1978 Cowboys Overcome Stumbles to Win NFC East


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

Midway through the 1978 season, it appeared as if the Cowboys might lose their hold on the NFC East. Consecutive losses to the Vikings and Dolphins left Dallas with a 6-4 record and a full game behind the Redskins, who had beaten the Cowboys earlier in the season.

In the last six weeks of the season, though, Dallas dominated and ran away with yet another division title. Washington didn’t even manage to make the playoffs, finishing with an 8-8 record. The surprise team was the Eagles, who finished with a 9-7 record.

Week 9: Minnesota 21, Dallas 10

Dallas record: 6-3

Dallas fans booed the Cowboys as the team lost its third game of the season. The Vikings had a 21-3 lead at the half, and Dallas never managed to make a game of it. Four Dallas turnovers contributed to the loss.

Week 10: Miami 23, Dallas 16

Dallas record: 6-4

For the second week in a row, the Cowboys fell behind early in a loss. Miami had a 17-0 lead after the first quarter, and though Dallas closed the gap, the lead was too much to overcome. Dallas had five turnovers in the loss. During the losses to the Dolphins and Vikings, Dallas had nine turnovers compared with none for either opponent.

This was, as noted earlier, the predicted Super Bowl matchup in Sports Illustrated that season.

Week 11: Dallas 42, Green Bay 14

Dallas record: 7-4

The cure for the Cowboys’ woes was in Milwaukee, apparently. The Cowboys set a team mark with 313 rushing yards and had four touchdowns on the ground. Both Tony Dorsett and Robert Newhouse had more than 100 yards rushing for Dallas, which still trailed Washington by a game.

Week 12: Dallas 27, New Orleans 7

Dallas record: 8-4

Roger Staubach rushed for one touchdown and threw for another to Billy Joe Dupree, helping Dallas to a 27-7 win over the Saints. Dallas forced four turnovers and committed none in the win. With the Redskins’ loss to the Cardinals, Dallas and Washington would meet on Thanksgiving Day for the NFC East lead.

Week 13: Dallas 37, Washington 10

Dallas record: 9-4

What was supposed to be the game of the year in the NFC turned out to be a blowout. Dallas outgained Washington in total yards, 507 to 201. When Roger Stabuach hit Drew Pearson on a 53-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, Dallas had a 20-0 lead and never looked back.

Week 14: Dallas 17, New England 10

Dallas record: 10-4

The Cowboys trailed New England 10-3 in the third quarter when Tom Landry called a flea flicker. Roger Staubach handed off to Scott Laidlaw, who flipped the ball back to Staubach. Staubach hit Tony Hill on a 40-yard touchdown to tie the game. Staubach later hit Billy Joe DuPree on a touchdown pass to give the Cowboys the win, which wrapped up the NFC East title for the Cowboys for the third straight season and for the seventh time during the decade of the 1970s.

Week 15: Dallas 31, Philadelphia 13

Dallas record: 11-4

Dallas took advantage of five Philadelphia turnovers to dominate the Eagles in a 31-13 win. Roger Staubach threw two touchdown passes, giving him 25 for the season.

Week 16: Dallas 30, N.Y. Jets 7

Dallas record: 12-4

Danny White played in place of Roger Staubach for the final week of the regular season, but the Cowboys continued to dominate. Tony Dorsett rushed for 121 yards on 29 carries to help the Cowboys to a 30-7 win.

Coming Up…

The Cowboys win a scary one against Atlanta.

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