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SUPER BOWL XXVII : Wannstedt Will Start Out as a Big Winner : Cowboys: Dallas gives defensive coordinator sweet memories before he leaves to coach the Bears.

February 01, 1993|MIKE KUPPER | TIMES ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR

If the Chicago Bears play defense for Dave Wannstedt the way the Dallas Cowboys played it for him Sunday in the Super Bowl, folks might soon start calling the NFC Central the "Black and Blue Division" again.

In their last game for Wannstedt as the Cowboys' defensive coordinator--he's off to Chicago as head coach--the Dallas defense gave him a game to remember. The Cowboy defenders were opportunistic--four interceptions and five fumble recoveries indicate how opportunistic--and pig-iron tough, a combination lethal to the Buffalo Bills' hopes of shedding the reputation of Super Bowl losers.

In the 52-17 exercise that unfolded at the Rose Bowl, the Bills might consider themselves lucky to have scored those 17.

Not that Wannstedt was expecting that sort of thing.

"Obviously, they're a talented offense," he said of Jim Kelly, Frank Reich, Thurman Thomas and the rest of the Bills, whose reputation has been built largely on their ability to put points on the board. "We were going to try to slow them down, but the turnovers made the difference. When you stop a couple of drives with turnovers, that makes all the difference."

Just so for the Cowboys. After falling behind early, 7-0, they used an interception, James Washington's, to put themselves in position to get back to even, then they used a fumble recovery, Jimmie Jones', to go ahead to stay.

And when, at the start of the second quarter, the Bills had first and goal at the Dallas four, the Cowboys denied them the end zone three times on running plays--twice thwarting them from the one-yard line, then making Buffalo Coach Marv Levy's go-for-it strategy look more gutsy than wise when Thomas Everett came up with still another interception, on fourth down.

If there is such a thing as a turning point in a 52-17 game, that might have been one, for never again did Buffalo's offense have that we-can-do-it look of confidence.

And on that key fourth-down play, Wannstedt called one defense, then changed his mind.

"We were going to go with the goal-line defense, but then we went back to the standard (alignment)," he said. "We took out two linemen and put in an extra linebacker and an extra defensive back. I thought that would give us a better chance to stop whatever they called, a run or a pass."

And, he said, Buffalo's no-huddle offense was not the problem he thought it might have been.

"Substitutions were a major concern early in the game but as the game went on, we were able to get some guys in," he said. "In the end, our quickness, endurance and, I think, our youth showed up. We got the feel as the game went on that they wanted to run (Kenneth) Davis and throw the screens to Thurman Thomas and we adjusted. The only time we were tired was at the end of he game.

"With all of the quote, distractions (the Chicago job), this week, this is so rewarding. I feel good about my commitment to the Dallas Cowboys and I feel good about Dallas' commitment to me. Right now, I'm excited but tired. It's been a long month. I need a few days to rejuvenate in Dallas, then it's off to Chicago, back to business."

Wannstedt said he had not spoken with his players last week about anything other than playing defense against the Bills.

"The only time I talked to the guys (about the Bears' job) was the day I got back from Chicago (Jan. 19). I thanked them, told them how appreciative I was. And I probably kept our (defensive) meeting shorter than usual this morning just for the reason that I didn't want to get into it.

"There's a lot of strong feelings for these guys and you don't ever lose those feelings, you take them with you."

And in going to another NFC team, Wannstedt apparently realizes what a job he has ahead of him.

"I think, as young as they are, the Dallas Cowboys are going to be on top for a long, long time," he said. "We talk about talent gets you to the top and character keeps you there. This team has got character.

"I'm happy for the Cowboys, and I'm excited about Chicago."

And if the Bears play defense for Wannstedt the way the Cowboys played it for him Sunday, Chicago is going to be pretty excited about him, too.

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