On this date (November 16) in 1970, before a Cotton Bowl crowd of 69,323 and a nationwide audience watching Monday Night Football on ABC, the Cardinals beat the Dallas Cowboys, 38-0.
It was the third consecutive shutout for the Big Red—they had blanked the Houston Oilers, 44-0, and the Boston Patriots, 31-0, in their previous two games—who became the first NFL team to shut out three opponents in a row since the 1935 New York Giants. The victory improved their record to 7-2 and kept them in first place in the NFC East Division.
For the Cowboys, who fell to 5-4, it was the first time in their 11-year history (147 games) that they were whitewashed.
Running back Johnny Roland and cornerback Roger Wehrli, a pair of University of Missouri products, were the Cardinals’ linchpins that night.
Roland returned a first-quarter punt 74 yards for a touchdown and rushed for two more TDs (10 and 3 yards) in the fourth quarter.
Recalling his punt return, Roland, 79, said recently, “(Punter Ron Widby) kicked a low line drive and I was able to field the ball clean. I didn’t have Mel Gray-type speed, but for a big guy I was able to move pretty good.”
Wehrli, playing in only his second NFL season, intercepted two passes, broke up five others, and made three unassisted tackles. The A.P. selected him as the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Week.
“It was one of the first big games I had as a Cardinal,” Wehrli, who will turn 75 on November 26, said in a recent interview. Wehrli still has a VHS tape of the game with announcers Don Meredith and Howard Cosell.
“At the end of the game, Meredith is just kind of blabbering all over himself and doesn’t know what to say,” Wehrli said. “Howard Cosell says, ‘Johnny Roland and Roger WEHR-li. From Miss-OURI. The Dallas Cowboys might need to go to Missouri to find some players.’ ”
The Cardinals had 392 yards in offense, including 242 yards rushing. In addition to Roland’s three touchdowns, wide receiver John Gilliam scored on a 48-yard reverse, running back Roy Shivers ran 29 yards for a TD, and Jim Bakken kicked a 31-yard field goal.
The Big Red defense limited the Cowboys to 243 yards of offense. The Cardinals forced six turnovers, including interceptions by linebacker Larry Stallings and cornerback Nate Wright, and held quarterbacks Craig Morton and Roger Staubach to a combined 10 completions in 34 attempts for 177 yards.
“We’ve got no excuses,” Morton said in the Post-Dispatch’s game story. “They just beat the hell out of us.”
Big Red quarterback Jim Hart had a middling passing performance, completing 14 of 30 passes for 164 yards, but he made a huge play on defense. Late in the first half, Cornell Green intercepted a Hart pass and returned it 59 yards to the St. Louis 5-yard line, where Hart made an open-field tackle.
“He came up swearing,” Hart said of Green, who tried to put an inside move on Hart. “Actually, I’m flattered that he thought that much of me to try a move.”
Hart’s touchdown-saving play inspired the Big Red defense, which then made a goal line stand. On first down, Stallings tackled running back Calvin Hill for an 8-yard loss. On second down, Morton threw an incomplete pass. On third down, Morton scrambled to the 3-yard line. On fourth down, Wehrli knocked down a Morton pass in the end zone.
“That was probably a bigger play than either of my interceptions,” recalled Wehrli, who was covering another receiver but was in the right place at the right time to break up Morton’s pass intended for tight end Pettis Norman. “When I looked at the film later, I thought, ‘Man, I should have had three interceptions.’ ”
Six weeks earlier, the Cardinals had almost shut out the Cowboys in St. Louis, but Hill scored on a 2-yard run with 3:06 left in the fourth quarter of a 20-7 Big Red win.
Despite losing twice to St. Louis, the Cowboys won their last five regular-season games and finished first in the division with a 10-4 record. They advanced to the postseason and reached Super Bowl V, where they lost, 16-13, to the Baltimore Colts
The Cardinals, by contrast, couldn’t maintain their momentum. After the win in Dallas, they tied the Chiefs, 6-6, in Kansas City and beat the Eagles, 23-14, at home. They then lost their final three games—16-3 to the Lions in Detroit, 34-17 to the Giants at home, and 28-27 to the Redskins in Washington—and wound up in third place with an 8-5-1 record.
Shortly after the season, owner Bill Bidwill fired Charley Winner, who had a 35-30-5 record in five seasons as the head coach.
“Quite a disappointing year,” said Wehrli. “Everything just kind of fell apart for us.”
Video of Johnny Roland’s Three Touchdowns