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Super Bowl XIII-- Rematch! The Cowboys vs. The Steelers (Part 1)

Updated on December 20, 2012

Day #16 of my 30 Hubs in 30 Days Challenge

The year 1979 was a depressing one. Plaguing the calendar were events such as the Vietnam War, the nuclear power plant accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, and the attack on the U. S. embassy in Teheran by Iranian militants ("1979"). Amidst all of this turmoil was a single event that united people across our great nation: the Super Bowl. Although 1979 was a troubled year, it was also the year of Super Bowl XIII where the Pittsburgh Steelers played the Dallas Cowboys, and where Terry Bradshaw earned recognition as one of the greatest quarterbacks in history.

Super Bowl XIII featured the "old foes from Super Bowl X" (Dolan 63), which Pittsburgh won 21-17 (Greatest Performances). Before the game, Harvey Martin (Dallas defensive end) stated, "The first Super Bowl rematch... was the game that everyone's been waiting for," (Greatest Performances). The season records of the teams were Steelers (AFC) 16-2 and Cowboys (NFC) 14-4 (Fortune City). The defenses were well matched. "Pittsburgh's Steel Curtain was the stingiest in the AFC, permitting an average of 107.8 yards rushing per game." Dallas was just as good, allowing an average of 107.6 (Greatest Performances). The Pittsburgh Steelers were favored to win by 3.5 points (Fortune City).

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The First Half

Super Bowl XIII took place on January 21, 1979 at the Orange Bowl arena in Miami, Florida (Dolan 63). It was held "outdoors on grass" and it was 71 degrees (Fortune City). "It was cool and overcast" (Conn), the turf was damp ("Passing Game" 8), and it was raining (Dolan 64). Seventy-nine thousand, four hundred and eighty-four football fans attended the game (Greatest Performances).

The coin toss was done by George Halas "one of the NFL co-founders in 1920" and "legendary coach of the Chicago Bears." He rode an antique car onto the field and used an 1820 gold piece (Greatest Performances). The Cowboys won the toss and chose to receive the opening kick-off ("Play by Play").

"Dorsett brought the Cowboys to the Pittsburgh 34" (Dolan 64) after "two quick first downs" (Greatest Performances). Dallas tried a "triple hand-off gadget play that was supposed to end with a pass thrown by quarterback Roger Staubach" ("Passing Game" 8). Dorsett handed off the ball to Drew Pearson, but the ball was slick from the rain and he dropped it (Dolan 64). "John Banaszak recovered the ball for the Steelers on their 47-yard line" (History). Pearson later said, "we practiced the play for three weeks. It is designed for me to hit Billy Joe [Dorsett] 15 to 17 yards dowfield. We practiced the play so much it was unbelievable we could fumble it..." (Greatest Performances).

During the Steelers first possession of the game, the Cowboy linebackers blitzed, but Bradshaw still managed to pass to Stallworth for a first down and a 10-yard gain. "Steadily they moved downfield" (Conn). Pittsburgh worked their way to the Cowboy's 28-yard line. "Bradshaw called a 'one-eleven-out' play." Stallworth raced down the field while Bradshaw backed up and threw the ball. Stallworth jumped up and caught the ball in the end zone for a touchdown, the first of the game (Dolan 64). He later said, "We exploited a Cowboy weakness we spotted on film... We saw the cornerbacks jumping around, so I took a slant, then cut back to the outside and Terry lobbed the ball to me." Roy Gerela kicked the extra point (Greatest Performances). Drive summary: it took them seven plays to go 53 yards with a Time of Possession (TOP) 3:12 and 5:13 elapsed on the game clock (Fortune City).

Near the end of the first quarter, Harvey Martin sacked Bradshaw, forcing him to fumble. Ed "Too Tall" Jones recovered the ball on the Pittsburgh 41 yard line (Greatest Performances). Dallas got the ball back and "three plays later Staubach hit Tony Hill for a touchdown that tied the game 7-7" (Conn). Rafael Septien kicked the extra point. It took them three plays to go 41 yards with TOP 1:00 (Fortune City). This was the final play of the first quarter ("Passing Game" 8). An interesting point, the Cowboys were the first team all season to score in the first quarter against the Steelers (Dolan 65 and "Passing Game" 15).


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During the second quarter, on a "wild play," Bradshaw fumbled the ball near the Pittsburgh 40-yard line. He recovered, but Cowboy Mike Hegman "stripped the ball away" (while Thomas Henderson pinned his arms) and ran 37 yards for the touchdown, making the score 14-7 (Dolan 65). Rafael Septien kicked the extra point. Only 2:52 had elapsed on the game clock (Fortune City). Bradshaw was "badly shaken" by the tackle and was administered smelling salts on the sideline (Greatest Performances).

Bradshaw was experiencing pain in a possibly separated left shoulder, but he continued to play anyway. He thre a short pass to Stallworth ("Passing Game" 8). Dallas cornerback Aaron Kyle attempted to tackle Stallworth but missed, giving Stallworth the chance to run 75 yards for a touchdown ("Passing the Game" 10). Roy Gerela kicked the extra point (Greatest Performances). It took them three plays to go 80 yards with TOP 1:43 and 4:35 elapsed (Fortune City). Kyle later said, "I just missed him... if I'd been in a better position initially, maybe I would have stopped him. Pittsburgh has two good outside receivers, but we are paid to cover them. If we don't do it well, we get beat..." Bradshaw said, "I was going to Lynn Swann on the post... but the Cowboys covered Swann and left Stallworth open. I laid the ball out there and it should have gone for about 15 yards, but Stallworth broke the tackle and went all the way" (Greatest Performances). "He [Stallworth] had turned a 10-yard pass into a 75-yard scoring play-- a new record" (Dolan 66).

Later in the quarter, during a Cowboy possession, Staubach threw a pass meant for D. Pearson ("Play by Play"), but it was intercepted by Mel Blout (Conn), who made it to the Dallas 29 yard line before he was tackled (History). Roger Staubach said, "Of all the passes I've ever thrown... this one will haunt me the longest" (Greatest Performances).

Pittsburgh scored once more before halftime ("Passing Game" 10). Bradshaw completed a pass to Swann for 29 yards. Swann did an incredible job avoiding tackle. Again, Bradshaw passed to Swann, this time for 21 yards (Conn). Then, on a third and one with only 26 seconds left, Bradshaw made a 7-yard "touch pass" to Rocky Bleier in the end zone for a touchdown (Conn and "Passing Game" 10). Gerela Kicked the extra poiint (Greatest Performances). It took them five plays to go 56 yards with TOP 1:15 and 14:35 elapsed (Fortune City).

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Stay Tuned!

Part 2-- "The Second Half" will be published tomorrow!

(Pleases note: I relied heavily on research articles to write this article. I'll included a complete list of my sources in the final installment of the series.)


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    • Suzie ONeill profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzie ONeill 

      6 years ago from Lost in La La Land

      Yup, I talk about the third quarter in part 2-- and the infamous play you referred to. I'm doing the "Hub a Day" challenge, so I'll wait and publish part 2 tomorrow. I've got a good quote from Jackie Smith about the play...

    • profile image

      pgorner 

      6 years ago from Tijuana, Mexico

      Very nice. I see you're about to learn about Jackie Smith...poor bastard...a seminal all-pro at reciever...doesn't get thrown a single pass in 1979, and after what happens in the third quarter, retires for a pretty understandable reason...

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