The Dallas Cowboys defeated Tampa Bay so easily today in a 38-0 rout that beleaguered Buccaneer quarterback Doug Williams could only stand in awe.
"There's no way anybody could have beaten Dallas today," said Williams. "We didn't have a chance and I don't know if any other team would have, either."
"They just kicked the hell out of us, but I guess that's the understatement of the year," said losing Coach John McKay.
The Cowboys advanced to the NFC championship game next week against the winner of Sunday's San Francisco-New York Giants game in San Francisco. If the 49ers win, that game will be in San Francisco. If the Giants win, it will be played in Texas Stadium, site of today's mismatch.
The usually big-play-oriented Cowboys turned conservative today. They were content to run straight at the Bucs most of the game, then let their defense, particularly the front four of Harvey Martin, Ed (Too Tall) Jones, John Dutton and Randy White, shut down the Central Division champions.
"All we wanted to do was go after him (Williams)," said Martin.
The Cowboys sacked Williams four times for 39 yards in losses, intercepted four of his passes, forced him into two intentional grounding penalties and held him to 10 completions in 29 attempts.
With the defense in that much control, there was no need for the Cowboys to get fancy on offense.
"Our thinking was to play a field-position-type game and not make mistakes," said Dallas quarterback Danny White. "We were conservative because we felt that was what would be effective. We ran the ball straight at them and threw the short passes."
The Cowboys' longest gain all day was a 26-yard run by Tony Dorsett. They had no turnovers and were only penalized five times for 40 yards.
"I guess you could say we were awesome," said linebacker D.D. Lewis.
White completed 15 of 26 passes for 143 yards and one touchdown. Cowboy runners ground out 212 yards, including Tony Dorsett's 86 on 16 carries and Ron Springs' 70 on 15.
The Cowboys had good field position virtually the entire first half, but scored only 10 points. White threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to Tony Hill after a Dennis Thurman interception, his second of the game, and Rafael Septien kicked a 32-yard field goal.
The Cowboys took the second-half kickoff and drove 80 yards in nine plays to score, never once facing a third down. From then on things got easier for them.
They had second and 10 on the Tampa Bay 42 when White threw a screen passs over the middle that Dorsett broke for 25 yards. On the next play, Dorsett veered off right tackle Jim Cooper's block and ran 26 yards to the seven, setting up a one-yard touchdown run by Springs.
"That drive was the key to the game," said Dallas Coach Tom Landry. "It took something out of them. We went from 10-0 to 17-0 and it also gave us more momentum."
Martin pressured Williams into a hurried throw later in the period and Michael Downs intercepted as the intended receiver, tight end Jimmie Giles, still was running downfield with his back to the ball. Downs returned the interception 22 yards to the Tampa Bay 33 and five plays later Dorsett scored on a five-yard run up the middle.
On the first play from scrimmage after the kickoff, Williams threw another interception as Dutton batted the ball 30 feet into the air. Jones snared it with his fingertips as he jumped over Tampa Bay's James Owens, giving the Cowboys' possession at the Bucs' 25.
Dorsett gained 21 yards on a counter play and two plays later, his backup, James Jones, scored on a five-yard run, again up the middle. Septien's extra point made it 31-0.
The Cowboys ground out an impressive 90-yard, nine-play fourth-quarter drive for their final score. They had one holding penalty on the drive, but got help from Tampa Bay with a 30-yard pass-interference penalty against Cecil Johnson in the end zone as he tried to defend against Butch Johnson. That put the ball on the one, setting up a Tim Newsome touchdown run.
"This was the most encouraging game we've had this year because we had those long drives and we concentrated well and just did everything right," said tackle Pat Donovan. "I don't think they respected our running game much, so they laid their safeties back to take away our big plays. Whatever long gainers we had, I mean any play going for 20 yards or more, came against a blitz that we adjusted to."
The Dallas wide receivers caught only five passes for a total of 53 yards, but that was fine with Drew Pearson.
"We had two weeks to prepare for them and I really think that made a difference," he said. "Our philosophy was to control the ball and keep it away from Doug (Williams). It says a lot about your team when you can dominate a game like this and not even go to something that is considered a strength."
Tight end Jay Saldi, who was ejected, along with Tampa Bay's Cecil Johnson, for fighting, said that in his six years as a Cowboy, "this is probably the best game plan we've ever put together. We were so well organized all we had to do was execute."
The game marked the first time Tampa Bay had been shut out this season and tied the Dallas record for largest margin of victory.
"On any day a team can get dominated," said Too Tall Jones. "It's even happened to us before."