Throwback Thursday: Butch Johnson’s Super Bowl XII catch

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Most of you are familiar with social media’s designated day to celebrate nostalgia: Throwback Thursday. We wanted to take part in that celebration, and what better way to do so than to look back on some of the memories that have made the Dallas Cowboys the most prestigious franchise in the National Football League?

It is in that spirit that we throw it back to New Orleans, Louisiana, on January 15th, 1978.

Anyone who listens to our weekly radio show CowboysCast knows I start every full episode the same way: “It’s been xxx number of days since Dez Bryant caught the ball at Lambeau Field.” Bryant’s controversial catch occurred just four days from the 37-year anniversary of Butch Johnson’s momentum-securing haul in Super Bowl XII.

The Cowboys led the Broncos 13-3 midway through the third quarter. Dallas had missed three field goals in the second quarter, fumbled away another possession, and had an illegal procedure penalty on Denver’s opening possession of the second half that kept a scoring drive alive.

While Dallas had been sloppy since the first quarter, the Broncos hadn’t played much cleaner. But Denver felt fortunate to be in the ball game at all. A 10-point deficit was hardly the end of the world, and the Orange Crush Defense was consistently getting in the Cowboys backfield.

Facing 3rd and 10 from the Denver 45 yard line, Roger Staubach stood in the shotgun and had to be expecting the Broncos to blitz. Instead, Denver opted to send eight into coverage and only rush their three down linemen. With time to load up and look downfield, Staubach fired a beauty to an outstretched Johnson, who hauled it in and fell across the goal line.

But wait! The ball came loose as he tumbled to the ground. That’s an incomplete pass, right? It should be 4th and 10, with Denver gearing up for a drive to pull within a field goal, right? Wrong. The officials ruled it a touchdown, as the definition of a catch at the time was, “[holding] the ball long enough to give him such control as to enable him to perform any act common to the game.”

It’s a double-edged sword, of course. If we’re being honest, Johnson’s catch doesn’t feel like a catch at all. Yet it played a large part in Dallas’ second Super Bowl title. Bryant’s play in Green Bay, on the other hand, feels much more like a catch than Johnson’s tumbling bobble.

Who knows how history changes if Dallas is forced to punt in Super Bowl XII, and if the Cowboys are granted first and goal from the 1 in the 2015 NFC Divisional game. It’s probably best not to tempt fate, and just play with the cards you were dealt.

Even still, it’s hard not to wonder…what if?

You can watch all of Super Bowl XII thanks to YouTube and the NFLhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ES28KSI0Cs

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