The St. Louis Cardinals' stunting defense held the Dallas Cowboys even for a half today. Then the Cardinals took to clowning and virtually handed Dallas a 24-7 victory.
A fourth-and-one gamble in field goal range resulted in a broken-play sack with intentional grounding tacked on. An unwise pass into traffic produced an interception deep in St. Louis territory. A fake punt that failed set up another Dallas score.
Asked about his unusual tactics, St. Louis Coach Jim Hanifan played it tough. Why try the fake punt? "To make a first down." Why pass up the field goal? Same answer, with the added comment that "we were down, 14-7, and figured we needed more than three."
Unfortunately for the besieged coach, the score actually was 7-7 when quarterback Neil Lomax turned to hand off to Wayne Morris on fourth and one at the Dallas 24 in the third quarter. Lomax rushed the count, Morris wasn't there and Lomax threw the ball away as Cowboy Harvey Martin pulled him down.
On the Cardinals' next series, running back O.J. Anderson was eight yards behind the Dallas defense on what looked like a 77-yard touchdown play, but Lomax' pass went through his fingers, drawing loud boos from the faithless among the crowd of 50,705.
"It was a play for the tight end and when I broke clear I didn't think Neil saw me," Anderson said. "I was caught off guard in a way. When I accelerated, I thought I could reach the ball, but it went off my fingertips. I was a half step away."
At that point, the Cowboys said, "enough." Dallas went 81 yards in nine plays for the go-ahead touchdown, scored from six yards out by Billy Joe DuPree on a tight end reverse around the left side. On the previous play, quarterback Danny White faked right and hit fullback Ron Springs on a screen over the middle for 34 yards.
From his own 34, Lomax wobbled a short pass toward Mel Gray while being hit. Cornerback Everson Walls pulled the ball out of Gray's hands and Dallas had the ball at the Cardinals' 28.
On third down from the 24, White called an audible and threw toward the right corner of the end zone, where Drew Pearson raced under it for a touchdown that surprised White as much as defender Jeff Griffin.
Twelve minutes remained when Hanifan called the fake punt on fourth and five at the St. Louis 37. Roy Green got only three yards before Danny Spradlin, the back-side linebacker, stopped him.
A 25-yard field goal by Rafael Septien followed and thousands of fans were heading for the exits.
Green was the brightest light for St. Louis, scheduled at Washington next Sunday, catching 10 passes for 170 yards. Lomax threw for 291 yards while completing 22 of 38, including a four-yard touchdown pass to Pat Tilley 32 seconds before the first half ended.
Dallas' Tony Dorsett totaled 98 yards on 22 carries, after being limited to 34 yards in the first half.
"We started running right at them in the second half and if we caught them stunting it was a sure six or seven yards," Dorsett said. "It kept them honest.
"All that strike talk was a distraction. You're trying to prepare for the other team and all the press is talking about is a strike. Of course, if we'd lost, we'd almost be looking for a strike to cover up the losses."
White completed 20 of 32 passes for 266 yards. Besides the touchdown pass to Pearson, White escaped the grasp of Curtis Greer and completed a 29-yarder to tight end Doug Cosbie to open the scoring.
"I was looking for a blue jersey. I knew which direction they were running, and I knew the routes," White said. "I really just put the ball up and let Doug run under it."
Anderson was limited to 30 yards in 17 carries as the Cardinals managed only 62 yards rushing.
"We wanted to throw today," Hanifan said. "Dallas is a very difficult team to run on."