The Dallas Cowboys, who are "on the road back" according to members of the defending NFL champions, crunched Philadelphia, 14-7, and tied the Washington Redskins for the first place in the NFC East yesterday.
But, despite making up a two-game deficit to the Redskins in two weeks, all is not well with the Cowboys. Tony Dorsett was benched the fined by Coach Tom Landry for missing practice Saturday, and the star running back was fuming afterward. He called the demotion humiliating.
Preston Pearson started in Dorsett's halfback slot and was a key figure in the Dallas victory. Dorsett saw spot duty, carrying the ball seven times for 24 yards, gaining 23 yards on four carries in the touchdown drive that proved decisive near the end of the first half.
Dorsett's problems began Saturday when the overslept and missed the Cowboys' 9:30 a.m. practice. He said he did not notify the Cowboys because by the time he woke up the practice was over and he had lost his telephone directory so he couldn't call anyone.
Landry said that the Cowboys attempted unsuccessfully to reach Dorsett at home. "The phone must have been off the hook," said Landry. "Missing practice is something you can't let pass."
Although Landry did not disclose the amount of the fine, the maximum permissible under the league's collective bargaining agreement with the players' union is $500.
"I totally expected to be fined heavily, but I didn't expect to be benched," an angry Dorsett said. "What hurt me as much was that my family came 3,000 miles to see me play. I was at my peak emotionally and physically and ready to go and then this happens . . .
I"I was humiliated and totally embarrassed. I don't know if I will get over it or not. I don't belong on (the) bench.
"I'm so upset because my family came in to see me play and because this same thing happened to another guy and he still started. I was penalized because I'm Tony Dorsett . . . I just don't think it's fair. I understand Landry thinks he has to discipline me, but I don't accept the way he did it."
Landry, speaking without emotion, said, "Dorsett didn't start today because he missed Saturday's practice and didn't notify us. He didn't start today and if he starts again is up to him. Preston Pearson is the starter right now and he will continue to be until Dorsett shows he can get here on time."
Pearson, making his first start since Dorsett replaced him last season, rushed for 61 yards on 10 carries and fullback Robert Newhouse ran for 67 yards in 12 tries as the Cowbosy rolled up 191 yards on the ground against the Eagles.
"We're coming back," said Pearson. "We hit hard and we showed a lot of emotion."
"We are playing more solid now," added Landry, "but we still aren't making as many good offensive plays as we should."
The Cowboys strugged early as they were held to one first down in the first quarter and Roger Staubach didn't complete a pass in four attempts and was sacked twice.
The Eagles committed only one turnover all day, but it cost them. Fullback Mike Hogan fumbled just as the first quarter ended and Mark Washington recovered for Dallas at the Philadelphia 46. Seven plays later, Newhouse bulled his way over from the one, and after Rafael Septien's conversion, the Cowboys had a 7-0 lead.
Dorsett, who sparked the Cowboys to their second score, entered the game with 5:41 left in the half and his 23 rushing yards, helped the Cowboys move from their 29 to the Eagle 11. From there, Staubach hit Drew Pearson with an 11-yard touchdown pass with a minute left in the half.
Philadelphia's only score came on an impressive seven-play, 92-yard drive late in the third period. The touchdown came on a 34-yard pass from Ron Jaworski to tight end Keith Krepfle.
The Cowboys didn't seem surprised that the New York Giants upset the Redskins nor did they say they thought it would be easy for them from here on out.
"We've still got to play better," said Staubach. "It's still going to be a dog-fight at the end."
Landry said, "I'm not surprised Washington lost two in a row. They played well early and make some big plays, but it's a long season and those big plays can start escaping you. The Redskins will be back, though."
Defensive end Harvey Martin tried to play on his sprained right knee, but lasted only three plays. He was hardly missed as Randy White sacked Jawroski three times and Ed (Too Tall) Jones got him twice.
The Cowboys won't have much time to gloat over the victory as they play the Minnesota Vikings here Thursday night.
The defeat also dealt a severe blow to Philadelphia's playoff hopes. The Eagles are now 4-4, two games behind the Cowboys and Redskins, who are 6-2, and one game behind the Giants, who are 5-3.
Wilbert Montgomery, the NFL's leading rusher going into the game, was held to 57 yards on 18 carries and said, "They (the Cowboys) hit hard. They're the world champions. What more can I say?"