1969: Retooled Cowboys Dominate the Regular Season Again

This post is part of the 50 Seasons in 50 Weeks Series.

Even with the departure of legends Don Meredith and Don Perkins, the 1969 Cowboys had so much talent that most predicted the Cowboys would run away with the Capital Division. Most of the optimism was due to the Dallas defense, which returned every major player.

From Sports Illustrated:

The Dallas Cowboys are the best team in football. They scout well, pick wisely, have one of the most intellectual coaches and field the finest 40 physical specimens you’ll ever lay eyes on.

Nonetheless, they may not win the most games. Sure, they’ll take the Capitol Division, but so would four other teams in the NFL. They can shrug off the loss of a top quarterback ( Don Meredith) and a fine fullback (Don Perkins). They will score freely and, on some Sundays, appear devastating. But they won’t go all the way.

“They are a gentlemanly team,” says one Eastern coach. “They don’t beat you up when you play them, and they have the people who could do it. They aren’t killers. If they ever develop a killer instinct, they’ll spread-eagle the league and destroy any AFL team unlucky enough to play them in the Super Bowl.”

The Cowboys’ good manners may stem from those of Tom Landry, their head coach. Landry is a quiet, handsome man, unfailingly polite and considerate and thoughtful. He is big, balding and impressive, and he could easily be the minister for a well-heeled Methodist church, adept at getting large contributions from wealthy parishioners without wheedling, renowned for his reasoned, low-key sermons, which painlessly uplift. But he hasn’t forged the intense, Lombardian desire which animates pro football dynasties. This year the Cowboys finally decided they hadn’t been mean enough and told Landry to run a tough camp; but it’s better if the tone is set by the tamer rather than the lions.

Those gentlemanly Cowboys had a very new cast on offense to begin the 1969 season against the Cardinals. Early season injuries to quarterback Craig Morton and Bob Hayes, along with the departure of Perkins, led Dallas to a very different starting lineup: QB Roger Staubach, HB Calvin Hill, FB Walt Garrison, WR Lance Rentzel, WR Dennis Homan, TE Pettis Norman. Another new face in the Dallas attack was tight end Mike Ditka, who was acquired from Philadelphia in the offseason.

1969 Regular Season

For the second consecutive season, the Cowboys jumped out to a 6-0 record. The Cowboys wrapped up the Capital Division title by early December and won their final three games to finish at 11-2-1.

Week 1: Dallas 24, St. Louis 3

Roger Staubach started his first official game as a professional, and in the first quarter of that game, he threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to Lance Rentzel. Staubach added a touchdown run, and rookie Calvin Hill also threw a touchdown pass to Rentzel. The Dallas defense dominated, giving the Cowboys their fifth straight opening day win.

Week 2: Dallas 21, New Orleans 17

Hill led the Cowboys by rushing for 138 yards on 23 carries. His fourth quarter touchdown gave Dallas the 21-17 win.

Week 3: Dallas 38, Philadelphia 7

Two touchdowns by Rentzel, along with scores by Hill and Dan Reeves, gave Dallas a 28-7 halftime lead. The Cowboys put up 526 total yards of offense in the blowout win.

Week 4: Dallas 24, Atlanta 17

The Cowboys saw their 17-3 halftime lead nearly evaporate at Atlanta, but the Cowboys were able to hang on for the win. Dallas recovered an onside kick attempt in the final minute to seal the win.

Week 5: Dallas 49, Philadelphia 14

Craig Morton joined the five-touchdown club in the first half in leading Dallas to a 49-14 blowout of the Eagles. Lance Rentzel scored three of those touchdowns as the Cowboys took a 42-14 at intermission. Bob Lilly scored the third touchdown of his career on a fumble recovery for a score.

Bob Hayes returned to action and scored on a 67-yard touchdown catch and run.

Week 6: Dallas 25, N.Y. Giants 3

The Dallas offense had trouble getting going against the Giants, but the Dallas defense held New York without a touchdown. The Cowboys put together 19 fourth quarter points, though, to pull away. George Andrie (with the help of Larry Cole) gave Dallas a safety by sacking Fran Tarkenton in the end zone. It was one of ten Dallas sacks (then called traps).

2009-04-07_204911.gifWeek 7: Cleveland 42, Dallas 14

The Cowboys’ struggles against the Browns continued, as Dallas lost the first game of the 1969 season in a blowout. Cleveland ran out to a 28-3 halftime lead in a game that featured little competition.

Week 8: Dallas 33, New Orleans 17

The Cowboys and Saints were tied at 17 heading into the final quarter, but the Dallas offense came through. Touchdowns by Dan Reeves and Mike Ditka, along with a Mike Clark field goal, gave Dallas a 33-17 win. Calvin Hill gained 109 yards on only 13 carries.

Week 9: Dallas 41, Washington 28

Calvin Hill set a team mark by rushing for 150 yards on 27 carries to led Dallas to a 41-28 win over Washington. The win gave Dallas (8-1) a commanding lead over the Redskins (4-3-2) in the Capital Division.

Week 10: Los Angeles 24, Dallas 23

The Cowboys had to play without Calvin Hill, Ralph Neely and
Jethro Pugh against the Rams. Dallas played catchup for most of the game, and though Dallas had a chance at the end, a late interception iced the game for Los Angeles.

Week 11: Dallas 24, San Francisco 24

The last time that the Cowboys finished a game with a tie was against the 49ers in 1969. Dallas had a shot at the end of the game to kick a game-winning field goal, but San Francisco’s Charlie Krueger blocked a kick with seconds left. The tie gave Dallas an 8-2-1 record compared with Washington’s 5-3-2 mark.

Week 12: Dallas 10, Pittsburgh 7

The Cowboys held the Steelers scoreless until the fourth quarter, but the Cowboys had to hang on for a 10-7 win. Dallas turned the ball over three times in the rain, and Craig Morton only managed 124 yards passing. Nevertheless, the win was enough to clinch the Capital Division.

Week 13: Dallas 27, Baltimore 10

Craig Morton outperformed Johnny Unitas in a 27-10 win by Dallas over Baltimore. Unitas had trouble finding his mark and threw four interceptions. Morton threw for 289 yards on only 12 completions, including touchdown passes to Lance Rentzel and Pettis Norman. The win marked the first time the Cowboys had ever beaten the Colts.

Week 14: Dallas 20, Washington 10

It was fitting that Vince Lombardi’s final NFL game came against Tom Landry’s Cowboys. With nothing left to play for, Dallas put together a solid performance, holding Sonny Jurgensen without a touchdown pass.

Final Standings

Capital                  W  L T   PF  PA
Dallas Cowboys 11 2 1 369 223
Washington Redskins 7 5 2 307 319
New Orleans Saints 5 9 0 311 393
Philadelphia Eagles 4 9 1 279 377

Century W L T PF PA
Cleveland Browns 10 3 1 351 300
New York Giants 6 8 0 264 298
St. Louis Cardinals 4 9 1 314 389
Pittsburgh Steelers 1 13 0 218 404

Coastal W L T PF PA
Los Angeles Rams 11 3 0 320 243
Baltimore Colts 8 5 1 279 268
Atlanta Falcons 6 8 0 276 268
San Francisco 49ers 4 8 2 277 319

Central W L T PF PA
Minnesota Vikings 12 2 0 379 133
Detroit Lions 9 4 1 259 188
Green Bay Packers 8 6 0 269 221
Chicago Bears 1 13 0 210 339

Playoff Schedule

Los Angeles at Minnesota, December 27, 1969

Cleveland at Dallas, December 28, 1969

Other References:

Box Scores and Stats, 1969 Dallas Cowboys (Pro Football Reference)

Stories (Dallas Morning News)

  • Tim Truemper

    A few thoughts about this season. First, as suggested in some of the descriptions, this was the one season Vince Lombardi coached the Redksins, making them a partial threat for the division title. Two, in the LA game that Calvin Hill missed, Dallas had a great chance to tie or even lead (my memory eludes me and I would have to look athe box score), but late in the game Bob Hayes caught a long pass from Morton. It appeared he would score a TD but inexplicably he fumbled by just running with the ball. He recovered his fumble but Dallas had to settle for a FG. Lastly, Hill’s injury was important in that he suffered a toe injury that nagged him through the rest of the season and thru the playoff game against Cleveland.

  • Tim,
    Your memory is better than mine. It’s funny how things stick in your head like that. I remember key plays from Cowboy losses more than I do victories. Not sure why that is but I do know as I a kid I would lie awake in bed on Sunday night after a Cowboy loss and replay every bad play in my head thinking if only this had happened in stead of that.. boy I don’t miss those days!

  • Tim Truemper

    Thanks for the feedback and comments. My memory, such as it was, was supplemented by keeping scrapbooks of all of the Cowboys seasons from 1968 through 1973; having four other brothers who were Cowboy fans too as we would regularly review all of the plays and such from different games. I also kept my Dallas Cowboy newsletters for years and woould occasionally look older ones over. Finally, i used to toss and turn at night too over dallas losses. Not a lot of fun!

  • Thanks for all of these comments. I was not born until 1971, so I don’t have the benefit of having followed this “live” during this period. Perhaps that is why I find the 1960s team to be so fascinating.

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  • hh. love it.