Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
It was St. Louis 24, Dallas 17 tonight, and you knew the Cardinals would do it when MelGray was out there, suddenly, Magically, flying away from the nearest Cowboy.
Jim Hart, the St. Louis quarterback, had put up a long, high pass, the missile carrying maybe 55 yards in the air. And here was Gray, supposedly a cripple with a bad ankel, outrunning Aaron Kyle, leaving him three yards behind.
Touchdown. A 49-yarder. From 14-3 behind, from 17-10 behind, the Cardinals had tied it with just under eight minutes to play.
And the next time the Cardinals got the ball they scored again, this time on a three-yard pass so cleverly designed that no Cowboy was within lassoing distance of the old-timer tight end, jackie Smith.
For Smith, who normally plays only when the Cardinals intend to run the ball, it was his third catch of the season - and his first touchdown. With 3:10 to play, the Cowboys, who accomplished nothin the second half, were done.
The victory moved St. Louis with in two games of the Cowboys in the National Football Conference's East Division. But its greater significance deals with the race for the wild-card [WORD ILLEGIBLE] in the playoffs.
Now with 6-3 won-lost record, the Cardinals are a game better than Washington and Atlanta, both 5-4.
Until Gray's magic act midway through the fourth quarter, the game seemed to be the Cowboys'. St. Louis moved the ball only once in the first half, getting a 26 yard field goal from Jim Bakken. Meanwhile, Dallas used its Doomsday II defense and Tony Dorsett to build a 14-3 lead.
Its first touchdown came after so long safety Charlie Waters, wrestling Terry Metcalf to the ground, suddenly flogged the ball out of his hands. Linebacker Bob Bruenig recovered the fumble at the St. 21. yard line.
Then Roger Staubach, the Cowboy quarterback, hit Dorsett with a pass over the middle for 10 yards.Dorsett carried the ball the next three times, finally leaping into the end zone from a yard out.
Next time in possession, Dallas went 60 yards with seven on nine runs directed at the right side of the St. Louis defense. Dorsett carried six times for 19 yards, but the big play was a 21 yard scramble by Staubach to the one.
After Dorsett lost a yard, Staubach hit tight end Billy Joe DuPree, all alone in the left corner, with a touch down pass that - who knows? - may have prompted Hart's clever call to the 37-year-old Smith late in the game.
But had tidings came to the Cowboys in the third quarter. Apparently in full control, they had the Cardinals backed up to the St. Louis two-yard line. From there, ever willing to launch a bomb to Gray, Hart put one out to midfield.
It fell incomplete, but pass intference was called on Aaron Kyle, giving St. Louis a 47-yard penalty. Even television replays showed no sin by Kyle, but the losing coach, TomLandry, said, "I can't question the call. But that one really hurt. He must have been called for face guarding and not bumping."
From midfield, the Cardinals moved efficiently to score. Wayne Morris gained 23 yards in four carries, and Metcalf chipped in with tow spectaculate runs - one with a pass that might have been a loss but instead was an eight-yard gainer, the other a four yard run to the one. Morris went in from there, making it 14-10, Dallas.
With only 8:52 to play, Dallas had to settle for a 21 yard field goal by Efren Herrera, failing to run it in after a first fown at the five -yard line.
That proved fatal, for 68 seconds later the Cardinals went 72 yards in four plays the last 49 on the Hart to Gary bomb. In the end zone. . . . Gray threw the ball at the beaten Kyle.
"He was saying. 'I got you, baby, you're not going to get anything tonight," Gray said. "I just wanted to show him I could still run."
And soon as the Cardinals' Ron Yankowski performed back-to-back sacks on Staubach, St. Louis was back in business at the Dallas 38-yard line. Four runs by Jim Otis moved St. Louis to the 21, and Metcalf went up the middle 18 to the three-yard line. There, on first down, Hart faked to Otis inside and lofted the winner Smith.