Roger Staubach didn't have a particularly good day. Tony Dorsett never got in the open where he could run and the Cowboys were assessed a team-record 14 penalties.
But these are the Dallas Cowboys, the only undefeated team left in the National Football League, and it takes more than a sputtering offense and a horde of yellow flags to stop them. That was made painfully aware to the New York Giants today.
The Giants caught the Cowboys on an off day, but still never had a chance a Dallas let its defense and special teams carry it to a 24-10 victory at Giants Stadium.
The Cowboys sacked New York quarterback Joe Pisarcik eight times for 59 yards in losses and limited the Giants to a net of two yards passing and 121 yards in total offense.
That total was almost equaled by the 113 yards the Cowboys had in penalties.
Harvey Martin and Randy White each had two sacks and Too Tall Jones and Jethro Pugh each had one, giving the Dallas front four six. Safety Randy Hughes and linebacker Tom Henderson each got a sack off blitzes.
"It's starting to get fun now," said Martin. "We can't be too concerned about what the offense does because I know the defense isn't about to slack up on anybody. We just had great movement in the defensive line today. If each guy goes hard every play, one of us is bound to get in. It doesn't matter who it is. We don't mind spreading the glory around."
The eight sacks for the Cowboys was only half the story. Even when Pisarcik did get the ball off it was usually a hurried throw and he took more punishment after throwing than he did when he was getting socked.
The Cowboys went into the game leading the NFl in offense, but didn't seem to have any zip. Staubach completed 14 of 25 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown and was not intercepted, but didn't look sharp.
Dorsett managed only 39 yards in 16 carries as the Cowboys gained a dismal 83 yards rushing and netted only 254 total yards.
Dallas got its first score from the special teams.
The Giants started the games by eating up the first five minutes on an uneventful nine-play drive that included six line plunges by Larry Csonka netting 23 yards, two incomplete passes, a two-yard run by Bob Hammond and a missed 50-yard field goal by Joe Danelo.
The Cowboys rant three plays and then had to punt. Danny White booted a high spiral to Hammond, who tried to catch the ball with Benny Barnes running right through him. Hammond fumbled it and teammate Ernie Jones picked it up on the bounce. He took about three steps before he was leveled by D.D. Lewis and again the ball popped loose. Jay Saldi dove on it at the eight and then slithered on his back into the end zone for the score.
A 16-yard punt return by Butch Johnson set up a 46-yard drive to a second-quarter Dallas score that gave the Cowboys a 14-3 advantaged at half-time. The score came on a five-yard Staubach to Billy Joe DuPree pass. The Giants scored on a 51-yards field goal by Danelo.
Cliff Harris intercepted a Pisarcik pass at the Dallas nine-yard line in the third period and Staubach then took the Cowboys on a 91-yard touchdown drive with Dorsett getting the touchdown on a one-yard run.
The big play on the drive was a 39-yard pass-interference call against the Giants' Bill Bryant, who was trying to cover Golden Richards in the end zone. That call gave the Cowboys the ball at the one-yard line and Dorsett scored on the next play.
Hammond returned a short White punt 28 yards to the Cowboys' seven-yard line later in the period to set up New York's only touchdown. Hammod himself scored it on one-yard run on fourth down.
Efren Herrera kicked a 35-yard field goal early in the fourth period to end the scoring.
"We were sloppy, that's for sure," Dallas coach Tom Landry said. "it's not that we didn't want to play well: it just happened."
Drew Pearson, who caught three passes for 89 yards, said the Dallas offense has to bear down more. "Our defense is awesome and our special teams are awesome," he said. "The offense has to catch up with them."
Now, after beating Washington, Philadelphia, Detroit and the Giants the last four games, the Cowboys have their toughest three weeks of the season coming up. They play St. Louis next Monday night and then the Steelers in Pittsburgh and the Redskins in Washington. "We can't think about going undefeated now," Pearson said. "There are a lot of things more important. It would be nice, though."