Dallas Cowboys: Rank the Most Disappointing Playoff Losses

Every playoff loss is, of course, disappointing, but some are more heartbreaking than others. It’s been two weeks since the Cowboys fell to the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round of the playoffs—and the loss still stings.

The list below includes each of the 27 playoff losses in team history, ranked in order of most disappointing.

Although some will insert the latest loss as the most disappointing, I ranked it fourth behind “The Catch” in 1981, the Ice Bowl in 1967, and Super Bowl V.

Matt Cordon Matt Cordon
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Dallas Cowboys: Most Disappointing Playoff Losses

The Dallas Cowboys lost in heartbreaking fashion to the Green Bay Packers in the 2016 NFL Playoffs. This list ranks the most disappointing losses in team history.


1981 NFC Championship Game

Jan 29, 2017
1981 NFC Championship Game

No reference needed other than "The Catch."

  • David

    The ’81 Championship Game, as painful as it was, ranks 2nd on my list, with Super Bowl XIII being the worst ever. So many different things had to happen in order for us to lose that game. Jackie Smith’s drop was only one of them. The horrible pass interfernce call on Barnes was huge – we had them stopped. Then, on the ensuing play, Waters was conveniently shielded from tackling Franco Harris on the play in which he scored. Then, Gerela slips while kicking off, which sends the ball squibbing short to Randy White, who just happened to have a cast on his arm, and fumbled. All of these things were incredibly lucky, and all went the Steelers way. I will go to my grave knowing that we were the better team, and that game has had lifelong implications – team of the 70s, the amount of total rings, and players in the HOF. I am sick just reliving it.

  • dodger71

    Good points. I could spend all day re-ranking these.

  • Tim Truemper

    Quite a list. I was really bummed by the 1979 loss to the Rams. They barely moved the ball except for a few big plays. Would have been interesting to see Dallas play Pittsburgh again in the Super Bowl. And that loss in Super Bowl V, probably type 5 for me. I was incredibly distraught (at age 16).

  • David

    Yea, that 21-19 loss to the Rams in ’79 was very tough to digest, as well. It followed my favorite game of all-time, the Dec. 16 comeback win over the ‘skins, 35-34. Without really racking my brain, just off the top of my head, I would rank my top 10 worst playoff losses as follows:
    1. Super Bowl XIII – see my last post for my reasons (and btw, obviously when I speak of Waters being ‘shielded’ from tackling Harris, I do NOT mean by a blocker or any other player – I mean an OFFICIAL).
    2. 1981 NFC Championship. What many people don’t remember about that game (though Im sure most here do), is that Eric Wright for the Niners actually saved them in that game. Danny hit Drew across the middle,and I thought he was gone. Wright barely got a hold of his jersey and tackled him. Ugghhh. Horrible. I hate even reliving it as I type.
    3. 1980 NFL Title game vs Philly. Keep in mind, many these were in my formative years as a young fan. Honestly, I wish I could say that I don’t take them as hard now, but I do. Its actually ridiculous how seriously I take sports – but I cant help it. I HATED the eagles, as I still do, and I can still see Montgomery gutting us. I watched the 1st half at home, then had to go with my family, so I snuck a radio in my jacket with an earpiece to listen – in church of all places.
    4. This year. Possibly because it is most recent. But to have Zeke run like that, Prescott play well, Dez have a great day, to come all the way back from 21-3 to tie the game, and lose? Brutal. I was screaming at the TV as we hurried to the line, ‘don’t spike it, don’t spike it!’. Well, he spiked it.
    5. The Seattle game. Romo drops the snap. I was at my favorite watering hole, and once we got down near the goal line, this idiot Cowboy fan starts jumpin up screamin, ‘its over! We won! We got this!’ I wont repeat exactly what I said to him at that time, or after the botched snap.
    6. 2014 Ice Bowl II at Lambeau. I still contend that we were the better team, with one GLARING weakness – we could not get to a banged up Rodgers enough. Murray’s fumble was HUGE, as, of course, the reversal of Dez’s catch was. What made matters worse is the fact that I was there – at the game – surrounded by obnoxious Packer fans, who were giving me crap for most of the game. It was horrible. One other thing about that play/game that has always bothered me, and Im curious to see how many here remember. They ruled on the field that Dez caught it. With that, Dallas started heading downfield. The clock kept running, as it should. After review, and the overturn – the never went back and put that time back on the clock (it would have stopped on the incompletion). grrrrr.
    7. 1982 NFC Championship vs the Redskins. Don’t even need to comment on that one. Enough said.
    8. 1994 NFC Title game vs 49ers, This actually ranks higher. Much higher, but Ive already been too long winded and I need to go get some stuff done. I just remember watching the game with my girlfriend and her step-dad – a 49ers fan of course. He was not knowledgable at all about his ‘team’, or even really about football, but he sure acted like he was and kept on and on and on. I decided to just drink a lot of beer.
    9. 1st playoff for Romo’s Cowboys vs the giants after a great season, ending with a pick in the end zone. No more to say.
    10. 20-0 loss to the Rams in ’85. We had beaten the Giants 28-21 to win the division (can still see Jeffcoat running), and I had a weird sense that this would be our last chance for a while – and it was. Horrible way to end Landry’s playoff career with Dickerson running wild, and a no name QB named Dieter Brock.
    O well, sorry to be so long winded with too long a post, but, like I said, to say I am passionate about my teams is an understatement, and I tend to go on and on.