Dallas trudges by Pack

January 17, 1994|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

IRVING, Texas -- Playoffs? What playoffs?

For Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson, the divisional playoff game against the Green Bay Packers yesterday was just another day at the office.

After his team recorded a sloppy, 27-17 victory to set up an NFC title-game rematch Sunday with the San Francisco 49ers, Johnson said: "In all honesty, it felt just like a regular-season game.

"It was just another game for us. There's only one game that really makes any difference to me, and we haven't played it yet."

He was referring to the Super Bowl on Jan. 30, when the Cowboys hope to become the fifth team to win back-to-back titles.

Johnson doesn't even seem particularly concerned about playing the 49ers Sunday.

"We have to play as well as we can play. If we play as well as we can play, I don't care who lines up against us," Johnson said.

Hey, Jimmy, the 49ers-Cowboys rematch is one the NFL has awaited all season. It's Troy Aikman vs. Steve Young. Emmitt Smith vs. Ricky Watters. The game between the team of the '80s and the club that feels it's going to be the team of the '90s.

"I'm sure it's going to be a big-hyped game and, obviously, it's going to catch the attention of everybody, including our players," Johnson said. "Again, when you've been where we have been, there's only one game that's significant."

What about the 49ers?

"They have a great football team. I know a lot of people feel they may be one of the best, if not the best team in football," he said.

L Johnson left little doubt that he's not one of those people.

"We'll wait and see," he said.

Johnson likes to play these psych games. He wants his team to feel that anything less than the Super Bowl isn't good enough for the Cowboys' standards.

There's a fine line, though, between putting all the emphasis on winning the Super Bowl and overlooking a team, and the Cowboys seemed close to crossing it yesterday before 64,790 at Texas Stadium.

"I don't think we were overconfident. We were a little sloppy," Johnson said.

Whatever it was, this wasn't the Cowboys team that roared through the playoffs last season.

Right tackle Erik Williams, who neutralized Reggie White, said, "We were a little sluggish."

Smith, playing with a tender shoulder, didn't carry the ball in the fourth quarter. He gained 60 yards on 13 carries and said: "I was a little bit out of sync. We just weren't clicking."

Defensive lineman Charles Haley said: "We studied them for two weeks and we might have over-studied them and took off some of the edge because the other team was a little bit more excited."

In the first quarter, Norv Turner, the team's offensive coordinator who may be set to become the next head coach of the Washington Redskins, seemed to be running the mistake-prone Redskins offense.

On the first series Smith fumbled. On the second series, Aikman threw a third-down pass for 3 yards when the Cowboys needed 8. On the third series, Smith was thrown for a yard loss on third-and-one and then Bill Bates was stopped for no gain on a fake punt on fourth-and-two.

The Cowboys were fortunate their defense smothered the Packers and allowed them to take only a 3-0 first-quarter lead on Chris Jacke's 30-yard field goal.

Aikman finally directed an eight-play, 68-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter that was climaxed by a 25-yard touchdown pass to Alvin Harper.

That made it 7-3, and even though the Cowboys got a first down on the Packers' 9 with 1:26 left before halftime on their next series, they had to settle for Eddie Murray's 41-yard field goal with 23 seconds left for a 10-3 lead.

If the Packers had gone in at the half trailing only 10-3, they might have made a game out of it.

But Kenneth Gant knocked the ball out of Corey Harris' arms on the ensuing kickoff and Joe Fishback recovered for the Cowboys on the Packers' 14.

Two plays later, with five seconds left in the first half, Aikman fired a 6-yard touchdown pass to Jay Novacek to make it 17-3.

"It came down to a couple of plays in my opinion," Green Bay coach Mike Holmgren said.

That fumble was one of those plays.

"I thought it was big. Not only the points, but we sagged just a little bit and it took us a while to regroup," Holmgren said. "That was too bad."

The other play Holmgren mentioned came after the Packers had narrowed the deficit to 24-10 on a spectacular touchdown catch by Robert Brooks and the Packers forced the Cowboys to punt early in the fourth period.

Brooks returned the punt 43 yards to the Cowboys' 31. There were still 13 minutes left. If the Packers had scored quickly, they could have had a chance to get back in the game.

"Our defense relaxed when got up 24-3," Johnson said.

But on the first play after the punt return, Leon Lett batted a pass into the arms of Haley for an interception.

Holmgren said: "The play after the punt return, the ball got tipped. That one hurt. I think those two plays determined a lot of the outcome of the game."

That interception set up Murray's 38-yard field goal that made it 27-10.

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