SUPER BOWL XXVII : That’s Big D, for Domination : Game: Cowboys ride into the sunset with 52-17 victory over Bills, who lose third Super Bowl in a row.


Tom who?

Tex who?

The Dallas Cowboys, under the team of owner Jerry Jones and Coach Jimmy Johnson, completed an incredible four-year journey back from the ashes of their former dynasty with a 52-17 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday in Super Bowl XXVII before a crowd of 98,374 at Pasadena’s Rose Bowl.

One coach, Johnson, ended the game cracking a smile that has been building up for those four years. The other, Marv Levy, was wearing the frown he has been saddled with for three frustrating seasons.

One quarterback, Troy Aikman, got an MVP trophy for his efforts. The other, Jim Kelly, had a pair of crutches.


While one team climbed back to the glory it had under General Manager Tex Schramm and Coach Tom Landry, the other sank to a record low, an unenviable spot in Super Bowl infamy.

It was the Cowboys’ first Super Bowl appearance in 14 years. It was the Bills’ third consecutive Super Bowl, tying a league record, and their third consecutive loss, a Super Bowl mark.

“We said all year,” Johnson told reporters, “that the best game we were going to play was the last game.”

He might have been right.

Never mind the record nine Buffalo turnovers.

Forget that Kelly was knocked out of the game during the second quarter.

This day belonged to the Cowboys, who proved that they could overcome not only the Bills, but also the pressure of Super Bowl week in their first exposure to it.

Dallas took advantage of the Bills’ fumbling, bumbling performance, scoring four touchdowns off the nine turnovers, which included four interceptions and five fumbles.

But the Cowboys won the game the same way they won the NFC East and roared through the playoffs, beating back the league’s last dynasty, the San Francisco 49ers, in the NFC title game.

The Cowboys did it with Aikman, who completed 22 of 30 passes for 273 yards and four touchdowns.

They did it with Emmitt Smith, the first rushing leader to carry the ball into a Super Bowl, who gained 108 yards in 22 carries Sunday and scored a touchdown.

They did it with receiver Michael Irvin, who caught six passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns.

And they did it with their defense, the NFL’s best in 1992, though not one Cowboy was named to the Pro Bowl.

No matter. They will take the Super Bowl. The Cowboy defense sacked the Bills four times and scored two touchdowns.

When it was over, Irvin couldn’t say enough about the man who threw the ball to him.

“Troy Aikman,” Irvin said. “Man, he played a great game, but then, I’ve seen him play a lot of great games. I’ll tell you this: I am so happy to be with a young quarterback my age. He’s my age (26). Ain’t that great?”

It wasn’t that great at the start.

The Cowboys appeared to be suffering from the inevitable Super Bowl pressure at the beginning.

Their first punt, by Mike Saxon, was blocked by Steve Tasker, setting the Bills up at the Dallas 16-yard line. They moved quickly from there, Thurman Thomas going over from the two-yard line to give Buffalo the momentum and the early lead.

Then came the first of many Buffalo turnovers.

From the 50-yard line, Kelly threw a pass intended for Don Beebe that was intercepted by James Washington.

Aikman responded with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Jay Novacek.

One turnover, one touchdown.

Then, the crusher.

With the Bills at their 10-yard line on the first play after the kickoff, Kelly fumbled when he was hit by Charles Haley, who blew past Buffalo offensive lineman Howard Ballard.

Dallas lineman Leon Lett waved at the ball. Fellow lineman Jimmie Jones (is that a great name for this team?) did more than wave. He plucked the loose ball out of the air and fell two yards into the end zone.

Two turnovers. Two touchdowns.

And the Cowboys were on their way.

After Steve Christie’s 21-yard field goal cut the margin to 14-10, Dallas surged into a 28-10 halftime lead on touchdown passes of 19 and 18 yards from Aikman to Irvin.

Those two scores came within 18 seconds, sandwiched around a fumble by Thomas.

But nobody on the Cowboys seemed overconfident. They all have televisions and, like most other football fans in the country, they watched three weeks ago as the Bills pulled off the biggest comeback in NFL history. Trailing the Houston Oilers, 35-3, during the third quarter of their playoff opener, the Bills pulled out a 41-38 overtime victory.

They did it with backup quarterback Frank Reich.

And, if they were to do it Sunday, it would have to be with Reich again.

Kelly, who sat out the first two playoff games because of a strained right knee, was back on the sidelines Sunday after getting knocked out of the game by Dallas linebacker Ken Norton Jr., who fell on that knee.

Did Reich, who also was at the controls for one of the great comebacks in college football history, Maryland beating Miami, have one more miraculous game in him?

It still appeared possible at the end of the third quarter. Buffalo held Dallas to three points in the quarter on a 20-yard field goal by Lin Elliott.

And the Bills, on a 40-yard touchdown pass from Reich to Beebe on the final play of the quarter had tightened the score to 31-17.

And then the lights went out.

Aikman hit Alvin Harper with a 45-yard touchdown pass to extend the lead; Smith scored on a 10-yard run after Reich threw an interception and Norton scored on a nine-yard run after recovering a Reich fumble.

Two more turnovers.

Two more touchdowns.

Too much.

Kelly completed four of seven passes for 82 yards, throwing two interceptions.

Reich completed 18 of 31 for 194 yards, but also threw two interceptions.

What hurt most, perhaps, was the performance of Thomas. The NFL leader this season in total yards from scrimmage, Thomas managed only 19 yards in 11 carries against the tough Dallas defense.

So for the ninth time in a row, the NFC has beaten the AFC in the Super Bowl. And for the third time in a row, the NFC East has won.

The Bills keep getting further and further away from that elusive first Super Bowl ring.

They lost to the New York Giants two seasons ago, 20-19, when Scott Norwood missed a 47-yard field goal at the end.

They lost to the Washington Redskins, 37-24, last season.

And now this, a poorly played game that resulted in the most points ever scored in a Super Bowl.

“As much disappointment as I feel,” Levy said, “I’m not going to exhibit despair. . . . I’d be an awfully poor leader if what I did was show despair.”

And how will history remember his Bills?

“History,” Levy said, “is ongoing.”

And so, it would seem, is the frustrating story of the Bills.