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Tex Maule
January 07, 1974
On the surface it looked as if Minnesota simply overpowered Dallas last Sunday in winning the National Football Conference title 27-10. But in a sense this impression was as false as the Tartan Turf that carpets Dallas' plush, sun-roofed stadium.
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January 07, 1974

Minnesota Gave Out Some Misdirections

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Minnesota's first-half drives resulted in a field goal and a touchdown and each of the marches was kept alive by uncharacteristic plays. The first came on fourth and one on the Dallas 17. Normally, a coach as conservative as Grant would have settled for a field goal. He elected to go for the first down. "Bud isn't a big gambler, but we all felt we could make it, and I guess he had the same feeling," said Carroll Dale, the wide receiver who has played in more big games than most Vikings, since he was a member of the Green Bay Packers in the Lombardi era. "On that play, most of the time I would have left the field for an extra tight end, but I didn't. I knew we would go for it because all of us knew, one way or another, we would make it."

Indeed, Reed slashed for the first down but a penalty forced the Vikings to settle for Fred Cox' 44-yard field goal, his longest of the year.

In the second quarter Minnesota duplicated its first drive, except that Tarkenton capped it with a touchdown. He opened the march with a first-down pass from his 14 to Tight End Stu Voigt, who curled over the middle for 16 yards. Tarkenton's first-down passes failed after that, but he compensated by calling crafty running plays on second and long. And once again, with a fourth and one on the Dallas 28, Grant gambled, Foreman scratching out the first down.

Then Tarkenton put his head down and scrambled for 11 yards. Eventually, behind a thumping block by Tackle Ron Yary on Corner Linebacker Dave Edwards, Foreman swept right for five yards and the touchdown. Jordan, as usual, had been misdirected and haplessly trailed the play.

The second half was as undisciplined and sloppy as the first half had been clean and careful. If it proved anything, it was that the Vikings can win as readily in a loosely played game as they can in a tight and controlled one. They gave away the ball four times in their own territory; four times their defense regained the ball and on the four turnovers Dallas wound up minus 10 points.

The Cowboys got back in the game on a 63-yard punt return by Golden Richards in which Minnesota, kicking from its end zone, had to keep everyone at home to block, giving Richards running room. That brought the score to 10-7 and momentarily turned the game toward Dallas, but Tarkenton turned it right back, helped by the dazed condition of Cornell Green, the Dallas strong safety. Green had taken a shot to the head in the third quarter, leaving him fuzzy, but no one knew it until Tarkenton had hit fleet John Gilliam on a 54-yard touchdown pass 1:03 after Richards' revivifying punt return.

Again it was a first-down pass against the flex defense designed to stop the run, and Tarkenton had time. Gilliam ran a simple pattern—full speed down the field, a cut to the inside—and the ball, thrown as far as Tarkenton can throw ("a rainbow pattern," Grant called it) was hanging for him, just beyond the reach of Green and Mel Renfro, who had come over to help.

"The defensive backs had a meeting on the sideline after that play," Renfro said later. "I asked Cornell what defense we were in and he said he didn't know. He was dazed. He saw his man open and chased him, but it was too late. Actually, he distracted me when he got close."

Even so, Dallas was presented with a series of opportunities to win the game. First, the Cowboys were given the ball on a fumble by Foreman, which they recovered on the Minnesota 37. Roger Staubach gave it back by throwing a pass that bounced off Tight End Billy Joe DuPree and wound up in the hands of Middle Linebacker Jeff Siemon. Next, Tarkenton forced a sideline pass to Gilliam, and Cornerback Charlie Waters stepped in front of him for an easy interception, carrying the ball to the Minnesota 24.

Staubach fumbled a few plays later, Minnesota recovering on its 45. Foreman fumbled the ball back, Dallas recovering on the Minnesota 47. Staubach threw a bad pass to Bob Hayes, which was picked off by Cornerback Bobby Bryant and returned 63 yards for the score that wrapped up the game for the Vikings.

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