Kosar proves a super sub for Cowboys

January 24, 1994|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

IRVING, Texas -- Quarterback Bernie Kosar didn't want to talk about vindication.

He didn't want to talk about how satisfying it was to come off the bench to save the Dallas Cowboys' 38-21 NFC title game victory over the San Francisco 49ers yesterday after the Cleveland Browns dumped him earlier this year because he had "diminished skills."

"After such a great win like this and with the [Super Bowl] game only seven days away, now is not the time to reflect back on the Cleveland situation," he said. "Maybe after the season, the time will be right. Right now, I just want to enjoy this win and I'm proud we have an opportunity to go to Atlanta and play Buffalo in the Super Bowl."

Kosar, who lost three AFC title games to the Denver Broncos in the 1980s when he was in Cleveland, may not play in the Super Bowl if Troy Aikman makes a complete recovery from the concussion that knocked him out early in the second half when Dennis Brown's knee slammed into his helmet.

But Dallas, which signed Kosar to a million-dollar contract on Nov. 10 after Cleveland cut him, got a return on its investment yesterday.

Kosar, who doesn't get any snaps with the first team during the week, was obviously rusty and the San Francisco strategy was obvious.

"As soon as he went into the game, they started blitzing him," coach Jimmy Johnson said.

The 49ers kept Kosar without a first down on his first series, narrowed the deficit to 28-14 and had the Cowboys in a 3rd-and-9 situation at their 19.

If the Cowboys had to punt again and the 49ers scored, they could have gotten on a roll.

"That was our window of opportunity," 49ers coach George Seifert said. "I honestly felt we were going to get back in this thing because I feel our offense was kind of in sync."

Kosar closed that window with a 12-yard pass to Michael Irvin that gave the team a first down.

Four plays later, he threw the 42-yard touchdown pass to Alvin Harper that wrapped up the game.

But Seifert said it was the third-down throw to Irvin that changed the game.

"It wasn't the TD pass," he said. "It was the one prior to that. We blitzed on third down and they make the play. Had we made that play, it may have been a different game."

The Cowboys' Johnson agreed.

"That was as big a play as there was in the ballgame," he said. "We end up picking up a first down in a critical situation when we're a little bit unraveled and San Francisco was starting to blitz us. That was a critical first down to get us off the goal line. It was a great throw by Bernie. They had tight coverage and Michael made the play."

Kosar said: "I could have thrown to the right side, but I felt like maybe I could buy some time and throw the ball that was definitely going to get us a first down."

Running back Darryl Johnston said: "I don't think you can rattle Bernie. He kept us loose from the second he came in the huddle."

Kosar said it's difficult being a backup. "I'm not accustomed to that role," he said.

But he performed it yesterday to finally make the Super Bowl.

"It's a great feeling," he said.

Pre-game tension

Tempers were short at the pre-game introductions when 49ers receiver Jerry Rice had a few words for Cowboys defensive back Kevin Smith. "They came looking for us," defensive lineman Jim Jeffcoat said. "I guess that was in response to Coach Ali's [Johnson's] comment this week. Jerry Rice came over and started popping off, and that's the worst thing he could have done.

"I guess he doesn't realize he's in Cowboys country. We can talk the talk if they want to because we can also walk the walk. Don't ever come in here and challenge us like that or we'll destroy you."

Rice said: "This team will not hold its head down. We'll be back to knock on the door again."

Wide receiver John Taylor, who rarely gives interviews, added: "They didn't show much respect for us at the beginning of the game. I'm sure that had a lot to do with some of the fighting at the beginning."

Young comes up short

For the second straight year, quarterback Steve Young failed to get San Francisco to the Super Bowl.

In San Francisco, that's considered a failure.

"I would have never believed that we would come down here and gotten beat like this. Congratulations to them."

Haley savors win

Nobody savored the victory more than Charles Haley, a former 49er.

"This was my Super Bowl," he said. "We play Buffalo in the Super Bowl. It's just another game for me. This is my game right here. Everybody knows how I feel about it. This is more satisfying because I played in San Francisco."

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