Pivotal Pro Football Moments
pivotal NFL postseason moment: A decision by a coach or an action by a player that establishes, continues or changes the momentum of a playoff game.
"This Time We Will Win It."
Super Bowl VI: Dallas Cowboys vs Miami Dolphins
The Cowboys earned their second NFC title to get a chance at winning the elusive NFL championship. In the previous five seasons, they had lost to the Packers twice in the confer­championship game, lost to the Browns in the divisional playoff game twice, and lost Super Bowl V to the Baltimore Colts on a field goal at the gun.
The '71 Cowboys didn't celebrate their NFC championship since they considered it merely a stepping stone to their ultimate goal – victory in Super Bowl VI. MLB Leroy Jordan summari­zed the team's feelings. "We don't care who we play in the Super Bowl. This time we will win it. I said after the Baltimore game (in Super Bowl V) we would be back."
Don Shula had done a remarkable job in his two seasons at Miami after getting fired by Baltimore owner Carroll Rosenbloom following the shocking loss to the New York Jets in Super Bowl III.
The Super Bowl VI teams boasted two of the best defenses in the league. The Cowboys were #4 in the NFL in points allowed while the Dolphins were #5 in points allowed.

Staubach runs out of the pocket.
Cowboys Score First
Midway through the first quarter on a sunny but surprisingly chilly day in New Orleans, the Cowboys got a break when FB Larry Csonka fumbled for the first time all season when he didn't secure QB Bob Griese's handoff. LB Chuck Howley recovered at the Dallas 48.
Staubach said afterward that, "Our game plan was to go out and start passing early to keep them opened up and then hit them with our runners."
Dallas's offensive game plan targeted Miami's small (5'10" 220lb) but smart and quick MLB Nick Buoniconti. On every play, the Cowboys wanted to knock him down or at least get in his way or confuse him with misdirection. The Dallas runners often started with the flow one way before cutting back.
Facing third-and-three, Staubach showed why he was called "Roger the Dodger." He took off from the pocket and scrambled to the 41 to move the chains. FB Walt Garrison then car­ried twice up the middle for another first down at the 24. But the defense won the next snap as Jim Riley and Bob Heinz sacked Roger for a loss of 13.
That set up the key play of the drive. The Cowboys finally created a secure pocket, and the Naval Academy grad fired to WR Bob Hayes in the middle of the Dolphin zone to the 18 to make it 3rd-and-five. With both wide receivers covered, Staubach hit RB Duane Thomas cutting over the middle for a first down at the seven. Next, Thomas knifed up the middle to the four.
But Miami's proud defense stood tall the next two plays aided by a Staubach misread. First, Garrison banged for only 2y over the left side to bring up 3rd-and-goal from the two. Coach Landry called a play designed to draw a linebacker and safety to either Thomas or Ditka. All Staubach had to do was throw to the guy who was not double-covered. On the snap, both defenders went to Thomas, but instead of throwing to wide-open Ditka, Roger tossed to Duane, who was stopped for no gain by SS Dick Anderson. So Dallas settled for three. Mike Clark booted a 9y field goal to complete the 11-play, 50y drive.
Cowboys 3 Dolphins 0 (1:23)
Staubach recalled that throwing to the wrong man from the two was the turning point in the game for him. "I recall it was the most excited I'd ever been before a game. ... Natural­ly I was pretty nervous for a game like that. ... What reflected my nervousness was that I ran a couple of times on pass plays. I didn't get anywhere with it, though. The Dolphins pretty well contained me running.
In the Super Bowl the year before, in almost exactly the same situation, we had the same play called. Craig Morton was the quarterback, and he looked to the tight end too long before throwing to the halfback on a quick screen. The pass was knocked down.
What happened against Miami was that I never looked at the tight end at all. I threw to Thomas, who was stopped for no gain, and we had to kick a field goal. And Mike Ditka, our tight end, was wide open! We got back to the bench, and Mike was shook up and mad. Everybody was saying you should have done this or that. Right there the frustration left me. I just said, 'To heck with this,' and settled down."

L-R: Bob Griese, Duane Thomas on the loose, Nick Buoniconti
Doomsday Defense Stifles Dolphins
The Dolphins didn't make a first down until 9:51 was left in the second quarter. Then they made another on the next play on Bob Griese's 20y pass to WR Howard Twilley to the Dallas 49. But the next three plays gained only 4y. So Garo Yepremian tried a 49y field goal that was no good.
Landry recounted the game plan after the game. "We did something different on pass de­fense. We doubled both wide receivers and covered the tight end with a linebacker ... because we were playing the percentages. Miami doesn't throw to its tight end."
Cowboys Add to Their Lead
After an exchange of punts, the Cowboys started a drive from their 24 that resulted in the game's first touchdown. The key play for Staubach's pass to WR Lance Alworth down the left seam into an open area in the Dolphin zone for 21y to the Miami 32. Lance had spent a frus­trating first half sprinting unchecked through the Miami zone while Staubach looked toward other receivers or decided to scramble. Shula said afterwards: "We made Staubach scramble early in the game but then their running game turned it around, and he was able to pick his spots. That third down Alworth catch was a big play."
RB Calvin Hill ran three straight times for a total of 25y to the seven. From there, Stau­bach fogged a fast ball to Alworth just inside the left pylon in front of RCB Curtis Johnson. Cowboys 10 Dolphins 0 (1:15)
Staubach on the touchdown pass: "I threw the ball as hard as I could, harder than I can remember throwing a ball at that short a distance. I don't know how he held onto it." Roger later called the two passes to Alworth on the touchdown drive probably two of the best passes of my life.
Alworth was thankful Johnson didn't defense the pass. "The guy barely missed it. I could see a 99y interception or something of that nature." Lance called his 27y catch earlier in the drive and his touchdown reception the most important receptions of his storied career.
Dolphins Finally Score
The Dolphins managed to get on the board in the last seconds of the half. Griese com­pleted passes to WR Paul Warfield for five, RB Jim Kiick for 11, and Warfield again for 23 to move to the Dallas 24. But an incompletion with under 10 seconds left brought out Yepre­mian, who booted a 31y field goal. Cowboys 10 Dolphins 3 (0:04)
Both teams made halftime adjustments. Since it was clear that Dallas was targeting Buoni­conti, Shula ordered his linemen to move closer together to make it harder for blockers to get to the middle linebacker. Anticipating what Shula would do, Landry decided to have his backs run wide. C Dave Manders: "We figured at the half they would adjust to stop the inside stuff, so we swept in the second half with quick pitchouts wide."
Cowboys Extend Their Lead
The Cowboys took the second half kickoff and embarked on an eight-play 71y touchdown drive that essentially sealed their coveted Super Bowl victory.
The key plays were Staubach's third-down pass to Hill for 12y to the Dallas 48, Thomas's 23y run to the 22, and Bob Hayes's 16y reverse to the six. Thomas gained the final three around the left side. Cowboys 17 Dolphins 3 (9:43)
Dallas DT Bob Lilly after the game: "You know when I really started believing (my team would win)? When the offense crammed the ball down their throats in the third quarter. On their butts! They just knocked everybody on their butts."
With their defense stifling the Dolphins without a first down in the third quarter, the Cow­boys surpassed the Super Bowl rushing record of 160y set by Green Bay in Super Bowl II on their way to 252y against the proud Miami defense.
The defense set up the last Dallas touchdown early in the fourth quarter when Griese's pass intended to RB Jim Kiick was intercepted by LB Chuck Howley, who returned 41y to the Miami nine. The Dolphins did the best they could, giving up just 2y on two runs. But Stau­bach found TE Mike Ditka in the end zone. Cowboys 24 Dolphins 3 (11:42)
The only question was whether Miami would score any more points. The answer was "no." In fact, they barely escaped giving up another touchdown when Hill fumbled on the Miami one, and DT Manny Fernandez recovered.

Roger Staubach fades back and throws a touchdown pass to Mike Ditka.
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