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SUPER BOWL XXVII : Right Place, Right Time : Cowboys' Jones Makes No Tackles, but Scores Touchdown


Dallas Cowboy defensive lineman Jimmie Jones didn't record a single tackle Sunday. Not even an assist. He didn't share in any of his team's four sacks. For that matter, he didn't even start.

But guess who left the Rose Bowl with two Super Bowl footballs that will soon bear his name? Guess who recovered two fumbles? Guess whose improbable touchdown run, all two yards of it, gave the Cowboys their first lead and at the same time, gave the Buffalo Bills their first real taste of a defense with something to prove?

"Man, he was unconscious ," said Cowboy defensive tackle Russell Maryland, whom Jones backed up at the University of Miami and again in Dallas. "He was in that zone. He did everything."

Maryland, taking a rare breather at the time, was on the sidelines when Jones introduced himself to America. With the ball on the Bills' 10-yard line and 10 yards to go for a first down, Jones noticed the Buffalo offensive linemen leaning back in their stances.

Jones, no dummy, knew what was coming next: a pass play.

In a moment's time, he swept past the lone Bill lineman assigned to block him. As he made his way toward Buffalo quarterback Jim Kelly, Cowboy defensive end Charles Haley appeared from the left side. Haley hit Kelly, the ball popped up and Jones did the rest, plucking it from the air and then strutting two yards for his first touchdown since he played tight end as a junior at Okeechobee (Fla.) High School.

"He was lucky he didn't have to run, as slow as he is," said Maryland.

Who needs speed when you have exquisite timing? Considering the situation--the blowout-to-be was tied at the time, 7-7--Jones' play was arguably one of the key moments in the game. Buffalo never recovered from the turnover and instead found itself falling behind first by seven points and ultimately by 35.

"Hey, most guys can't believe I'm that quick," said Jones, who wasted little time placing a baseball cap on his head that read, "Super Bowl Champions."

So unlikely was Jones' touchdown that Kelly returned to the Buffalo sideline after the forced fumble, stared at the Rose Bowl big screen as the run was replayed and then turned away, shaking his head in disbelief the whole time. By game's end, Jones, the second-team defensive lineman, would have one more touchdown than Kelly, the Pro Bowl quarterback who was forced out of the lineup by a sprained knee midway through the second quarter.

It was just as well. The Cowboys couldn't be stopped. Nor could Jones, who certainly didn't play as if he were an understudy to Maryland and the other Dallas defensive tackle, Tony Casillas.

"I visualized all week about making an interception," said Jones, not realizing that the ball had been ruled a fumble rather than an errant pass attempt. "I just visualized the run being longer."

Two yards would do just fine. In fact, it was after Jones' run that the Cowboys started telling each other that the game was theirs for the taking. Just to make sure, Jones recovered a second Buffalo fumble late in the second quarter and deep in Buffalo territory. One play later--the time it took Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman to find wide receiver Michael Irvin for a 19-yard touchdown pass--the Cowboys had a 28-10 lead.

Talk of Super Bowl ring sizings would come soon thereafter.

Even the ultra-intense Haley, who walks to the beat of his own very personal percussion section, approached Jones during the halftime break. The words of praise won't soon be forgotten by the third-year player from Miami.

"(Haley) said: 'Keep it up. Man, you took it to another level,' " recalled Jones with pride.

Added Maryland: "I was jealous. I wish I would have gotten me a touchdown."

The newest Cowboy scoring threat wasn't shy about giving advice to teammates about proper touchdown techniques. His lecture series began and ended with Dallas defensive lineman Leon Lett's failed attempt to score after returning a Buffalo fumble 64 yards. Just before crossing the goal line, Lett held the ball out, only to have it stripped away by a Bill wide receiver, Don Beebe.

"Don't try to celebrate until you get in the end zone," said Jones, who now knows all about proper celebration etiquette.

Jones has had moments like this in games past, but never often enough to satisfy the Cowboy coaching staff. He earned two national championship rings with the Hurricanes, but found himself stuck behind the likes of Cortez Kennedy and Maryland. And after his arrival in Dallas as a third-round draft selection in 1990, he established a reputation as an inconsistent player capable of the amazing and ordinary in a single game.

This season was no different. He played well against Washington in the season opener on Monday night, but was unable to duplicate the performance as the year wore on. Then he hurt his back in a loss against the Rams and that was that. Jones' playing time decreased, and rightly so.

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