Play-action passes, which start as if they are running plays, are an offensive staple for both Dallas and Denver. There are other similarities in the two attacks. Denver's Haven Moses and Dallas' Drew Pearson are carbon-copy receivers: each is able to go deep and each is also particularly adept at running precise patterns 12 to 15 yards downfield.
Both teams run almost solely behind the strong side; wherever the tight end lines up, that's where the runner will normally head. The Broncos favor their right side, preferring to follow 260-pound Guard Paul Howard and 280-pound Tackle Claudie Minor. They did just that for six straight plays and two first downs while killing the last 3:08 against the Raiders in the AFC championship game. The Cowboys have no such preference, running to either side.
The Cowboys may well try to surprise Denver with a play Landry devised this year for 3-4 defenses. It starts with two tight ends, one of them going in motion back toward the center. After snapping the ball, Cowboy Center John Fitzgerald lets the defensive nose tackle slip unopposed into the offensive backfield, where he is promptly blind-sided by the in-motion tight end. Dorsett then takes a hand-off up the vacated middle. Against Philadelphia that play produced Dorsett's 84-yard touchdown romp.
Ultimately, the outcome of Super Bowl XII will hinge on the war between Doomsday II and the Orange Crush. They are almost exact opposites. Dallas uses a variation of the traditional 4-3 alignment, Denver the 3-4. The heart of the Orange Crush is its four linebackers—Tom Jackson and Bob Swenson on the outside, Randy Gradishar and Joe Rizzo on the inside. They probably comprise the fastest linebacking corps in the history of the pro game. Gradishar is the slowest of the four, and he runs 40 yards in a speedy 4.8 seconds.
Dallas counters with five linebackers, or so it sometimes seems to opponents. Philadelphia Coach Dick Vermeil described Dallas safeties Charlie Waters and Cliff Harris, the game's best pair, as "two extra linebackers making tackles at the line of scrimmage."
Waters likes to ride his motorcycle without a helmet, but it is Harris whom the Cowboys call "Crash." Waters plays with pain. He played one whole season with a broken arm that was held together with a pin. In fact, he rebroke it one day while putting his shirt on. Harris, though, is considered the tougher of the two. Cowboy players measure opponents' toughness by how they get up—if they get up—after being hit by Harris. Dallas Cornerbacks Aaron Kyle and Benny Barnes say that in the interest of self-preservation they always try to upend their man before Harris arrives. Crash doesn't distinguish between friend and foe when he tackles; in Dallas' opening game this year, Harris twice knocked out Kyle with tackles.
The Cowboy defensive backs get a lot of help from their front four, which this year led the NFC with 53 sacks. Harvey Martin, the NFC's defensive player of the year, topped the NFL in individual sacks with 23. Next to him on the right side is Randy White, whom Waters calls "the manster—half man, half monster." White is the strongest Cowboy ever, and very mean. Landry says, "I never thought I'd see another Bob Lilly in my lifetime, but Randy White can be another Bob Lilly for us." White was acquired with the No. 1 draft pick Dallas got from New York in return for Morton.
Ed (Too Tall) Jones and Jethro Pugh handle the left side. Jones, who will play opposite the mammoth Minor, dominated the scrimmage line in Dallas' playoff wins over Chicago and Minnesota. However, Too Tall has yet to develop into a great pass rusher. "I've been getting better," he says, "but when I get to the quarterback, Harvey or Randy are already sitting on him."
For their part, the Broncos do less than a championship job of protecting Morton. Denver quarterbacks have been sacked 50 times this year, the third-highest total in the NFL. One reason for this is that Miller has instructed his quarterbacks to eat the ball rather than risk an interception. Another is that Morton has never been much of a scrambler. If the hip condition that hospitalized Morton before the Oakland playoff game flares up against Dallas, Morton may well be a sitting duck for the Cowboy front four. Interceptions are unquestionably costly, but then so are sacks. Bud Goode, a statistician whose computer service is bought by many NFL clubs, claims the sack is too often underrated. His Univac computer says that dropping the quarterback is worth three points to the defense.
Unfortunately for the Broncos, they have trouble sacking opposition quarterbacks themselves—the lone chink in their defensive armament. With only three down linemen, the Broncos don't apply great pressure and they often leave big gaps between the rushers. Against Oakland's hobbled Ken Stabler, this shortcoming made little difference. But Staubach can—and does—run effectively. He should be able to keep two or three drives alive by moving around until he finds an open receiver—or by running for a first down. In a tight defensive struggle, this may be all the Cowboys will need to break the Broncos.