Man for man, we have a good football team, but you never know until it's kicked off if everyone's gonna play," said Dallas defensive end Harvey Martin. On Saturday, all the Cowboys came to play.
The result was a 38-0 Dallas victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that clearly established the Cowboys as the favorite to advance to the Super Bowl for an unprecedented sixth time.
The Cowboys weren't pretty and they weren't imaginative. They just dominated the Buccaneers.
"I think everyone realizes now what we can do," said quarterback Danny White. "I think we have realized it all year, but the longer you go without really putting it all together, the more you really begin to doubt yourself. Not that we ever doubted ourselves. We just didn't know how good we were. After Saturday's game we really know what we can do. There is nothing that is going to stop us now unless we stop ourselves."
"We're out trying to beat whoever gets in our way," said wide receiver Drew Pearson. "I'm tired of hearing this stuff about the Cowboys not being a physical team. We are physical and we know how to win. You don't win games in the NFL trying to be a finesse team."
Few, if any, teams can match up with the Cowboys on pure talent, offensively or defensively. But as Martin said, they just never know if the invincible Cowboys or the daydreaming Cowboys will show up.
The Cowboys broke open Saturday's game on their first possession of the second half. They led, 10-0, at halftime after having wasted several scoring opportunities in the first half, but they took the second-half kickoff and methodically marched down the field and broke Tampa Bay's spirit.
Here's how the drive went:
Tony Dorsett ran a trap for five yards. and then White threw a five-yard pass over the middle to tight end Doug Cosbie for a first down at the 30. Ron Springs went off left guard for seven yards and off right guard for five more and another first down.
From the Dallas 42, White threw an incomplete pass toward Pearson. He followed that with a screen pass over the middle to Dorsett, who broke for 25 yards to the Tampa Bay 33. On the next play, Dorsett went off right tackle behind Jim Cooper, veered outside and ran 26 yards to the seven.
James Jones then replaced Dorsett and went off left tackle for six yards to the one. Springs went right up the middle for the final yard.
The Cowboys were not even forced into a single third-down situation on that drive. By the time the game was over, four different Cowboy running backs had scored-- Springs, Dorsett, Jones and Tim Newsome.
The Cowboys were extremely conservative on that drive, with good reason, according to Coach Tom Landry. Why take chances going for big plays when the defense is dominating anyway.
"We went to a conservative offense to cut down on mistakes," Landry said. "We wanted to play a field position, ball-control offense, mistake-free game."
The Cowboys had no turnovers and were penalized only five times for 40 yards.
The defense intercepted Doug Williams passes four times, sacking him four times and forcing him into intentionally grounding the ball twice. Williams also completed only 10 of 29 passes and was hurried every time he faded back to throw.
"Williams is effective when he can look off the defensive backs and go long to a secondary receiver," said Cowboy defensive tackle John Dutton, who batted one of Williams' passes into the air that Ed (Too Tall) Jones intercepted. "But we applied so much pressure, he just didn't have time to do that."
The only injury the Cowboys reported was a bruised knee to Jones, suffered in the fourth period when Randy White's helmet caught him on the right knee. Jones didn't return to the game, but said he could have played and will be ready for Sunday's NFC championship game.