During 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.