New Playoff Rivalry for the Cowboys Begins in 1973
Between 1960 and 1972, the Cowboys and Rams only played four times, though the squads met frequently during the preseason. In October 1973, the Rams handed the Cowboys a 37-31 loss, and the Rams finished the season with a 12-2 record.
At that time, the NFL determined home teams during the playoffs based on a rotation of division champions, rather than overall record. So even though the Rams beat the Cowboys in 1973, and even though the Rams finished two full games ahead of the Cowboys, Los Angeles had to travel to Texas Stadium for the 1973 playoffs.
Imagine this: the game didn’t even sell out. At kickoff, 820 seats were left unfilled, meaning that the game was blacked out in the Dallas area.
Those who missed the game didn’t get to see Drew Pearson make his first great playoff performance.
The Cowboys had jumped out to an early 17-0 lead in the first half, thanks to a touchdown pass to Pearson from Roger Staubach and a touchdown run by Calvin Hill. The Rams struggled to move the ball all day, as quarterback John Hadl completed only seven of 23 passes for 133 yards. However, Los Angeles cut the lead to 17-6 at halftime, and then scored 10 points early in the fourth quarter to cut the Dallas lead to 17-16.
Facing a 3rd-and-14 from its own 17, Staubach called a pass play to Bob Hayes. Staubach pumped towards Hayes before finding Pearson streaking free on a deep post pattern. Pearson grabbed the pass at the Dallas 50 and streaked into the end zone to give the Cowboys a 24-16 lead. The Rams did not score again, and the Cowboys were set to play in their fourth consecutive NFC Championship Game.
Between 1973 and 1985, the Cowboys and Rams met in the playoffs a total of eight times, with each team winning four of those games. Dallas would face Los Angeles in the playoffs a total of five times during the decade of the 1970s.