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Then (1971) and Now (2015): Cowboys vs. Patriots

Jethro Pugh (75) and Larry Cole (63) pressure rookie quarterback Jim Plunkett in the 1971 game between Dallas and New England.

Jethro Pugh (75) and Larry Cole (63) pressure rookie quarterback Jim Plunkett in the 1971 game between Dallas and New England.

The Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots have never faced one another during a week 5 in the past. However, the teams have played during week 6 three times, including 1971, 2007, and 2011. New England won the last two of these three games while Dallas won the game in 1971.

Overall, Dallas leads the series, 7 games to 4. However, the Cowboys have not defeated the Patriots since 1996.

Let’s remember some better days today and review the 1971 game.

Then (1971): The Cowboys and Patriots had never played one another in a regular-season game. The teams faced off in 1971, one year after the NFL-AFL merger.

Now (2015): Dallas and New England play each other every four years under the current NFL scheduling system. The Cowboys won the first seven games against the Patriots, but New England has owned Dallas in the four games played between 1999 and 2011.

Then: The Patriots were led at quarterback by rookie Jim Plunkett. He was a highly touted Heisman Trophy winner, but he struggled for many years before leading the Oakland Raiders to two Super Bowl titles.

Now: The Patriots are led at quarterback by Tom Brady. He was a 6th-round pick out of college and entered the NFL without any expectations. However, he had immediate success and has led the Patriots to four Super Bowl titles.

Then: The Cowboys reached the Super Bowl in 1970 with a rookie running back named Duane Thomas. He was such a disruption that the Cowboys traded him to the Patriots in August 1971. NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle later voided part of the trade because Thomas caused so many problems in New England, and Thomas played the 1971 season in Dallas.

Now: The Cowboys reached the playoffs thanks to the running of DeMarco Murray. The Cowboys let him leave via free agency, and the Eagles signed him. He has been ineffective thus far, leading at least a few Philadelphia fans to want to send him back to Dallas.

Then: Dallas head coach Tom Landry developed an ill-fated system of alternating quarterbacks Roger Staubach and Craig Morton. The system failed miserably, and by the time Dallas played New England, the team was 3-2.

Now: Dallas head coach Jason Garrett has had to rely on backup Brandon Weeden, who has been largely ineffective against the Falcons and Saints. Losses to those teams have dropped the Cowboys’ record to 2-2. Garrett may need to turn to backup Matt Cassel if Weeden continues to struggle.

Then: Dallas was a regular contender by 1971 and would eventually win the Super Bowl that season. New England, on the other hand, had been to the AFL playoffs only once and would not reach the Super Bowl for another 14 years (1985 vs. Chicago in Super Bowl XX).

Now: New England has been to six Super Bowls in the past 14 years, and the Patriots have looked like Super Bowl favorites thus far in 2015. Dallas, on the other hand, has been to the playoffs only five times during the past 15 years and has not reached the Super Bowl in 20 years.




Losses by Touchdowns in Overtime

No-OvertimeAs we all know, the Dallas Cowboys lost to the New Orleans Saints on a 80-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees to C.J. Spiller in overtime. At 13 seconds, it marked the fastest overtime win in NFL history.

The Cowboys are now 20-16 in overtime games since the league added overtime in 1970. Of those 16 losses, 6 have occurred when the opposing team has scored touchdowns. Here is a summary.

1975: Washington 30, Dallas 24

The Cowboys had a 24-17 lead in the fourth quarter, but a touchdown pass from Billy Kilmer to Jerry Smith tied the game. Kilmer scored on a one-yard touchdown run in overtime to give Washington the win.

The win dropped Dallas to 5-2 while improving Washington’s record to 5-2. The Redskins, however, lost two straight overtime games to the Cardinals and Raiders. Washington ended up with an 8-6 record and missed the playoffs, while Dallas finished at 10-4 and made it all the way to the Super Bowl.

1987: Minnesota 44, Dallas 38

This was Danny White’s last good game as he threw for 341 yards and 4 TDs. However, he threw three interceptions as well, including one in overtime as it appeared that Dallas would be in position for the game-winning field goal. Darren Nelson scored on a 24-yard touchdown run in OT, ending the game.

Dallas missed the playoffs that year, while the Vikings made it to the NFC Championship Game.

2000: Jacksonville 23, Dallas 17

The Cowboys overcame a 17-7 halftime deficit to force overtime. However, Mark Brunell hit Alvis Whitted on a 37-yard touchdown pass less than four minutes into overtime to win the game for Jacksonville.

2008: Arizona 30, Dallas 24

The Cowboys scored 10 points in the final two minutes, including 3 on a 52-yard field goal by Nick Folk as time expired. However, the Cardinals blocked a Mat McBriar punt in overtime and returned it for the game-winning touchdown.

2011: Arizona 19, Dallas 13

The Cowboys lost a second-half lead to the Cardinals, and the teams went to overtime. Arizona ended the game quickly as Kevin Kolb hit LaRod Stephens-Howling on a 52-yard catch and run for the score.

2015: New Orleans 26, Dallas 20

Backup Brandon Weeden led Dallas on a game-tying drive in the fourth quarter, and the Cowboys then watched as the Saints missed a potential game-winning field goal.

The Dallas celebration was short-lived, though, as Brees hit Spiller for the long touchdown on the second play of overtime.

New Orleans 26, Dallas 20 (OT): Defensive Confusion

Terrance Williams made a great play in the corner of the end zone on a touchdown reception that tied the game.

Terrance Williams made a great play in the corner of the end zone on a touchdown reception that tied the game.

Without Tony Romo, the Dallas Cowboys thought they could rely on their dominant offensive line to produce a good ground game.

The Cowboys also have one of the top defensive minds in the game with defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, so surely the Cowboys could rely on a strong defensive effort while waiting for Dez Bryant, Tony Romo, and others to return. Right?

Well, for the second consecutive week, the Cowboys started the game with a decent running game only to see running backs do next to nothing in the second half.

Dallas did have 115 rushing yards, but 45 of those came on one run by Lance Dunbar early in the game. He later left the game with a leg injury. Joseph Randle managed only 26 yards on 11 carries. He finished with fewer yards than backup Darren McFadden, who had 31 yards. Christine Michael saw the field for the first time but lost one yard on a third-down play.

The Cowboys had a lead for the second straight week, but they could not hold it. And for the second straight week, the defense wore down late in the game.

With the Cowboys holding a 13-10 lead in the third quarter, New Orleans marched 69 yards on 13 plays. A field goal tied the game at 13.

The Saints took a 20-13 lead in the fourth quarter after an 11-play, 67-yard drive. Khiry Robinson’s touchdown capped off the drive, and Dallas looked like it was dead.

Brandon Weeden, however, led the Cowboys on a comeback. On a 4th-and-7 play with less than two minutes remaining, Weeden hit Terrance Williams in the corner of the end zone. Williams’ diving touchdown grab tied the game at 20-20 with 1:51 left.

The defense then fell apart. With less than a minute left, Drew Brees completed a pass to Willie Snead in Dallas territory. One play later, the Dallas defense looked confused, and Brees hit Brandon Coleman to move the ball deep into field-goal range.

The Cowboys dodged a bullet on that drive, though, when Zach Hocker’s kick hit the left upright.

The Saints took the ball over, and the Cowboys’ luck ended immediately.

Dallas had to play with backup linebackers Damien Wilson and Keith Smith because of injuries to starters Sean Lee and Andrew Gachkar. Brees managed to confuse Wilson on a pass to C.J. Spiller, who raced up the right sideline for an 80-yard touchdown reception.

Game over. A 2-0 start has become a 2-2 start, and Dallas must now face the red-hot New England Patriots next week.


For the second straight week, Brandon Weeden was not awful, but until the drive the tied the game in the fourth quarter, he did not prove he could continually move the sticks.

He completed 16 of 26 passes for 246 yards and a touchdown. Cole Beasley was his most effective receiver, catching all 6 passes thrown his direction.

Williams was targeted 10 times, but he caught only 3 of those passes.


With Lee out because of a concussion, Anthony Hitchens became the defensive leader. He recorded 11 total tackles, including 8 solos, plus a half-sack.


This marked the 36th game in team history that went to overtime. The loss dropped the Cowboys’ record in overtime games to 20-16.

Dallas went to OT twice in 2014, beating the Texans on October 5 but losing to the Redskins on October 27.

Then (1983) and Now (2015): Cowboys vs. Saints

saintsFor the second consecutive year, the Cowboys will face the New Orleans Saints during the fourth week of the season. Last year, the Cowboys stunned many by routing the Saints in a 38-17 win.

The teams met during the fourth week of a season only once before. That game took place in 1983.


Then (1983): The head coach of the Saints was Bum Phillips, who never quite got the team over the hump. The team’s defensive coordinator was Bum’s son, Wade Phillips, who later became defensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles and other teams. Wade eventually became the head coach for the Dallas Cowboys.

Now (2015): Wade Phillips once coached under Buddy Ryan in Philadelphia. Ryan’s son, Rob, later became defensive coordinator for the Cowboys before being fired. Rob is now the defensive coordinator for the Saints.

Then: The Cowboys began the 1983 season with a come-from-behind win over their division rivals, the Washington Redskins.

Now: The Cowboys began the 2015 season with a come-from-behind win over their division rivals, the New York Giants.

Then: Dallas began the season with a 7-0 record, and many thought the team was strong enough to make a run to the Super Bowl. It marked the last time that a Tom Landry team would be considered a Super Bowl contender.

Now: Many predicted that the Cowboys could make the Super Bowl, marking the first time that a Jason Garrett team has been considered a Super Bowl contender.

Then: The Saints were led by 38-year-old quarterback Ken Stabler, who had led the Oakland Raiders to a Super Bowl championship in 1976.

Now: The Saints are led by 36-year-old Drew Brees, who led New Orleans to a Super Bowl championship in 2009.

* * *

The 1983 game was a wild one. Dallas led 13-10 at halftime but fell behind 20-13 in the fourth quarter.

The Saints lined up for a field goal to extend their lead, but Dallas blocked the kick, and Ron Fellows returned the ball 63 yards for a touchdown.

New Orleans, however, blocked Rafael Septien’s extra point attempt, meaning the Saints still had the lead.

Later in the quarter, Dallas drove the ball into New Orleans territory. The Cowboys only needed a field goal, but Danny White threw an interception in the end zone.

Instead of falling the ball, linebacker Dirt Winston ran the ball out to the 6. Just over two minute remained, so it looked as if Dallas needed to make a stop and then drive to kick a game-winning field goal.

The Saints inexplicably called a play-action pass, and Dallas linebacker Anthony Dickerson sacked Stabler in the end zone for a safety. The two points were enough to give Dallas a 21-20 win.

Here is a video of the second half of the 1983 game.

Brandon Weeden’s New Place in Team History

Brandon Weeden. Befuddled.

Brandon Weeden. Befuddled.

So it’s my blog, and if I want to give Brandon Weeden the nickname “We Done,” I will. (Or, um, already did.)

Just over 11 months ago, I also put Weeden on the list of 10 worst performances by a backup quarterback in team history.

He nearly made the list with his performance yesterday thanks largely to a bad decision that led him to throw an interception. His performance against Atlanta will not be on the list, though, because that was his only interception.

We Done nevertheless made team history yesterday. He completed 22 of 26 passes, giving him an 84.62% completion rate.

During nine games in team history, Dallas quarterbacks (with at least 10 attempts) have completed 84% of their passes. This includes Staubach, Aikman, Romo, Meredith, and White.

And Kyle Orton.

And Brandon Weeden.

The difference between Weeden and the others? Each of them threw at least one touchdown pass in the games when they completed at least 84% of their passes.

We Done didn’t. So congratulations, Brandon. You made history.

Atlanta 39, Dallas 28: A Solid 29 Minutes of Football, but Then…

A puzzled Brandon Weeden.

A puzzled Brandon Weeden.

With the Cowboys trying to win games with Brandon Weeden at quarterback and without Dez Bryant at receiver, most knew the team needed to do some things very well to knock off the 2-0 Atlanta Falcons.

  • Run the ball well.
  • Play excellent defense.
  • Let Weeden manage the game without having to rely on him to win it.
  • Win the field-position game.
  • Win the turnover battle.

Other factors could also apply, but these would be critical. And for 29 minutes, the Cowboys did most of these things.

Joseph Randle reminded fans of the 2014 version of DeMarco Murray. In the first five minutes of the game, he had 85 rushing yards. He scored three touchdowns in the first half and looked unstoppable.

(In the second half, Randle looked more like the 2015 version of Murray in Philadelphia.)

The defense contained Julio Jones for the entire first half, allowing Jones to catch only 3 passes for 27 yards.

Weeden made a critical mistake on an interception, but he was otherwise effective. The announcers said he set a franchise record with 20 consecutive completions.

Dallas had 20 first downs to Atlanta’s 12 in the first half.

It looked as if the Cowboys would go into halftime with a 28-14 lead thanks to Randle’s third touchdown run of the game. Everything had gone the Cowboys’ way.

Then came the last 40 seconds of the first half. The Falcons went 66 yards on 6 plays to kick a field goal, making it 28-17 at the half.

The problem: Dallas never regained the momentum after that point.

To begin the first half, Dallas forced an Atlanta punt. The Cowboys took over at the Atlanta 47 with a 14-point lead.

And the team promptly moved backwards. Dallas faced a 3rd-and-23 and were forced to punt one play later.

Although the Cowboys pinned the Falcons deep, Dallas at that point decided to unveil the Can’t Stop Anyone Defense from 2012-2013. Yes, that one.

Atlanta went 87 yards in 6 plays to cut the Dallas lead to 28-23.

The Cowboys needed to run, but they couldn’t. Dallas had to punt again.

Another Falcons drive began deep in Atlanta territory, but it didn’t matter. Atlanta moved the ball 89 yards in 11 plays.

Julio Jones scored the go-ahead points on a two-yard touchdown reception. The Cowboys had no idea how to stop Jones, who gained 164 yards on 12 receptions.

If it wasn’t Jones killing the Cowboys, it was running back Devonta Freeman. He carried the ball 30 times for 141 yards and 3 touchdowns.

With the Cowboys trailing and unable to move the ball on the ground, Dallas needed to turn to Weeden to produce something.

Instead, Dallas went three-and-out, with Weeden taking a sack on third down.

Atlanta scored pretty easily again. Weeden and the Cowboys could do nothing.

Atlanta 39, Dallas 28.

No, the loss did not completely fall on Weeden’s shoulders. This was a team loss.

He cannot, however, make the stupid pass he made in the second quarter. An Atlanta interception led directly to a Falcon touchdown.

He also did not get the ball downfield at all. He attempted only six passes directed at receivers. Terrance Williams was his target twice, but Williams failed to catch a pass.

The role players did not help, though.

One reason why Williams failed to catch a pass was because he dropped a pass that hit him on the numbers.

Cole Beasley made some good plays, but many people would have trouble naming the other receivers on the field today.

Dallas recorded one sack but often completely failed to put any pressure on Matt Ryan.

The Cowboys will play one more game without Greg Hardy and Rolondo McClain, and Jeremy Mincey should be back before long. Each of them should help matters.

For more reviews on the best football gloves, click here.




Live Blog: Dallas Cowboys vs. Atlanta Falcons

The 2-0 Dallas Cowboys host the 2-0 Atlanta Falcons in week 3.

Live Blog, Week 3: Dallas Cowboys vs. Atlanta Falcons

How the Dallas Cowboys address major injuries to Tony Romo and Dez Bryant will give us an idea about this team’s possible fortunes in 2015.

The Cowboys have a tough test today in their first full game without Romo. Atlanta has defeated the same two teams as the Cowboys, as the Falcons beat Philadelphia 26-24 in week 1, followed by a 24-20 win over the Giants in week 2.

Here’s the live blog for today’s game.

Then and Now: Cowboys vs. Falcons, 1986 vs. 2015

The Cowboys lost a shootout to the Atlanta Falcons in week 3 of the 1986 season.

The Cowboys lost a shootout to the Atlanta Falcons in week 3 of the 1986 season.

The Cowboys have faced the Atlanta Falcons during week 3 of a season only once before. That game took place in 1986 at Texas Stadium.

This is the second time this year a Then and Now feature has focused on the 1986 season. The previous entry addressed the season-opener against the New York Giants.

Here is a look the matchup in 1986 (then) compared with Sunday’s game against the Falcons (now).

Then (1986): The Cowboys faced the Falcons nine times between 1966 and 1985. Dallas won eight of those games, including two playoff victories.

Now (2015): The Cowboys last played the Falcons in 2012, losing 19-13. Dallas has played Atlanta five times since 2001 and has lost three of those games. The last Dallas win came in 2009.


Then: Atlanta’s starting quarterback was David Archer. He played college football at Snow College in Utah and was not drafted in 1984. He started 23 games with the Falcons between 1985 and 1987.

Now: Dallas would have started its own undrafted quarterback, Tony Romo, but Romo suffered a broken clavicle against the Eagles last week. Instead, the Cowboys will start Brandon Weeden, who has started 21 games during his career with Cleveland and Dallas.

Then: The Falcons’ starting running back was Gerald Riggs. One year earlier, Riggs carried the ball 397 times and gained 1,719 yards. He was still effective in 1986, finishing the season with 1,327 yards. However, he had trouble staying healthy and never reached the 1,000-yard mark again after turning 27.

Now: The Cowboys had their own workhorse in 2014. DeMarco Murray carried the ball 392 times that season and rushed for a franchise-record 1,845 yards. However, running backs in the past, including Riggs, have usually struggled after touching the ball so many times in one season, and the Cowboys led Murray leave via free agency. In two games with the Eagles in 2015, Murray has gained only 11 yards in 21 carries.


Then: Atlanta had not made the playoffs since 1982 and had suffered through a 4-12 season in 1985.  Things looked good in 1986 as the team started at 4-0. However, the Falcons lost five straight in the middle of the season and finished at 7-8-1.

Now: Atlanta was one of the better teams in the league between 2010 and 2012. However, the teams suffered through a 4-12 season in 2013 and a 6-10 season in 2014. Hopes are higher now, as Atlanta won its first two games.


Then: The Cowboys won their first two games before losing to the Falcons. Dallas eventually improved its record to 6-2, but an injury to Danny White in week 9 caused a downward spiral. The Cowboys finished with a 7-9 record.

Now: The Cowboys have won their first two games but have lost both Tony Romo and Dez Bryant for the next several weeks. Whether the Cowboys can avoid a downward spiral will determine whether the Cowboys can reach the playoffs again.

Blocked Punts Returned for Touchdowns

Danny McCray blocked a Donnie Jones punt in the third quarter in the Cowboys' 20-10 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on September 20, 2015.

Danny McCray blocked a Donnie Jones punt in the third quarter in the Cowboys’ 20-10 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on September 20, 2015. Kyle Wilbur returned the ball for a touchdown.

A huge play in the Dallas Cowboys’ win over the Philadelphia Eagles yesterday was Danny McCray’s blocked punt, which Kyle Wilbur returned for a touchdown.

I have heard a number of different estimates about the last time the Cowboys returned a blocked punt for a touchdown, but most of the estimates I heard were wrong.

According to the data on Pro-Football-Reference, the last time the Cowboys returned any type of blocked kick for a touchdown was 2007, when Pat Watkins returned a blocked field goal 68 yards for a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings.

We have to look back to 1992 for the last time the Cowboys scored on a blocked punt. In week 2 of that season, Robert Williams scored after the Cowboys blocked a Sean Landeta punt.

That was actually Williams’s second career touchdown from a blocked punt. One year earlier, he scored after Dallas had blocked a Greg Montgomery punt against the Houston Oilers.

Here is a list of all five times the Cowboys have scored on blocked punts.

1977: Charlie Waters scored after a blocked punt in a 16-10 win over the Eagles.

1985: Jesse Penn returned a blocked punt 46 yards for a touchdown in a 50-24 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

1991: Robert Williams returned a blocked punt 18 yards for a touchdown in a 26-23 loss to the Houston Oilers.

1992: Robert Williams recovered a blocked punt and scored in a 34-28 win over the New York Giants.

2015: Kyle Wilbur returned a blocked punt 26 yards for a score in a 20-10 win over the Eagles.

Dallas 20, Philadelphia 10: Big Win, Big Cost

The Cowboys’ defense had completely shut down the Philadelphia offense for the entire first half of the week 2 matchup. DeMarco Murray had negative rushing yards for much of the game, and Sam Bradford looked completely lost.

Sean Lee was the real hero of Sunday's 20-10 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Sean Lee was the real hero of Sunday’s 20-10 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Dallas had a lead, but it was only 6-0. Nevertheless, three minutes into the second half, Danny McCray broke through to block an Eagle punt, and Kyle Wilbur returned the blocked punt for a touchdown. It marked the first time since 1992 that the Cowboys had returned a blocked punt for a score, and the play gave Dallas a 13-0 lead.

Another three-and-out by the Eagles led to another punt. With 11 minutes left in the third quarter, Romo hit Lance Dunbar on a 39-yard pass down the right sidelines, giving the Cowboys a first down at the Philadelphia 32.

It turned out to be the last pass Romo will throw for several weeks. Two plays later, Romo landed hard on his left side and broke his clavicle. He also fumbled on the play, giving the Eagles life.

The Eagles drove to the Dallas 3, but the real hero of the game for the Cowboys came up huge. Sean Lee picked off Sam Bradford in the end zone.

Philadelphia later kicked a field goal to cut the Cowboys’ lead to 13-3, and Dallas fans had to hope that Weeden had enough to run time off the clock.

Weeden did lead a drive.  On the 11th play of that drive, however, Gavin Escobar fumbled the ball, and Malcolm Jenkins returned the ball 34 yards into Dallas territory.

Fortunately, Bradford remained lost. He mishandled a snap from center on the next play, giving the ball back to Dallas with 7:15 remaining in the game.

Less than three minutes later, J.J. Wilcox snagged a deflected pass and recorded another interception of Bradford with 4:40 left.

Weeden hit Terrence Williams on a 42-yard touchdown pass to pad the lead, as the Cowboys won, 20-10.


One week ago, I wrote that last week’s game against the New York Giants was somewhat similar to the team’s season-opening loss to the Washington Redskins in 2010. The difference was that the Cowboys beat the Giants, unlike the result in 2010.

Today brought another bad reminder from 2010.

In week 6 that season, Tony Romo went to the turf with a broken clavicle and was out for the season. After losing to the Giants, the Cowboys were 1-5 and finished the season with a 6-10 record.

In the third quarter of today’s game at Philadelphia, Romo went hard to the turf and broke the same left clavicle. Nobody is sure right now how long he will be out, but it could be as many as 12 weeks.

In games started by the likes of Brad Johnson, Jon Kitna, Stephen McGee, Kyle Orton, and Brandon Weeden since 2008, the Cowboys have gone 6-9. Weeden’s career record as a starter is 5-16.

Weeden will now take over as the starter of a team that has gone 2-0 for the first time since 2008.

Lee came up huge in the win. He recorded 14 total tackles, including two for losses.

His play was a big reason why DeMarco Murray had only 2 rushing yards on 13 carries.

Lee’s interception in the end zone was nearly as big as McCray’s blocked punt. Had the Eagles scored on the drive, it would have been a one-possession game with Weeden leading the Cowboys.

After two games in 2014, Murray had 285 rushing yards on 51 carries for a 5.6 per-carry average.

After two games in 2015, Murray has 11 yards on 21 carries. At this rate, it would take Murray 335 games to reach his total of 1,845 yards from last year.