FRISCO, Texas –Twenty-five years ago today, the young, unassuming Dallas Cowboys returned to NFL prominence by obliterating the very-experienced Buffalo Bills, 52-17, to win Super Bowl XXVII.
The 14-year drought had come to an end. That might not seem like much, especially considering Super Bowl LII will be going on without the Cowboys presence this weekend for the 22nd consecutive season.
Back then, though, when the Cowboys strung together an NFL-record 20 consecutive winning seasons from 1966-85, which included two NFL Championship appearances, five Super Bowl appearances, two Super Bowl victories and 10 NFC Championship Game appearances, that must have seemed like forever.
But there they were on one of those picture-perfect Southern California evenings raising the Lombardi Trophy for a third time in franchise history, owner Jerry Jones and head coach Jimmy Johnson in the cool Pasadena air at the Rose Bowl celebrating the coronation of this new regime four years in the making.
There are some things that remain frozen in my memory from being there that day, as if it were yesterday. Sure, everyone seems to remember that quarterback Troy Aikman was the game's MVP, and well-deserved, completing 22 of 30 passes for 270 yards and four touchdowns, leading the offense to five touchdowns and a field goal with a 140.3 QB rating, still the third-highest single-game rating with at least 20 attempts in Super Bowl history.
Everyone still sees Michael Irvin twisting and turning for his two touchdowns and poor Leon Lett having the ball knocked out of his hand at the 1-yard line for a touchback instead of the No.1-ranked Cowboys defense scoring its third touchdown of the game.
So thought maybe these personal shots from that week, that day, that Super bowl might be of some interest this Super Bowl week.
- To me, the play of the game, the one that really turned everything around, came four plays into the second quarter. Cowboys were up, 14-7. Bills had the ball third-and-goal at the Cowboys 1-yard line after being stopped for no gain on second down. Bills quarterback Jim Kelly hands the ball to running back Kenneth Davis. He heads left for what appeared to be a sure touchdown. But stepping into the hole was Cowboys linebacker Ken Norton Jr. – Davis and Norton, one-on-one, as if some training camp drill. And here is exactly what Norton remembers of the play after all these years: "They ran to our right. It was Kenneth Davis and myself, running as fast as we can to get to that goal line, full speed and we faced up. It was a matter of the culmination of all those years of struggle, of work, of weightlifting, the running, all the work. It was a strain. You know, how hard can I strain to make this tackle? And I was able to make it, and it changed the game." And when the Bills gambled on fourth down, declining the gimme field goal, Kelly, under siege, is intercepted by Thomas Everett in the end zone. Touchback. Might as well have been ball game, in my opinion.
- Funny occurrence during the week. The Cowboys' Super Bowl hotel was the Santa Monica Lowes, just off the boardwalk along the Pacific Ocean beach. One night at what we nicknamed our Hotel California *bar, late, there was this guy sitting there having a drink. A bunch of my old cronies from the University of Missouri J-School covering the game came in for last call. The guy looked familiar. Turns out it was actor Tom Berenger, he of *Major League, The Big Chill *and Platoon* fame. He finds out we're a bunch of newspaper rats and is enamored. Before he knew where we had gone to school, he proudly announces he went to Journalism School at the University of Missouri. No way. He became more enamored with our careers than his own at the time. Go figure.
- Game Day. Lot of excitement. Jumped on the first bus from the NFL headquarter hotel in L.A. Couldn't get there early enough. One problem: First bus got lost trying to find the Rose Bowl. I mean, my gosh, it's the Rose Bowl.
- In 1991, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones moved the team's flagship radio station, after a long run on KRLD-1080 AM, to FM station KVIL. I was doing some freelance work for KRLD at the time, and we were supposed to have a telephone line at our media seats to do a pregame show hookup back to the studio. Well, another problem: My auxiliary press box seat was in no more than a section of the stands. No phone. Did like a two-hour pregame show calling back to the station on a pay phone out on the Rose Bowl grounds. Cell phones? Sure got some dirty looks tying up the phone that long.
- The national anthem and flyover were heart-pounding. The thud to end the Cowboys' first possession nearly as loud, Mike Saxon's punt blocked at his own 16-yard line, which turned into Buffalo's only lead in the game, 3-0. If you believed in omens, wasn't going to be a good day for the Cowboys.
- The bad karma came crashing to an end, the Cowboys leading, 28-10, at halftime. Only Michael Jackson could outperform the Cowboys to that point. Mesmerizing, leaving 98,374 in a frenzy by the time he finished.
- The rest is a Cowboys blur, scoring 21 fourth-quarter points, eventually sending the entire organization to the team's postgame party at the Santa Monica Civic Center, featuring Tanya Tucker, only to be outdone by Jason D. Williams impromptu piano session back at Hotel California just off the lobby until the sun came up.
- All to be continued the next year in Atlanta and two years after that in Phoenix. Them were some days.