The Dallas Cowboys earned another trip to the Super Bowl today with an awesome display of defense, some spectacular special-team play and just enough offense to beat the Minnesota Vikings, 23-6, for the National Football Conference Championship.
A 32-yard touchdown pass from Roger Staubach to Golden Richards on the Cowboys' second play from scrimmage, and touchedown runs to five yards by Robert Newhouse and 11 by Tony Dorsett advanced the Cowboys into a Jan. 15 confrontation with the Denver Broncos in New Orleans.
For the second week in a row, the Cowboys bottled up the opposition's main weapon. Last week it was Walter Payton, today it was Chuck Foreman. It got them a fourth trip to the Super Bowl, ying a record held by the Vikings. Foreman gained 56 yards in 20 carries.
The Cowboys got a break on the game's first series when Harvey Martin recovered Robert Miller's fumble after a bad handoff at the Vikings 39.
Two plays later, quarterback Roger Staubach faked a handoff to Tony Dorsett, pump faked as if to throw a screen pass to the flat, then threw to a wide open Golden Richards streaking toward the goal line. The swift Cowboy receiver caught the ball at the two and fell backward into the end zone for a touchdown.
The Cowboys had to settle for a 6-0 lead with 13:22 left in the first period because Carl Eller tipped Efren Herrera's extra-point attempt, knocking it wide right.
After failing to pick up a first down on their first possession the Vikings were on the move late in the first period. They drove from their 41 to a first down at the Cowboy 34. But Lee threw three straight incomplete passes, and Minnesota was forced to punt. Clabo's 23 yard kick went out of bounds at the Dallas 11, and Staubach and Co. took over from there.
Later in the period, Martin again was the man in the right place for the Cowboys. This time, Viking running back Chuck Foreman took a wicked lick from Cowboy defensive end Ed Jones and fumbled. Martin fell on the loose ball for Dallas at its 45.
The Cowboys were unable to take advantage, however. Dorsett was stopped a yard short of a first down on third and two at the Viking 47.
The Cowboys were in another kicking situation at midfield early in the second period. But punter Danny White, seeing a huge gap on the right side, took off downfield and hot-footed it 14 yards to a first down.
Three players later, on third and four from the 10, Staubach's pass to Billy Joe DuPree was badly overthrown. But officials called Viking safety Paul Krause for holding DuPree, and Dallas was given a first down at the Minnesota five.
From there, Staubach merely handed off to the little battering ram, Robert Newhouse, and he churned off right tackle for the Cowboys' second touchdown.
Herrera's extra point was true this time, and Dallas led, 13-0, with 11:41 left in the second period.
The Vikings' first significant threat was set up on the first play following the kickoff. Lee sent Sammy White down the right sideline and lofted a deep floater in his direction. Cowboy safety Charlie Waters was called for interference and the Vikings had a first and goal at the Dallas eight.
Two running plays by Foreman netted four yards, and on third and goal from the four, Lee was sacked for an 11-yard loss by Cowboy defensive tackle Randy White. Fred Cox came on and kicked a 32-yard field goal, cutting the Dallas leads to 13-3 with 9:57 left in the half.
Lee passed to Ahmen Rashad for a 10-yard gain, to tight end Stu Voigt for 19, then to Sammy White at the left sideline for 15 yards to the Cowboy 19 late in the half.
Lee threw away his first-down pass, and Foreman was dropped for a yard loss by Bob Bruenig on second down. On third and 11 at the 20, Lee dropped back to pass, then started running. Jones knocked the ball loose again, but Viking guard Charles Goodrum recovered for Minnesota at the 20.
Cox came on and kicked a 37-yard field goal to trim the Cowboy lead to 13-6 with 1:57 left in the half.
The Cowboys threatened again, however, when passes of 12 yards to Drew Pearson and 16 yards to DuPree gave Dallas a first down at the Viking 41.
The Cowboys were penalized 15 yards when Staubach was called for intentional grounding. But the gifted quarterback read a Viking blitz perfectly and threw a jump-pass screen to Preston Pearson.
The reserve running back gained 32 yards before Wally Hilgenberg dragged him down from behind at the Minnesota 24. On first down, Staubach passed to Richards, but the receiver was two steps out of the left corner of the end zone.
Staubach's second-down pass to DuPree was overthrown but the Vikings' Mark Mullaney was called for an illegal head slap, and Dallas had a first down at the Minnesota 12.
Staubach passed eight yards to Preston Pearson, but the Cowboys let five precious seconds tick away, after the catch before they finally called time. On second down, with nine seconds left, Staubach overthrew Drew Pearson in the end zone, and the Cowboys had to settle for a field goal.
Herrera connected from 21 yards with three seconds left and Dallas took a 16-6 lead into the locker room at intermission.
Minnesota, trailing, 16-6, took over at its own 16 with 10:28 to play. A 38-yard pass from Lee to Robert Miller carried to the Dallas 49. But the Cowboys stiffened from there, forcing still another Clabo pnt.
Hil called for a fair catch at the Cowboy 13, and Dallas took over from there with 7:54 left. After Dorsett lost two yards on a sweep and Staubach twice overthrew receivers, White punted.
His kick was taken by Manfred Moore at midfield, but he did not keep the ball long. Terrible Thomas Henderson jarred it loose with a ful-stride pop, Jay Saldi recovered and went nine yards and Dallas had a first down at the Vikings 35.
Three Newhouse carries gained 23 yards to the 12 but Dorsett lost a yard trying to sweep the right side.
On third and six from the 11, Dorsett took a handoff from Staubach out of the shotgun formation and cruised around tight end for the Cowboys' breathe-easy points.
Herrera's extra point gave the Cowboys a 23-6 lead with 3:54 to play.
Minnesota, trailing 16-6, took over at its 16 with 10:28 to play. A 38-yard pass from Lee to Robert Miller carried to the Dallas 49. But there the Cowboys stiffened, forcing still another Clabo punt.