Staubach then rallied the Cowboys against Pittsburgh's obviously relaxed defense. He threw a seven-yard touchdown pass to Billy Joe DuPree at the end of an 89-yard drive, which was highlighted by Tony Dorsett's 29-yard run. After Dallas recovered an on-side kick, Staubach passed four yards for a touchdown to a wide-open Butch Johnson. With the score now 35-31 and 22 seconds to play, Dallas would have one last chance if it recovered another on-side kick. But Septien kicked the ball squarely to Bleier, who fell on it on the Dallas 45, and a disgruntled Bradshaw ran out the clock.
"Our guys started celebrating when it was 35-17," Bradshaw said later, "and it made me mad. They were slapping hands and shaking hands and saying how great it was. But it wasn't so great, because the game wasn't over."
Quite naturally, there were three versions of what happened on the controversial interference call on Barnes.
Barnes: "He [Swann] shoved me, knocked me down and tripped over me. When I saw the flag, I was mad, damn right. It was the closest I'll ever come to punching an official, I guess. I cussed him. I think he must have known he was wrong, because normally when you cuss an official, you get penalized."
Swearingen: "It was a judgment call. The two players bumped before the ball was even close to them. They were both looking back and the defender went to the ground. The Pittsburgh receiver, in trying to get the ball, was tripped by the defender's feet."
Swann: "I believe Barnes did interfere. But I'm not sure, because I wasn't in a position to see. I know I didn't push off of him, and I was tripped. It was a very important play. If we hadn't scored right after that, we'd be in the locker room right now, and the Cowboys would be doing all of the interviews."
Besides Bradshaw's arm and his superb receivers (Stallworth, who did not play in the second half because of a muscle cramp, caught three passes for 115 yards and his two touchdowns; Swann caught seven for 124 yards and his score), the other thing that helped defeat the Cowboys was the touchdown they blew late in the third quarter, which would have tied the score at 21-21. Smith, the marvelous old former St. Louis Cardinal whom Dallas had called out of retirement in September, flat-out dropped Staubach's pass in the end zone.
The play came from Landry, and it was an inspired call. The ball was on the Pittsburgh 10, third and three. Landry sent in an extra tight end, Smith, indicating a run. Dallas lined up with Scott Laidlaw as a single setback and Dorsett went in motion to his right. But instead of handing off to Laidlaw or passing in the flat to Dorsett, the most likely eventualities, Staubach threw over the middle to the 38-year-old Smith who was wide open. However, the ball was low and slightly behind Smith. Staubach says he threw it too softly, and that that's why Smith, who was on his knees, dropped it.
"He was so open I could have punted it to him," said Staubach sorrowfully.
Smith could only say, "It was a beautiful play that Coach Landry conceived. When I slipped, I guess I was just trying to be overcautious, and that's why I dropped it."