Dallas Cowboys: Ten Pivotal Regular Season Games, Part 8 (2000)

This is the eighth part of a ten-part series focusing on ten pivotal regular season games in the history of the Dallas Cowboys.

Not all famous games will appear on this list. For example, Roger Staubach’s final regular-season game against the Redskins was unforgettable, but the Cowboys turned around two weeks later and lost to the Rams in the playoffs.

Instead, this series focuses on games that marked turning points—good and bad—in franchise history.

September 3, 2000

Philadelphia 41, Dallas 14

weird-eats-pickle-juice-ss“Pickle-Juice Loss Signals Dark Times Ahead”

The 1999 season for the Dallas Cowboys was a frustrating one. The team held a lead in every game, yet only finished 8-8 and lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Minnesota Vikings.

Gone in 2000 were Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders, but the Cowboys had some new weapons that gave the fans hope. Joining Rocket Ismail at receiver was former Seahawk Joey Galloway. The speed of those two receivers was supposed to drive defenses nuts.

On defense, Dallas added cornerback Ryan McNeil, who had recorded nine interceptions in 1997 while with the Rams. The Cowboys also added former Giant Phillippi Sparks. Those two had to replace the duo of Sanders and Kevin Smith after the latter injured his knee in training camp.

None of those roster moves worked.

Dallas opened the season against division-rival Philadelphia, which successfully executed an onside attempt on the opening kickoff. The Eagles scored on that drive on their way to a 24-6 halftime lead. The game was never close, and Dallas lost, 41-14.

The game became somewhat famous because of news that the Eagles had consumed pickle juice to address the heat in Texas Stadium that day. It turns out that Dallas would need much more than pickle juice to compete in 2000.

By halftime, the Eagles had knocked Troy Aikman out of the game with a concussion. He had not yet completed a pass when he suffered the injury. Randall Cunningham made his Dallas debut but could not give the Cowboys much of a boost.

Aikman eventually returned a few games later, but his career would end after the 2000 season thanks largely to back and concussion problems.

Galloway scored a fourth-quarter touchdown against the Eagles but later injured his knee. He was lost for the season. He returned to the Cowboys in 2001, but he never made the impact the team expected after sending two first-round picks to Seattle to obtain him.

The defense was no better. After allowing 41 points to the Eagles, the Cowboys went on to have their worst defensive season since 1989, when the Cowboys finished 1-15.

Dallas recorded a 5-11 record and would repeat this in 2001 and 2002. By the time the team returned to the playoffs in 2003, nearly all of the key players from the dynasty era were gone.

Previously:

Part 1, December 5, 1965: “A Loser No More”—Dallas 21, Philadelphia 19

Part 2, November 22, 1970: “Road to the Super Bowl Begins in Washington”—Dallas 16, St. Louis 13

Part 3, November 7, 1971: “The Dodger Era Begins”—Dallas 16, St. Louis 13

Part 4, December 13, 1975: “Wildcard Berth It Is”—Dallas 31, Washington 10

Part 5, November 2, 1986: “Goodbye Danny, So Long America’s Team”— New York Giants 17, Dallas 14

Part 6, November 24, 1991: “A Dynasty Is Born”—Dallas 24, Washington 21

Part 7, November 23, 1997: “A Dynasty Crumbles”—Green Bay 45, Dallas 17

DeMarco Murray: Most Touches in a Season

workhorseA big debate for at least part of his offseason is whether the Cowboys should or will sign free-agent running back DeMarco Murray. A significant part of that conversation will focus on Murray’s workload in 2014 and the effect it could have on him moving forward.

He had 449 touches in 2014, which is the most for any running back in team history during a regular season. Here are the numbers:

Murray had another 48 touches in two games to give him 497. By comparison, Emmitt Smith had 439 regular-season touches in 1995 and added another 80 in three playoff games. Smith also exceeded 500 touches in 1992, when he had 432 regular-season touches plus another 84 in three playoff games.

Smith was one of the most durable running backs in NFL history, but his numbers did decline after his record-breaking 1995 season. He played nine more season but never rushed for more than 1,400 yards again. Of course, part of that had to do with an aging offensive line during the late 1990s, but he was never quite the same back after 1995.

Murray ranks 6th in NFL history for touches in a regular season (Smith now ranks 10th). Of the five players with 450 or more touches, here is a quick summary of the rest of their careers.

5. Edgerrin James (Indianapolis, 450 touches, 2000): James had five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons between 2003 and 2007. However, following his 450-touch season in 2000, he played in only six games in 2001 and 14 games in 2002.

4. LaDainian Tomlinson (San Diego, 451 touches, 2006): Tomlilnson was the back who could have challenged Smith’s all-time rushing title, but Tomlinson had only two more seasons with more than 1,000 yards after touching the ball 451 times in 2006.

3. Eddie George (Tennessee, 453 touches, 2000): George had two more 1,000-yard seasons after 2000, but he never averaged more than 3.4 yards per carry after touching the ball 453 times that year.

2. Larry Johnson (Kansas City, 457 touches, 2006): Johnson played in all 16 games only twice during his career, including the 2006 season when he touched the ball 457 times. He never played a full season again and never came close to matching his rushing totals from 2005 (1,750 yards) or 2006 (1,789 yards).

1. James Wilder (Tampa Bay, 492 touches, 1984): Wilder had never rushed for 1,000 yards until he carried the ball 407 times and caught another 85 passes in 1984. He had only one more 1,000-yard season after 1984 before he started suffering injuries.

Green Bay 26, Dallas 21: Sickening Call, Blown Chances

Thanks to a questionable reversed call on a Dez Bryant reception, the Dallas Cowboys lost 26-21 to the Green Bay Packers.

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Dallas 24, Detroit 20: Redeemed at Long Last

The Cowboys scored 10 points in the fourth quarter to complete a come-from-behind win over the Detroit Lions in the wildcard round of the playoffs.

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Dallas 44, Washington 17: Wrapping Up an Unforgettable December

The Dallas Cowboys went 4-0 during the month of December to finish their regular season with a 12-4 record.

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Dallas Cowboys: Ten Pivotal Regular Season Games, Part 7 (1997)

The Dallas Cowboys’ dynasty of the 1990s effectively ended with a loss to the Green Bay Packers in 1997.

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Dallas Cowboys: History of Division-Clinching Games

Review a short history of division-clinching games during the history of the Dallas Cowboys.

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Dallas 42, Indianapolis 7: Trouncing Their Way to the NFC East Title

The Dallas Cowboys clinched the NFC East title by demolishing the Indianapolis Colts, 42-7.

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Dallas 38, Philadelphia 27: A Signature Win

The Dallas Cowboys made some critical plays in the second half to beat the Philadelphia Eagles in an important division win.

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Dallas Cowboys: Ten Pivotal Regular Season Games, Part 6 (1991)

The Dallas Cowboys recorded perhaps the most pivotal regular-season win in franchise history by beating the Washington Redskins in 1991.

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