It wasn't a day to rank with with the anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education or anything quite that important. But . . .
For a time as the fourth quarter progressed here today there were two second-year quarterbacks in the National Football League leading their teams to 3-0 records in the Central Division of the National Conference, and both men are black. That was another small step in the progress of racial attitudes in the NFL.
Doug Williams of Tampa Bay got the Buccaneers into undisputed possession of first place in the FC Central, with a 21-10 victory over Green Bay earlier in the day.
Vince Evans fell short by a 24-20 score of delivering the Chicago Bears there in his first regular-season start and against the NFC champion Dallas Cowboys.
Roger Staubach finally outgunned Evans with his third touchdown throw of the day.
Evans did provide alternative weapons to the "new dimension" offense designed to exploit his running and strong-armed passing. He ran for a touchdown on a quarterback draw play, installed expressly for him and this game. He ran 17 yards to help along that scoring flight to the goal line.
Evans injected the excitement Bear fans have regularly found with his appearances, by throwing a 52-yard pass to former Cowboy Golden Richards and a 64-yarder to wide receiver James Scott that put Chicago ahead, 20-17, with 13 minutes remaining.
That the 24-year-old quarterback passed his first test with high marks was certified when coach Neill Armstrong said, "If Vince is healthy -- which I'm sure he is -- he'll start our next game, against Miami."
Evans completed only one of seven passes in the first half, and acknowledged afterward that he was tense at the start and nervous in practice last week. He finished with only five completions in 16 attempts, for 155 yards. He was intercepted once and sacked four times.
Ken Meyer, offensive coordinator who put in the new dimension offense, discounted the sacks, pointing out that once the Cowboys regained the lead at 24-20, they were in a position to tee off on Evans.
The coaches were more impressed for long-range purposes with Evans' poise in picking up blitzes, particularly on both his touchdown passes. On the second, free safety Cliff Harris was in his face when Evans unloaded. "I saw him coming . . . I saw him inching up," the quarterback said.
It was second and eight at the Chicago 35-yard line in the fourth quarter and the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Evans merely needed to snap his throwing wrist to clear Harris and meet Scott in full stride at the Chicago 27. Scott did not have to change stride to continue the rest of the distance to the goal line.
In the third quarter, Evans was given the go-ahead from the bench to bomb away on first down, from the Chicago 48-yard line.
"That was a play-action pass to the weak side and i was reading Cliff Harris, and all of a sudden he disappeared," Evans related.
Evans might have helped bring that about when he took the snap, took a step to his left, then looked to his left before whipping the ball down the center alley to Richards, who caught the ball on the Chicago 15 with no one within 15 yards of him and sped the last of the 52-yard touchdown.
Coach Tom Landry said of his Cowboys' defensive breakdown, "We had two backs playing two different defenses, and no one was playing Golden."
For all the Bears' early defensive heroics and Evans' promising performance, Staubach scintillated.
Staubach was positively spectacular on a 72-yard air raid, with 2 minutes 50 seconds remaining. He hit on four passes without a miss on the way to his third touchdown connection -- 13 yards to Drew Pearson, 13 to Tony Hill, 23 to Preston Pearson, and finally 22 yards to Hill for the score, leaving 1:53 on the clock.
Evans faced up to an 80-yard challenge and managed 18- and 13-yard passes to Richards and Scott, respectively, but sacks by Dave Stalls and Bruce Thornton left him fourth and eight and 60 yards from his objective as time ran out.
"I was a little tight at first," Evans said. "I still think we could have beaten them, and should have. I just didn't come out as relaxed as I would have for another (not NFC champion) team."
Told that Armstrong was going to start him again next week, Evans shook off a grim expression and said, "That makes me feel good."
The Cowboys also won the rushing battle, 216 yards to 200, though Walter Payton outgained Tony Dorsett, 134 yards to 108.