Remember When? Cowboys Unveil the Shotgun Against the Rams in 1975

One of the great rivalries in the history of the Dallas Cowboys was the one between the Cowboys and Rams. Between the 1973 and 1985 seasons, these teams faced each other eight times in the playoffs, with each team winning four games. The Cowboys won two NFC Championship games at Los Angeles, but the Rams gave the Cowboys some of the most heartbreaking home playoff losses, ending three Cowboys’ seasons while playing at Texas Stadium.

The teams had some pretty good games during the regular season as well. Between 1970 and 1989, they played 11 times, with Dallas winning 6 of those 11 games.

One of those wins came in the opening week of the 1975 season. The Cowboys were rebounding from an 8-6 season in 1974, and many thought the young team would struggle again in ’75.  The Rams had been a playoff team in 1974 and would go on to post a 12-2 record.

However, Dallas unveiled a new look to its offense by having Roger Staubach take some snaps out of the shotgun formation. Staubach only threw for 106 yards on the day, but he ran 7 times for 56 yards.

Here is a clip showing the highlights of the game.

Below is the story from the Dallas Morning News:

 

Doomsday blitz polls Rams, 18-7

9/22/1975

By BOB ST. JOHN / The Dallas Morning News

The feeling had begun to build up last week, against rather large odds. But amid strike talk, the fact that Los Angeles had certainly seemed to establish itself as the best club in the NFL at this time and despite their lack of any consistent offense, the Dallas Cowboys had actually felt they could win. It wasn’t like a false reaction, like a recording meaning nothing, but a solid feeling.

And it happened to the surprise of about everybody but the team itself on a gray, rainy first Sunday of NFL football. On the surface of the game, perhaps you would think it was a very large upset.

However, looking deeper it did not seem that way. Frankly, Dallas knocked the Rams into the ground, or Tartan turf if you will. The final margin of 18-7 did not come close to telling the dominance of the Cowboy defense over the Rams.

There was controversy, remindful of last, season, when Charlie Waters was not given a fumble he obviously recovered and certainly some doubt Ram quarterback Ron Jaworski got over the goal line on a fourth-down play and other things. But ….

“We weren’t going to let anything stop us this time.” said middle linebacker Lee Roy Jordan. “It should have been much worse. I told an official 1 was going to send him film footage, that they were going too far to make it close.”

Los Angeles, the NFC’s best offensive team, was destroyed to such an extant that the Rams only netted 135 yards and much of this came near the end. The Rams never crossed their own 46 until midway of the final period and once, after recovering a fumble at the Dallas 49, failed to make an inch.

The Cowboys felt, in order to win, the offense must cut down mistakes (Dallas suffered no interceptions and lost the one fumble) and the defense must stop LA’s ball-control game. To do this, Dallas hoped to keep the Rams from making big gains on first down. This was accomplished. LA, used to a lot of second and-2’s and second-and 3’s, faced mostly second and longs.

Jordan, linebacker Dave Edwards, and cornerback Mel Renfro, who lost 20 pounds and got into shape and rediscovered the fountain of youth, could not remember the team playing a better defensive game, considering the potency of the Ram offense. They mentioned Green Bay in 1965, the Cleveland and Detroit games of’ 1970 but threw this one in there.

“It has to be one of our top three or four defensive games,” said Jordan.

Quarterback James Harris was destroyed, hitting just 1 of 10 and suffering three interceptions. Jaworski hit 3 of 7 for 36 yards but was nailed twice behind the line. Asked if the Cowboys had confused the inexperienced Ram quarterbacks, as they had Terry Bradshaw in the final preseason game, Renfro said, “If you call a good rush and good coverage confusing, then they were confused.”

Offensively, Dallas resorted to its formative years as Tom l.andry looked in the depths of the closet to pull some zingers out. There was a reverse pass, end around, hitch screen, two shuttle passes and use of the spread formation 17 times.

“The Rams have a great defense,” said Landry. “So we pulled the stopper out. We’re at the stage now where we need to do those things.”

Dallas even resorted to some things which weren’t planned, especially in what turned out the games first points to the utter delight of a small crowd of 49,091. Facing a fourth-and-13 at his own 49, rookie punter Mitch Hoopes, reading the run, decided to take off on his own. He ran around left end, was hit and squirmed for two extra yards, just enough for a first down.

This was most important, though all Dallas got was Toni Fritsch’s first of four field goals, tying a club record. It helped Dallas keep the ball an unbelievable 8:01 of the first and second periods. A problem thus far is that the Cowboys have not been able to keep the ball.

Roger Staubach, using the spread some 17 times, has not looked better running. Coming out of the deep position, he was cutting, twisting and looked like a college tailback, gaining 56 yards on seven tries. An indication of the danger he posed was that on third-and-4, third-and-7 and third-and-9, he was able to run for gains of 15, 17 and 13 yards.

Passing (Staubach hit 10 of 23) was not that good but close … two were dropped and a 4-yard TD pass to tight end Billy Joe DuPree was called bad on center John Fitzgerald’s infraction. But there was exceptional offensive help from fullback Robert Newhouse who overshadowed the more heralded Ram names as he gained 88 yards on 22 attempts.

“I had that bad game against Pittsburgh and I made up my mind 1 was going to do the job this time, no matter what.” said Staubach. “Whether I had to run or pass or what. No, Coach Landry didn’t tell me to stop running. He doesn’t when I gain yardage.”

Fritsch killed Dallas early, missing field goals of 32 and 28 yards and an extra point in the first half. However, to his credit, he did come back to nail kicks of 25, 39, 19 and 31 yards. “I try too hard,” said Toni. “Just too hard. Finally, I relax and do the job.”

Renfro slowed down last season and teams began to come at him. But, during the offseason, he worked harder than ever and seems to have regained his old form, his old speed. He looked like the 1965 Renfro, who was even shifted to halfback for awhile that year.

Harris tested him and it killed the Rams quarterback. Mel stepped in front of wide receiver Ron Jessie, on a sideline pattern, and returned the ball 12 yards to the Rams’ 24. Wide receiver Drew Pearson carried a hitch screen 18 yards and Doug Dennison finally bore in from the 1 on fourth down.

Near the end of the third period Harris bombed to wide receiver Harold Jackson, Renfro left the sidelines, crossed over the middle, made a stumbling interception and weaved his way 22 yards to set up a field goal. “I feel great, ” said Mel. “After that run I made them promise me they wouldn’t put me at halfback.”

Defensive plays set up all but three of the club’s points, and, had Fritsch been on target, had the penalty against Fitzgerald not occurred and had split end Golden Richards been able to hold onto what would have been an 11-yard TD pass (when he was clobbered at the moment of reception) Dallas would have across the river and into the trees before LA ever knew what happened.

Another fine interception be cornerback Mark Washington, who stole one in front of Jackson and ran it back 55 yards, was called back because of a personal foul by end Harvey Martin, which had nothing to do with the play.

This would have stopped what turned out to be LA’s 74-yard touchdown drive of nine plays, two penalties and questionable call when free safety Cliff Harris crashed into Jaworsky at the 1 on the fourth-and-4.

“The ball never crossed the goalline,” said Harris.

The replay wasn’t clear. Jaworsky’s head was across but the ball might not have been.

“But again, that doesn’t stop us … things like bad calls,” said Jordan, who also had an interception. “We played great ball with a lot of enthusiasm and that’s what it takes. We’ve got a lot of young guys who make mistakes but they keep coming at you and make up for them. Hell, I’m young myself, I feel younger than I have in years.”

And the Rams, the NFC favorites, feel older, much older.