Tony Dorsett’s 100-Yard Games

Tony DorsettDuring the 1980s, you might recall hearing about the Cowboys’ record when Tony Dorsett rushed for at least 100 yards in a game. The record is indeed impressive:

* The Cowboys won the first 16 games in which Dorsett gained at least 100 yards.
* After his initial streak was broken on November 9, 1980, in a 38-35 loss to the New York Giants, the Cowboys won 13 more games in a row when Dorsett topped this mark. The second streak ended, ironically, in the game in which Dorsett scored on his record-breaking 99-yard run against Minnesota on January 3, 1983.
* The Cowboys lost two of the last three games where Dorsett gained 100 yards.
* During his career, Dorsett had 43 total 100-yard games. The Cowboys went 39-4 in those games.

Here is a complete list of Dorsett’s 100-yard games:


Date Yards Opponent Result Score
10/9/1977 141 St. Louis Cardinals W 30-24
12/4/1977 206 Philadelphia Eagles W 24-14
9/4/1978 147 Baltimore Colts W 38-0
9/10/1978 111 New York Giants W 34-24
9/24/1978 154 St. Louis Cardinals W 21-12
11/12/1978 149 Green Bay Packers W 42-14
11/19/1978 152 New Orleans Saints W 27-7
12/17/1978 121 New York Jets W 30-7
9/16/1979 108 Chicago Bears W 24-20
9/30/1979 119 Cincinnati Bengals W 38-13
10/7/1979 145 Minnesota Vikings W 36-20
10/14/1979 103 L.A. Rams W 30-6
10/21/1979 111 St. Louis Cardinals W 22-13
12/2/1979 108 New York Giants W 28-7
9/21/1980 100 Tampa Bay Buccaneers W 28-17
11/9/1980 183 New York Giants L 35-38
11/16/1980 122 St. Louis Cardinals W 31-21
11/27/1980 107 Seattle Seahawks W 51-7
9/6/1981 132 Washington Redskins W 26-10
9/13/1981 129 St. Louis Cardinals W 30-17
9/21/1981 162 New England Patriots W 35-21
10/18/1981 159 L.A. Rams W 29-17
10/25/1981 122 Miami Dolphins W 28-27
11/9/1981 117 Buffalo Bills W 27-14
11/22/1981 115 Washington Redskins W 24-10
12/6/1981 175 Baltimore Colts W 37-13
12/13/1981 101 Philadelphia Eagles W 21-10
1/3/1982 153 Minnesota Vikings L 27-31
11/25/1982 116 Cleveland Browns W 31-14
12/19/1982 105 New Orleans Saints W 21-7
9/5/1983 151 Washington Redskins W 31-30
9/25/1983 124 New Orleans Saints W 21-20
10/2/1983 141 Minnesota Vikings W 37-24
11/20/1983 108 Kansas City Chiefs W 41-21
11/24/1983 102 St. Louis Cardinals W 35-17
12/4/1983 117 Seattle Seahawks W 35-10
10/28/1984 104 Indianapolis Colts W 22-3
12/2/1984 110 Philadelphia Eagles W 26-10
9/29/1985 159 Houston Oilers W 17-10
10/13/1985 113 Pittsburgh Steelers W 27-13
10/20/1985 100 Philadelphia Eagles L 14-16
9/14/1986 117 Detroit Lions W 31-7
11/9/1986 101 L.A. Raiders L 13-17

  • melonball

    That list just shows you how much more important it is for your running back to go for 100 than your QB to throw for 300. I know the win-loss ration when Emmitt rushed for 100 was very similar. There was a point when the Cowboys were like 25-1 when Emmitt went for 100 or more.

  • LaMont

    That list shows you how underrated Dorsett really was. Dallas did not treat him right at the end. And Darrell Green had a lead and headstart on that 77 yard run on which he supposedly caught Tony from behind.

  • Fred Goodwin

    LaMont, I’m not sure I agree with your assessment — Dorsett came into the League in ’77, he was playing his tenth year at RB for the Cowboys in ’86, when they brought in Herschel Walker.

    Walker had been drafted in ’83 as a “future”; the Cowboys knew he was going to the USFL, and took a flier on him assuming the USFL would fold in a few years, which it did.

    Schramm knew that Walker was the future of the Cowboys: he was bigger, stronger, arguably faster, and certainly younger. Unfortunately, Landry never found a way to take advantage of having both RBs on the team.

    Upset that he was no longer “the man”, Dorsett became petulant and a disruption / distraction to the team, especially during the ’87 season. The Cowboys had no choice but to trade him, in fact Dorsett demanded it.

    So I don’t think I agree that the Cowboys did wrong by Dorsett, but I’d certainly be interested in your view of the situation.

  • I never quite understood how Landry was unable to use both. Dorsett still had his speed in 1986 and 1987, though I think his acceleration had declined. Dallas did not use a traditional fullback, and I always thought that Walker could have played the role that Ron Springs and Timmy Newsome did, only much better.

  • Fred Goodwin

    In ’86, Landry tried to use both backs; each had about 700 yds rushing (compare that to Dorsett’s 1300 yds in ’85).

    In ’87, both complained to Landry that each wanted the ball more; how could Tom possibly satisfy both? He decided to feature Walker, who responded with almost 900 yds, while Dorsett’s totals dropped to 450 (it should be remembered that Dorsett was injured for parts of the ’87 season as well).

    By ’88, Dorsett was complaining loudly to anyone who would listen, and bluffed a request for a trade, thinking Schramm would never do such a thing. Of course, as we all know, Schramm called his bluff and sent Dorsett to Denver.

    Now alone as the feature back, Walker responded with over 1500 yds rushing on a horrible Cowboy team (3-13 in Landry’s last year).

    Now the “feature” back in Denver, Tony responded with only 700 yards, because he tore ligaments in his knee and his career was over.

    Again, I don’t know how Landry could’ve done much better. After Herschel rushed for over 2400 yds for the Generals in ’85, I doubt if he would’ve been happy with a Ron Springs / Timmy Newsome-type role, playing second fiddle (as they did) to Dorsett.

    The fact is, both men were proud warriors and neither wanted to take a back seat to the other. Despite Schramm’s best intentions, I think the experiment was doomed to failure.

    Heck, look how much controversy the ’07 Cowboys had with two much lesser backs: Marion Barber and Julius Jones. Multiply that by 1000x and you get some idea of how bad it was on the Cowboys, compounded by the fact that the team as a whole was going downhill, and each back thought he alone could turn it around.

    On a good team like the ’07 Cowboys, we could handle a minor RB controversy. On a bad team like the 80s Cowboys, they didn’t have that luxury.

  • Good points, of course, and I guess it’s easy to forget how little talent Dallas had left in 1986 and 1987. What I remember was that when Walker became the feature back, Dorsett all but vanished. Perhaps that had to happen given that Walker was clearly the better halfback at that point.

  • LaMont

    Dorsett’s 700 yards in Denver were not the result of him truly being a feature back. That Broncos team wasnt that good up front. He came away with 5 TDs and a 3.9 yd average. WHile he may not have been what he once was, he had alot left in the tank when Dallas practically benched him. Lets face it – Landry blew it when is came to utitlizing them both. It could have been done. He at least tried it with Morton and Staubach. he also didnt use Dorsett enough in his prime – Super Bowl 13 could ahve been won if he kept feeding the ball to Dorsett who finished a few yards of 100 on the ground. Even Joe Greene told Dorsett that they wondered why Landry wasnt running him more in that game.

  • LaMont

    In Dorsett’s book, it says the Cowboys were 42-4 in his 46 100-yard games. This list saus 39-4 in 43 games. In know he had at least one 100-yard game as a Bronco. I wonder if his book are counting his Denver 100 yard games. I can not find a game by game breakdwn of his stats anywhere.

  • Fred Goodwin

    Lamont, I don’t mean to get into an argument about this, because there have been many times when I was as critical of Landry as anybody — but I wonder if you could expand a bit on how Landry could’ve utilized Walker & Dorsett better?

    I mean, its one thing to complain that Landry did a poor job utilizing both, its quite another to specify exactly how Landry could have done better.

    You mention the example of the QB shuffle, but perhaps you don’t recall that Landry was universally criticized for that tactic.

    The media famously stated that if a team has two leaders, it effectively has none. Both Morton and Staubach chafed under the system, and Staubach was especially vocal about it. When Landry finally settled the issue by going with Roger, the result was a SB title.

    So could you explain exactly how you would utilize two great backs like Tony & Herschel, recalling that both wanted the ball more after sharing the load in ’86?

  • LaMont

    It could have been done. It has become the standard in today’s game. If the intention was to make Walker the no 1 back, they needed to stop stringing Dorsett along. He deserved that much from the organization. Emmitt Smith was given a way out when it was obvious that they wanted a new running back in Dallas. They didnt embarras him by sitting him on the bench near the end of a Hall of Fame career. They did this to Dorsett and he had a right to upset.

    Landry made some mistakes. He saw a way to have a 2 QB system but couldnt see a way to have a 2 RB system – that is the fact. THere were games in which Walker and Dorsett had good performances at teh same time so it was done. I remember watching those games and Dorsett’s ability did not suddenly fall off – he just had his role diminshed when Walker got tere. He was still running a 4.3 when he got to Denver.

    I dont need a lesson on Dallas Cowboy history and I know definitely know Dorsett. Some things area matter of opinion. I dont need to change anyone’s and I am not changing mine.

  • Fred Goodwin

    Lamont — I wasn’t trying to be critical — thanx.