50 Seasons Series: High-Powered ’66 Cowboys Storm Out of the Gate
This post is part of the 50 Seasons in 50 Weeks Series.
During the first six seasons of the Dallas Cowboys’ existence, the team never scored more than 50 points in a game. In two of the first four games of the 1966 season, Dallas accomplished the feat twice. And by midseason, the Cowboys had scored more than 50 three times.
The offense that tended to be anemic in previous years caught fire in 1966. The Cowboys managed more than 500 yards in total offense in the opening game of the season. During the first seven games of the season, Dallas was never held below 314 yards of total offense.
Week 1: Dallas 52, N.Y. Giants 7
For the second consecutive year, the Cowboys destroyed the Giants to open the regular season. Don Meredith threw for 358 yards and 5 TDs in the win. Dan Reeves was on the receiving end of three of the TD passes, and Bob Hayes caught the other two. Both Reeves and Hayes finished with more than 100 receiving yards. Cornell Green ended the scoring on the day with a 41-yard interception return for a touchdown.
This picture is a rare shot of Mel Renfro playing running back. He was injured early in the season and soon moved back to safety. #84 is tight end Pettis Norman. #57 for the Giants is Jeff Smith.
Week 2: Dallas 28, Minnesota 17
The Cowboys overcame a 10-7 halftime deficit by scoring three touchdowns in the second half to beat the Vikings. Meredith had only two touchdown passes against Minnesota, but Dallas did not turn the ball over. Reeves and Meredith both scored rushing touchdowns.
Week 3: Dallas 47, Atlanta 14
The Cowboys jumped out to a 17-7 halftime lead over the expansion Falcons, and a 30-point second half turned the game into a rout. Reeves scored two more touchdowns on the ground in the win. Veteran linebacker Chuck Howley also added some points by scoring his first career touchdown on a 97-yard return of a fumble recovery in the fourth quarter.
Week 4: Dallas 56, Philadelphia 7
Dallas scored three touchdowns before the Eagles could manage a first down in the Cowboys’ 56-7 win over Philadelphia in week 4. Meredith again threw five touchdown passes, this time to Hayes (3), Frank Clarke, and Dan Reeves. Walt Garrison and Les Shy added touchdown runs. By the time the Eagles scored, Dallas led 49-0.
On the day, the Cowboys put up a team record 652 yards. At the time, it was the fourth best offensive day in league history.
Week 5: Dallas 10, St. Louis 10
The Cowboys could not hold on to a 10-7 fourth quarter lead and had to settle for a tie with the Cardinals. Dallas turned the ball over four times, including three picks by Don Meredith. Reeves continued to be a scoring machine by rushing for his ninth touchdown overall (four rushing and five receiving).
The Cowboys were unable to beat their old nemesis, the Cleveland Browns, during week 6. Cleveland raced out to a 30-7 lead before the Cowboys could make the score appear to be more respectable late in the game. Meredith again threw multiple interceptions (4) in the loss.
Week 7: Dallas 52, Pittsburgh 21
Dallas scored 24 straight points in the second quarter and continued to pour it on during the second half of a 52-21 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in week 7. Lee Roy Jordan scored his first career touchdown by returning an interception 49 yards for a score. Dan Reeves scored two more touchdowns, and Frank Clarke, Pete Gent, and J.D. Smith also added touchdowns.
Mel Renfro returned a kickoff for a touchdown, marking his fifth career TD return (2 interceptions, 2 kickoffs, and 1 punt). Renfro did not score another touchdown until 1973.
Cowboy Defense Spooks Steelers, 52 to 21 (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)
The Cowboys clinch the Eastern Conference and prepare to face the Packers in the NFL Championship Game.