Bradshaw Guns Down Cowboys
By Leonard Shapiro
Washington Post Staff Writer
January 22, 1979
MIAMI, Jan. 21 — Pittsburgh quarterback Terry Bradshaw played the
game of his life today, throwing four touchdown passes and leading
the Steelers to a 35-31 victory over Dallas in Super Bowl 13.
And while the
defending champion Cowboys refused to die quietly, scoring two
touchdowns in the final 2 minutes 21 seconds to rattle the bettors,
they will forever remember this world championship as the game of
the dropped pass and questionable tripping call.
became the first team ever to win three Super Bowls, and could thank
Bradshaw's 318 yards and four scores passing, both figures breaking
Super Bowl records. He won the honor as most valuable player and his
team regained American Conference supremacy over the National in the
National Football League title game.
Bradshaw's main men were wide receivers John Stallworth and Lynn
Swann, the elegant end who drew a pass interference penalty on Benny
Barnes — that tripping call — that will be widely debated for a long
time. Swann also caught the winning touchdown pass, an 18-yard
leaping catch that broke the game open midway through the fourth
period. In all, he caught seven passes for 129 yards; Stallworth
three for 115 yards and two touchdowns before missing nearly all the
second half with a leg cramp.
dropped pass involved another classy receiver, 16-year veteran tight
end Jackie Smith. The old Cardinal had been rescued from retirement
early in the season by the Cowboys, and he will become a private
citizen again now with the memory of a dropped touchdown pass etched
in his brain forever.
drop came when the Cowboys were threatening to create a 21-21 tie
late in the third quarter. On third and three from the 10, Smith was
wide open in the middle of the end zone.
quarterback Roger Staubach fired and hit him right in the hands as
Smith skidded low to catch the ball. "I don't remember much about
it, except I dropped it," a disconsolate Smith said.
"You just feel
like you let a lot of people down. You're so disappointed in
yourself. You can't redo it, so I don't know what to tell you. As
the ball was coming, I was trying to get down to catch it against my
chest. I guess I just wasn't in the right position."
Instead of a
tying touchdown the Cowboys had to settle for Rafael Septien's
27-yard field goal that cut the Steelers lead to 21-17 with 2:36
left in the third period.
"Sure it was
one turning point," said Cowboy Coach Tom Landry. "If we get that
touchdown, our players would have been hopping up and down, really
fired up. But that didn't lose the football game for us."
most of the Cowboys were pointing an accusing finger at field judge
Fred Swearingen, who called Barnes for interfering with Swann on a
long pass down the right side of the field with the score 21-17 and
the Cowboys trying to get the ball back.
replays indicated the Cowboy wrath was justified. Swann seemed to
bump Barnes with an elbow before Barnes tripped on Swann's feet and
Swann tripped over Barnes as the ball arrived.
"It was a
judgment call on a pass play," Swearingen told a pool reporter after
the game. "The two players bumped before the ball was even close to
them, perhaps before the ball was thrown. They were both looking
back and the defender went to the ground.
receiver (Swann) in trying to get the ball, was tripped by the
defender's feet. He interfered with the receiver trying to get the
ball. It was coming to him in that direction, and I threw the flag
for pass interference."
disagreed, vehemently, both on and off the field.
"I was so
hopping mad," he said. "I darned near cussed him (Swearingen) out
and I came close to hitting him. I think he knew he was wrong. I had
the right of way on the football. He (Swearingen) said I swung my
foot back there. It was a stupid call."
"I don't think it was a good call, because of the type of play it
was. It was an alley oop, where both guys are going for the ball,
and you'll have collisions on those things. If they pushed each
other, there should be a call. If they didn't there shouldn't. I
don't think there was a push."
But for the
Steelers, there was a big gain, 33 yards, and a vital first down at
the Cowboy 23-yard line.
"My hands are clean. Sure he made the right call."
were squawking over another penalty a few moments later. On third
and four from the Cowboy 17, Bradshaw was sacked by Thomas Henderson
for a 13-yard loss. But officials had rules the play dead for delay
of game against the Steelers, a call that pushed the ball back only
to the 22 instead of the 30, and gave Pittsburgh another third-down
play, instead of a field-goal attempt of 47 yards.
"I didn't hear
a whistle until after I had knocked Bradshaw down," said a subdued
Henderson. "The same guy (Swearingen) made that call too. Who is
knew who the fellow was who came bursting through the hole on the
next play — he had just exchanged words with Henderson — but they
still couldn't stop Franco Harris on a classic trap that went 22
yards for a touchdown. That made a 27-17 Pittsburgh lead with 7:10
left in the game.
gave the football right back on the ensuing kickoff. Tackle Randy
White fielded a short Ray Gerela squib kick and was popped by Tony
Dungy, 60 pounds lighter than White.
playing the game with a cast on his broken left thumb ("that's no
excuse," he said later) and fumbled the ball. Dennis Winston
recovered for Pittsburgh at the Dallas 18 and Bradshaw wasted no
time taking advantage.
On first down,
he sent Swann out on a quick slant. "They were doubling me," Swann
said. "Barnes had me deep to the outside and (Cliff) Harris had me
inside. I think he was waiting for a shorter pass so he could drill
me instead. I just angled deeper and went by him. Terry made a
Swann made one
of his gorgeous leaping catches in the end zone, Gerela added the
extra point and the Steelers, on two touchdowns within 19 seconds,
held a 35-17 lead with only 6:51 left.
kept singing, getting on the board twice more — driving 89 yards on
a seven-yard Staubach to Billy Joe Dupree pass with 2:23 remaining
and, after recovering an onside kick, producing a four-yard scoring
throw from Staubach to Butch Johnson with 22 seconds to play.
Bleier ended any Dallas hope of a miracle finish when he recovered
Septien's next inside kick. Bradshaw fell on the football twice as
the final seconds ticked down.
"Did I do all
that?" Bradshaw asked innocently when someone showed him a statistic
sheet. In all, he completed 17 of 30 passes for the 318 yards that
broke the record of 250 yards set by Bart Starr of Green Bay in the
Super Bowl against Kansas City.
that record in the bank by halftime, when he had 11 completions for
253 yards, including touchdown passes of 75 yards (tying a Super
Bowl record) and 28 yards to Stallworth. Bradshaw's seven-yard throw
to Bleier on a rollout with 26 seconds left provided a 21-14 lead at
endured one very embarrassing moment, when linebacker Mike Hegman,
with Henderson as a strong accomplice, stripped him of the football
and ran 37 yards for a second-period touchdown for the Cowboys' only
lead (14-7) of the day.
suffered a slightly sprained left shoulder on that play. The
quarterback appeared woozy on the sidelines, but he came back and
said afterward, "It certainly wasn't anything that was going to keep
[me] out of the game."
"I've never thrown the ball this well. Never ever." And Swann was
saying the Steelers never have fielded a football team quite like
this one, even in the 1974 and 1975 seasons capped by Super Bowl
the greatest season of satisfaction we've ever had," he said. "We
feel the '78-79 team is the best team that every played in
Pittsburgh. We played better offense, we had a quarterback who has
become a great leader and a defense that has always been something
And did Swann
have anything special to say to Henderson, the chatterbox linebacker
who had taunted Pittsburgh all during the pregame build-up, or
Harris the safety who had threatened to knock his socks off if he
dared catch the ball?
"I'm at that
point where I could say you could probably blast every player on the
Dallas team for opening their mouths," he said. "I'd just rather let
the results talk for themselves."
1979 The Washington Post Company
Super Bowl XIII MVP Terry Bradshaw, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Super Bowl record 4 touchdown passes, quarterback Terry Bradshaw was
named the most valuable player of the Steelers' 35-31 win over
Dallas. Setting a personal best with 318 passing yards, Bradshaw led
Pittsburgh to its third Super Bowl championship in five seasons. His
first 2 scoring passes went to John Stallworth, for 28 and 75 yards.
With only 26 seconds left in the first half, he hit Rocky Bleier
with a 7-yard pass for a 21-14 Pittsbugh lead. Then, on the first
play following a Pittsburgh fumble recovery in the fourth quarter,
Bradshaw hit Lynn Swann with an 18-yard touchdown pass to seal the
victory. With 17 completions in 30 attempts, nearly 25 percent of
Bradshaw's passes went for scores.
Super Bowl XIII Memory
Jackie Smith's Drop
Tight end Jackie Smith played for the St. Louis Cardinals for 15
seasons (1963-77), before finishing his career in Dallas (1978). He
mad the Pro Bowl five times. He helped revolutionize his position.
He caught 480 passes. He dropped 1. Okay, maybe he dropped a few
more than that. But the point is, Smith's career - as evidenced by
his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1994 - is not
defined by one dropped pass in his final game. Unfortunately for
Smith, his gafe occurred on the Super Bowl stage, where both good
and bad deeds are magnified beyond reality. Trailing 21-14 late in
the third quarter of Super Bowl XIII, Dallas drove to Pittsburgh's
10-yard line. On third down, on a special play installed for Smith,
he came open over the middle, but dropped a perfect pass from Roger
Staubach and anguished in the end zone. The Cowboys kicked a field
goal. The missed opportunity came back to haunt Dallas, which
eventually lost 35-31.