It can take a spell to get all the bugs out of a computer, but Head Programmer Tom Landry has finally got his Dallas Cowboys printing out to perfection. At least there wasn't any evidence of a breakdown on Sunday in New Orleans, where the Cowboys demolished the Miami Dolphins 24-3 on the Poly-Turf in Tulane Stadium. In the process, they were all but unstoppable on the ground, with celebrated nonstop, nontalker Duane Thomas (see cover), Walt Garrison and Calvin Hill amassing most of a Super Bowl-record 252 yards rushing and, once Roger Staubach got his receivers sorted out, overwhelming through the air as well.
In 60 minutes they made just one mistake and this was only their second turnover in three playoff games. It came in the closing moments when Hill fumbled on a dive from the Miami one that would have given the Cowboys a needless fourth touchdown.
Miami, on the other hand, made three mistakes, all to its enduring sorrow. In the first period Larry Csonka, the burly running back who had not fumbled all season, lost touch with the ball on the Dallas 46, and Linebacker Chuck Howley recovered for the Cowboys. Twelve plays later Mike Clark kicked a nine-yard field goal that gave Dallas a lead it never relinquished.
The Cowboys got their first touchdown on their own hook, a seven-yard Staubach-to- Lance Alworth pass completing a 76-yard second-period drive. With the score now 10-0 and less than two minutes before halftime, Miami finally made a threatening gesture, driving to the Dallas 24 on Bob Griese's passes to Jim Kiick and Paul Warfield. But the Dolphins had to settle for a 31-yard Garo Yepremian field goal when War-field failed to hang on to a tipped Griese pass on the Dallas two. Still, there was the appearance of a contest as late as halftime. But not for long. The Cowboys wrapped it all up early in the third quarter, driving 71 yards in eight plays, Thomas going in from three yards out to make the score 17-3.
In truth, the outcome had been signed, sealed and delivered long before—in point of fact, before the opening kick-off. So well had Landry—and the computers he uses to analyze opposing offenses and defenses—dissected the Dolphins in the days leading up to the Super Bowl that in only one small respect did he have to adjust his game plan. The Miami linebackers covered the Dallas running backs man for man on first-down passes, so Landry, who picks the plays for Staubach, reverted to his more usual practice of calling runs on that down.
Going into the game, the Cowboys had expected to run up the middle, throw to their backs and seal off the most shark-like Dolphin, Middle Linebacker Nick Buoniconti. They did all of those things just about as the computer and Landry had predicted they could.
The Cowboys had expected to shackle Csonka and Kiick, the formidable running backs, to deny Warfield, the nonpareil wide receiver, his favorite inside routes and to harry Griese on the pass plays, and they did all those things, too. Their 10-3 halftime lead was fashioned by Staubach implementing Landry's calls by whipsawing the Dolphin defense with quick, short passes, quick striking runs over the center or the left side of the out-manned Dolphin line and, on rare occasions, by throwing a long pass or hot-footing it on a scramble.
The Dolphins, naturally, realigned their defenses at halftime to stop the Dallas ground attack up the middle, and Landry, just as naturally, guessed they would do that and struck elsewhere. Said Dave Manders, the Dallas center who played a big part in neutralizing Buoniconti: "We figured at the half they would adjust to stop the inside stuff, so we swept in the second half with quick pitchouts wide."
The Cowboys prepared themselves for this game with the precision that is their mark. The Dolphins, in their first Super Bowl, were being true to their nature, too. Someone asked Head Coach Don Shula if his club was relaxed, and Shula, who has matured socially as well as professionally during his two years in Miami, smiled. "They are individuals," he said. "The ones who are always relaxed before a game are relaxed and the ones who are always tense and serious are tense and serious. I think it is a mistake to ask a club to be either one way or the other. What you want the players to do is be themselves and I think our players have been themselves this week."
"The Dolphins are a well-coached young football team," Dallas Player- Coach Dan Reeves said before the game. "That makes it fairly easy to prepare for them. Because they are disciplined and well coached, you know exactly what they are going to do. They are not going to come up and play a defense you haven't seen. They could come up with a new defense, I suppose, but they are basically a young team and they can't play a lot of changeups. With an in-experienced club, the only way to play good football is to do the same thing over and over again. You can't give them more offense or defense than they can handle.