From Sunday's evidence it may be a bit too early for Tony Dorsett to alter the face of pro football and a bit too late for Joe Namath, at age 34.
That is subject to sudden change next Sunday, when the New York Giants presumably will provide a less formidable defense than Minnesota did against Dallas and when the Philadelphia Eagles take on the Rams in Los Angeles, where the taunts of the fans may motivate a team that has lost six of its last seven games, counting the 1976 playoffs and the 1977 exhibitions.
Namath, whose Rams suffered a 17-6 loss Sunday to the Atlanta Falcons, found himself a little short on words after the upset.
"It's tough to think of anything positive when you lose," he said. "There's no doubt this was a money game. It was time for me to prove to these guys here that I could work with them. I think I did that."
The most memorable moment for dallas' Dorsett against Minnesota was a fumble near the goal line in the second quarter.
Preston Pearson, on the other hand, made an excellent touchdown catch for the Cowboys' go-ahead points and performed well all day as the Cowboys won, 16-10, in overtime. "I just want people to realize," he noted, "that Preston Pearson is the starting tailback."
Fran Tarkenton briefly tried running a veer offense at age 37, but fooled none of the Cowboys.
On defense, Minnesota coach Bud Grant has finally made a change, overshifting his line and leaving it upto his active young linbackers to compensate. Alan Page now plays over the center on most plays.
He does not have to travel so far at age 32. He just gives his best jolt to the opposing center, and John Fitzgerald was the sorrier for it Sunday. The Cowboy center was so psyched by the steady pounding of his head that he jumped offside once trying to beat Page to the charge.
Cowboy linebacker, Tom Henderson volunteered the why and how of the Cowboy victory.
"We tried to eliminate that pass over the middle to Chuck Foreman," he said."He'll remember me. He got tired of me hitting him on pass patterns. I happened to hit him in the back once and I said, 'Did you feel that?'
"He said to me, 'I make all-pro every year.' I said, 'Yeah? well you ain't going to be all-pro today.'
"He got away from me on third and eight in the first quarter (for a 19-yard pass recpetion and run), but I still caught him from behind.
"They put me on O. J. Simpson and Terry Metcalf last year. The Vikings had Foreman coming at me today. I'd do anything to keep hom from catching a pass. He ran me to death. I sued a leg whip (which is legal within three yards of the line of scrimmage) to stop him once. They were picking on me . . . testing me."
Once, Tarkenton had to throw away a deep pass when Henderson kept up with Foreman all the way down field.
Two plays later, on third and 10, Tarkenton went to his favorite pass over the middle toward Foreman and Henderson made a spectacular interception while landing on his back.
"How did the Redskins do?" Henderson asked, when he was told they lost, he grinned and said, "That's good."
Landry, the onetime cornerback in the Giants good years, savored the strong finish by his defensive unit that caused Tarkenton to lose his poise and the overtime. He intentionally grounded the ball on a pass play with defensive end Harvey Martin bearing down on him.
Then, on the next play, third and 22, Tarkenton was showing his age, 37, when his springing failed to save him from the pursuit of 30-year-old defensive tackle Larry Cole, who sacked him for a nine-yard loss.
In the ensuing pressure circumstance of fourth and 31 at his own 21-yard line punter Neil Clabo became flustered by the dallas rush and shanked the ball only 26 yards.
Roger Staubach put the overworked Minnesota defense out of its misery when he scored the game-winning touchdown on a four-yard run.
Landry explained the upsurge on defense that began with a 30-0 conquest of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the last exhibition game: "For the last two games we put randy White at weak-side tackle, we got a strong rush, and, boy we have started coming."
The bad news for Cowboy opponents is that the rest of the defense is coming together, including Ed (Too Tall) Jones. He blocked a pass and had a sack.Martin had two sacks and threw Foreman for a loss, besides pressuring Tarkenton into the intentional grounding.