|Date||January 15, 1978|
|Stadium||Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana|
|MVP||Randy White, Defensive tackle; and Harvey Martin, Defensive end|
|Favorite||Cowboys by 6|
|Future Hall of Famers|
|Cowboys: Tex Schramm (team administrator), Tom Landry (coach), Mike Ditka? (asst. coach), Tony Dorsett, Mel Renfro, Roger Staubach, Randy White, Rayfield Wright. ? elected as a player.
|National anthem||Phyllis Kelly of Northeast Louisiana University|
|Coin toss||Red Grange|
|Halftime show||"From Paris to the Paris of America" with the Tyler Junior College Apache Belles, Pete Fountain, and Al Hirt|
|TV in the United States|
|Announcers||Pat Summerall and Tom Brookshier|
(est. 78.94 million viewers)
|Cost of 30-second commercial||$162,000|
Super Bowl XII was an American football game between the National Football Conference (NFC) champion Dallas Cowboys and the American Football Conference (AFC) champion Denver Broncos to decide the National Football League (NFL) champion for the 1977 season. The Cowboys defeated the Broncos 27-10 to win their second Super Bowl. The game was played on January 15, 1978, at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans. This was the first time that the Super Bowl was played in a domed stadium, and the first time that the game was played in prime time.
The game pitted Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach against their former quarterback, Craig Morton. Led by Staubach and the Doomsday Defense, Dallas advanced to its fourth Super Bowl after posting a 12-2 regular season record and playoff victories over the Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings. The Broncos, led by Morton and the Orange Crush Defense, made their first Super Bowl appearance after also posting a 12-2 regular-season record and postseason wins over the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Oakland Raiders.
The Cowboys defense dominated most of Super Bowl XII, forcing eight turnovers and allowing only eight pass completions by the Broncos for just 61 yards. Two of those interceptions led to 10 first-quarter points. Denver's longest play of the game was just 21 yards, which occurred on their opening drive. Dallas expanded its lead to 20-3 in the third quarter after wide receiver Butch Johnson made a diving catch in the end zone for a 45-yard touchdown reception. Denver cut the lead down to ten, 20-10, after an ineffective Morton was replaced by Norris Weese late in the third period, but the Cowboys put the game out of reach in the fourth when fullback Robert Newhouse threw a 29-yard touchdown pass on a halfback option play to receiver Golden Richards.
For the first and only time, two players won Super Bowl MVP honors: defensive tackle Randy White and defensive end Harvey Martin. This was also the first time that a defensive lineman was named Super Bowl MVP. Reports from after the game showed that the voters on site had originally named all 11 Dallas defensive starters as MVPs, and had this group choice nixed by the NFL, who said they would prefer a single MVP (given the singular title of the award) but would allow for co-MVPs if no one player could be agreed on. The reporters conferred and quickly agreed that the key to the game was the push from Dallas' defensive front, and chose White and Martin on that basis.
The NFL awarded Super Bowl XII to New Orleans on March 16, 1976 at the NFL owners meetings held in San Diego.  It would be the first of seven Super Bowls (as of 2017) to be played in the Superdome, though it was not the first one scheduled in the Superdome; Super Bowl IX was scheduled to be played there, but construction delays forced it to be played at Tulane Stadium.
The main storyline surrounding Super Bowl XII was Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach versus Broncos quarterback Craig Morton. Morton began his career playing for Dallas in 1965. Staubach joined the Cowboys in 1969 after spending 4 years of service in the United States Navy, and soon both quarterbacks competed for the starting job. During the 1970 season, both Morton and Staubach started for about half of the regular season games. Morton was ultimately selected to lead the team through the playoffs and eventually to their Super Bowl V loss to the Baltimore Colts, 16-13. The next year, Staubach won the starting job and eventually led Dallas to defeat the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VI, 24-3. Staubach was also named Super Bowl MVP during that game. In 1972, Morton started most of the Cowboys' games as Staubach was out with a separated shoulder. However, in the division playoffs against San Francisco, Staubach relieved Morton and led the team to a come-from-behind victory, which assured Staubach of the starting job going forward. Morton was relegated to backup status until he left the team in 1974 to join the New York Giants.
After spending three years with the Giants, Morton became the starting quarterback for the Broncos, a franchise with a dismal history. It had taken them 14 years (1960-1973) to record their first winning season and they had never once made the playoffs. But under the leadership of the newly arrived Morton and their new coach Red Miller, Denver finished 1977 with a 12-2 record and earned the #1 seed in the AFC.
Morton did not put up a large number of passing yards (1,929) during the regular season, but he threw 14 touchdown passes and only 8 interceptions, while also rushing for 125 yards and 4 touchdowns, earning him the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award. Denver tight end Riley Odoms was his main target, with 37 receptions for 429 yards. Wide receiver Haven Moses was also a major deep threat, catching 27 passes for 539 yards, an average of 20 yards per catch. However, the Broncos main offensive strength was their rushing game. Denver had 3 running backs, Otis Armstrong, Lonnie Perrin, and Rob Lytle, who carried the ball equally, combining for 1,353 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. On special teams, multi-talented wide receiver Rick Upchurch led the NFL with 653 punt return yards, while also catching 12 passes for 245 yards and recording 456 yards returning kickoffs.
The backbone of the Broncos was their defense, a unit known as the "Orange Crush", which used a 3-4 formation anchored by four superb linebackers, including Randy Gradishar (3 interceptions, 4 fumble recoveries) and Tom Jackson (4 interceptions, 93 return yards, 1 touchdown). Defensive End Lyle Alzado anchored the line, while their secondary was led by defensive backs Bill Thompson (who recorded 5 interceptions) and Louis Wright (who had 3 interceptions). The Broncos defense had given up just 148 points during the season, an average of just 10.6 per game and the 3rd-fewest in the NFL.
Staubach threw for 2,620 yards and 18 touchdowns with only 8 interceptions, while also gaining 171 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground. Wide receiver Drew Pearson was the leading receiver on the team with 48 receptions for 870 yards, while Pro Bowl tight end Billy Joe DuPree recorded 28 receptions for 347 yards and provided blocking support on running plays.
The Cowboys also had a new weapon on offense: rookie running back Tony Dorsett. Despite not becoming a full-time starter until the tenth game of the regular season, Dorsett led the team in rushing with 1,007 yards, scored 13 total touchdowns, and was the team's third leading receiver with 29 receptions for another 273 yards. Veteran fullback Robert Newhouse provided Dorsett with blocking, and was the team's second leading rusher with 721 yards, while also catching 16 passes for another 106 yards. Running back Preston Pearson contributed 341 yards rushing, caught 46 passes for 535 yards, and scored 5 touchdowns. The Cowboys' offensive line was led by All-Pro tackle Rayfield Wright.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys' Doomsday Defense remained in the superb form that helped lead the Cowboys' Super Bowl X appearance. Their defensive line consisted of Harvey Martin (who recorded 23 sacks), Jethro Pugh, Ed "Too Tall" Jones and Randy White. Behind them, the Cowboys had a trio of linebackers, Thomas Henderson (3 interceptions), D.D. Lewis, and Bob Breunig, who provided pass coverage and run stoppage. Dallas also had a secondary led by future Hall of Famer Mel Renfro and safeties Cliff Harris and Charlie Waters.
The Cowboys earned their second trip to the Super Bowl in three years by defeating the Chicago Bears, 37-7, and the Minnesota Vikings, 23-6, in the playoffs. Their "Doomsday Defense" proved as dominant as ever in those two games, forcing 7 turnovers against Chicago and 4 against the Vikings.
Meanwhile, the Broncos earned their first ever trip to the Super Bowl in team history by defeating the two previous league champions: the Pittsburgh Steelers, 34-21, and the Oakland Raiders, 20-17, in the playoffs. This made Morton the first quarterback to start a Super Bowl game for two different franchises (Kurt Warner was the second with St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals, and Peyton Manning was the third with the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos). Morton is also the only quarterback to have started two different franchises' first Super Bowl appearances.
This was the final Super Bowl in the 14-game schedule era. The following season, the NFL went to a 16-game schedule, where it has remained since.
Super Bowl XII provided an opportunity for Morton to not only beat his former team, but also to redeem himself for his Super Bowl V loss and the loss of his starting job to Staubach. For Staubach, he had a chance to win his second Super Bowl and defeat his old rival, showing that he truly was the better quarterback of the two.
Tony Dorsett became the first football player in history to win an NCAA National Championship one year (with the University of Pittsburgh Panthers) and a Super Bowl the next. Dorsett won both championships in the same building; Pitt clinched the 1976 national championship by defeating the Georgia Bulldogs in the Sugar Bowl on January 1, 1977.
Dallas was the only NFC team to win the Super Bowl in the 1970s (although both Baltimore and Pittsburgh were pre-merger NFL teams). Both Cowboy victories in the decade came in New Orleans against teams making their first Super Bowl appearance.
This was the first Super Bowl between two teams who had met in regular season play. The Cowboys defeated the Broncos 14-6 on the final Sunday of the regular season at Texas Stadium. Both teams' starters saw limited action in that contest, since both squads had already clinched their respective division championships and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Denver was 12-1 and Dallas 11-2 prior to the Dec 18 matchup. It was the first of only two times that two teams have played each other in the Super Bowl after playing on the final weekend of the regular season (the New York Giants and New England Patriots played in the final week of the 2007 regular season and met again in Super Bowl XLII). Under NFL scheduling rules put in place by Commissioner Roger Goodell prior to the 2010 season, the Super Bowl participants will no longer be able to play each other on the final weekend of the regular season, since all games on the final weekend now match division opponents.
This was the first Super Bowl to feature arrow markers every ten yards, beginning at the 10 yard line, to indicate the direction of the nearest goal line. They became mandatory in 1978.
The game, the first Super Bowl to be played in prime time, was broadcast in the United States by CBS with play-by-play announcer Pat Summerall and color commentator Tom Brookshier. The game kicked off at 5:17 p.m. Central Standard Time. Hosting the coverage was The NFL Today hosts Brent Musburger; Irv Cross; Phyllis George (in the last game of her first stint on the NFL Today before leaving to host the short-lived People the following season). Also contributing were Hank Stram (who had recently been fired by the New Orleans Saints); Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder; Sonny Jurgensen (working on CBS Radio coverage); Gary Bender; Paul Hornung; Nick Buoniconti and Jack Whitaker. Buoniconti and Hornung served as sideline reporters; with Hornung doing postgame interviews in the Broncos' locker room; while Bender covered the trophy presentation in the Cowboy locker room.
An interesting aspect was the use of what was called an Electronic Palette graphics system (created by CBS and Ampex) for a painting-like aspect to several visual graphics; such as the game intro, starting lineups and bumpers going into or coming out of a commercial break. CBS would also unveil what was known as the "Action Track"; showing the trail of a football that had been kicked during replays. Also, when the planned lead-in, the Phoenix Open golf tournament was halted due to poor weather, CBS Sports president Robert Wussler (in New York) and producer Barry Frank (at the Superdome) ended up filling the time period with an impromptu look at how the game would be produced.
For the first time in a Super Bowl, someone other than the game's referee tossed the coin. Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Red Grange participated in the coin toss ceremony. Prior to 1976, the official coin toss was held 30 minutes prior to kickoff and was re-enacted three minutes prior to kickoff to inform the television audience and spectators in the stadium of the outcome.
The halftime show was "From Paris to Paris of America" featuring performances by the Apache Band and Apache Belles Drill team from Tyler Junior College, clarinetist Pete Fountain, and trumpeter Al Hirt.
This game was featured in the All in the Family episode "Superbowl Sunday". Archie rented a big screen TV at his bar "Archie's Place" and sold ham sandwiches for $1.50. Later, two crooks (who were incognito throughout the episode) steal from and humiliate the patrons following the end of the game. Also, clips of some of the Cowboys' scoring plays were used to accompany the opening credits of the 1979 TV movie Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. Additional clips of this game also appeared in the NFL's Greatest Games episode Doomsday at the Dome.
Super Bowl XII did not start out well for the Cowboys, as they nearly turned over the ball three times on their first two possessions. On Dallas' first play from scrimmage, receiver Butch Johnson fumbled the handoff on a double reverse, but recovered the ball. Dallas was then forced to punt, and the Broncos advanced to the Cowboys' 33-yard line before quarterback Craig Morton was sacked for an 11-yard loss on third down by Randy White. On the ensuing punt, Cowboys punt returner Tony Hill fumbled the ball at the 1-yard line. Broncos receiver John Schultz actually got his hands on the ball, but Hill managed to recover it. A few plays later, Dallas running back Tony Dorsett fumbled on his own 19-yard line, but center John Fitzgerald made the recovery.
The Broncos' second drive of the game began at their 39-yard line after a clipping penalty on the punt return by Rick Upchurch, then an illegal use of hands pushed them back to the 29. There, Cowboys linemen White and Harvey Martin forced Morton to hurry his throw, and defensive back Randy Hughes intercepted the pass at the Denver 25-yard line. Five plays after the turnover, Dorsett scored on a 3-yard touchdown run, converting a fourth down. On the Broncos' next possession, Morton was intercepted again when his pass was tipped by linebacker Bob Breunig into the arms of defensive back Aaron Kyle, who then returned the ball 19 yards to Denver's 35-yard line. Dallas then drove to the 8-yard line, but Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach was sacked by Lyle Alzado for a 10-yard loss on third down, forcing them to settle for a 35-yard Efren Herrera field goal to increase their lead to 10-0.
In the second quarter, Dallas advanced to Denver's 19-yard line, and once again narrowly avoided a turnover. On third down, Staubach's pass was intercepted in the end zone, but officials ruled that he had stepped out of bounds before he threw the ball. On the next play, Herrera added a 43-yard field goal to increase the Dallas lead to 13-0. The rest of the quarter was filled with sloppy play and turnovers by both teams. On the second play after receiving the ensuing kickoff, Morton was intercepted again, this time by Dallas defensive back Benny Barnes at his own 40-yard line. Denver forced a punt, but the ball hit returner John Schultz on the helmet and was recovered by Bruce Huther of the Cowboys. The Cowboys then drove to the Denver 26-yard line, but Herrera missed wide left from 43 yards out. On the following drive, the Broncos committed another turnover when wide receiver Jack Dolbin fumbled, and Hughes recovered it with a return of 19 yards to the Denver 27-yard line. The Cowboys, however, once again failed to score as Herrera missed a 32-yard field goal attempt. On the first play after the missed field goal, Hughes recovered Denver tight end Riley Odoms's fumble at the Broncos 28-yard line. But on the next play, Dallas gave the ball right back to Denver after Broncos linebacker Tom Jackson recovered tight end Billy Joe DuPree's fumble. 5 plays later, defensive back Mark Washington intercepted another errant Morton pass and returned it 27 yards to Denver's 35-yard line with just 6 seconds left in the period, but Herrera missed yet another field goal attempt, this time from 44 yards out as time expired in the first half.
By halftime, the Cowboys had fumbled five times (losing one) and missed three field goals. However, the Broncos had committed a halftime record 7 turnovers. Morton, who had thrown a total of only 8 interceptions throughout the entire 1977 season, had been picked off 4 times, in addition to 3 fumbles lost.
Denver trailed by only 13 points as the second half began, and on the opening drive of the second half, the Broncos moved the ball deep into Dallas territory. First, John Schultz returned the second half kickoff 25 yards to the 35-yard line, and then Otis Armstrong ripped off an 18-yard gain. Seven plays later, Jim Turner finished the drive with a 47-yard field goal, cutting the score to 13-3. But later in the period, the Cowboys scored another touchdown on a 45-yard pass from Staubach to receiver Butch Johnson, who made a fingertip catch as he fell into the end zone as the Cowboys increased their lead to 20-3. Johnson dropped the ball when he hit the ground, but officials ruled he had scored a touchdown before it came out of his hands.
Denver wide receiver Rick Upchurch returned the ensuing kickoff a Super Bowl-record 67 yards to the Cowboys 26-yard line. On the next play, Morton nearly threw his fifth interception, and was then immediately replaced by former Ole Miss quarterback Norris Weese. Two plays later on fourth down, Jim Jensen's 16-yard run moved the ball to the 1-yard line, and then Rob Lytle scored on a 1-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit to 20-10.
Next, Dallas drove into Denver territory but Staubach was sacked by Tom Jackson and lost the ball, Rubin Carter recovering at the Broncos' 45 early in the fourth quarter. Weese was incomplete on his next three attempts, however, one on a pass to Upchurch in the end zone, and Denver punted.
The Broncos forced a Dallas punt but Weese fumbled the ball while being sacked by Martin, and Kyle recovered it on the Denver 29-yard line. On the next play, the Cowboys scored on a 29-yard halfback option play: Staubach pitched the ball to fullback Robert Newhouse, who ran left and then threw a pass to back-up receiver Golden Richards for a touchdown. The score gave the Cowboys a 27-10 lead and put the game out of reach. Newhouse became the first running back in Super Bowl history to complete a touchdown pass. Most notable about the trick play was that Denver's defense was not fooled by it. Richards was properly covered by defensive back Steve Foley, but was still able to make the catch.
Staubach finished the game with 17 out of 25 pass completions for 183 yards and a touchdown, with no interceptions. Dorsett was the leading rusher of the game, with 66 rushing yards and a touchdown. He also caught 2 passes for 11 receiving yards. In addition to his 29-yard touchdown pass, Newhouse also contributed with 55 rushing yards. Dallas tight end Billy Joe DuPree was the leading receiver of the game with 4 receptions for 66 yards. Hughes had an interception and a Super Bowl record 2 fumble recoveries.
Before being taken out of the game, Denver's starting quarterback Craig Morton completed just 4 out of 15 passes for 39 yards and was intercepted 4 times. His 21-yard completion to Haven Moses on the Broncos' opening drive was the only pass he completed that both resulted in positive yardage and did not end in a turnover. Morton's passer rating for the game was 0.0, the lowest in Super Bowl history. Upchurch recorded 125 total offensive yards (94 on kickoff returns, 22 on punt returns, and 9 receiving yards).
The Cowboys' superb defense played a critical role in the game. White and Martin were named co-Most Valuable Players; this award is usually bestowed on an offensive player. The voters actually wanted to name the entire 11-man starting defensive lineup as co-MVPs, and asked the NFL if this was acceptable. The league said no, and so two players were picked for the award. The unheralded Hughes and Kyle of the Cowboy secondary each had superb games to play an important role in the victory. The two men came up with five turnovers between them, leading directly to 17 of Dallas' points.
The game was the 8th Super Bowl in 10 years in which the winning team scored enough to win before the losing team put up any points on the board. By contrast, this has happened only twice in the last 33 Super Bowls.
In 2015, on the occasion of Super Bowl 50, Slate webpage writer Justin Peters watched all the games over a two-month period. He considered Super Bowl XII to be the worst Super Bowl ever. Morton was a large part of the reason for Peters, who felt the Broncos' quarterback was lucky to have only been intercepted four times in the first half, and a total output that amounted to only one completion for positive yardage that was not followed by an immediate turnover. Nor had the Cowboys impressed him, in large part due to Herrera's missed field goals in the second quarter. "Blowouts can at least be fun to watch sometimes", he concluded. "This game was nothing but pain."
|Dallas Cowboys||Denver Broncos|
|First downs rushing||8||8|
|First downs passing||8||1|
|First downs penalty||1||2|
|Third down efficiency||5/17||1/12|
|Fourth down efficiency||1/1||2/3|
|Net yards rushing||143||121|
|Yards per rush||3.8||4.2|
|Passing - Completions/attempts||19/28||8/25|
|Times sacked-total yards||5-35||4-26|
|Net yards passing||182||35|
|Total net yards||325||156|
|Punt returns-total yards||1-0||4-22|
|Kickoff returns-total yards||3-51||6-173|
|Interceptions-total return yards||4-46||0-0|
|Time of possession||38:38||21:22|
|Billy Joe DuPree||4||66||0||19||5|
1Completions/attempts 2Carries 3Long gain 4Receptions 5Times targeted
The following records were set in Super Bowl XII, according to the official NFL.com boxscore and the ProFootball reference.com game summary.
Some records have to meet NFL minimum number of attempts to be recognized. The minimums are shown (in parenthesis).
|Player Records Set |
|Most passing yards, career||506 yds||Roger Staubach|
|Most touchdown passes, career||5|
percentage, career, (40 attempts)
|Most interceptions thrown, game||4||Craig Morton|
|Most interceptions thrown, career||7|
|Most fumbles, career||4||Roger Staubach|
|Longest kickoff return||67 yds||Rick Upchurch(Den)|
|Most kickoff return yards, game||94 yds|
|Highest kickoff return average, game (3 returns)||31.3 yds (3-94)|
|Most field goals attempted, career||6||Jim Turner(Den)|
|Most fumbles recovered, game||2||Randy Hughes(Dal)
|Most fumbles recovered, career||2||John Fitzgerald(Dal)
|Most field goals attempted, game||5||Efren Herrera(Dal)|
|Most field goals made, career||4||Jim Turner|
|Most 40-plus yard field goals, game||1||Efren Herrera
|Team Records Set |
|Lowest completion percentage
|Fewest yards passing (net)||35 yds|
|Lowest average yards gained
per pass attempt
|Fewest first downs passing||1||Broncos|
|Most fumbles, game||6||Cowboys|
|Most fumbles recovered, game||8|
|Most turnovers, game||8||Broncos|
|Most yards gained, game||173 yds||Broncos|
|Highest average gain,
game (3 returns)
|Most penalties, game||12||Cowboys|
|Most Super Bowl appearances||4||Cowboys|
|Most Super Bowl victories||2|
|Most passing touchdowns||2|
|Most field goals attempted||5|
|Most Interceptions by||4|
|Fewest points, first half||0 pts||Broncos|
|Fewest passing touchdowns||0|
|Most fumbles lost, game||4|
Turnovers are defined as the number of times losing the ball on interceptions and fumbles.
|Records Set, both team totals |
|Most points, third quarter||17 pts||7||10|
|Fewest first downs, passing||9||8||1|
|Most fumbles lost||6||2||4|
|Most yards gained||224 yds||51||173|
|Most penalties, game||20||12||8|
|Most times sacked||9||5||4|
Hall of Fame?
|Butch Johnson||WR||Jack Dolbin|
|Ralph Neely||LT||Andy Maurer|
|Herbert Scott||LG||Tom Glassic|
|John Fitzgerald||C||Mike Montler|
|Tom Rafferty||RG||Paul Howard|
|Pat Donovan||RT||Claudie Minor|
|Billy Joe DuPree||TE||Riley Odoms|
|Drew Pearson||WR||Haven Moses|
|Roger Staubach?||QB||Craig Morton|
|Tony Dorsett?||RB||Otis Armstrong|
|Robert Newhouse||FB||Jon Keyworth|
|Ed Jones||LE||Barney Chavous|
|Jethro Pugh||LT||NT||Rubin Carter|
|Randy White?||RT||RE||Lyle Alzado|
|Harvey Martin||RE||LLB||Bob Swenson|
|Thomas Henderson||LLB||Joe Rizzo|
|Bob Breunig||MLB||RLB||Randy Gradishar|
|D.D. Lewis||RLB||Tom Jackson|
|Benny Barnes||LCB||Louis Wright|
|Aaron Kyle||RCB||Steve Foley|
|Charlie Waters||SS||Bill Thompson|
|Cliff Harris||FS||Bernard Jackson|
Note: A seven-official system was not used until the following season
Jim Tunney was the only referee to work consecutive Super Bowls. The NFL now prohibits referees from working Super Bowls in consecutive seasons (a referee can be an alternate the season following an on-field assignment), although officials at other positions can do so.
This was the first Super Bowl in which all officials had previously called one.
Five of the six officials--all except Veteri--previously worked a Super Bowl in New Orleans. Of those five, only Douglas was not on the crew for Super Bowl VI at Tulane Stadium.