Cowboys are 2 much 4 Bills

THE BALTIMORE SUN

ATLANTA -- Super Bowl XXVIII was a tale of two running backs.

While Dallas' Emmitt Smith won MVP honors by rushing for 132 yards and two touchdowns, Buffalo's Thurman Thomas fumbled twice to hand the Cowboys a 10-point bonus as they rallied from a 13-6 halftime deficit last night.

That was the difference -- along with the three turnovers that James Washington was a part of -- as the Cowboys became the fifth team to win back-to-back Super Bowls by hammering the Bills, 30-13, before 72,817 fans in the Georgia Dome.

While the Cowboys got the repeat fame, the Bills suffered the fourpeat pain of being the first team to lose four Super Bowls in a row. Thomas, who still hasn't lived down misplacing his helmet in Super Bowl XXVI against the Washington Redskins, rushed for 37 yards, including only 10 in the second half when he was bothered by leg cramps.

"Hey, it didn't happen, but we're still the team to beat [for next year]," Thomas said.

"It's going to be part of our identity for years and years to come, the fact we lost four Super Bowls," a dejected Steve Tasker said.

The Cowboys, meanwhile, joined the roll call of the great back-to-back Super Bowl winners of the past -- the Green Bay Packers, Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers, who did it twice, and the San Francisco 49ers.

"I'm not much of a historian. I just know we won the Super Bowl the last two years in a row," coach Jimmy Johnson said.

Johnson and owner Jerry Jones even got a call from President Clinton, who told them, "I was really proud of you. I can relate to that, getting down and coming back."

Jones told the president: "You showed us how to come back a year ago."

Johnson said the key is that the Cowboys are loaded with playmakers. "One of the things we tried to do in putting this team together is that at every position, we try to find big-play makers. We have playmakers throughout the lineup," he said.

They didn't even need a big game from last year's MVP -- quarterback Troy Aikman, who had a solid game as he passed for 207 yards, but didn't throw a touchdown pass and was intercepted once.

They got the big plays from one of their most famous players -- Smith -- and one of their most obscure -- Washington.

Washington, who signed with the Cowboys as a Plan B free agent from the Los Angeles Rams in 1990, got the Trifecta as the Cowboys rallied from their halftime deficit.

He caused a Thomas fumble to set up a field goal, returned another Thomas fumble 46 yards for the tying touchdown on the third play of the third quarter and intercepted a Jim Kelly pass on the first play of the fourth to break open the game.

He also chipped in with 11 tackles in a game worthy of MVP consideration, although the election board went for the more celebrated player and selected Smith.

Defensive lineman Charles Haley called Washington's zig-zagging touchdown run, "the biggest key. It changed the momentum to our side."

He added: "It seemed like they kind of panicked a little bit and went off their game plan and tried to go down the field. That opened up our pass rush to go after those guys."

Wide receiver Bill Brooks disputed Haley's contention. "We were fine. The game was tied and [we said] 'let's go on,' " he said.

In any case, the Bills, who had 216 yards in the first half, were

held to 98 in the second half and 44 of those yards came in their final drive when the game was over.

Smith carried the Cowboys once they tied it.

On their next drive, he carried seven times for 61 yards in an eight-play, 64-yard touchdown drive that made it 20-13.

Johnson said he wasn't worried about the first half. "I knew we were fine. We just made some mistakes," he said.

But they did make a few adjustments, pulling guard Nate Newton from the left side to team up with Kevin Gogan and Erik Williams on the right side.

"When you put those three big bodies over there, Emmitt's going to get some yards," Johnson said.

Haley said of that drive: "It was like a surge of energy went through the whole team. All the self-doubt was gone."

The fact the defense handled the no-huddle in the second half didn't hurt, either.

"I told the guys at halftime to hang in there," Johnson said. "We really weren't getting off the ball [in the first half] and really rushing up the field like we normally do. We told them at halftime we can't let their tempo slow us down defensively.

We've got to attack the line of scrimmage and we started doing that the second half."

The Cowboys scored all 24 second-half points as the NFC won its 10th straight Super Bowl.

Washington's interception on the first play of the fourth period then set up Smith's second touchdown that made it 27-13.

They got a first down on the 6 on a 16-yard pass to Alvin Harper and Smith carried four times for the touchdown.

Eddie Murray then wrapped it up with his third field goal, a 20-yarder.

Smith joined Larry Csonka as the only two runners to rush for 100 yards in consecutive Super Bowls. Csonka did it for the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowls VII and VIII.

The Cowboys also joined the Steelers and the 49ers as the only four-time Super Bowl winners, although the Cowboys did it in the first two times in the 1970s in the Tom Landry era.

For the Bills, it was another frustrating loss. Kelly said: "What can you say? I've been here four years. It's frustrating. It really is."

Defensive lineman Bruce Smith wouldn't put all the blame on Thomas. "If there is to be some blame, we blame our whole team."

Coach Marv Levy said the team was "extremely disappointed, maybe more so than in the previous losses."

He added, "It was very quiet [in the locker room]. There was locker kicking going on. [There was] deep disappointment."

The Bills played well in the first half and the Cowboys made three critical mistakes -- a holding call on John Gesek that stopped one drive, a running-into-the-kicker penalty that kept the Bills' only touchdown drive alive and an Aikman interception.

But the Bills didn't do enough to capitalize on those mistakes.

Kelly had Don Beebe open on a long pass that would have made it 17-6 at halftime, but he overthrew him.

The Bills then punted and they had another shot when Aikman, facing pressure from Bruce Smith, threw it into the arms of Nate Odomes, who returned it 41 yards to the Dallas 47.

The Bills quickly moved to the Dallas 12, where they had a first down with 27 seconds left.

Kelly had time to throw three passes into the end zone. Instead, he threw a sideline pass to Thomas for a 3-yard gain, threw a bad pass on second down and, on third down, tried a handoff to Thomas, who was stopped for no gain.

Instead of going up 17-6, the Bills had to settle for Steve Christie's 28-yard field goal and a 13-6 lead.

When Washington then returned the fumble for the touchdown at the outset of the second half, Dallas took control and was on its way to its second straight Super Bowl victory.

Haley, who'd already won back-to-back titles with the 49ers, said, "This is a great moment for me. This is something that's going to be special for me for the rest of my life and something that my kids can be proud of."

All the Cowboys can say the same thing.

TALE OF TWO HALVES

?3

... ... ... 1st half ... ... ... ... 2nd half

... ... .. .. .. Buffalo ... Dallas .. .. Buffalo ... Dallas

1st downs ... .. 15 .. .. .. 10 .. .. ... 7 ... .. .. 10

Total yards ... 216 .. .. .. 170 .. .. .. 98 .. .. .. 171

Passing yards .. 176 ... ... 120 .. .. .. 51 .. .. .. 84

Rushing yards .. 40 .. .. .. 50 ... .. .. 47 .. .. .. 87

COMEBACK KIDS

Yesterday, the Cowboys became the seventh team to win the Super Bowl after trailing at halftime:

Halftime ... ... ... ... ... ... ... Final

Yr score ... ... ... ... ... ... ... score

'71 Cowboys 13-6 ... ... ... ... ... Colts 16-13

'76 Cowboys 10-7 ... ... ... ... ... Steelers 21-17

'80 Rams 13-10 ... ... ... .. .. ... Steelers 31-19

'83 Dolphins 17-10 ... ... ... .. .. Redskins 27-17

'87 Broncos 10-9 ... ... ... ... ... Giants 39-20

'91 Bills 12-10 ... ... .. .. .. ... Giants 20-19

'94 Bills 13-6 ... ... ... .. .. ... Cowboys 30-13

AS THE BILLS TURN

For the second straight year, the Cowboys took advantage of Bills turnovers:

Year ... ... ... Turnovers ... ... ... Pts

1993 ... ... ... 9 ... ... ... ... ... 35

1994 ... ... ... 3 ... ... ... ... ... 17

REPEAT WINNERS

Green Bay

SB ... ... ... ... Opponent ... ... ... Score

I ... .. .. ... .. Kansas City .. .. .. 35-10

II .. .. .. ... .. Oakland .. .. .. ... 33-14

Miami

VII .. ... ... ... Washington .. .. ... 14-7

VIII .. .. ... ... Minnesota ... .. ... 24-7

Pittsburgh

IX ... ... ... ... Minnesota ... .. ... 16-6

X ... ... .. .. .. Dallas ... ... .. .. 21-17

XIII ... ... .. .. Dallas .. ... .. ... 35-31

XIV ... ... ... .. L.A. Rams ... .. ... 31-19

San Francisco

XXIII .. ... .. .. Cincinnati .. .. ... 20-16

XXIV ... .. ... .. Denver ... .. .. ... 55-10

Dallas

XXVII ... .. .. .. Buffalo .. .. .. ... 52-17

XXVIII .. .. .. .. Buffalo .. .. .. ... 30-13

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