The Super Bowl is just 42 days away. Let’s look at the Super Bowl from 42 years ago to honor this not that significant occasion!
Miami’s Orange Bowl hosted Super Bowl X on January 18, 1976. The game pitted the NFC champion Dallas Cowboys against the defending World Champion Pttsburgh Steelers of the American Football Conference. Dallas was making their third Super Bowl appearance in six seasons. Meanwhile, the Steelers rampaged through their season in an effort to repeat. After they endured decades of futility, Pittsburgh was now the NFL’s premier organization.
The 1975 Cowboys were not expected to compete for a title. Primarily, they featured a different cast of characters than the club that won Super Bowl VI. Of course, there was one huge exception. Quarterback. Indeed, Roger Staubach was no longer a game manager. He was one of the best players in the NFL. However, the Cowboys struggled in 1974 to an 8-6 record. Hence, it was time for a rebuild. And in 1975, teams did not reload and explode in one season like they are able to do in 2017.
Dallas defied the odds. They drafted tremendously in 1975. The Cowboys hit a home round with the #2 choice in the draft, Randy White. White was one of the best defensive tackles in NFL history. Additionally, with the 18th overall pick, Dallas chose Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson, a lightning-quick oustide linebacker. White and Henderson were added to a mix of young, talented defenders known as “Doomsday II.” Players like Cliff Harris, Charlie Waters, Harvey Martin, and Ed “Too Tall” Jones would be staples of the franchise for years to come.
On offense, Dallas added two Pearsons, running back Preston and wide receiver Drew, to the mix. Coach Landry also added the shotgun offense and pre-snap reads to his already innovative scheme. Thus, the Cowboys showed vast improvement right out of the gate. They opened with wins over divisional championship teams, the Los Angeles Rams and St. Louis Cardinals. Unfortunately, they stumbled a bit during a middle stretch of games as often the youthful teams do. They bounced back very well once they got into the playoffs. In their divisional round game, they made history.
The Cowboys were decided underdogs when they traveled to Minnesota. The two-time defending NFC champion Vikings led practically the whole afternoon. But, with just under one minute to play, Staubach performed some magic. He completed consecutive passes to Drew Pearson. The second one was dubbed “Hail Mary” because Staubach later indicated that he tossed up the ball and said a prayer. The prayer was answered. Pearson and Nate Wright were a little grabby with each other, but Pearson emerged with the ball and the winning score. In the NFC championship game, the Cowboys came in with tons of momentum and steamrolled the Rams in the Coliseum, 37-7.
The Steelers came to the Super Bowl fresh off a splendid season. Many oundits point to 1978 as their best squad because Terry Bradshaw was so good that season. However, their most complete squad was the one that represented the AFC in Super Bowl X. First of all, they prevailed in one of the great divisions in league history. The AFC central of 1975 featured the 10-4 Houston Oilers, the 11-3 Cincinnati Bengals and the Steelers who ended up with a superb 12-2 record. They only lost one meaningful game all season – that to the Bills when OJ Simpson ran for an obscene 227 yards on the Steel Curtain.
In the playoffs, Pittsburgh crushed Bert Jones and the upstart Baltimore Colts. In the championship game, they played Oakland in icy conditions. Pittsburgh led 3-0 heading into what turned into a bizarre fourth quarter. The Raiders recovered an onside kick and hit a Haily Mary, but Cliff Branch was tackled short of the end zone and the Steelers were off to their second consecutive Super Bowl.
Super Bowl X is a must see football game. The author of this piece (me) was one month old at the time and considers it one of the great games in NFL history. The Cowboys under the direction of Coach Landry came out of the shoots ready to go toe to toe with Pittsburgh. They ran a reverse on the opening kickoff to Henderson. It took kicker Roy Gerela to make the tackle. He bruised his ribs on the play. And he kicked poorly the rest of the day.
Dallas struck first on a 29-yard touchdown pass from Staubach to Pearson. Unbelievably, it was the only first quarter TD the Steelers allowed all season. Pittsburgh bounced back to tie the game at seven on a short TD pass from Bradshaw to Randy Grossman.
The Cowboys and their no-name running backs pounded the rock on the next drive which produced three points before halftime. One story was developing in this ball game that was bigger than the score. The Steelers 2nd-year wide out from USC named Lynn Swann was putting on a show for the ages. He finished with four total receptions on the day. One was a circus catch along the sideline. Another was a juggling masterpiece as he was falling to the turf. Finally, he caught a extraordinary bomb from Bradshaw to put the Steelers up 21-10 late in the fourth. Simply put, Swann was spectacular. It was a performance for the ages.
Dallas, as always, did not quit. They scored with about three minutes to go to cut the lead to 21-17. Interestingly, Percy Howard scored on the play in what turned out to be his only career reception. The score was too little, too late as Staubach could not replicate his Hail Mary from earlier in the playoffs. The Steelers walked off the Orange Bowl field with another World Championship.
Dallas would be back two years later and Pittsburgh returned for Super Bowl XIII. In that ball game, it would be the Cowboys seeking a repeat.
Brandon Fazzolari is a Super Bowl expert…@spot_Bills