Greatest 25: The Mad Bomber Strikes, 1974

In June 2011, Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine decided to count down the best of the best, the top 25 plays in franchise history. Obviously, this wasn't the easiest of tasks, but some 30,000-plus words later, we feel pretty good about the results. Now here in a 25-part summer series, we share our list for one and all. Without further ado, we continue with No. 3 and a snippet from the Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine story:

3) The Mad Bomber Strikes, Nov. 28, 1974:

Howard Clinton Longley Jr., a.k.a. The Mad Bomber …

In a single afternoon, on Thanksgiving no less, before a national television audience, the 22-year-old kid from Wichita Falls, Texas and Abilene Christian University pulled off arguably the most stunning comeback in the 52-year history of the Dallas Cowboys. In terms of one-hit wonders, Longley is the Don McLean of the National Football League. And Nov. 28, 1974 was his "American Pie."

In the days leading up to the game, Redskins defensive tackle Diron Talbert told the media that the Redskins were hoping to knock Roger Staubach from the game. Why?

"All they have left is that rookie," he said.

As the narrator of the NFL Films Greatest Games presentation later said, "If words were ever to haunt a man, these did."

A facemask penalty brought Longley and company close to midfield, and on fourth-and-6, the quarterback found wide receiver Bob Hayes for what was more or less exactly six yards, moving the chains with 35 seconds left.

After an incompletion, Drew Pearson told Longley, "I'm going to fake inside and go deep."

Sounds good, Longley said, go deep. Go deep indeed.

Much like the "Miracle at Miami" pass the day after Thanksgiving in 1984, when Boston College's Doug Flutie found Gerard Phelan on the final play of the game – perhaps the most famous of all the "Hail Mary" passes, at least in the collegiate ranks – the only reason the receiver was able to find himself behind the secondary was because his opponent simply didn't think the slinger could throw the ball far enough to reach the target.

Such was the case with Redskins corner Ken Stone. While running side-by-side with Pearson, he simply stopped sprinting, and turned toward the oncoming ball, thinking of the game-securing interception more than likely. Honestly, this rookie no-name, this Longley kid, he wasn't really going to throw the ball some 60 yards in the air was he?

Longley released the ball from his own 40-yard line, having dropped back 10 yards from the midfield snap. The pass was as spectacular as a ball could've been thrown, a tightly-wound spiral which found Pearson in stride at the 4-yard line. He never stopped, into the end zone, touchdown.

And, of course, the story of Longley on this day cannot and should not ever be told without the iconic words of Cowboys guard Blaine Nye.

"It was the triumph of the uncluttered mind."

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Follow Jeff Sullivan: @SullyBaldHead*

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