The Dallas Cowboys intercepted four Craig Morton passes and recovered four fumbles to embarrass and overwhelm the Denver Broncos, 27-10, to win super Bowl 12 today.
The Cowboys, 5 1/2 point favorites broke to a 13-0 halftime lead and never looked back as they became the first National Football Conference representative to win the NFL title since 1972 when they beat Miami.
With Roger Staubach at the controls, the Cowboys had too much balance for Denver offensively while their defense hounded Morton relentlessly before Bronco coach Red Miller pulled him for Norris Weese in the fourth quarter.
Bronco defenders came out a mile-high on the opening series stopping the Cowboys for a nine-yard loss on a badly botched end-around attempt that almost cost the Cowboys the ball on the first play of the game.
Butch Johnson mishandled the handoff from Tony Dorsett, but got a lucky straight-up-in-the-air bounce before being nailed by Tom Jackson for the nine-yard loss.
The Cowboys were forced to punt three plays later, and Denver got an early break when Thomas Henderson, the Cowboy line-backer, ran into return man Rick Upchurch. Following the 15-yard penalty, Denver took over at its own 48.
A 21-yard pass from Craig Morton to Haven Moses gave Denver a first down at the Cowboy 34, but Denver got no closer. On third down, Randy White came smoking in and sacked Morton for an 11-yard loss back to the 44.
Bucky Dilts came on to punt, and his kick was inexplicably fielded at the one by the Cowboys' Tony Hill, who fumbled but was able to recover after a scramble near the goal line.
The Cowboys were unable to get past their own 22, however, and were forced to kick again, the play after Tony Dorsett fumbled. But after another wild scramble for the ball, center John Fitzgerald recovered for Dallas.
The Cowboys got the game's first major scoring opportunity on the following series. On second and 20 from Denver's own 29, Morton dropped back to pass and came under heavy pressure from a blitzing Cowboy defense.
Cowboy safety Charlie Waters and tackle Randy White were hanging all over Morton's arm as he attempted to throw. The pass was thrown into the arms of safety Randy Hughes, in the game in Dallas' nickel defense.
The interception gave Dallas the ball at the Denver 25, and Staubach wasted no time taking advantage. A 13-yard pass to tight end Billy Joe DuPree gained 13 yards and a first down at the 12.
Three running plays later, the Cowboys were faced with fourth down and an inch at the three. The Cowboys went for the first down, and were rewarded handsomely when Dorsett, behind a crushing Robert Newhouse block, scampered off left tackle for the game's first touchdowns.
Efren Herrera's extra point gave the Cowboys a 7-0 lead with 4:29 left in the first quarter.
Dallas got the ball right back two plays later, when Morton's pass intended for Upchurch was tipped by middle linebacker Bob Bruenig and interecepted by cornerback Aaron Kyle, who returned it to the Denver 35. Ed Jones walloped Morton just as he threw the ball.
On second down, Dorsett gained 18 yards around right end to the Bronco eight. But the Broncos stiffened, sacking Staubach on third down for a 10-yard loss.
Herrera padded the Cowboy lead to 10-0 with a 35-yard field goal with 1:31 left in the first period.
The Cowboys were on the prowl again early in the second period, moving from their own 43 to a first down at the Bronco 23 after a 19-yard pass from Staubach to duPree.
On third and six from the 19, -Staubach was being chased out of the pocket by Barney Chavous. Just as he reached the right sideline, he launched a pass into a crowd in the end zone and the Broncos' Bill Thompson intercepted.
But game officials ruled that Staubach had stepped out of bounds, and the Cowboys kept possession. Herrera came on and kicked a 43-yard field goal with 11:16 remaining in the second period for a 13-0 Dallas lead.
Two plays later, Dallas had the ball back again after Morton's third interception. On second down, Morton sent Haven Moses streaking downfield on a deep post pattern, with Benny Barnes seemingly beaten by several steps.
But Morton's pass was underthrown and Barnes intercepted the ball at the Dallas 40. Morton's third interception tied a Super Bowl record, and marked the first time all season the Denver quarterback had tossed three in one game.
Dallas was unable to pick up a first down, however, and Danny White came on to punt. His low line-drive kick sailed toward Denver return man John Schultz, who decided not to field the ball, opting to block Thomas Henderson. It was a bad mistake. The bouncing ball hit Schultz in the head, and Cowboy rookie Bruce Huther recovered at the Bronco 40.
Two plays later, Dorsett went off right tackle, breaking two tackles, for a 19-yard gain to the Bronco 19. Once again, Denver held, and Herrera came on again. This time, his 43-yard kick went wide left, and the Broncos breathed a sigh of relief.
The Broncos continued to have turnover miseries. On third down from his own 27, Morton hit Jack Dolbin over the middle, but the Bronco wide receiver fumbled after being hit by Charlie Waters. Hughes picked up the loose ball and ran 19 yards to the Denver 27.
Dorsett gained eight yards around the right side and Newhouse 10 more behind a Dorsett block to the Denver nine.
A screen pass to Newhouse in the right flat lost seven yards, and Staubach's low pass intended for Drew Pearson was too tough to handle in the end zone. On third down, Staubach's screen pass to Newhouse gained only a yard, and Herrera came on again.
His 32-yard field goal sailed wide right, and the Broncos were still in the game.
In the final 90 seconds, there were three more turnovers. Bronco tight end Riley Odoms gained 10 yards then turned to disaster when Aaron Kyle forced a fumble and Hughes recovered at the Bronco 28.
But on Dallas' first play, DuPree fumbled the ball after a 15-yard pass gain, and Denver's Tom Jackson recovered at the Cowboy 12.
Mark Washington gave Dallas one more scoring opportunity when he intercepted still another Morton pass, breaking the record, and returned 27 yards to the Denver 35 with six seconds left. A Staubach pass to Preston Pearson gained eight yards and Pearson stepped out of bounds with a second left in the half. Herrera came on again, and missed his third kick of the day, a 44-yard attempt that sailed wide right.
The Cowboys had to settle for a 13-0 lead at the half.
There were eight turnovers in the first half, seven of them by the Broncos. Dallas dominated the first two statistically, gaining 146 yards total offense to the Broncos' 72. Morton completed as many passes to his own receivers -- four -- as he did to Cowboy defensive backs.
The Broncos moved into Dallas territory early in the third period when Otis Armstrong gained 18 yards to the Cowboy 47. The Cowboys here and Bucky Dilts went back to punt.
Dilts took several steps up to throw the football. His receivers were covered and he was nailed for a three-yard loss. But the Cowboys were called for having 12 men on the field, giving Denver a first down at the Cowboy 36.
Denver was unable to pick up another first down, but finally got on the board when Jim Turner punched a 47-yard field goal through the uprights to cut the Dallas lead to 13-3 with 12:32 left in the third period.
The Cowboys put the Broncos deep in the hole when Staubach threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Butch Johnson that infuriated Denver players and fans. They thought Johnson did not hold the ball long enough. But replays showed that Johnson caught the ball, hit the turf, rolled on his back and then dropped it. In the judgment of the officials, Johnson had possession as he entered the end zone.
Herrera's extra point gave Dallas a 20-3 lead with 6:59 left in the third period.
The Broncos immediately returned to scoring position when Upchurch returned the kickoff 67 yards to the Cowboy 26. The return was a Super Bowl record.