Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
It was worth the towing charges. Early in the fourth period tonight, the Candlestick Park announcer intoned, "All cars parked illegally on the expressway will be towed away if not moved immediately."
Nobody was detected jumping up and running away from the highest boring game of the NFL season. The Dallas Cowboys indicated offensive preparedness for the upcoming playoffs by outscoring the San Francisco 46ers, 42-35, in a flashy finish to the Monday night spectaculars.
The game had everything except turnovers. Neither team had a pass intercepted or lost a fumble, although the Cowboys three times recovered teammates' bobbles during a brief segment of the third period.
The intermission show matched the offensive fireworks, as a smokescreen conclusing a Christmas show obscured the field and forced a delay in the start of the second half. And at game's conclusion, fans slugged it out at the 25-yard line in a good imitation of a gangland rumble.
There were enough spectacular pass receptions to match some teams' season highlight films. The best though was a one-handed grab by the Cowboys' Butch Johnson, who hauled in a 22 yard touchdown pass from Roger Staubach while leaning over the sideline and the 49ers' Tony Leonard guarding his infield arm.
That came early in the fourth period, boosting the Cowboys' lead to 35-21. It followed a marvelous grab of a 27-yard Jim Plunkett toss to the 49ers' Gene Washington, who outfought namesake Mark Washington in the end zone.
Not long after Johnson's effort, San Francisco tight end Paul Seal made an amazing 28-yard reception of a Plunkett pass at the Dallas two, despite the close breath of linebacker Thomas Henderson. That set up the night's most unimpressive catch, a juggling effort by Delvin Williams after the 49ers had come to fourth and goal a foot from the end zone.
Dallas rebuilt its lead to 42-28 on a 64-yard drive, then Plunkett hit Seal on a 47-yard toss to revive the 49ers' dying hopes. An onside kick failed, to the extent that Dallas' Tony Hill almost broke away from a touchdown, and the Cowboys ran out the clock.
The 49ers' fans, annoyed with the team's 5-7 (now 5-8) record, came prepared to boo and were in form on the team's first possession, when the punting team came on with a fourth-and-one setup at the Cowboys' 47.
Coach Ken Meyer fooled both fans and Cowboys as punter Tom Whittum handed off to Dave Williams for a seven-yard gain. It might have been a touchdown, but Cowboy Jay Saldi made a superb play to nudge Williams out of bounds.
On a similar situation with Dallas leading 35-21, Wittum faked a punt, faked a handoff and threw a 15-yard pass to Tony Cline for a first down.
The Cowboys' chief excitement-maker was Johnson. Besides his sensational touchdown catch, he returned a San Francisco kickoff 66 yards of the 49er 20 just before halftime. JOhnson started near the left sideline and made repeated moves to his right past 49ers spinning and grasping air. Eddie Lewis finally knocked down out at the right sideline.
The real losers were not the 49ers but Bay Area fans without tickets. Since the game fell 1,700 short of a sellout, it was not televised here. Those folks really missed one.