2002 Review: Emmitt Gets the Rushing Record in an Otherwise Terrible Year

One of the few highlights of the 2002 season: Emmitt Smith breaks the all-time rushing record.

Emmitt Smith’s pursuit of Walter Payton’s NFL rushing record was the principal reason to watch the 2002 Dallas Cowboys. Once he broke the mark in week 8, though, the team all but quit, dropping 8 of its final 10 games.

Week 1: Houston 19, Dallas 10

This might have been the worst loss in franchise history. In the Houston Texans’ first game ever, the Cowboys saw the game slip away in the fourth quarter. Fifty wins over the Texans couldn’t make up for this loss.

Week 2: Dallas 21, Tennessee 13

Quincy Carter looked fairly solid, connecting on 14 of 24 passes for 240 yards and 2 TDs. Dexter Coakley helped the Cowboys by returning an interception 52 yards for a score to give Dallas a lead the team wouldn’t give up.

Week 3: Philadelphia 44, Dallas 13

At one point, the Cowboys led 10-3 thanks to a 100-yard kickoff return by Reggie Swinton. Then Donovan McNabb decided to explode by throwing four touchdown passes.

Week 4: Dallas 13, St. Louis 10

The Cowboys weren’t supposed to beat the defending NFC champions, who began the 2002 season at 0-3. But Carter’s 17-yard TD pass to Darnay Scott along with two Billy Cundiff field goals gave Dallas the win.

Week 5: N.Y. Giants 21, Dallas 17

The Cowboys lost a fourth-quarter lead in a loss to the Giants. Carter missed a throw to a wide-open Antonio Bryant in the fourth quarter, which could have given Dallas the win.

Week 6: Dallas 14, Carolina 13

Joey Galloway had his second straight 100-yard receiving performance. Carter’s touchdown passes to Galloway and Bryant in the fourth quarter gave Dallas the win.

Week 7: Arizona 9, Dallas 6

Carter lost his starting job by throwing four picks against the Cardinals. Bill Gramatica’s 40-yard field goal in overtime gave Arizona the win and sank the Cowboys to a 3-4 record.

Week 8: Seattle 17, Dallas 14

In a great day in franchise history, Smith broke the all-time rushing record of 16,726 yards set by Walter Payton. Here is a clip from an otherwise forgettable Dallas loss.

Week 9: Detroit 9, Dallas 7

Having lost two in a row, Dallas needed a strong performance in Detroit to climb back towards .500. Instead, Dallas lost two fumbles and lost when Jason Hanson hit a 43-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. It was Chad Hutchinson’s second start, but he didn’t look like any sort of an answer.

Week 10: Bye

Week 11: Indianapolis 20, Dallas 3

The Cowboys only managed 178 total yards against the Colts. Smith only gained 22 yards on 8 carries, while Hutchinson only managed 131 passing yards.

Week 12: Dallas 21, Jacksonville 19

Hutchinson had his only 300-yard game of his career in a 21-19 win over Jacksonville. Joey Galloway caught 7 passes for 144 yards with 2 touchdowns.

Week 13: Dallas 27, Washington 20

As usual, thank goodness for the Redskins. On Thanksgiving Day, Dallas went back-and-forth against Washington, but a touchdown pass from Hutchinson to Galloway along with a Cundiff field goal gave Dallas its final win of the 2002 season. This game also marked the final time that Smith gained more than 100 yards rushing as a Cowboy.

Week 14: San Francisco 31, Dallas 27

Dallas managed to take a 27-17 lead in the fourth quarter thanks to Woody Dantzler’s 84-yard kickoff return along with a touchdown run by Smith. However, the 49ers managed two late touchdowns in what probably put the final nail in Dave Campo’s coaching coffin.

Week 15: N.Y. Giants 37, Dallas 7

Nothing went right against the Giants in week 15. Dallas trailed 21-0 after the first quarter, and the Cowboys were never really in the game.

Week 16: Philadelphia 27, Dallas 3

Dallas picked up 146 total yards in another lopsided loss to the Eagles.

Week 17: Washington 20, Dallas 14

Smith needed 38 yards to gain 1,000 yards once again. Instead, he ran the ball 18 times for only 13 yards and finished the season with 975. Rookie Roy Williams returned an interception 85 yards for a score, but Washington took the game over in the second half.