The Cowboys solidified their status as one of the most prolific dynasties in NFL history by becoming the first of now only two teams to win three Super Bowls in four seasons, knocking off the Pittsburgh Steelers, 27-17, in Super Bowl XXX thanks in large part to a very unlikely hero.
Cornerback Larry Brown, usually lost in the shadow cast by fellow cornerback Deion Sanders, intercepted two overthrown passes from Steelers quarterback Neil O'Donnell to seal the victory and earn Most Valuable Player honors at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe Ariz., on Jan. 28, 1996.
Holding a 20-7 lead going into the fourth quarter, the Cowboys endured an intense Pittsburgh rally. The Steelers scored 10 consecutive points to close the gap to 20-17 with 6:36 left to play. The Steelers held, got the ball back again two minutes later and had the opportunity to take their first lead of the game.
But Brown ended any potential comeback, intercepting his second pass of the ballgame, returning the ball to the Steelers six-yard line, where Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith clinched the Super Bowl title with a four-yard touchdown run.
This emotional finish, which left the Cowboys players and coaches drained in the locker room afterward, sure was not indicative of how this game began before 76,347 people in the desert sun.
The Cowboys got off to a quick start, mounting a 10-0 lead in the first quarter and extending that lead to 13-0 midway through the second quarter. There seemed no stopping this offensive juggernaut.
But the Cowboys were unable to slam the door shut on the Steelers, their offense sputtering the remainder of the game, leaving the door open for the Steelers to make a comeback.
A Chris Boniol 42-yard field goal on their opening drive gave the Cowboys an early 3-0 lead that grew the following series. The Cowboys positioned themselves for a scoring opportunity after quarterback Troy Aikman completed a 47-yard pass to Sanders, who was lined up on offense to enhance the passing game. Aikman hooked up with tight end Jay Novacek on a three-yard touchdown pass several plays later, pushing the Cowboys' lead to 10-0.
With a somewhat comfortable lead after just one quarter, it looked as if the Cowboys could be on their way to another Super Bowl blowout. Their offense was moving the ball with ease and the defense was not allowing the Steelers to do much.
But their dominance slowed in the second quarter, only producing a 35-yard Boniol field goal. And worse, Pittsburgh pulled itself within six points just before halftime on O'Donnell's six-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Yancey Thigpen, slicing the lead to a precarious13-7.
Still, while the star-studded offense was struggling, the Cowboys defense made sure this Super Bowl title did not elude them. Brown intercepted his first pass of the game in the third quarter, returning the errant throw 44 yards to give the Cowboys' offense terrific field position at the Steelers 18.
From there, it was a chip-shot touchdown for the Cowboys, Smith scoring his first of two touchdowns from just one yard out to give the Cowboys a 20-7 lead.
The Cowboys took this lead into the fourth quarter, seemingly poised for a runaway victory. But the Steelers offense caught fire, scoring 10 quick points. Kicker Norm Johnson connected from 46 yards away and after stunning the Cowboys by recovering an onside kick, running back Bam Morris would score on a one-yard run to bring the Steelers back within three, 20-17.
And when the Steelers stopped the Cowboys on their next possession, and for the first time all game the Cowboys were in jeopardy of losing. There still was 4:15 left in the fourth quarter, and here came the Steelers, moving in position to score the go-ahead touchdown.
But O'Donnell made another costly error. On second down, the Pittsburgh quarterback threw right into the flat. Problem was, there was no receiver in the vicinity, only Brown, who intercepted the pass at the Steelers 39 and returned 33 yards to the six-yard line, where Smith took over from there, scoring the winning touchdown with just more than three minutes remaining.
By winning Super Bowl XXX, the Cowboys won their fifth Super Bowl, tying San Francisco for the most in NFL history. It was also the Cowboys' eighth Super Bowl appearance, another record.
The Cowboys became the league's latest dynasty with the victory, joining Pittsburgh from the 1970s and San Francisco from 1980s to have won three or more Super Bowls.
Familiar foes, the Cowboys and Steelers had battled in two previous Super Bowls prior to facing off in Super Bowl XXX. Barely winning both meetings, eclipsing the Cowboys by a combined eight points in the two games, Super Bowl XXX was the first Super Bowl Pittsburgh had lost in team history.
It also served as a sweet dish of revenge for two heart-breaking Super Bowl losses the Cowboys suffered at the hands of the Steelers in the '70s.
|LOCATION:||Sun Devil Stadium - Tempe, AZ|
|DATE:||January 28, 1996|
|MVP:||Larry Brown, CB, Dallas|
|Dallas - FG Boniol 42 (2:55)
Dallas - Novacek 3 pass from Aikman (Boniol kick) (9:37)
Dallas - FG Boniol 35 (8:57)
Pittsburgh - Thigpen 6 pass from O'Donnell (N. Johnson kick) (14:47)
Dallas - E. Smith 1 run (Boniol kick) (8:18)
Pittsburgh - FG N. Johnson 46 (3:40)
Pittsburgh - Morris 1 run (N. Johnson kick) (8:24)
Dallas - E. Smith 4 run (Boniol kick) (11:17)