Monday, January 16, 2012

Winning the Big One ... Finally

As they began the 1971 season, the Dallas Cowboys had been known as the team that couldn't win it all for a long time.

Well, it was a long time by Texas standards.

The Cowboys had actually been in existence for a little more than a decade when they finally won the conference title in January 1971 and went on to play in their first Super Bowl ever. As expansion teams go, that's a pretty rapid ascension, but they lost that Super Bowl to the Baltimore Colts on a last–second field goal — and, once again, fell short of Texas–sized expectations.

That did not happen on this date in 1972.

I don't know how — or, for that matter, precisely when — it started, but sometime in the late 1960s the Dallas defense acquired the nickname "Doomsday."

The Cowboys of those days always seemed to have talented players on offense, but the defense was the team's foundation.

And it was frequently the failure of the offense that kept the team from advancing to the next level.

In January 1972, though, Roger Staubach had been the starting quarterback most of the year and enjoyed what may have been his best season as a pro. With Staubach in charge on the field, the offense finally matched the defense, and the rest of the league was powerless to do anything about it.

Certainly, Miami appeared powerless on this day 40 years ago.

Most Super Bowl teams have scored at least one touchdown, but, on that day, Miami did not. Even the few teams that failed to score a touchdown got more points than the Dolphins did — and, unless a future Super Bowl participant is held to a safety or shut out completely, Miami's standard for scoring futility is going to remain on the record books.

Doomsday held Miami to a single Garo Yepremian field goal in the first half, essentially smothering the Dolphins' key offensive weapons — receiver Paul Warfield and running backs Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick.

When the Cowboys had the ball, Staubach completed nearly two–thirds of his passes, two of which went for touchdowns as Dallas prevailed, 24–3. Staubach was named the game's MVP and was jubilant, recalling on the 25th anniversary of that triumph that "I don't think I ever felt any better as an athlete than ... I felt after that game."

And why shouldn't he? Staubach and his teammates shook a monkey the size of King Kong from their backs that day.

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