Finally getting over the hump after coming up just short several times in the 1960's, the Cowboys made their first Super Bowl appearance, Jan. 17, 1971, against the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl V.
But the Cowboys squandered this first shot at Super Bowl glory in a sloppy game featuring two teams unable to do much offensively. Led by legendary quarterback Johnny Unitas, the Colts squeaked by the Cowboys, 16-13, before 79,204 people at the Orange Bowl in Miami after a fourth-quarter interception set up Jim O'Brien's 32-yard, game-winning field goal with only five seconds remaining.
The Cowboys got on the scoreboard first, connecting on a 14-yard field goal from kicker Mike Clark in the first quarter. He followed that up with a 30-yarder in the second quarter, giving the championship-starved Cowboys an early 6-0 lead.
Baltimore would tie the game on a touchdown defining the afternoon's lethargic play, but a blocked extra point kept the game tied at 6.
Unitas' touchdown pass, which eventually landed in the hands of tight end John Mackey, took an interesting path. The pass was actually intended for wide receiver Eddie Hinton, but he was unable to make the catch as the ball tipped off his fingers. Cowboys cornerback Mel Renfro had a shot intercepting the deflected ball, but he couldn't make the catch, either, the ball bouncing off his hands, too.
And when the bouncing ball came to a rest, it was Mackey's, and he dashed 75 yards for the tying score.
The Colts' next possession nearly spelled disaster. Cowboys defensive end George Andrie forced a fumble on the Colts' 29-yard line after hitting Unitas square in the ribs, knocking him out of the game.
Not only did Baltimore lose its star quarterback, they would lose the lead, too. Cowboys quarterback Craig Morton hooked up with running back Duane Thomas a few plays later for a 7-yard touchdown pass to give the Cowboys a 13-6 halftime lead.
The halftime break didn't seem to rejuvenate either offense. Colts defensive back Jim Duncan fumbled away the second-half kickoff, giving the Cowboys the ball deep in Baltimore territory. The Cowboys quickly drove downfield thanks to some efficient running by Thomas. But Thomas canceled out all his hard work by fumbling the ball right back to the Colts at, of all places, the one-yard line, denying the Cowboys of what might have been - at least on this day - an insurmountable 20-6 lead.
From then on, the Cowboys offense struggled, unable to score in the third, but at least heading into the fourth, thanks to the defense, still with the one-touchdown lead.
But the offense grew worse in the fourth quarter. Not only were the Cowboys having trouble scoring in the second half, now they injected life into the Colts when a Morton pass was intercepted by Rich Volk, who finally was brought down at the Dallas 3. Baltimore didn't waste this opportunity so close to the goal line as the Cowboys had previously, scoring two plays later on a two-yard run by Tom Nowatzke to tie the game, 13-13.
And if that wasn't enough offensive ineptitude, Morton was picked off yet again, this time causing the ultimate damage - setting up the Colts' game-winning field goal.
Linebacker Mike Curtis intercepted Morton's pass, putting the Colts in business at the Cowboys 28-yard line with just more than a minute remaining in the game. The Colts then milked the clock while positioning themselves to attempt the game-winning field goal.
O'Brien, the rookie kicker, connected from 32-yards out with just five seconds remaining to give Baltimore its first Super Bowl title and deny the Cowboys once again of a world championship.
Considering how stagnant the two teams' offenses were, it was no surprise the game's MVP was a defensive player. But it was surprising the award went to someone from the losing team.
Linebacker Chuck Howley, who intercepted two passes and forced a fumble in the game, was named Most Valuable Player. Howley became the first defensive player to win the award, and is still the only player from a losing team to ever have won the award.
|LOCATION:||Orange Bowl - Miami, FL|
|DATE:||January 17, 1971|
|MVP:||Chuck Howley, LB, Dallas|
|DAL-FG Clark 14, 9:28 1st
DAL-FG Clark 30, 0:08 2nd
BAL-Mackey 75 pass from Unitas (kick blocked), 0:50 2nd
DAL-Thomas 7 pass from Morton (Clark kick), 7:07 2nd
BAL-Nowatzke 2 run (O'Brien kick), 7:25 4th
BAL-FG O'Brien 32, 14:55 4th