Another "Great" Moment in the Cowboys' Decade of Disgrace

liquorstore.jpgDuring each previous decade during the existence of the Dallas Cowboys, the team has won signature games. During the 1960s, the Cowboys routed the Cleveland Browns in the team’s first-ever playoff win. The team had its moments during the 1980s, winning five playoff games and remaining viable Super Bowl contenders for at least a third of the decade. And then there were the ’70s and ’90s, during which Cowboys fans became spoiled.

The Cowboys have been an utter disgrace during the 2000s, and it is easier to say that after a loss like the one to the Giants on Sunday. But nobody should have had any reason to think that the Cowboys would win such a huge signature game, given the team’s failures during the present decade. Consider:

1. October 27, 2002: Emmitt Smith Breaks the NFL Rushing Record

Anyone remember what happened after Emmitt Smith scampered to his left to break the NFL rushing record against the Seahawks? The Cowboys lost a 17-14 game on a late field goal by Rian Lindell.

2. January 3, 2004: Cowboys Make the Playoffs Under First-Year Coach Bill Parcells

The Cowboys gave up a 100-yard rusher (Stephen Davis) and two 100-yard receivers (Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad) in a 29-10 loss to Carolina.

3. September 19, 2005: The Cowboys Induct the Triplets into the Ring of Honor

With the Cowboys leading 13-0, Mark Brunell completed touchdown passes of 39 yards and 70 yards to Santana Moss, giving the Redskins a 14-13 win.

4. January 6, 2007: Cowboys Return to the Playoffs for a Second Time Under Parcells

And it was the last time, thanks in large part to Tony Romo dropping a snap while serving as the holder on what would have been a go-ahead field goal. Dallas lost, 21-20.
5. January 13, 2008: Cowboys Host Their First Playoff Game Since 1998

The Cowboys’ 13-3 regular season record went up in smoke when the team lost 21-17 to the Giants.
6. December 20, 2008: Cowboys Play Their Final Game at Texas Stadium
With a chance to come from behind in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys could not tackle either Willis McGahee or Le’Ron McClain, both of whom broke long touchdown runs to give the Ravens a 33-24 win.
7. September 20, 2009: Cowboys Open Six Flags Over Jerry
The Cowboys held a 31-30 lead with three minutes remaining but could not stop the Giants on a last-minute drive. Tony Romo threw three interceptions in the loss.
To be fair, the Cowboys have won a few important games early in the past couple of seasons. They opened with a 45-35 win against the Giants in week 1 of the 2007 season, and the Cowboys beat the Eagles 41-37 in a week two shootout in 2008. Neither turned out to a be signature win, though, given how the seasons ended.
200-Yard Rushing Games

The Cowboys’ 251 rushing yards against the Giants ranks 12th in team history among regular season games. The last time that Dallas had more rushing yardage was on October 31, 1993, when Emmitt Smith set the team record with 237 yards and the team finished with 271 yards. Here’s a look:
354 yards– vs. Baltimore, Dec. 6, 1981
299 yards– vs. Cleveland, Nov. 25, 1982
289 yards– vs. Washington, Nov. 23, 1978
286 yards– vs. Philadelphia, Nov. 18, 1973
279 yards– vs. Minnesota, Oct. 7, 1979
278 yards– vs. Baltimore, Sept. 4, 1978
276 yards– vs. Washington, Dec. 6, 1970
271 yards– vs. Philadelphia, Oct. 31, 1993
268 yards– vs. Philadelphia, Dec. 4, 1977
264 yards– vs. St. Louis, Oct. 9, 1977
252 yards– vs. Cleveland, Dec. 7, 1974
251 yards– vs. New York Giants, Sept. 20, 2009
This shouldn’t surprise anyone, but the Cowboys won every game on this list other than the last one. 
The Cowboys gained more than 250 yards in three playoff games as well:
338 yards– vs. L.A. Rams, 1980 playoffs
255 yards– vs. Minnesota, 1996 playoffs
252 yards– vs. Miami, Super Bowl VI
As for the team during the Decade of Disgrace (the 2000s), the Cowboys have surpassed 200 rushing yards 12 times, including Sunday. Dallas lost only two of those games (vs. Giants in 2009 and vs. Atlanta in 2001).
Oct. 22, 2000– 200 yards vs. Arizona (W 48-7)
Dec. 10, 2000– 242 yards vs. Washington (W 32-13)
Nov. 11, 2001– vs. Atlanta (L 20-13)
Dec. 2, 2001– 215 yards vs. Washington (W 20-14)
Nov. 28, 2002– 211 yards vs. Washington (W 27-20)
Sept. 28, 2003– 202 yards vs. New York Jets (W 17-6)
Nov. 2, 2003– 208 yards vs. Washington (W 21-14)
Dec. 14, 2003– 222 yards vs. Washington (W 27-0)
Dec. 24, 2005– 214 yards vs. Carolina (W 24-20)
Oct. 1, 2006– 217 yards vs. Tennessee (W 45-14)
Sept. 21, 2008– 217 yards vs. Green Bay (W 27-16)
Sept. 20, 2009– 251 yards vs. New York Giants (L 33-31)
Oh, No, Ro-Mo

Tony Romo’s performance on Sunday was among his very worst. His 29.6 passer rating is the second lowest of any of his games, just behind a 22.2 rating his posted on December 16, 2007 in a 10-6 loss to the Eagles. Romo’s 127 passing yards are the fewest of any game in which he started and played the entire game. The only game in which he threw for fewer yards was against the Redskins in the final game of 2007. However, he only played during the first half of that game.
  • Reggie

    By now we should all realize that Tony cannot handle the heat of a signature game. If there ever was a choker, he’s it. Our best bet would be pull him in major games and go with Kitner. However, we all know that Coach Jones, through his lapdog Mr. Wade, will never do that. In fact, I would just like to see Wade make an independent coaching decision w/o seeking Jerry’s approval. Every year we have an excuse but the fact of the matter is our biggest problem is the guy under center. He’s a legend in his own mind. I can only pray that Jerry wises up and trades this guy while we can get a little back on our investment. Tony will surely win more games but the best way to assure defeat is to tag the game as being signature or important. Mr. Choker will never disappoint you. He was the MVP for the NYG. Maybe now the true fans will see that its not Julius Jones, T.O, Jessica Simpson etc, the problem is Romeo. He cannot handle the pressure. Our next win should come against KC.

  • Hugh Palmer

    You have over 100,000 fans at the game millions watching the game. Ticket prices at $$$$. Is it to much to ask for a professional to play like one. Their pay alone demands it. Being in the military if I performed that poorly several personnel could be killed. So who’s to blame? Was offensive play calling poor, or the play of the QB, or routs ran by the receievers, or all three. The giants offensive pass plays called worked. The Giants receiver were open. The Giants QB got the ball to them. So what gives? All I know, it’s very disappionting that people can’t do the right thing even when they get paid millions!!!!

  • steeler fan

    If Cowboys fans would boycott Cowboys games and products maybe Jones would take notice. But then again maybe not. He is one of the best flim flam men I have ever seen. Thank God he does not own the Steelers.

  • Tim Truemper

    One of the reasons I enjoy this website is not only the great information that Matt provides, but also the informed discussion that goes with it. Alas, at least for this posting, it is sorely lacking.
    I dare say half of the league’s fans are dissatisfied with their starting QB situation. Romo has a bad game on a big night (“signature” game) and now its “off with his head” (so to speak). Well, two years ago there was a signature game with GB and Romo played brilliantly. Last year against NY, in very tough conditions, Romo game managed Dallas to victory in a must win situation. Is Romo “all that” with every big game? Not yet for sure. But if anyone wants to go back and scrutinize the record of any of the other recognized top drawer QB’s they will see their rise and fall in the first 3-5 years of their career.
    I’m dissappointed for sure. But after watching Cowboy and NFL Football for 43 years, I’ve developed a perspective about things. We went thru quite a dry spell after the last SB in terms of QB’s. We are fortunate to have Tony Romo. He is entertaining, dedicated, and when he is on (more often than not), he is one of the best in the league. As Bob Lilly used to say “nuff said.”

  • Matt Cordon

    Thanks, Tim. After writing this piece, I heard two different commentators suggest that Romo *always* loses the big game. That simply isn’t true. You’ve pointed out two big games that Romo has won, and I would add wins over Philadelphia in 2007 and 2008, New York in 2007, and Carolina in 2007 to that list.
    I certainly don’t want to return to the times prior to Romo, when we thought (for instance) that Clint Stoerner might give us a shot to win, or that Ryan Leaf was worth the trouble.
    I think Romo still needs some coaching, because his decision-making seems to be getting worse. But personally I am nowhere close to ready to throw in the towel.

  • Another big win: over an undefeated Colts team in 2006.

  • Matt Cordon

    Very true, Fred. I would even add the win at New York in ’06, when Romo hit Jason Witten deep to set up a Martin Gramatica field goal.

  • Mike Little

    A couple of thoughts.Take one turnover away,Dallas wins.Last time I checked,Romo wasn’t rushing Eli,and wasn’t covering Steve Smith,and the other Hall of Fame receiving corps the mighty Giants have.Bad games happen,even to all the “greats” that have won championships.I told my brother as we were watching the game.Dallas scored too soon.3:50 was too much time the way our defense was playing.Great positive points Tim,Fred,and of course Matt.

  • JOHN F

    How about the 44-6 humiliation at Philadelphia in 2008? All the Cowboys had to do was win that game, and they were in the playoffs. They might as well not shown up. It was one of most gutless and disgraceful efforts as I have ever seen for this franchise.
    If there was ever a signature game for the Dallas Cowboys for this decade, this was it.

  • Tim Truemper

    For John H. If the 44-6 loss last year is the signature game for the decade, then the current make up of the franchise is really bad. But I would say you would have to make a case on why that is the signature game. For me, it was an extreme disappointment. But it could be argued that the shellacking Dallas took against Cleveland in the 60’s were signature games and that the team that showed up was “gutless” (many commentators at that time thought Dallas lacked passion and heart).

  • Matt Cordon

    Regarding the Eagles game last year, will anyone long remember the team the Cowboys beat in 2003 to clinch a playoff spot? How about the team the Cowboys beat to clinch the NFC East in 2007?
    I think the loss to the Eagles was significant, but I don’t think the game stood alone as an event like these other games did. Had the Cowboys beaten Philadelphia and lost in the first round of the playoffs, we’d probably remember the playoff loss much more vividly than the Eagles game. Just my opinion.
    Incidentally– Giants in ’03 at home; Carolina in ’07 on the road.

  • John F

    The reason why I mentioned the Eagles game was because it wasn’t mentioned among the seven games listed. And it was my opinion that if any game defined this decade for the Cowboys, it was this game. As disappointing as the playoff losses were in 2006 and 2007, and the the other losses listed, I was never more disgusted with the direction of this franchise than I was after the Philadelphia game.
    I’ve been a Cowboy fan for 40 years. I endured the “Next Year’s Champion” era, the Super Bowl victories in the seventies, the decline in the eighties, and the rise and more Super Bowl in the nineties. And no era has frustrated me more as a Cowboy fan than the last ten year.