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Super Bowl XII: Orange Crush D unable to overcome eight turnovers in loss to Dallas

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It was not a pretty sight for Denver fans, but it shouldn’t take away from the 12-2 season that legendary defense had.

Super Bowl XII - Dallas Cowboys v Denver Broncos

It’s Super Bowl Week!

For two teams and their fans, that means serious preparation, surviving the media onslaught, and staying out of trouble until the coin flip on Sunday.

For the rest of us (well, unless you’re a Jags, Texans, Lions or Browns fan), it’s all about Super Bowl memories - reliving the past to get through the present and look forward to the (hopefully near) future.

The Broncos - having made the trip to the big game eight times in franchise history - are certainly not the winningest team when it comes to the Super Bowl.

That claim belongs to the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2), who could soon be joined by the New England Patriots (5-4) after this weekend. The Dallas Cowboys (5–3) and the San Francisco 49ers (5–1) are close behind with five Super Bowl wins.

While the Broncos own an NFL-record five losses in the Super Bowl, I doubt there’s a fan out there who would trade those losses - even blowouts - for a losing season (looking at you, Kansas City).

Orange Crush holds Cowboys to 27 points despite eight turnovers

So, this week as we feign support for the Philadelphia Eagles, let’s reminisce our own storied relationship with the world championship game - beginning, of course, with the 1977-78 season and Super Bowl XII.

The good

For the young’ns in the community, this game is monumental for two main reasons - the first, of course, because it was the Broncos’ inaugural appearance in the Super Bowl.

But more importantly, because Super Bowl XII featured the legendary Orange Crush defense behind architect Joe Collier and such greats as Randy Gradishar, Tom Jackson, Louis Wright, Steve Foley, Lyle Alzado, Bob Swenson, Joe Rizzo, Rubin Carter, and Barney Chavous.

The Broncos, led by former Cowboys’ quarterback Craig Morton, were outmatched by a more experienced Dallas team, but it was really the eight turnovers highlighting the season finale that kept the Broncos out of the game as the D did its best to neutralize future Hall-of-Famer Roger Staubach.

The bad

The Cowboys’ “Doomsday Defense” forced four interceptions and four fumbles and held the Broncos’ offense to just 156 yards all day.

Denver trailed by only 13 points as the second half began and threatened to make a game of it. Denver returner, John Schultz, took the second half kickoff 25 yards to the 35-yard line, and then Otis Armstrong ripped off an 18-yard gain. Seven plays later, Ring of Fame kicker Jim Turner finished the drive with a 47-yard field goal, cutting the Tom Landry’s Cowboys lead to just 10 points, 13–3.

But Dallas responded with a 45-yard touchdown play from Staubach to Butch Johnson, who made the diving catch in the end zone. Although Johnson dropped the ball when he hit the ground, officials maintained he scored before the ball came out of his hands.

Denver wide receiver and return specialist Rick Upchurch returned the ensuing kickoff for a Super Bowl-record 67 yards, only to have his quarterback almost throw a fifth interception on the next play.

Morton was replaced by Norris Weese and two plays later, Jim Jensen pulled out a 16-yard run on fourth down to get the ball to the one-yard line before Rob Lytle scored on a 1-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit to 20–10.

Tom Jackson strip-sacked Staubach on the following drive and Rubin Carter recovered at the Broncos’ 45. But Weese threw three incompletions in a row, including one on a pass to Upchurch in the end zone, so Denver punted.

The ugly

The Broncos forced a Dallas punt on the next drive, but Weese fumbled the ball while being sacked, and the Cowboys recovered it on the Denver 29-yard line.

The Cowboys put the game out of reach on the next play when fullback Robert Newhouse threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Golden Richards.

All in all, it was a dismal performance by the Broncos in their first Super Bowl, but it was not without its Orange Crush highlights and certainly didn’t diminish the season that had led to the appearance in the team’s first world championship - namely beating the juggernauts of the AFC to get there, the Steelers (34-21) and the Raiders (20-17).

What’s most important about this Super Bowl is that it sent a signal to the rest of the football world that the Denver Broncos, the perennial laughingstock of the NFL, were a joke no longer. It signaled that Denver was no longer an easy win on the schedule, that the Broncos were going to be contenders year-in and year-out in the NFL from now on.

Poll

Was the Butch Johnson TD a "catch?"

This poll is closed

  • 34%
    By today’s standards, no way.
    (89 votes)
  • 29%
    Back then, sure.
    (75 votes)
  • 35%
    Nope, never.
    (92 votes)
256 votes total Vote Now