1995 Review: Cowboys Stumble, but Still Manage Home Field Advantage

The Cowboys had reason to celebrate when they beat the Cardinals 37-13 in the final week of the 1995 season.

The Cowboys’ impressive 6-1 start continued in early November, as the Cowboys improved to 8-1. Deion Sanders joined the team and bolstered the talent on both sides of the ball.

Just as the Cowboys appeared to cruise to the home stretch, Dallas faced San Francisco. Losses to the 49ers, Redskins, and Eagles left the Cowboys with a 10-4 record. It looked as if the team might have to travel to Candlestick Park yet again to reach Super Bowl XXX. Some good fortune changed the path to Tempe.

Here are the highlights, followed by summaries.

Week 9: Dallas 28, Atlanta 13

In the Cowboys ‘ first visit to the Georgia Dome since winning Super Bowl XXVIII, Dallas improved to 7-1. After having possession of the ball for only 5:47 of the first quarter, the Cowboys scored touchdowns on four consecutive possessions before an interception interrupted the string midway through the final quarter. Michael Irvin caught a pass in his 73rd straight game, breaking Tony Hill’s club record. Emmitt Smith added 167 yards on the ground.  Deion Sanders made his Cowboys debut, contributing a pass defended and a reception for six yards.

Week 10: Dallas 34, Philadelphia 12

The Cowboys defense had its most productive outing since the opening game of the season in knocking off division-rival Philadelphia. The Eagles were held to 230 yards of total offense. Larry Brown returned an interception 20 yards for his first NFL touchdown. Emmitt Smith’s 39-yard touchdown run in the first quarter pushed him over the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season.

Week 11: San Francisco 38, Dallas 20

The Cowboys suffered their third consecutive loss to the 49ers in front of 65,180, the most people to watch a game at Texas Stadium since the 1993 NFC Championship Game against San Francisco. On the second play of the game, 49ers quarterback Elvis Grbac connected with Jerry Rice for an 81-yard touchdown. Two plays into Dallas ‘ first possession, Merton Hanks returned a Michael Irvin fumble 38 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 49ers lead. Following a Rickey Jackson interception of Troy Aikman, San Francisco tacked on a 26-yard Jeff Wilkins field goal to build a 17-0 lead five minutes into the game.

Week 12: Dallas 34, Oakland 21

The Cowboys secondary contributed three interceptions, while the offense got back on track. Deion Sanders intercepted a Jeff Hostetler pass and returned it 37 yards to set up the Cowboys offense. Aikman, en route to a 19-of-24 day, connected on 13 consecutive passes during one stretch. Michael Irvin’s 109 yards receiving gave him 8,104 career receiving yards, becoming the first Cowboy to eclipse the 8,000-yard barrier.

Week 13: Dallas 24, Kansas City 12

Dallas moved to an NFL-best 10-2 with the Thanksgiving Day win. In building a 14-0 first-quarter lead, Dallas controlled the ball for 12:54. Michael Irvin’s touchdown gave him nine scores on the season, establishing a new career high. Emmitt Smith scored his 92nd career rushing touchdown, which ranked fifth in NFL history. However, he left the game late in the third quarter with a sprained left knee. Chris Boniol extended his club record for consecutive field goals to 15.

Week 14: Washington 24, Dallas 17

For the first time since 1991, Dallas lost to an NFC East team at Texas Stadium, and the Redskins swept the season series with Dallas . Michael Irvin established an NFL record for most 100-yard receiving games in a season with 11 as he tallied 101 yards. Irvin’s 10 catches gave him 98 on the year, setting a club record. Emmitt Smith scored his 22nd rushing touchdown, setting a team record and placing him second in NFL history for rushing touchdowns behind John Riggins’ 24.

Week 15: Philadelphia 20, Dallas 17

In the infamous 4th-and-1 game, Dallas lost consecutive games for the first time since 1993. After stopping the Cowboys on fourth-and-one at the Dallas 29-yard line with two minutes left, Philadelphia’s Gary Anderson kicked the game-winning 42-yard field goal. Troy Aikman was sacked at the Cowboys ‘ 45 to end the game. Even with the loss, Dallas clinched its fifth consecutive playoff berth.

Week 16: Dallas 21, N.Y. Giants 20

On the first play of the game, Brock Marion picked off Dave Brown at the Cowboys ‘ 48-yard line. Nine plays later, Chris Boniol connected on a 27-yard field goal. Dallas drove 58 yards late to set up Boniol with his fifth field goal attempt of the day. Boniol drilled the 35-yarder as time expired to give Dallas a 21-20 come-from-behind victory. His five field goals tied the club record for most field goals in a game and extended his string of consecutive field goals made to 22.

Even with the win, the Cowboys and 49ers both stood at 11-4. If San Francisco beat Atlanta in the final week of the season, the Cowboys would lose home field advantage in the NFC playoffs.

But Atlanta’s Terance Mathis scored on a 37-yard touchdown pass in the 4th quarter to give the Falcons a 28-27 win, providing the Cowboys with the opportunity to clinch the top seed in the NFC with a win over Arizona.

Week 17: Dallas 37, Arizona 13

The Cowboys came through, clinching their fourth consecutive NFC East title and securing home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Midway through the final period, Emmitt Smith went around left tackle for a three-yard touchdown, his 25th of the year and the 100th of his career. Smith’s 25 touchdowns established a new NFL season record. Kevin Williams had nine catches for 203 yards, both career highs. Williams also recorded 307 total yards (203 receiving, 21 rushing, 83 on kickoff returns), the highest recorded by a Cowboy in one game.