1995 Review: Second-Half Interceptions Help Cowboys to a 5th Title

Larry Brown picked off two passes to help the Cowboys to a 27-17 win in Super Bowl XXX.

For the first third of Super Bowl XXX, it looked as if the Cowboys would easily run away with their fifth title. The Dallas offense had little trouble moving the ball and jumped out to a 13-0 lead by the second quarter. The lead would have been 17-0 had Michael Irvin not been flagged for offensive pass interference on what was otherwise a 24-yard touchdown. But when Pittsburgh finally manged to stop Dallas and get the ball back with 3:52 left in the first half, the Cowboys’ dominance evaporated. Neil O’Donnell’s six-yard pass to Yancey Thigpen with 13 seconds left in the half closed the gap to 13-7.

Until the NFC Championship Game, when he picked of Brett Favre, Larry Brown was mostly known as the weaker of the starting cornerbacks on the team. This was true whether he was playing opposite Kevin Smith or Deion Sanders. Many forget that Brown had picked off a pass in Super Bowl XXVII, and in 1995 he had a career high six interceptions plus another in the NFC Championship Game. However, most tended to remember Brown for being torched by Jerry Rice in the NFC Championship Game in 1994.

Midway through the third quarter, he made the first of the two biggest plays of his career. O’Donnell attempted a pass that sailed over everyone and ended up in Brown’s hands. Brown returned the ball to the Dallas 18. A pass from Troy Aikman to Michael Irvin moved the ball to the Dallas 1,  and Emmitt Smith was able to score on the next play to increase the Dallas led to 20-7.

Pitttsburgh, of course, didn’t give up. A Norm Johnson field goal cut the Dallas lead to 20-10, and Bill Cowher followed that by calling for an onside kick attempt that was successful. The Steelers scored on their next drive to bring the score to 20-17. Dallas then could not move the ball and had to punt it back to Pittsburgh with 4:14 remaining.

As he did on his previous interception, O’Donnell looked to his right on a second down pass. Once again, Brown stepped in front of the pass without a receiver near the ball. Brown moved the ball inside the 10, and Smith’s second touchdown sealed the win for the Cowboys.

Pittsburgh had 310 yards to the Cowboys’ 254, but the three turnovers killed the Steelers’ chances. Unlike James Washington, who had saved Super Bowl XXVIII, no offensive player outshined Brown, and he won the MVP award.