Cowboys get third title in 4 years behind Brown's 2 interceptions

By Monty Phan
Arizona Daily Wildcat
January 29, 1996

TEMPE - As singer Diana Ross waited onstage during the Super Bowl XXX halftime show last night, a helicopter descended into Sun Devil Stadium, picking her up and taking her away.

Unfortunately for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Larry Brown wasn't on it.

Brown's two second-half interceptions both led to Emmitt Smith touchdowns, helping Dallas secure a 27-17 victory in front of 76,347 at Sun Devil Stadium, the team's fifth title and third in the last four years. The Cowboys tied the San Francisco 49ers for most Super Bowl victories.

Brown earned Most Valuable Player for his efforts, becoming the first defensive player since Richard Dent in Super Bowl XX to win the honor. He is the sixth defensive player to win it overall.

With Dallas holding a 20-17 lead and 4:15 left in the game, the Steelers took over the ball at their own 32-yard line. On second-and-10, quarterback Neil O'Donnell threw to his right to receiver Corey Holliday, but Brown stepped in front of it and returned it 33 yards to the 6. Two plays later, Smith took it over right tackle for 4 yards and the score, sealing the win.

"The second one, I had to go get it," Brown said. "I made a great break on the ball. The slant was coming and I beat the receiver to it. I tried to get it in (the end zone) but they ran me down."

In the third quarter with Dallas up 13-7, Pittsburgh started at its own 36 and was in Cowboy territory at the 48. In shotgun at third-and-9, O'Donnell threw it to the outside, but Brown grabbed it and ran 44 yards down the sideline, knocked out of bounds at the Steeler 18. Smith took it in from the 1 two plays later for a 20-7 Dallas lead.

The award was satisfying to Brown, whose 2-month-old son Kristopher died during the season.

"It was rough, but with the team and the players and the way they supported me through all the hard times, I've just got to give them credit," said Brown, whose 77 interception-return yards set a Super Bowl record.

Down 13 points, the Steelers took over at their own 15. They drove 32 yards to the 47, but the Dallas defense stopped running back Bam Morris three straight times for no gain, including a fourth-and-2 play.

"It was probably a gutsy call, but I told our guys that we were coming here to win, not to lose," Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher said. "I had a lot of confidence in our defense at the time."

After forcing the Cowboys into three-and-out, Pittsburgh started its biggest run of the game. Following the first interception, O'Donnell completed 14 of his next 15 pass attempts. The Steelers drove from their own 20 to the Dallas 28, where Norm Johnson booted a 46-yard field goal.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Steelers Deon Figures recovered Johnson's onside kick at the Pittsburgh 48. O'Donnell was 5-for-5 for 42 yards on the drive, which was capped by Morris' 1-yard touchdown run. Suddenly, the score was 20-17 and the Steelers were back in it. However, that was as close as they would get.

"I was kidding about doing it on the opening kickoff," Cowher said. "On the fourth down calls, I would do it again."

After Pittsburgh kicked off the conventional way to open the game, Dallas needed just 2:55 to get on the board, doing so on a 42-yard Chris Boniol field goal.

The Steelers managed just 9 yards on their first drive, going three-and-out and punting to the Cowboys. Dallas drove to their own 39, where quarterback Troy Aikman found Deion Sanders in single coverage for 47 yards to the Steelers 14. On first-and-goal from the 3, Jay Novacek caught a touchdown pass from Aikman, who was 15 for 23 for 209 yards and no interceptions.

"I didn't even get to touch the trophy last year," said Sanders, who was on the 49ers' winning team a year ago. "I may sleep with it tonight. I may make love to it."

After a 35-yard Boniol field goal gave the Cowboys a 13-0 lead, Pittsburgh got things going. Facing a third-and-20 at the Steeler 36, O'Donnell drilled one to Hastings for 19 yards. The Steelers succeeded on fourth-and-1 at the Cowboy 45 and converted a third-and-13 to the 6. O'Donnell then found Yancey Thigpen in the end zone for the 13-7 halftime score.

"Had we not won, there would've been enough criticism for everybody," Aikman said. "I don't even want to think about having to have gone through that. We're very thankful we played well enough to win the ballgame."