In his first NFL starting role, Herschel Walker led a second-half surge Monday night that carried the Dallas Cowboys to a 31-7 rout of the winless St. Louis Cardinals.
Walker, starting in place of the injured Tony Dorsett, responded with a veteran-style performance. He gained 82 yards on 19 carries and caught five passes for 57 yards.
The Heisman Trophy winner from Georgia softened up the Cardinals’ defense with his powerful running and caught Danny White’s third touchdown pass of the night. The Cowboys’ defense, meanwhile, picked off four passes and dominated the second half.
“It doesn’t matter if you are starting or just playing,” Walker said. “You are out there to do the same thing, and that is run the football.
“To start for this team is the opportunity of a lifetime. There is a spirit and togetherness on this team that I love.”
The victory improved Dallas’ record to 3-1. The Cowboys are tied with the New York Giants for second place in the NFC East, a game behind the unbeaten Washington Redskins, and face the unbeaten Broncos in Denver on Sunday.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, fell to 0-4 under new coach and former Dallas assistant Gene Stallings.
“It’s pretty obvious, we’re not making the plays,” Stallings said. “We dropped passes, We took penalties and we made mistakes.
“Somewhere along the line we are going to have to make some plays. We’re really embarrassed. The players and coaches don’t like this.”
Rookie receiver Mike Sherrard made an acrobatic catch of a 39-yard touchdown throw from White in the first period, and Rafael Septien gave Dallas a 10-0 halftime lead with a 32-yard field goal.
Then, after the Cardinals closed within three points early in the second half, Gordon Banks returned the kickoff 56 yards, and Walker accounted for 29 yards in three plays before White hit Tony Hill with a 13-yard touchdown pass.
Two possessions later, Walker put away the game by slipping into the end zone untouched and catching an 8-yard touchdown pass from White. With 2:15 to play in the game, Ron Fellows intercepted a Neil Lomax pass and raced 34 yards for Dallas’ final touchdown.
St. Louis’ only score came on a 10-yard run by Ottis Anderson at the end of a 76-yard, seven-play drive to start the second half.
White, who completed 16 of 29 passes for 223 yards with 2 interceptions, now has 10 touchdown passes this season. He said the Dallas offense has not yet reached its peak.
“We did what we had to do to win, and I thought we basically executed pretty well,” he said. “But we’re still some distance away from being as good as we can be.”
The 31 points enabled Dallas to tie the NFL record of four consecutive 30-point games at the start of the season. The 1968 New York Giants and 1975 Buffalo Bills share the record.
The victory was the 256th of Dallas Coach Tom Landry’s career, leaving him tied for second place with Miami’s Don Shula on the all-time NFL list behind the 325 of the late George Halas.