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Super Bowl XII: Butch Johnson's aerial gem

Butch Johnson and his bandaged right thumb go for the TD reception that gave Dallas a 20-3 lead.

Wireimage (1978)\uFEFF

Butch Johnson and his bandaged right thumb go for the TD reception that gave Dallas a 20-3 lead.

With the Tampa Bay area hosting the Super Bowl in 2009, we picked 25 memorable moments from past games and asked you to rank them. After more than 1,000 votes, we are counting down to the Feb. 1 game with a weekly look at your picks. See slide shows of the nominees, narrated by legendary announcer Pat Summerall, at superbowlvote.tampabay.com

THE RESULT: Dallas Cowboys 27, Denver Broncos 10

THE DATE: Jan. 15, 1978

THE PLACE: Superdome, New Orleans

THE SITUATION: Dallas took command early, building a 13-0 lead by halftime on a 3-yard Tony Dorsett touchdown run and a pair of Efren Herrera field goals, which partially made up for the three he had missed. The Broncos were lucky to be in the game at all. They had lost three fumbles, and Craig Morton, a former Cowboys quarterback, was picked off four times by halftime. Denver showed signs of life early in the third quarter when Morton drove it to the Dallas 30, setting up a 47-yard Jim Turner field goal. But Denver's hopes for a comeback were quickly shattered by the man with the broken thumb, Dallas wide receiver Butch Johnson.

THE TURNING POINT: Facing third and 10 at the Denver 45, Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach improvised in the huddle. He had noticed that free safety Bernard Jackson had not been dropping back into deep zone coverage, instead hovering in the middle. Staubach told Johnson, who had injured his thumb while blocking in the second quarter, to run a post pattern to exploit the opening.

THE MOMENT: Johnson took off and went airborne horizontally at the goal line, making a sensational catch despite a wrap around his right thumb. After he hit the end-zone turf, the ball came loose. Denver insisted the pass was incomplete. But officials signaled touchdown; the ruling by referee Jim Tunney was that Johnson had broken the plane of the goal line in flight, then released the ball after hitting the ground. With that, Dallas increased its lead to 20-3 lead with 6:59 left in the quarter.

QUOTABLE: Offensive coordinator Dan Reeves on Johnson: "As a pass-catcher, Butch has better concentration than any receiver I've ever seen."

Dave Scheiber, Times staff writer

Super Bowl XII: Butch Johnson's aerial gem 09/12/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 16, 2008 2:33pm]
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