Super Bowl X Memories: Larry Cole’s Knockout Blow
For someone who played during the golden era of America’s golden franchise, tallying 60 sacks and playing in 26 playoff games along the way, it’s always been somewhat of an oddity to find the name of Larry Cole among the easily forgotten. Playing behind and around the likes of Bob Lilly, Randy White, George Andrie, and Harvey Martin along the Dallas defensive line, Cole seemed unable to ever make much of an impression on his fans, his opponent, or any other dull-headed couch potato at home. Larry Cole might have been King Cole for all anyone knew.
But the spotlight that had long eluded him finally centered upon Cole in the latter stages of Super Bowl X, when he introduced himself to Terry Bradshaw in such a way that the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback would never forget. It was Cole’s blindside hit that knocked Bradshaw from the game, and influenced a near-comeback of miraculous proportions for the Dallas Cowboys.
With just over three minutes remaining, the Steelers faced a third-and-five from their own 36-yard line while trying to protect a 15-10 lead. The Cowboys brought a blitz, but it was the nimble feet of Bradshaw that allowed him to avoid the sack of D.D. Lewis, move up in the pocket, and fling a bomb for wide receiver Lynn Swann far, far downfield. Just moments before the scoreboard lit up as a result of Swann’s touchdown catch, Bradshaw got lit up by a devastating smack from a crashing Cole, knocking the quarterback down, and ultimately out of the game.
While many of his teammates celebrated at the other end of the stadium, Bradshaw had to be helped to the bench area, his head woozy, his ears still ringing from the helmet-to-helmet confrontation with Cole. He never saw the touchdown. But Cole did, and walked off the shadowed playing surface a picture of devastation as the Cowboys found themselves trailing by 11 points with 3:02 left.
But Cole’s efforts were not wasted. The Dallas offense staged a rally, with Roger Staubach finding Percy Howard down the left sideline for a 34-yard touchdown that made the score 21-17. And after failed onside kick, the Dallas defense needed a quick stop to give Staubach and Co. one more chance.
Their job was made easier by the presence of backup quarterback Terry Hanratty, who was filling in for the woozy Bradshaw. With Hanratty on the field, the defense was far less concerned about a surprise pass, so felt confident in loading the box to defend the run.
Any thoughts the Steelers might have had about letting Hanratty fling one might have been extinguished on first-down, when Franco Harris was taken down by Charlie Waters after losing two yards. With his offense backed up, Chuck Noll opted to stay conservative on the ground, forcing Dallas to use all three of their timeouts.
Even on fourth-down and nine-yards to go, Noll refused to go to the air, choosing for one more handoff to Bleier before giving the ball back to Dallas.
The Cowboys reclaimed possession at their own 38-yard line with 1:22. Thanks to their defense and thanks to Cole, whose hit left the Steelers shorthanded in their efforts to put the game on ice.