Jan. 30, 1994 Atlanta
Cowboys Double Their Pleasure, 30-13
By Richard Justice
ATLANTA, Jan. 30 The Dallas Cowboys completed a season when nothing came easy with a Super Bowl victory that didn't come easy. But the bottom line didn't change for the defending champions as they ripped off 24 straight second-half points to storm past the Buffalo Bills, 30-13, this evening in front of 72,817 at the Georgia Dome.
Running back Emmitt Smith added a Super Bowl most valuable player trophy to a shelf that already had the National Football League rushing championship and the regular-season MVP award by rushing for 132 yards and scoring two touchdowns. He got 91 of those yards in the second half as the Cowboys defense pitched a shutout and the offense rolled behind a big, talented line.
"Our mission is completed," Smith said. "We came into this season with the idea of doing this. It's been a super year for me as well as my teammates. Being MVP of the league and this game, you can't ask for anything more."
Cowboys safety James Washington got the remainder of the MVP votes and made perhaps the biggest play of the game when he picked up a Thurman Thomas fumble and turned it into a dazzling 46-yard touchdown run on the third play of the second half. His play helped tie the game 13-13 and turned the momentum dramatically for the Cowboys. He also set up the final Dallas touchdown by intercepting a Jim Kelly pass on the first play of the fourth quarter.
It ended with Coach Jimmy Johnson and owner Jerry Jones embracing on the sideline, with a Gatorade shower for Johnson, with Smith mussing Johnson's freeze-dried hair and with a congratulatory locker room telephone call from President Clinton.
It ended with the Cowboys becoming only the sixth team in history to win back-to-back Super Bowls. Johnson became only the fourth coach to win consecutive Super Bowls, joining a short list of Vince Lombardi, Don Shula and Chuck Noll. Smith is the first player to win a Super Bowl and regular season most valuable player award along with a rushing title. The Cowboys join the San Francisco 49ers and Pittsburgh Steelers as the only franchises with four Super Bowl trophies.
"Our guys were determined they were going to win," Johnson said. "We felt once we caught up, we'd be fine. I hated to go in at halftime behind, but I thought we'd be okay."
And the Bills, who played a courageous and gritty first half, bumbled into ignominy with their fourth straight Super Bowl loss, as running back Thomas fumbled twice and Kelly threw a costly interception.
"It's frustrating, it really is," Kelly said. "The Cowboys have a hell of a defense. Take your hats off to them. I have a few years left. Don't count me out yet. We weren't the better team today. Our goal is the same. We'll do it until we get it right."
The Cowboys turned those three mistakes into 17 points and continued one of the great runs in NFL history. They're 43-13 the past three seasons -- more victories than any NFL team has had in a three-season run.
"It hurts and hurts deeply," Buffalo linebacker Darryl Talley said. "Some things you have to live with. The end result is we didn't get it done."
On a day when Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman was less than perfect, completing 19 of 27 passes for 207 yards, Smith and Washington more than made up the difference. Washington's big day included the touchdown and interception along with 11 tackles and a forced fumble.
He was part of a defensive effort that allowed 216 yards in the first half and 98 in the second. They held Thomas to 37 yards on 16 carries and harassed Kelly into a 31-for-50 passing day.
"We had to do something to change the momentum and James did it," Cowboys defensive end Charles Haley said. "Then when the offense took it in to go ahead, it was like a surge of energy went through the whole team. We were just attacking after that. We didn't have to wait for anything. But it was the fumble that changed the momentum to our side. We knew they fumbled a lot during the regular season. We knew they'd put the ball on the turf, and we were just trying to get as many hands on the ball as possible."
The first half had been different. The Bills led 13-6 after the Cowboys played two of their most dismal quarters of the season. For two quarters, a team that almost never turns over the ball did turn it over and a team that doesn't make many silly mistakes made a huge one to keep a Buffalo touchdown drive alive.
The Bills had trailed 28-10 at halftime a year ago and trailed the Washington Redskins 17-0 the year before that. Kelly tore up the Cowboys for 173 passing yards in the first half today, but the Cowboys had known Buffalo might move the ball some. What they hadn't counted on was that their offense would be held without a touchdown and settle for a pair of Eddie Murray field goals.
Still, the Cowboys led 6-3 when they made their first big mistake. The Bills had seemingly been stopped on their 41, but on fourth down, backup cornerback Dave Thomas was called for running into punter Chris Mohr.
The Bills got a first down out of it, and Kelly drove them right down the field. Thomas finished it by faking out Leon Lett at the line of scrimmage and running four yards for a touchdown and a 10-6 lead with 12:26 left in the second quarter.
The Cowboys couldn't get the lead back in the half. On their final possession of the first half, Aikman drove the Cowboys from their 1 to the Buffalo 37. On first down, Bruce Smith tore into the backfield and grabbed a piece of Aikman's jersey. Aikman stepped up and threw anyway, and underthrew an open Alvin Harper at the 10. Nate Odomes, who led the NFL with nine interceptions, got his biggest of the season at the 12 and returned it 41 yards.
He gave the Bills the ball at the Dallas 48 with 63 seconds left, and they made the most of it. Kelly hit Thomas for 13, Andre Reed for 22 and Thomas for three. On second and seven at the 9, Kelly got pressure from Jimmie Jones and threw an incompletion. The Cowboys stuffed a shovel toss to Thomas on third down and the Bills settled for Christie's 28-yard field goal and a 13-6 lead.
The Bills could hardly have asked for more. After trailing by 18 at the half a year ago, they led by seven.
"I didn't get mad," Johnson said. "I knew we'd be fine. We made a couple of mistakes. The only thing I didn't want was to defensively stay with their tempo. I felt we'd come back because we've got enough guys to do that. We made some mistakes in the first half. I told the guys at halftime to hang in there, we're going to be fine. Our defense was into the huddle of their offense and we weren't getting up on the ball and getting up field like we normally do. We had to attack the line of scrimmage like we normally do."
Aikman said: "At halftime, we knew we had to get the running game going. We'd gotten away from it. We were too one-dimensional. After scoring a touchdown to tie it, Emmitt was running hard and the line was wearing them down. We stuck with it. Once we got ahead, we could pick and choose what we wanted to do."
The third play of the second half changed everything. After a six-yard gain by Thomas and a nine-yard throw to Bill Brooks, the Bills had a first down at their 43 when Kelly stuck the ball in Thomas's gut.
Thomas had just taken the ball when Lett burst through the line, grabbed Thomas's left arm and worked the ball out. The ball squirted free and Washington picked it up at the 46 and proceeded to turn the Super Bowl around.
"I don't know what it is when we get to this final game and blow up," Thomas said. "I can sit here and take the blame. I changed the momentum when I fumbled and James Washington ran it in."
Washington made a wonderful, patient, weaving run, cutting inside at the 35, back outside at the 20 and back inside at the 15, where he had an open jog into the end zone. Fifty-five seconds into the second half, the game was tied, 13-13.
And the Cowboys were a different team from that point on. A non-existent pass-rush came to life and their offense went back to the basics, which meant Emmitt Smith.
Buffalo's next possession went like this: Thomas for two yards. Incomplete pass. Jim Jeffcoat and Charles Haley sack Kelly for 13 yards.
The Cowboys got the ball back at their 36 and took a 20-13 lead with a basic, powerful 64-yard, eight-play drive. Smith got the ball on seven of the eight plays and got 61 of the 64 yards as the Cowboys again and again pulled left guard Nate Newton to the right and opened up huge holes. Aikman threw just one pass, that to Johnston for three yards.
On third and three at the Buffalo 15, Smith got the final yards by breaking from a Jeff Wright tackle at the 15 and sprinting untouched into the end zone. After gaining 41 yards on 10 carries in the first half, Smith got 61 yards on seven carries on the first Dallas possession of the second half. With 6:01 left in the third period, the Cowboys had the lead back.
The third quarter ended with the Cowboys leading, 20-13, but on the first play of the fourth, Dallas made another big play. On third and five at the Buffalo 36, Kelly threw the ball down the middle. He was going for Don Beebe, but the guy he hit in the letters was Washington.
Washington intercepted at the 46 and returned it 12 yards.
And the Cowboys were about to clinch it.
They needed nine plays to go the 66 yards. The biggest play came on third and eight at the 22 when Aikman hit Harper for 16. Most of the rest was Smith, who carried six times for 16 yards and caught a nine-yard pass. Johnson had a big decision on fourth and goal inches from the goal line, and he went for the touchdown.
Aikman pitched to Smith who sprinted to his left into the end zone to make it 27-13 with 9:50 left in the fourth quarter. Murray finished the scoring with a 20-yard field goal with 2:50 left. The celebration had begun.
"It's a little different the second time around," Aikman said. "I know what people say when they say the first one's a little more special. Last year was more disbelief. This year was one to enjoy because there were a lot of obstacles."