The Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots have never faced one another during a week 5 in the past. However, the teams have played during week 6 three times, including 1971, 2007, and 2011. New England won the last two of these three games while Dallas won the game in 1971.
Overall, Dallas leads the series, 7 games to 4. However, the Cowboys have not defeated the Patriots since 1996.
Let’s remember some better days today and review the 1971 game.
Then (1971): The Cowboys and Patriots had never played one another in a regular-season game. The teams faced off in 1971, one year after the NFL-AFL merger.
Now (2015): Dallas and New England play each other every four years under the current NFL scheduling system. The Cowboys won the first seven games against the Patriots, but New England has owned Dallas in the four games played between 1999 and 2011.
Then: The Patriots were led at quarterback by rookie Jim Plunkett. He was a highly touted Heisman Trophy winner, but he struggled for many years before leading the Oakland Raiders to two Super Bowl titles.
Now: The Patriots are led at quarterback by Tom Brady. He was a 6th-round pick out of college and entered the NFL without any expectations. However, he had immediate success and has led the Patriots to four Super Bowl titles.
Then: The Cowboys reached the Super Bowl in 1970 with a rookie running back named Duane Thomas. He was such a disruption that the Cowboys traded him to the Patriots in August 1971. NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle later voided part of the trade because Thomas caused so many problems in New England, and Thomas played the 1971 season in Dallas.
Now: The Cowboys reached the playoffs thanks to the running of DeMarco Murray. The Cowboys let him leave via free agency, and the Eagles signed him. He has been ineffective thus far, leading at least a few Philadelphia fans to want to send him back to Dallas.
Then: Dallas head coach Tom Landry developed an ill-fated system of alternating quarterbacks Roger Staubach and Craig Morton. The system failed miserably, and by the time Dallas played New England, the team was 3-2.
Now: Dallas head coach Jason Garrett has had to rely on backup Brandon Weeden, who has been largely ineffective against the Falcons and Saints. Losses to those teams have dropped the Cowboys’ record to 2-2. Garrett may need to turn to backup Matt Cassel if Weeden continues to struggle.
Then: Dallas was a regular contender by 1971 and would eventually win the Super Bowl that season. New England, on the other hand, had been to the AFL playoffs only once and would not reach the Super Bowl for another 14 years (1985 vs. Chicago in Super Bowl XX).
Now: New England has been to six Super Bowls in the past 14 years, and the Patriots have looked like Super Bowl favorites thus far in 2015. Dallas, on the other hand, has been to the playoffs only five times during the past 15 years and has not reached the Super Bowl in 20 years.