It was a sunny Sunday, and 60,000 and ten people went to the Cotton Bowl to watch the Dallas Cowboys underline their claim to the championship of the Eastern Division of the National Football League. They were there despite a threat of rain, and they were so charmed by the Cowboys in their 52-7 obliteration of the New York Giants that three times they cheered warmly when their heroes perpetrated incomplete passes.
The crowd was not the largest of the NFL's second Sunday; Cleveland, where more than 83,000 saw the Packers beat the Browns 21-20, had that distinction. It was not even the largest crowd to see the Cowboys in Dallas this year; 75,504 had turned out for an exhibition game against Green Bay last month. But it certainly was the kindest crowd ever to watch the Cowboys and it may be deduced from this affectionate response that the team finally has been accepted by the most reluctant fans in NFL history. For six years, the Cowboys have striven mightily to capture the fancy of this football-mad city, but it was not until Sunday that they were reasonably sure they had succeeded.
"I think that docs it," said General Manager Tex Schramm when it was all over. He watched the crowd straggling happily out of the big bowl. "The weather cost us maybe 10-15,000," he said, then laughed. "Already I'm spoiled. I can remember when I would have been happy to see half this many people here."
The team that the fans saw in action bore small resemblance to the one that opened the campaign for the approval of the Dallas populace six years ago. On this bright, warm day, the Cowboys put on a brilliant offensive show and justified the contention that they have the fastest football team in the world.
In those early years, the Cowboys seemed a young team, lacking in poise and the ability to execute; this time it was the Giants who were young. Abruptly, in their seventh year, the Cowboys have achieved the polish and poise of veterans, which they demonstrated early in this game.
The Giants, low on running backs and desperately in need of a surprise to compensate for a shortage of personnel, opened their first series of downs with a completely unorthodox unbalanced attack that had only one running back behind Quarterback Earl Morrall and four receivers poised on the right flank, flooding the left side of the Cowboy defense. After the Giants had run two plays successfully from this set, Lee Roy Jordan, the young middle linebacker who calls the Cowboy defensive signals, ordered a time-out and trotted over to the sidelines to confer with Coach Tom Landry and Defensive Coach Dick Nolan.
"They were trying to force us into man-to-man single coverage on Homer Jones," Jordan explained later. "We hadn't seen them use this set before. We worked it out on the sideline and used a man-to-man and sometimes a variation that gave the corner back help from the weak safety covering Jones, and I think it worked out pretty well."
It worked well enough to limit Jones to four catches for 46 yards and the Giants' only touchdown. But, for a change, it was not the veteran Cowboy defense that won the victory: it was the Dallas offensive unit that was cheered mightily each time it left the field.
Meredith, who has been anathema to the Dallas fans for six years, had the best day of his pro career, operating for the first time with a full complement of high-quality offensive personnel. He responded to these unaccustomed riches by completing 14 of 24 passes for 358 yards and five touchdowns.
Two of these touchdowns went to Bob Hayes, the world record holder in the 100-yard dash. Hayes, unlike most trackmen turned football player, has all the equipment a receiver needs: deceptive moves and exceptional hands as well as that unmatchable speed.