Tony Dorsett's 44-yard touchdown run and the longest touchdown pass of Danny White's professional career led the Dallas Cowboys to a 29-17 victory over the Los Angeles Rams tonight.
The Cowboys, humiliated, 45-14, last week in San Francisco in a game Coach Tom Landry called a disaster, closed within a game of Philadelphia in the NFC East. Dallas is 5-2; the Rams dropped to 4-3 in the NFC West, a game behind the 49ers.
"We played with emotion and that's what we hadn't done in the losses to St. Louis and San Francisco," Landry said. "We were very, very emotional in the first half."
The Cowboys scored 12 points in the first quarter on Ron Springs' one-yard run, Rafael Septien's 41-yard field goal and a safety when Harvey Martin sacked Ram quarterback Pat Haden.
Dorsett made it 19-0 early in the second period when he ran up the middle, broke two tackles and raced 44 yards to score.
Los Angeles closed to 19-10 on Wendell Tyler's two-yard run and Frank Corral's 40-yard field goal, but White threw a 33-yard pass to Tony Hill, who dodged two colliding defenders and ran 30 yards to complete the 63-yard pass-and-run touchdown play.
The Rams fought back in the third quarter on Haden's 43-yard touchdown pass to Drew Hill, who outwrestled Steve Wilson for the ball.
Dorsett gained 154 yards on 26 carries, 125 in the first half on 13 runs. It was the 23rd time in 24 games he has rushed for more than 100 yards that the Cowboys have won. Dorsett gained only 21 yards in San Franciso.
The Rams, who gave up 26 points in the first half, frustrated the high-scoring Cowboys with a swarming defense in the second half, but it was too late.
Dallas' only second-half points came on Septien's 39-yard field goal in the last two minutes. It extended his string of successful kicks to a club record nine.
Hustling Dallas defensive back Everson Walls intercepted two of Haden's passes and Dennis Thurman swiped a third. Dallas also sacked Haden four times and the Rams were zero for 10 on third-down conversions against the Dallas defense.
Dorsett, who had a virus and missed two workouts during the week, gave a quick indication that whatever medicine he was taking had worked wonders. He gained 46 yards on five carries as the Cowboys drove 69 yards for a touchdown on their first possession.
White scrambled for 17 yards on third down to keep the drive going. Dorsett ran for 18 yards, 15 yards and 14 yards before Rod Perry interferred in the end zone. From the one, Springs went in for the touchdown.
Thurman's interception at the Ram 38 set up Septien's 41-yard field goal to make it 10-0, then Martin sacked Haden in the end zone.
The Rams retaliated with a quick 61-yard drive highlighted by Haden's 35-yard pass to Jeff Moore to the Dallas two. Tyler slashed across for the score.
Trailing, 19-7, the Rams rallied on Haden's 45-yard pass to Drew Hill to the Cowboy 25. Dallas stiffened and Corral kicked his field goal.
The Cowboys upped the count to 26-10 before halftime when Hill sidestepped defensive backs Rod Perry and LeRoy Irvin as they collided and left them behind in a tangle.
After the Rams threatened in the second half, White kicked a 60-yard punt that he got off two yards past the line of scrimmage. The rules allow a player to punt the ball from any spot on the field.
The punt carried to the Rams' 22 and, after Dallas held, the Cowboys ate up much of the fourth quarter with a long, mistake-plagued drive kept alive by three costly penalties on the Rams.