Staubach, who had a total of four interceptions, had a bad day, but you can't pin the loss on him. If anyone in the Dallas organization is to blame, it is Coach Tom Landry, who apparently underestimated the ingenuity of the Minnesota coaching staff. Jethro Pugh, the top Cowboy tackle with Bob Lilly out of the game, said it indirectly: "They had plays we had not seen before. They were good plays against the defense we were running."
Strangely, most of the Cowboy defenders did not recognize what Tarkenton was doing to them—notably, 11 of his 21 passes coming on first down. "I didn't know that," Jordan said. "But what the bleep, it didn't make that much difference. They were gaining six yards on first down and they aren't supposed to do that. Then, when we stopped them, the offense didn't do anything."
Staubach felt the game turned on the interceptions by Siemon and Bryant. "I thought I had looked Bryant off," he said. "It was a question of timing."
In a larger sense, the timing was off for the Cowboys all afternoon. They missed not only Lilly but also Calvin Hill, their 1,000-yard-plus running back and leading pass receiver, who had a dislocated elbow. Hill's replacement, Robert Newhouse, gained but 50 yards, and the usually reliable Walt Garrison got only nine on five carries and fumbled away the ball on the Minnesota two-yard line. But what the Cowboys missed most of all was an adequate method of responding to the changes the Vikings made in their offense.
They made no changes in their defense; the Cowboys did not come up with anything different to confuse them. Minnesota's Gary Larsen, who had a fine game at defensive tackle, said, "They did the things they have done all year. They give you a lot of movement in the backfield and they want you to look at it, but we ignore all that. We just take our position and maintain it. We don't care what they do before the play starts. Once it's under way they're running from one of two sets, like everyone else. We just cut them off after they got through fiddling around." While Dallas burned.