Cowboys Fall Flat in Loss to Washington in ’72 NFC Title Game


Charlie Waters had some great playoff games during his career in Dallas. The 1972 NFC Championship Game against the Redskins wasn’t one of them.

Washington’s Charley Taylor caught seven passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns to help Washington beat Dallas, 26-3. The biggest of those receptions was a 45-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. With the Redskins avoiding Mel Renfro, Washington picked on Waters, who was burned on the play that gave the Redskins a 17-3 lead. At that point, it was all over.

Tom Landry was criticized by some for starting Roger Staubach, who had barely played at all in 1972. Staubach could not move the ball at all against the Redskins, who held Dallas to 169 yards in total offense. While Staubach threw for only 98 yards, he led the team in rushing with 55 yards on the ground. Calvin Hill only managed 22.

Here’s an odd stat: Staubach threw 20 passes during the regular season in 1972. Against San Francisco in the divisional round, he threw 20 passes. And against Washington, he threw 20 passes.

Here’s a related odd stat: Staubach completed 9 of 20 passes for 98 yards in four regular season appearances. Against Washington, he completed 9 of 20 passes for 98 yards. He threw two interceptions with no touchdowns in the regular season, and he likewise threw two interceptions with no touchdowns in the title game.

With the loss, the Cowboys returned to runner-up status. Things weren’t going to get better until a few more years.

  • Mike Little

    Thanks Scott for the correction on Mckeever that separated Staubach’s shoulder.The ’72 Cowboys even though they won SuperBowl VI the year before were starting to undergo changes on both sides of the ball.Doomsday wasn’t as healthy or consistent,because of age and all that goes with that.The Dallas offense started to slip somewhat because of injury at Qback,a dropoff at receiver production,and also speed in the backfield.The Cowboys leading receivers for the year were Hill and Garrison,and that didn’t exactly translate to much of a deep threat for the team.Bobby Hayes recorded just 15 receptions and no touchdowns for the year.Dallas was fortunate enough to make the playoffs let alone win that Staubach miracle in San Fran.Dallas didn’t have much of a chance against George Allen’s “over the hill gang” in the NFC Championship Game.Those guys hated Dallas with a passion,and played more consistent football than the Cowboys,and it showed in this game.The Cowboys were in a transition period and those Redskins were playing good football.How they did it with Billy Kilmer throwing wounded ducks all over the place,and guys that should have been ready to retire is begrudgingly amazing.I really could have cared less about the Dolphins-Redskins SuperBowl match-up,but I always respected Don Shula and the class he always carried himself with.Dallas needed a couple of more years to get back in the saddle,and make another serious run at another championship.

  • David H

    Staubach had no touchdown passes during the 1972 regular season, but did have two scoring throws in the divisional playoffs against the 49ers.

  • Tim Truemper

    In addition to Mike’s post above. It was a strange season. The loss of a starting QB and Rb cannot be diminished though having Morton and Calvin Hill in to replace Staubach and D. Thomas was not too bad. What was truly perplexing was the diminished performance of Hayes and Alworth. Both had solid seasons the year before and it appeared Alworth during 1971 was beginning to show how he could fit in to the offense better. But truth be told, this was an aging team. And as I stated in an earlier post, and which Mike above also mentioned, Hill and Garrison were the leading receivers–the only time in Cowboy history that two RB’s were the leading receivers by number of receptions.