50 Seasons Series: Playoff Streak Ends With Lackluster Finish to the ’84 Season

The second half of the 1984 season for the Cowboys was memorable, but for mostly all the wrong reasons. The Cowboys had a streak of nine consecutive playoff appearances on the line, and when the team improved its record to 6-3, it looked like the streak would extend to ten seasons. However, the team suffered some tough losses and watched the ’84 playoffs from home.

Missing the playoffs was hardly what the Cowboys had in mind when planning their 25th anniversary celebration.

Week 9: Dallas 22, Indianapolis 3

Danny White started his first game of the season in a 22-3 rout of the lowly Colts, who were suffering through a long first season in Indianapolis.  White threw touchdown passes to Doug Cosbie and Tony Hill in the win.

Week 10: N.Y. Giants 19, Dallas 7

For the first time since 1963, the Cowboys were swept by the Giants. The quarterback carousel returned in Dallas for the first time since the Staubach/Morton debacle in 1971. Landry alternated White and Gary Hogeboom throughout the game, but neither was effective.

Week 11: Dallas 24, St. Louis 17

Hogeboom completed only 12 of 33 passes for 147 yards, but his touchdown passes to Ron Springs and James Jones helped the Cowboys to a win over the Cardinals. The win kept the Cowboys in a tie for the NFC East lead.


Week 12: Buffalo 14, Dallas 3

In what was probably the biggest embarrassment to the franchise during its first 25 years, the 7-4 Cowboys were unable to stop rookie running back Greg Bell and lost to the previously winless Bills, 14-3. The defeat ended the Gary Hogeboom experiment.

Per Tony Dorsett: “We’re the laughingstock of the NFL right now. Everybody is sitting around the league and laughing at us.”

Week 13: Dallas 20, New England 17

The Patriots erased a 17-7 Dallas lead during the second half, but Danny White led the team on a drive during the final two minutes to set up the game-winning field goal by Rafael Septien. The Dallas defense recorded 10 sacks in the game.

Week 14: Dallas 26, Philadelphia 10

The Cowboys guaranteed that they would have a winning record for the 19th straight year by beating the Eagles, 26-10. The Dallas defense continued to play well, as Dennis Thurman scored on an interception return for a touchdown and John Dutton recorded a safety by sacking Joe Pisarcik in the end zone.

Week 15: Washington 30, Dallas 28

The Cowboys looked like they might be able to pull out the NFC East title when Dallas ran out to a 21-6 halftime lead against the Redskins. But the Cowboys turned the ball over four times in the third quarter, including an interception by Darrell Green that resulted in a touchdown. The Cowboys regained the lead in the fourth quarter on a 43-yard pass from White to Hill, but John Riggins scored with 6:34 left, and the Dallas offense could not get into field goal range for the rest of the game.

Week 16: Miami 28, Dallas 21

For Dallas to make the playoffs as a wildcard, they needed a bunch of help, followed by a win over the Dolphins in Miami. It marked the first time in team history that the Cowboys had to win in the final week of the season to make the playoffs, but it wasn’t to be.

Miami took a 14-0 lead, but the Cowboys managed to tie the game on two Timmy Newsome touchdown runs. The Dolphins regained the lead on a 39-yard touchdown pass from Dan Marino to Mark Clayton, but the Cowboys answered on a prayer of a play—a 66-yard touchdown pass from White to Hill on a tipped pass.

With 51 seconds left, Clayton got free over the middle on a 3rd-and-1 play, and Marino hit him for a 63-yard touchdown pass that ended the Cowboys’ season.

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A few more notes about the 1984 season:

  • Dallas had not lost seven games since the 1965 season, when the team went 7-7.
  • The Cowboys had finished every season since the NFL/AFL merge ranked in the top 10 in both points scored and yards gained. In 1984, the Cowboys’ offense fell to 18th in points scored and 11th in total offense.
  • The Cowboys had a positive point differential every season since 1964. In 1984, the Cowboys scored exactly the same number of points as their opponents.
  • Mr. Mulligan

    Yikes. Beginning of the wandering in the wilderness…

  • The Buffalo game was the real killer that year. Nobody was taking charge in the NFC East, and we could have run away with it. Instead, we couldn’t stop Greg Bell.

  • Jon

    I remember the MNF game between Mia and Dal. I hated we lost the game but it was enjoyable nonetheless.

  • It’s funny what you can remember and what you can’t. I remember the Giants 2nd game loss. I specifically remember Phil Pozderek getting a holding call on a KEY 3rd down play late in the game. I remember the Washington loss after having a pretty big half time lead. It seems like Danny White threw a pick 6 early in the 3rd that started the demise, and I remember the Miami game. Marino had 4 TDs. I specfically remember Randy White getting a sack on Marino, why I remember is because Marino was rarely sacked. I remember the Cowboys prayer being answered late in the 4th quarter on the TD pass from White to Hill. Just like always, the Cowboys had found a way to win.. ooops. this never happens… I was not even done celebrating the Cowboys score when Marino hit Clayton over the middle, where is the DEFENSE!!! wow.. score, game over.. season over.. no Playoffs… first time ever for this fan!