Cowboys pick off Steelers, 27 - 17 2 interceptions turn over Pittsburgh rally

January 29, 1996|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Neil O'Donnell all but gift-wrapped the Super Bowl trophy for the Dallas Cowboys last night.

The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback threw a pair of interceptions right into the arms of cornerback Larry Brown, who simply had to catch them to become the Super Bowl MVP.

Brown's two interceptions set up a pair of Emmitt Smith touchdowns that gave the Cowboys a 27-17 victory over the Steelers in Super Bowl XXX at Sun Devil Stadium.

The Cowboys became the first team to win three Super Bowls in a four-year span as they took advantage of numerous Steelers mistakes.

In so doing, the Cowboys joined the San Francisco 49ers as the only five-time Super Bowl winners and gave the NFC its 12th straight victory.

O'Donnell said the first interception, which came with Pittsburgh trailing 13-7, sailed out of his hand. He cited a miscommunication with wide receiver Andre Hastings on a blitz on the second one, which thwarted a fourth-quarter drive with the score 20-17. But ,, O'Donnell didn't try to spread the blame.

"We're all in this together," O'Donnell said. "You just can't single out one individual and say this is the reason why we lost the football game."

Brown, who became only the second defensive back to win the MVP trophy (Jake Scott of the Miami Dolphins was the first in Super Bowl VII), said, "He had a bad read on the first one. The second one, they had been running slants on me all day and I got a jump on it."

Brown was expected to lose his job when Deion Sanders arrived, but got a second chance when Kevin Smith was lost for the season with a knee injury. He also overcame a personal trauma when his 10-month-old son, born 14 weeks premature, died on Nov. 10.

Even though they failed to cover the 13 1/2 -point spread and didn't play one of their better games, the Cowboys still found it a moment to savor.

They struggled through a tumultuous year that included coach Barry Switzer's twice-failed fourth-and-one play in Philadelphia to suggestions last week that quarterback Troy Aikman was a racist.

"I think it's a feeling more of relief than anything else," Aikman said of the title.

It was more than that for owner Jerry Jones, who was criticized for pushing out former coach Jimmy Johnson and hiring Switzer to replace him.

Jones also spent the year in a legal fight with the league over his marketing deals and was criticized by commissioner Paul Tagliabue on the "This Week With David Brinkley Show" yesterday for "taking what does not belong to him."

Tagliabue, though, was gracious when he presented the trophy to Jones after the game.

"Jerry, Jean [Jones' wife], Barry, I congratulate you on a tremendous victory for the Cowboys franchise," Tagliabue said. "We congratulate you and your extraordinary group of players."

Jones was gracious as he accepted the trophy. "This game represents the kind of season that we've had. It's wonderful just to hold this trophy. This under the circumstances for me is the sweetest."

Switzer then shouted from the podium, "We did it our way, baby. We did it. We did it. We did it."

When Jones and Switzer later took a call from President Clinton, Jones said, "Mr. President, oh, boy, I can't tell you, Jean and I [feel] this is the best one of all, Mr. President."

Switzer then thanked the president for calling him a year ago "when I was loser" after the NFC title game loss to San Francisco.

"Let me tell you something, we did it our way tonight. You've been doing it your way and we're behind you because you're a winner and we're a champ, too. Appreciate you being a Cowboy fan, an ol' boy from Arkansas," he said.

Wide receiver Michael Irvin said: "This is, no doubt, the sweetest one of them all. It's by far the sweetest one of them all. You can put the other two together and this one outweighs them. That's because of what we went through this year. No matter how rocky the water was at times, the bottom line was we brought the ship home."

Dallas became the second team to get outgained in yardage [310-254] and win the Super Bowl. San Francisco was the first one when it beat Cincinnati in Super Bowl XVI while being outgained, 356-275.

Leading 13-7 at halftime, the Cowboys seemingly had it wrapped up when Brown's first interception set up the touchdown that made it 20-7 in the third period.

But the Steelers rallied for a field goal and recovered an onside kick to set up another touchdown and cut the margin to 20-17.

They then forced the Cowboys to punt and O'Donnell took over at his 32 with 4:15 left.

The game was there to be won. But O'Donnell threw the second interception to Brown on the second play and it was over.

The Cowboys scored on their first three possessions to take a 13-0 lead, but they could have had a 21-0 lead if they hadn't stalled at the end of their first and third drives and settled for

field goals.

It had the look of a typical Super Bowl rout on the second and third plays of the game when Irvin caught a 20-yard pass and Emmitt Smith went 23 yards for a first down on the Steelers' 28.

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