1991 Review: Ups and Downs Result in a 6-5 Start

Troy Aikman and the Cowboys had their up-and-down moments in 1991, as the team had a 6-5 record by mid-November.

In the first 11 games of 1991, the Cowboys appeared to be well on their way to matching the 8-8 record that several predicted for the team. Dallas opened the season with a win for the second straight season, but the team suffered several losses within the NFC East.

By mid-October, the Cowboys looked as if they may be for real, having won four games in a row before their bye week. However, the team had its struggle in November and held a 6-5 record.

Week 1: Dallas 26, Cleveland 14

In Norv Turner’s first game as the Cowboys’ offensive coordiantor, Emmitt Smith rushed for more than 100 yards, and Michael Irvin had more than 100 receiving yards. Dallas held the ball for 38 minutes and won the game thanks to Ken Willis’ four field goals.

Week 2: Washington 33, Dallas 31

Smith looked like he might rush for 400 yards after gaining 104 in the first 11 minutes of the game against the Redskins. However, he suffered stomach ailment, and with Smith sitting on the bench, Dallas lost a 21-10 lead.

Week 3: Philadelphia 24, Dallas 0

The Eagles sacked Troy Aikman 11 times in a ugly game for the Cowboys. Dallas only gained 27 yards in the first half and had already fallen behind 17-0 by halftime.

Fortunately, Dallas did not suffer another shutout until 2000.

Week 4: Dallas 17, Phoenix 9

The Cowboys evened their record at 2-2 thanks largely to Smith’s 182 rushing yards. He had runs of 13 and 37 on the team’s drive that resulted in a game-winning field goal.

Twelvth-round draft pick Larry Brown became the first member of the 1991 draft class to start.

Week 6: Dallas 21, New York Giants 16

The Cowboys gave up 487 yards to the Giants but still came away with the win. Aikman directed an 84-yard touchdown drive that ended with a 23-yard pass to Irvin on a slant pattern with 2:13 remaining.

Week 7: Dallas 20, Green Bay 17

Tight end Jay Novacek caught 11 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown in a game where the Cowboys held the ball for almost 41 minutes. Smith carried the ball 32 times for 122 yards.

Week 8: Dallas 35, Cincinnati 23

Reserve running back Ricky Blake scored on a 30-yard touchdown run on his first NFL carry. It was his only NFL touchdown, but it helped the Cowboys to a 35-23 win over the Bengals. Rookie Dixon Edwards returned a tipped pass for a touchdown.

Week 9: Bye Week

Week 10: Detroit 34, Dallas 10

The Cowboys held Barry Sanders to 55 rushing yards and outgained the Lions 415 to 208. However, Dallas turned the ball over four times, including two interceptions that led to touchdowns.

Week 11: Dallas 27, Phoenix 7

Robert Williams was a holdover from Landry era, and by 1991, he was largely a forgotten player. Against the Cardinals, though, he came up huge. He blocked a punt that set up a Smith touchdown, and Williams later intercepted a pass that killed a Phoenix drive in Dallas territory.

Week 12: Houston 26, Dallas 23 (OT)

Although the Cowboys gave up 583 yards to the Oilers, Dallas had a chance to steal a win in Houston. Dallas forced overtime thanks to a touchdown pass from Aikman to Irvin. However, Smith fumbled the ball for the first time all season in overtime, leading to a Houston field goal that won the game.

Week 13: New York Giants 22, Dallas 9

Jimmy Johnson blamed a bad call on an apparent fumble for the Cowboys’ 22-9 loss to the Giants. With Dallas trailing 16-9, Rodney Hampton appeared to cough up the ball at the New York 20. However, the referees ruled that Hampton was down, keeping alive a drive that eventually resulted in a New York touchdown.

  • Mike little

    The year the Cowboys started to turn the corner.So what would Troy,and Norv have been without each other,and what would the defense have been without Dave Wannstedt?

  • Good points, Mike. Another question: Do the Cowboys win five straight at season’s end with Troy at QB? I have never thought they would– Beuerlein was the one who showed how well all these weapons could work together.

  • Mike Little

    Matt,Aikman’s injury may have been a blessing in disguise.The guy was thrown to the wolves to start his career,and Philly sacked him 11 times earlier this season.It possibly could have allowed him to learn the pro game from the sideline instead of on his back,and benefited both himself,and the ballclub.The play of Steve Beurlein probably quickened Troy’s resolve to push himself to the next level.I still am not convinced Jimmy thought Troy could get Dallas to the ultimate football promised land in the ’91 season,and beyond.