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January 15, 1978 • Louisiana Superdome • New Orleans, Louisiana • CBS • 5:17 p.m. CST
(1) Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl XII (1) Denver Broncos
NFL-NFC-DAL-Cowboys helmet.png 27
Team 1 2 3 4 Totals
Cowboys 10 3 7 7 27
Broncos 0 0 10 0 10
Denver Broncos 1976-1996 Orange Crush Helmet Right Face.png 10

Super Bowl XII
Super Bowl XII logo.png
1 2 3 4 Total
DAL 10 3 7 7 27
DEN 0 0 10 0 10
Date January 15, 1978
Stadium Louisiana Superdome
City New Orleans, Louisiana
MVP Randy White, Defensive tackle; and Harvey Martin, Defensive end
Favorite Cowboys by 6
National anthem Phyllis Kelly of Northeast Louisiana State University
Coin toss Red Grange
Referee Jim Tunney
Halftime show "From Paris to the Paris of America" with the Tyler Junior College Apache Belles, Pete Fountain, and Al Hirt
Attendance 76,400
TV in the United States
Network CBS
Announcers Pat Summerall and Tom Brookshier
Nielsen Ratings 47.2
(est. 78.94 million viewers)[1]
Market share 67
Cost of 30-second commercial $162,000
Super Bowl XII Program
Super Bowl XII Program.jpeg
 < XI Super Bowl XIII > 

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 and to decide the National Football League (NFL) champion for the 1977 season. The Cowboys defeated the Broncos by the score of 27–10 to win their second Super Bowl. The game was played on January 15, 1978, at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. This was the first time that the Super Bowl was played inside a domed stadium, and the first time that the game was played in prime time.

The game pitted the Cowboys' current quarterback, Roger Staubach, against their former quarterback, Craig Morton. Led by Staubach and the Doomsday Defense, Dallas advanced to their second Super Bowl after posting a 12-2 record 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 defensive team dominated most of Super Bowl XII, forcing 8 turnovers and allowing only 8 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 their lead, 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 in half, 20-10, after an ineffective Morton was replaced by Norris Weese late in the third period, but the Cowboys pulled the game out of reach in the fourth when fullback Robert Newhouse threw a 29-yard touchdown pass on a halfback option play.

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 as the Super Bowl MVP.


Staubach v. Morton

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. After Staubach joined the Cowboys in 1969 after spending 4 years of service in the United States Navy, however, 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. He is the first quarterback to start a Super Bowl game for two different franchises (Kurt Warner being the second with St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals). 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, essentially assuring him the starting spot in the future. Morton was relegated to backup status until he left the team in 1974 to join the New York Giants.

Morton and the Broncos Orange Crush Defense

After spending three years with the Giants, Morton became the starting quarterback for the Broncos and helped Denver to a 12-2 regular season record. He did not tally a large amount 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 Billy Thompson (who recorded 5 interceptions) and Louis Wright (who had 3 interceptions).

Staubach and the Cowboys' "Doomsday Defense"

With Staubach and his team's "Doomsday Defense", the Cowboys won the NFC East with a 12-2 regular season record.

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 20 sacks), Jethro Pugh, Ed "Too Tall" Jones and Randy White. Behind them, the Cowboys had a trio of linebackers, Thomas "Hollywood" 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.


For more details on this topic, see 1977-78 NFL playoffs.

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. 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 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 pregame news and notes

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 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 NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell prior to the 2010 season, the Super Bowl participants will not 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.

Television and entertainment

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.

The pregame festivities featured the Southern University Band along with the cheerleaders of both teams. Later, Phyllis Kelly of Northeast Louisiana State University sang the national anthem.

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.

This was the first Super Bowl to display arrows every 10 yards on the field of play to indicate the direction of the nearest goal line.

The halftime show was "From Paris to Paris of America" featuring performances by the Apache Belles Drill team from Tyler Junior College, clarinetist Pete Fountain, and trumpeter Al Hirt.

Game summary

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. On the ensuing punt, Cowboys punt returner Tony Hill fumbled the ball at the 1-yard line, but managed to fall on the ball before any Denver players recovered it. A few plays later, Dallas running back Tony Dorsett fumbled on his own 19-yard line, but center John Fitzgerald quickly recovered the ball.

On the Broncos' second drive of the game, Cowboys linemen Randy White and Harvey Martin forced Morton to hurry his throw, and defensive back Randy Hughes intercepted the rushed pass at the Broncos 25-yard line. 5 plays after the turnover, Dorsett scored on a 3-yard touchdown run. 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 barely 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. The Cowboys then drove to the Denver 26-yard line, but Herrera missed wide left from 43 yards out. The Broncos then committed another turnover when wide receiver Jack Dolbin fumbled, and Hughes picked it up and returned it 19 yards to the Denver 27-yard line. However, the Cowboys 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 Broncos had committed 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. Yet 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. The receiver dropped the ball when he hit the ground, but the officials ruled he had caught the ball for a touchdown before it came out of his hands, and the Cowboys increased their lead to 20-3.

Denver kick returner 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, a native of New Orleans suburb Chalmette. Two plays later on fourth down, Jim Jenson'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.

Midway through the fourth quarter, 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 as if it were a normal run play, but then Newhouse passed the ball to Cowboys 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.

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. Upchurch recorded 125 total offensive yards (94 on kickoff returns, 22 on punt returns, and 9 receiving yards).

The Cowboy's 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.

Box score

1 2 3 4 Total
Cowboys 10 3 7 7 27
Broncos 0 0 10 0 10

  • Stadium: Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Date: January 15, 1978
  • Time: 5:17 p.m. Central Time Zone (CST)
  • Weather: Played indoors, domed stadium
  • Scoring:

First Quarter

  • DAL - TD: Tony Dorsett 3 yard run (Efren Herrera kick) 7-0 DAL
  • DAL - FG: Efren Herrera 35 yards 10-0 DAL

Second Quarter

  • DAL - FG: Efren Herrera 43 yards 13-0 DAL

Third Quarter

  • DEN - FG: Jim Turner 47 yards 13-3 DAL
  • DAL - TD: Butch Johnson 45 yard pass from Roger Staubach (Efren Herrera kick) 20-3 DAL
  • DEN - TD: Rob Lytle 1 yard run (Jim Turner kick) 20-10 DAL

Fourth Quarter

  • DAL - TD: Golden Richards 29 yard pass from Robert Newhouse (Efren Herrera kick) 27-10 DAL

Starting lineups

Dallas Position Denver
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 LDT/NT Rubin Carter
Randy White RDT/RE Lyle Alzado
Harvey Martin RE/LOLB Bob Swenson
Thomas Henderson LOLB/ILB Joe Rizzo
Bob Breunig MLB/ILB Randy Gradishar
D.D. Lewis ROLB Tom Jackson
Benny Barnes LCB Louis Wright
Aaron Kyle RCB Steve Foley
Charlie Waters SS Billy Thompson
Cliff Harris FS Bernard Jackson


  • Referee: Jim Tunney #32
  • Umpire: Joe Connell #57
  • Head Linesman: Tony Veteri #36
  • Line Judge: Art Holst #33
  • Field Judge: Bob Wortman #84
  • Back Judge: Ray Douglas #5

Note: A seven-official system was not used until the following season


 2006 NFL Record and Fact Book,. Time Inc. Home Entertainment.  ISBN 1-933405-32-5.
 Total Football II: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League,. Harper Collins.  ISBN 1-933405-32-5.
 The Official NFL Encyclopedia Pro Football,. NAL Books.  ISBN 0-453-00431-8.
 The Sporting News Complete Super Bowl Book 1995,.  ISBN 0-89204-523-X.
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