It's not as if Danny White had never done anything like this. After all, in 1978 when Roger Staubach was knocked silly he had quarterbacked the Cowboys past the Falcons in a wild-card game.

Still, White said, today's performance was special, "the biggest game of my life." Special, because White produced today the way the Cowboys always thought he could under playoff pressure, against an outstanding football team in a hostile environment.

White had been preparing for this day for four years as Staubach's backup. And today, he said it was not always easy.

"It was real frustrating, sure, and some guys can handle it and some can't. But I can honestly say I never got discouraged. It was a matter of not panicking, just hanging in there until the day you got a chance. I never asked to be traded. That's a copout. Yes, it was hard to sit and watch. But I did, and I learned from it.

"And Roger also showed me what it was like to be a winner. I followed him, and I listened to everything he said. I was fortunate to play behind the guy, I really feel that way."

Over on the other side of the Cowboy locker room, defensive tackle Randy White was saying the same thing about Danny White.

"We didn't change a thing on defense in the second half, except that we went after them. We knew that if we could stop 'em, Danny and the offense would take care of the rest."

Randy White was reminded, however, that Staubach had done it many times before, not Danny White.

"Listen," the former Maryland star said, "Danny's done a great job for us all year. I believe in him. I've seen him pull out some games for us this year. And when you got Drew Pearson running around out there, anything's possible."

Pearson, who caught White's last two touchdown passes, said he went to Coach Tom Landry after the Falcons had taken a 10-point lead and told him he could get open because the Falcons were giving him single coverage once he slipped into the secondary.

"I told him there was a lot of room on the inside routes for me if I could get past the safety," Pearson said. "Actually, you don't really tell Tom Landry to throw the ball to you. I just told him what was happening out on the field, and he called my number."

Landry said the Cowboys' victory today was even more satisfying than the amazing one over the Redskins in the final game of the 1979 season because "the stakes were bigger today.

"What can you say about the comeback? It was tremendous. I thought our chances were slim to come back when we got down in the fourth quarter. It was a great, great win for us."

And a very depressing loss for the Falcons.

"I can only give Dallas credit and praise for its ability to come back," said Coach Leeman Bennett. "I still feel we're good enough to go to the Super Bowl. Any team that wins 12 games is good enough. I just thought we played well and received maximum effort. The Cowboys deserve the credit.

"It is a very empty feeling losing in the playoffs."