Earning their first Super Bowl appearance in 14 seasons, the Cowboys stormed back into the national spotlight with a roster full of young, talented and brash budding stars in Super Bowl XXVII against the Buffalo Bills.
And the veteran-laden Bills were no match for the upstart Cowboys, who pounded Buffalo, 52-17, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., in the third most lopsided Super Bowl.
The Cowboys defense set a Super Bowl record by forcing nine turnovers, and the team's 52 points scored was second to only the 55 points by San Francisco in Super Bowl XXIV. This dominant unit set the tone from the outset, and it didn't take long for the offense to follow suit on a postcard Jan. 31, 1993, day.
And the leader of that pack was quarterback Troy Aikman, who after a slow start, had nearly a flawless performance, completing 22 of 30 passes for 273 yards and four touchdowns to claim the game's Most Valuable Player award.
The Cowboys did struggle early, though, as Bills special teams ace Steve Tasker blocked a punt on the opening possession, setting up an early score for Buffalo. With the ball nestled on the Cowboys 16-yard line, Buffalo was able to punch in the game's first touchdown on a two-yard run by running back Thurman Thomas.
Still lacking offensive continuity, the Cowboys turned to their defense for help to jumpstart them on this Sunday. Safety James Washington intercepted a pass from Bills quarterback Jim Kelly, returning 13 yards to the Buffalo 47-yard line.
The turnover provided the Cowboys with the spark they needed, as quarterback Troy Aikman connected with tight end Jay Novacek for a 23-yard touchdown pass, tying the game, 7-7.
Defensive end Charles Haley gave the Cowboys another scoring opportunity just seconds later when he sacked Kelly, causing a fumble that fell into the hands of defensive tackle Jimmie Jones, who in one motion scooped the ball up and dived the necessary two yards into the end zone to give the Cowboys a 14-7 lead - one they would never relinquish.
The 15-second span between scores represented the quickest back-to-back touchdowns by one team in Super Bowl history.
And while the offense did put up the two quick touchdowns, the Cowboys defense continued to frustrate the Bills. Next came the goal-line stand for the ages.
On third down from inside the Cowboys one-yard line, linebacker Ken Norton jolted Bills running back Kenneth Davis inches in front of the goal line, pushing him backward and preventing the Bills from tying the score. It was almost as if the vicious hit suck the life right out of the Bills.
Buffalo boldly opted to go for the touchdown on fourth down. Bad move. Safety Thomas Everett intercepted Kelly's pass into the end zone for a touchback, preventing Buffalo from getting any points out of the drive.
That, in essence, was the beginning of the end for the Bills, who unknowingly were about to be in for a long day, evidenced by Kelly being knocked out of the game in the second quarter when Norton landed on his knee. Sure the Bills salvaged that drive with a Steve Christie 21-yard field goal to pull within 14-10, but the lights were about to be turned out.
Turn on the Aikman-to-Michael Irvin show.
The Cowboys surged into a 21-10 lead on Aikman's 19-yard touchdown pass to Irvin on a deep post pattern that the Pro Bowl received turned the Bills corner every which way to break open by 10 yards.
A fumble by Thomas on the Bills' next drive quickly returned possession to the Cowboys, and here came the dynamic duo again, Aikman connecting with Irvin for an 18-yard touchdown pass - Irvin twisting in for the final few yards to give the Cowboys a commanding 28-10 halftime lead.
The Cowboys did relinquish a little of their lead in the third quarter, giving up a controversial Buffalo touchdown after they had jumped to a 31-10 lead on Lin Elliott's 20-yard field goal. Buffalo backup quarterback Frank Reich appeared to pass the line of scrimmage before throwing his 40-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Don Beebe that slightly closed the gap to 31-17, but no flags were thrown on the play.
Fortunately for the Cowboys, the oversight proved insignificant. The Bills would never score again.
Aikman threw his fourth touchdown pass of the game, this one a 45-yarder to wide receiver Alvin Harper, who proceeded to dunk the ball over the crossbar after scoring. With a comfortable 38-17 lead, running back Emmitt Smith later joined in on the scoring, running one in from 10 yards out.
Fittingly, it was the defense that scored the game's final touchdown when Norton forced a fumble and scooped it up for a nine-yard score. It was the defense's second touchdown of the game, drawing the curtain on an incredible performance from the no-name squad that didn't send a single defensive player to the Pro Bowl that season.
Oh there would be that game-ending gaffe by defensive tackle Leon Lett, who began celebrating his apparent touchdown a tad too early when he was sprinting some 65 yards with his fumble recovery toward the end zone only to have Beebe knock the ball out at the one-yard line and through the end zone for a touchback.
But not much else had gone wrong this day for the Cowboys' playmaking defense and star-studded offense, earning the franchise's third Super Bowl victory.
|LOCATION:||Rose Bowl - Pasadena, CA|
|DATE:||January 31, 1993|
|MVP:||Troy Aikman, QB, Dallas|
|BUF - Thomas 2 run (Christie kick) (5:00)
DAL - Novacek 23 pass from Aikman (Elliott kick) (13:24)
DAL - J. Jones 2 fumble recovery return (Elliott kick) (13:39)
BUF - FG Christie 21 (11:36)
DAL - Irvin 19 pass from Aikman (Elliott kick) (13:06)
DAL - Irvin 18 pass from Aikman (Elliott kick) (13:24)
DAL - FG Elliott 20 (6:39)
BUF - Beebe 40 pass from Reich (Christie kick) (15:00)
DAL - Harper 45 pass from Aikman (Elliott kick) (4:56)
DAL - E. Smith 10 run (Elliott kick) (6:48)
DAL - Norton 9 fumble recovery return (Elliott kick) (7:29)