23rd in Cowboys’ history.  A thrilling 30-28 win at San Francisco on this day in 1972 gave the Cowboys their third consecutive post-season victory over the Niners, and a 27-16 dispatching of the Los Angeles Rams one year later sent the southern Californians to the same fate their neighbors to the north had experienced one year earlier.

Here’s a look at some of the highlights from the two playoff wins against franchises the Cowboys have faced seven times each in the post-season.

1972 

The defending Super Bowl Champion Cowboys lost star quarterback Roger Staubach to injury in the pre-season, but veteran Craig Morton stepped in to lead Dallas to a 10-4 record and a NFC wildcard spot.  In the season’s final games Staubach was healthy enough to play, but Coach Tom Landry stuck with Morton to start in the Cowboys’ first round playoff game at Candlestick Park against the 49ers.

Having lost to Dallas in the NFC Championship games following the 1970 and 1971 seasons, the Niners were primed to exact some revenge against a team that had kept it from appearing in the franchises first Super Bowl.  When speedy Vic Washington returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a score to put the Niners up 7-0 seconds into the game, it appeared that the home team might get its wish after two years of disappointment.

San Francisco rode the momentum of Washington’s fine play to dominate the first three quarters of play, building a 28-13 lead when Larry Schreiber scored the third of his one yard touchdown runs in the game. Sloppy play by Dallas, which included three fumbles lost, two interceptions and several key dropped passes, made it appear as the Cowboys’ defense of their crown would end with a whimper instead of a bang.

To the rescue came Captain America, Roger Staubach, who shook off the rust of a season of little activity to inject some life into Dallas’ offense.  Staubach led Dallas to a short Toni Fritsch field goal to cut the lead to 28-16, but the real fireworks ensued in Dallas’ final two possessions.

First Staubach found received Billy Parks for two key passes, the last one a 21 yard touchdown on a beautifully executed deep in to draw the visitors within five points of the lead with about two minutes left to play.   On a day when the Immaculate Reception boosted the Pittsburgh Steelers to a shocking win over the Oakland Raiders in the eastern half of the country, a similarly bizarre play helped Dallas get into position to make December 23, 1972 a truly memorable day in NFL history. Cowboys’ placekicker Fritsch, a former Austrian soccer star, used his soccer skills to execute an onside kick with his off-leg that Mel Renfro recovered to keep the ball in Dallas’ hands.

From there, Staubach used his arms and legs to get the ball to the Niners’ 10 yard line from where he connected with Ron Sellers for a scoring pass that silenced the boisterous crowd of 49er faithful.  Coach Landry later remarked that the comeback was the best one the team had experienced up to that point.  With Staubach at quarterback, there’d be more to come in later years.

1973

The Cowboys’ win over the Los Angeles Rams in the 1973 NFC Divisional Playoffs was not as exciting as their win over San Francisco one year earlier, but it was still a game that Cowboys’ fans (at least those of a sufficiently old age like me!) remember fondly.

Dallas built an early 14-0 lead, using Staubach’s passing and a strong running game to take control.  However the feisty Rams, who had beaten Dallas 37-31 at the LA Coliseum in the regular season, refused to stay down and battled back to within one point of Dallas at 17-16 on a fourth quarter touchdown run by Tony Baker.

With their lead slipping away and facing a third and long situation at their own 13 yard line, Staubach called on precocious rookie Drew Pearson to make a play that shocked the Rams and helped Dallas to victory. Staubach threw a deep in to Pearson that the lithe receiver caught between two Ram defenders.  While the defenders collided going for the ball, Pearson emerged  and sped to an 83 yard touchdown that gave Dallas a 24-16 lead.  The Cowboys would finish Los Angeles off with a Fritsch field goal later in the quarter as the team improved its post-season record at Texas Stadium to 2-0.

The Staubach-Pearson combination would prove to be among the best in NFL history, and the two clutch performers would combine for an even more memorable playoff touchdown two years later.