Dallas line weighs in as difference


IRVING, Texas -- In the end yesterday at Texas Stadium, after 132 plays and eight touchdowns and 747 yards of offense and five lead changes, this summation was offered in the winning locker room: "We ain't no ordinary fat boys."

The speaker was Nate Newton, the Dallas Cowboys' All-Pro offensive guard. He was standing in a joyous locker room, explaining how the Cowboys had outlasted the Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship game.

"The Packers had the ice in the tundra [29 years ago in the Ice Bowl]," Newton said, "but we had the heat on the turf today. We just kept sitting on 'em until they popped."

He was referring to the Cowboys' mammoth but artful offensive line, which was the difference in a rowdy, back-and-forth game.

The Packers were the Cowboys' equal for three quarters, but ran out of gas on a day when the Cowboys ran Emmitt Smith a staggering 35 times.

The score in the first three quarters: Green Bay 27, Dallas 24.

The score in the fourth quarter: Dallas 14, Green Bay 0.

"That's our basic philosophy, in every game as well as today's," Cowboys tackle Mark Tuinei said. "We keep coming at you and, hopefully, the size of our line wears you down in the fourth quarter."

It was what happened when the Cowboys beat the Buffalo Bills in the Super Bowl two years ago after trailing at halftime. And it was what happened yesterday.

Every time the Packers tried to take control with a big play -- mostly passes from Brett Favre -- the Cowboys came back slowly and steadily, with Smith picking up 3 and 5 and 7 yards at a time.

With touchdown drives of 99 and 90 yards, the Cowboys kept the pace in their favor and kept Favre off the field. The Packers had the ball for only 22 minutes, leaving Favre no room to make mistakes. And he made two: interceptions that led to Dallas touchdowns.

Smith took the bows at the end for delivering 150 rushing yards and three touchdowns, but his line was at the heart of a win that sent the Cowboys to the Super Bowl for the third time in four years.

"The line is where we start and end," Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman said.

Other teams try to copy the Cowboys' big-man line, but the original proved yesterday that it still was the best.

The Packers stuffed them early, but after a long day of slamming into Newton at 320 pounds, Tuinei at 315, Larry Allen at 326, Erik Williams at 324 and center Derek Kennard at 333, the Packers' defense finally crumbled.

"I look on TV and I see all those fat boys everyone else is using," Newton said. "They're as big as we are. But we have some special boys here. My body fat is only 4 percent. Larry [Allen] is 1 percent. Big Derek [Kennard] is maybe 6 percent. We're big, but we can move. And we just kept coming today."

The Packers were in no mood to join the chorus of praise for the Cowboys' line. The Packers were furious at a cut block with which Williams knocked Packers nose tackle John Jurkovic out of the game in the second quarter. Jurkovic suffered a sprained knee when Williams hit him from behind.

"We had a good game plan until they cheap-shotted Jurkovic," Packers nose tackle Bob Kuberski said.

"You can end a guy's career like that," Reggie White said. "And the league doesn't do anything about it. I'm sick of it."

Williams, who was not called for a penalty, said: "It was a legal block. Did you see a flag? I'm sorry the guy got hurt. I mean it. I apologize. I don't feel good about it. But we're playing football."

The block led to a spate of fights and personal fouls for the next 20 minutes.

"I think Erik cut their guy, and they weren't happy," Newton said. "But we don't play like that. I told my guys to calm down, apologize and stick to what they were doing. We just wore them down in the end. It came down to will."

The Packers will dispute that. They were behind by only four points and driving for the lead when Favre made the game's critical mistake with 10 minutes left, throwing an interception at the Dallas 20-yard line. The Cowboys scored a touchdown in two plays to take an 11-point lead.

"We had them," Favre said. "We would have come away with points if I hadn't done that."

But that was the point: The Cowboys' line was so dominant yesterday that the Packers couldn't afford to make a mistake and give up possession.

And they did.

"It was a great feeling in those last few minutes, knowing we were going back to the Super Bowl," Newton said. "The big boys were feeling pretty good. Now I need to find me 30 tickets."

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