The 1978 Dallas Cowboys season was their 19th in the NFL. For the third consecutive season, the Cowboys finished in first place in the NFC East. The Cowboys scored 384 points, which ranked first in the NFC, while the defense only gave up 208 points. Twice, the Cowboys appeared on Monday Night Football. The club became the first team to appear in five Super Bowls.
The defending Super Bowl champions were again led by quarterback Roger Staubach. Staubach finished the season as the top rated passer in the NFL (84.9) by throwing 231 out of 413 completions for 3,190 yards and 25 touchdowns, with 16 interceptions. He also rushed for 182 yards and another touchdown. Wide receivers Drew Pearson and Tony Hill provided the deep passing threats, combining for 90 receptions, 537 yards, and 7 touchdowns. Tight end Billy Joe Dupree contributed 34 receptions for 509 yards and 9 touchdowns. Running back Tony Dorsett had another fine season, recording a total of 1703 combined rushing and receiving yards, and scoring a total of 9 touchdowns. Fullback Robert Newhouse and halfback Preston Pearson also contributed from the offensive backfield, combining for 1,326 rushing and receiving yards, while Newhouse also scored 10 touchdowns. The Cowboys also had a superb offensive line, led by Herbert Scott and 12-time Pro BowlerRayfield Wright
The Cowboys started the regular season slowly, winning only six of their first ten games. Both the offense and the defense played ineffectively, including giving up interceptions and fumbles. Dallas finished strong, winning their last six regular season games to post a 12–4 record.
In the aftermath of the season, NFL Films produced its annual highlight reel as it does for every NFL team. Notable of the highlight reel was the title, "America's Team". It would come to be a label that would define the Dallas Cowboys for the rest of their history. However, the label is most remembered for the Cowboys of this era, appearing in three Super Bowls in four years and claiming a unique spotlight in the American consciousness.
ATL - Francis 17 pass from Bartkowski (Mazzetti kick) ATL 17-13
ATL - field goal Mazzetti 22 ATL 20-13
DAL - Smith 2 pass from D. White (Septien kick) 20-20
DAL - Laidlaw 1 run (Septien kick) DAL 27-20
Dallas' "Doomsday Defense" limited Atlanta quarterback Steve Bartkowski to only 8 completions in 23 attempts and intercepted him 3 times en route to victory. After the Falcons led 20–13 at halftime, the Cowboys scored 14 unanswered points in the second half.
PIT – TD: Lynn Swann 18 yard pass from Terry Bradshaw (Roy Gerela kick) 35–17 PIT
DAL – TD: Billy Joe DuPree 7 yard pass from Roger Staubach (Rafael Septien kick) 35–24 PIT
DAL – TD: Butch Johnson 4 yard pass from Roger Staubach (Rafael Septien kick) 35–31 PIT
Super Bowl XIII can arguably be called the greatest collection of NFL talent ever to gather for a game. In additions to Coaches Noll and Landry, 14 players would go on to enshrinement in the Hall of Fame: 9 from Pittsburgh (Bradshaw, Harris, Swann, Stallworth, Webster, Greene, Lambert, Ham, and Blount), and 5 from Dallas (Staubach, Dorsett, White, Wright, and Jackie Smith).
Much of the pregame hype surrounding Super Bowl XIII centered around Cowboys linebacker Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson. Henderson caused quite a stir before the NFC Championship Game by claiming that the Rams had "no class" and the Cowboys would shut them out. His prediction turned out to be very accurate; the Cowboys did shut them out, aided by Henderson's 68-yard interception return for a touchdown.
In the days leading up the Super Bowl, Henderson began talking about the Steelers in the same manner. He predicted another shutout and then made unfriendly comments about several Pittsburgh players. He put down the talent and the intelligence of Bradshaw, proclaiming "Bradshaw couldn't spell 'cat' if you spotted him the 'c' and the 'a'". But the Steelers refused to get into a war of words with Henderson. Greene responded by saying the Steelers didn't need to say they were the best, they would just go out on the field and "get the job done".
Awards and records
Led NFL in Sacks
Led NFL, Fewest Rushing Yards Allowed (1,721)
Led NFL, Most Rushing Yards (2,783)
Led NFL, Points Scored (384)
Roger Staubach, NFL Passing Leader
Roger Staubach, NFC Leader, Touchdown Passes (25)
Tony Dorsett, Second Consecutve 1,000 Yard Rushing Season, (Finished season with 1,325 yards, third in NFL)
↑ NFL 2001 Record and Fact Book, Workman Publishing Co, New York,NY, ISBN 0-7611-2480-2, p. 295