The Pittsburgh Stellers and the Dallas Cowboys treated the nation to a Super Bowl worthy of its advance billing, as the two conference champions flailed away at each other for four hours with the Steelers holding on for a 35-31 victory.
Terry Bradshaw, who was named the game's most valuable player, dominated the exciting, but mistake-filled contest, passing for four touchdowns and 313 yards in the offensive orgy witnessed by nearly 80,000 at the Orange Bowl in Miami and a national television audience estimated at 125 million.
The Steelers broke the game open in the third quarter with two touchdowns in 11 seconds, but the Cowboys scored 14 points in the last three minutes of the game, narrowing the margin to four points.
Bradshaw took charge on the Steelers' first possession when he found Stallworth for 15 yards and tight end Randy Grossman for 17 more at the Cowboy 28-yd. line.
Bradshaw then lofted a spiral to Stallworth, who made a diving catch between two Dallas defenders for the first score of the afternoon. Roy Gerala added the first of five extra points for a 7-0 Steeler lead.
Mean and Tall
Dallas defensive end Harvey "Too Mean" Martin knocked the ball away from Bradshaw on third down late in the first quarter and Ed "Too Tall" Jones scooped up the fumble on the Steeler 40.
Roger Staubach, the 36-year-old Dallas quarterback, then rifled a sideline pass to rookie split end Tony Hill, who took the pigskin 60 yards for a Dallas touchdown to even the score.
After Dallas kicked off, Tom "Call Me Thomas" Henderson sacked Bradshaw and Cowboy linebacker Mike Hegman stripped away the loose ball from the Pittsburgh quarterback and marched into the endzone untouched.
Dallas had a 14-7 lead and Bradshaw had to recapture the momentum after two straight turnoevers. On third and five from his own 25, Bradshaw hit Stallworth at the Pittsburgh 35 and the lanky wide receiver eluded Cowboy defensive back Aaron Kyle and raced across the field for a 75-yd. touchdown connection and a tie game.
Bradshaw worked the clock like a master after a Roy Blont interception late in the half, and with 24 seconds left, from the 7-yd. line he found unheralded halfback Rocky Blier open in the corner of the endzone. Blier's leaping grab gave Bradshaw the Super Bowl passing record and the Steelers a 21-14 halftime lead.
Both defenses tightened in the third quarter, but Dallas finally put together a drive late in the period. On a third and two from the Steeler nine, Staubach found tight end Jackie Smith all alone in the endzone, but Smith, a 16-year veteran playing in his first Super Bowl, dropped the ball. Instead of a tie game, Dallas settled for a 27-yd. field goal and a four-point deficit.
Early in the fourth quarter, after an exchange of punts, Bradshaw again led the Steelers down the field. They marched from their own 16 to the Dallas 23 where, with 11 minutes left, Franco Harris ran off tackle for the first running touchdown for a 28-17 Steeler lead.
Dallas lineman Randy White fumbled Roy Gerela's squib kickoff while trying to lateral and Dennis "Dirt" Winston recovered for Pittsburgh at the 18.
On the very next play, Lynn Swann made a brilliant catch of Bradshaw's fourth touchdown pass and the Steelers seemed to have their third Super Bowl title locked up.
But Staubach was not finished. He took the Cowboys 65 yards in eight plays. A 4-yd. toss to Billy Joe DuPree in the endzone with 2:27 left cut the margin to 35-24.
Cowboy running back Dennis Thurman recovered the onside kick on the Pittsburgh 48 and Dallas had 2:23 to score two touchdowns. Stauback almost made it. On third and one at the four, Staubach threw his third TD pass of the game to tight end Butch Johnson.
But Rocky Blier fell on Dallas's second onside kick in the last minute and Bradshaw ran out the remaining 22 seconds to secure the 35-31 triumph.
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