Monday, January 18, 1993
DALLAS COMES FULL CIRCLE
VS. SAN FRANCISCO
By Jim Thomas
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Eleven years later, it's come full circle. Move over San Francisco, the
National Football League's team of the '80s. Make way for the Dallas Cowboys.
Are they the NFL's team of the '90s?
"You got to take your hat off to the 49ers, they've got a lot of class,"
Dallas defensive tackle Tony Casillas said. "But it's time to change
the guard, so to speak."
In a week full of talk about "The Mud," and "The Catch,"
there was only "The Cowboys" on Sunday -- young, aggressive and
newly crowned National Football Conference champions. They won Sunday 30-20
over the 49ers in the NFC title game at Candlestick Park.
Eleven seasons ago, San Francisco began its ascent with a 28-27 comeback
victory over Dallas on what came to be called , "The Catch," the
now-famous touchdown pass from Joe Montana to Dwight Clark with 51 seconds
to play. The 49ers went on to win four Super Bowl titles in the '80s. The
Cowboys, who dominated the NFL in the '70s, wouldn't be heard from again.
Until now, that is. Behind the arm of quarterback Troy Aikman, the legs
of running back Emmitt Smith and the resourcefulness of coach Jimmy Johnson,
the Cowboys (15-3) have a date with the Buffalo Bills in the Super Bowl
- on Jan. 31 in Pasadena, Calif.
Aikman, who had yet to start a playoff game before this season, threw for
322 yards and two touchdowns. Smith, rushed for 114 and scored two touchdowns.
Johnson did the rest with some gutsy play-calling down the stretch.
"Ohhh!," a gleeful Johnson yelled as he entered his postgame news
conference. "How 'bout them Cowboys! It really was a fantastic effort,
and not just today and not just this week. It was a fantastic effort for
our guys starting back about four years ago when we felt that we were at
But four years after finishing 1-15, the Cowboys are among the NFL's elite.
"I know every organization in the league works hard," Johnson
said. "I know people around the country, they work hard, but I would
never, ever imagine anybody working as hard as the group we have."
The 49ers (15-3), who entered the postseason with the league's best record,
are out of work for the rest of this season thanks to a turnover-plagued
Were it not for four big mistakes - two lost fumbles and two penalties -
the 49ers might have been considerably better off at halftime than tied
On the third play of the game, quarterback Steve Young threw deep to Jerry
Rice, apparently for a 63-yard touchdown play. But it was called back because
of a holding penalty against left guard Guy McIntyre.
Dallas was forced to punt on its first possession, but Dixon Edwards jarred
the ball loose from 49ers return man Alan Grant with Dallas' Daryl Johnston
recovering on the San Francisco 22. Aikman passed 21 yards to Michael Irvin
on the next play, and the Cowboys were poised to take the lead.
But in three tries from the 1, the Cowboys lost 2 yards and settled for
a 20-yard field goal by Lin Elliott with 8 minutes 20 seconds remaining
in the opening quarter.
Unfazed, the 49ers set up shop on the Dallas 48 after a 50-yard kickoff
return by Mark Logan. Moving with precision, be it via the run or pass,
the 49ers moved 48 yards for a Young touchdown - on a 1-yard quarterback
sneak - for a 7-3 lead.
The Cowboys got another scoring chance when Ricky Watters fumbled in the
secondary and Kevin Smith recovered. They took over on the San Francisco
39 and scored seven plays later on Smith's 4-yard run with 5:05 left in
The Cowboys would have had to settle for a field goal were it not for mistake
No. 4: a defensive holding call on Pierce Holt on a third-and-goal play
in which Aikman threw incomplete to Irvin in the end zone.
After driving 65 yards, the 49ers tied the game 10-10 on a 28-yard field
goal by Mike Cofer with 1:19 left in the half. Dallas moved all the way
to the 49ers' 25 just before the half, but Elliott's 43-yard field goal
attempt was wide right with 4 seconds left in the half.
Dallas, which led the NFL in time of possession in the regular season, had
the ball for all but 4 minutes in the third quarter. The Cowboys drove 78
yards with the half-opening kickoff for the go-ahead TD. Almost half the
yardage came on a 37-yard pass play from Aikman to Alvin Harper. The ball
was underthrown, but Harper outleaped defender Eric Davis for a first down
on the 49ers' 7.
Smith carried to the 4 and then Johnston scored on a 3-yard run with 10:45
left in the third quarter.
San Francisco countered with another field goal by Cofer, closing its deficit
to 17-13 with 6:25 left in the quarter. But Dallas responded with a monster
80-yard drive that consumed the rest of the third quarter and spilled over
into the fourth.
Dallas converted four times on third down in the drive, including a 16-yard
TD pass from Aikman to Smith with 12:25 left in the game. Elliott's extra
point gave Dallas a 24-13 lead and sent the 49ers into the no-huddle.
But Young threw the first of two interceptions and the Cowboys were poised
to go in for the kill. But instead of kicking a field goal, Johnson went
for it on a fourth and 1 from the 49ers' 7. But Smith was stopped for no
gain, and the 49ers promptly marched 93 yards for a touchdown, on a 5-yard
pass from Young to Rice making it 24-20.
"If we lose the game I'm the goat, but I'm not the goat," a beaming
Johnson said in reference to that fourth-down gamble.
With 4:22 to play after Rice's TD catch, it seemed prudent for the Cowboys
to sit on the ball.
Instead Aikman threw a deep slant to Harper, who turned it into a 70-yard
gain to the San Francisco 6. Three plays later, the Cowboys were back in
the end zone on a 6-yard pass from Aikman to Kelvin Martin with 3:43 left.
There would be no comeback. The 'Boys are back.