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It came as no big surprise when DeMarco Murray fumbled on the Cowboys’ first offensive drive of Sunday’s game against the St. Louis Rams. It was the third time in three games that Murray had lost a fumble early in the game.
It was hardly a shock that Tony Romo threw an interception returned for a touchdown in the middle of the second quarter. The score gave the Rams a 21-0 lead with 6:06 remaining in the first half.
Up to that point, the Dallas defense displayed that Can’t St0p Anyone look that opposing offenses love. Dallas made second-year quarterback Austin Davis look like Norm Van Brocklin or Bob Waterfield or Pat Haden (or just help me out here by inserting an old Rams QB you might remember).
Anyway, following Murray’s fumble, Davis threw a 51-yard touchdown pass to Brian Quick, who beat Morris Claiborne deep. It was neither the first nor the last time the Rams picked on poor Claiborne, who looked more like one of those just-signed-off-the-street guys than a #6 draft pick.
Only twice in franchise history have the Cowboys won games after trailing by 21 points. In both of those games (1984 vs. New Orleans and 1999 vs. Washington), Dallas won in overtime.
Fortunately, the Cowboys rebounded a bit in the second quarter. They took advantage of a pass interference call in the end zone, giving Dallas the ball at the St. Louis 1 just before the two-minute warning. Murray scored to cut the Ram lead to 21-7.
Davis fumbled a snap a few plays later, and the Cowboys drove down to kick a field goal before halftime.
It had seemed improbable that the Cowboys could erase a 21-point deficit, but Dallas trailed by just 11 points at the half.
It seemed improbable that Romo would be able to lead a comeback, given that his throwing has been off all year thus far.
But on the fourth play of the second half, Romo found a wide open Dez Bryant on a 68-yard touchdown play that cut the St. Louis lead to 21-17.
Midway through the third quarter, a 44-yard run by Murray set up a Dan Bailey field goal. St. Louis 21, Dallas 20.
The Rams kicked a field goal to increase their lead to 4, but Dallas answered with a touchdown drive, giving the Cowboys their first lead, 27-24.
Improbable, it seemed, that the shorthanded defense would make a critical play when the Rams got the ball back. But on the first play after the Dallas touchdown, linebacker Bruce Carter recorded his first career interception and returned the ball for his first career touchdown. Dallas then held a 10-point lead.
The Rams still had life, and Davis continued to pick on Claiborne. Davis’ touchdown pass to Austin Pettis ( who snuck behind Claiborne in the end zone) cut the Dallas lead to 3.
The Cowboys had a chance to put the game away, but Romo was unable to connect on a third-down pass just before the two-minute warning. The Rams got the ball back with 1:58 left to play.
Nearly all of us prayed the Rams would not pick on Claiborne, who had trouble covering anyone.
Improbable at that point for Claiborne to make a key play.
But when Davis threw a deep pass to the left sideline to Quick—the same guy who burned Claiborne earlier in the game—Claiborne made the play, reaching to grab the overthrown pass and secure the win with the interception.
Dallas is now 2-1 and alone in second place in the NFC East. The Eagles are 3-0 after beating Washington.
Here is an animated GIF from an old-school game between the Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Rams. Trivia questions are below the image.
1. The Cowboys beat the Rams on Thanksgiving Day. During which season did this game take place?
2. Who was the L.A. running back being tackled by Bob Lilly and Cornell Green?
3. Which former Cowboy caught a 41-yard pass for the Rams?
4. Which Dallas player scored the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter?
5. The Rams had changed from their gold-and-blue uniforms to blue-and-white uniforms in 1965. When did the Rams return to gold and blue?
This is the first part of a ten-part series focusing on ten pivotal regular season games in the history of the Dallas Cowboys.
Not all famous games will appear on this list. For example, the Mad Bomber game from Thanksgiving Day in 1974 is a famous game, but it was hardly pivotal, given that the Cowboys missed the playoffs that year.
Instead, this series will focus on games that marked turning points—good and bad—in franchise history.
December 5, 1965
“A Loser No More”
Between the first game in franchise history on September 24, 1960 and week 11 of the 1965 season, the Dallas Cowboys had a combined record of 22-53-4. The ’65 team lost to the Washington Redskins in week 11, dropping the Cowboys’ record to 4-7 with three games remaining.
Dallas had to travel to Franklin Field in Philadelphia to face the Eagles in week 12 on December 5, 1965. Both teams were 4-7 and seemed to be heading nowhere.
Former Dallas kicker Sam Baker kicked his third field goal of the game to give the Eagles a 16-14 lead in the second half.
Baker lined up for another field goal late in the third quarter. However, Jethro Pugh managed to break through the line to block the kick. Mike Gaechter recovered, giving Dallas the ball in Eagle territory. Don Meredith soon found Frank Clarke on a 21-yard touchdown to give the Cowboys the lead in the third quarter.
Cornell Green blocked another field goal attempt in the fourth quarter, and Baker missed on a short field goal late in the game. Dallas pulled out the win, 21-19.
Not an important game at first glance, but the win sparked a three-game winning streak to end the 1965 regular season, giving Dallas a 7-7 record. Dallas even played in the Playoff Bowl, losing to the Baltimore Colts.
The rest of the 1960s for the Cowboys looked much different than the first half. The Cowboys’ combined record between week 12 of the 1965 season and the rest of the 1960s was 45-12-2. Dallas would not have another losing season until 1986.
Jason Witten will someday become a member of the Ring of Honor, and he has a chance to become a member of the Hall of Fame.
His career, though, appears to be on the decline. After two weeks, he has only 46 yards on six receptions.
He now has 9,845 receiving yards, meaning he needs 155 more yards to surpass 10,000. He ranks 42nd in NFL history in receiving yards. Among tight ends, he ranks third behind Tony Gonzalez and Shannon Sharpe. Witten should surpass Sharpe soon, as Witten trails Sharpe by 215 yards.
As expected, much of the talk this week centered on what was wrong with Tony Romo’s head.
Other talk focused on the Dallas defense. Many thought the Tennessee Titans would repeat their efforts from their week 1 win over Kansas City and give the Cowboys all sorts of trouble.
(Admittedly, I thought the Cowboys would struggle.)
Instead, Dallas ran the ball 43 times and won the time of possession 41:11 to 18:49.
The last time the Cowboys ran the ball at least 43 times was 2010 in an overtime win over Indianapolis. The time before that was in 2005. Sunday’s game at Tennessee marked just the tenth time since 2000 that the Cowboys have run the ball at least 43 times.
Their record in those games: 9-1, including the Cowboys’ 26-10 win over the Titans.
DeMarco Murray has looked dominant in two games, despite losing two fumbles in those games. He rushed 29 times for 167 yards and a touchdown on Sunday.
The last Dallas player with at least 29 attempts? Julius Jones in 2005.
Murray’s previous high in rushing attempts was 26 in a 31-7 win over the Rams in 2013.
Murray now has 285 rushing yards. Until now, no Dallas runner ever had as many as 285 yards after two games. The previous high after two weeks was 277, set by Emmitt Smith in 1995.
At this rate, Murray would finish the season with 2,280 yards. Let’s not go overboard with these stats, but he’s looking like an elite back.
The Dallas defense held the Titans to 314 total yards. The Cowboys also had two interceptions, including a great pick by linebacker Rolando McClain.
This marked just the sixth time during the Jason Garrett era where the Cowboys have won by 16 or more points. The Cowboys managed just one win by that margin last year and did not win any times in 2012 by that margin.
The Cowboys and Redskins are now 1-1. The Giants fell to 0-2. The Eagles face the Colts on Monday night.
The Dallas Cowboys’ 2014 season was 43 seconds old when they fell behind for the first time against San Francisco on Sunday.
The season was less than 10 minutes old when the 49ers easily drove 80 yards in 4 plays to score their second touchdown. At that point, San Francisco led 14-3.
The season was 10 minutes and 8 seconds old when Tony Romo threw his first interception of the year. One play later, the Cowboys were behind 21-3.
Romo threw two more interceptions in the second quarter. The 49ers turned around after one of those picks and drove for another score.
It took less than 30 minutes to witness an implosion.
* * *
DeMarco Murray had a good game overall, rushing for 118 yards on 22 carries. However, San Francisco’s Chris Culliver returned Murray’s fumble on the opening drive of the game for a score.
When the Cowboys needed to rely on Murray, they didn’t.
The Cowboys had a 2nd and 1 from the 49er 2 on the Cowboys’ second drive of the game. Dallas tried a play-action pass, but Justin Smith sacked Romo for a nine-yard loss. Dallas settled for a field goal and trailed 7-3. The team would never get close tying the game after that.
Romo threw all three of his interceptions into double coverage. The second of the two occurred when Dallas, while trailing 21-3, moved the ball to the 49er 5 and had a first and goal.
Run Murray? Oh, of course not. Romo rolled to his right, did not see a wide open Dwayne Harris, and threw a lob pass into a group of 49er defenders. Patrick Willis picked off the pass in the end zone, and Dallas did not score again in the first half.
Romo threw one more interception after trying to force the ball into double coverage. San Francisco again moved downfield rather easily, scoring another touchdown with less than 40 seconds left.
* * *
Yes, the Cowboys scored two touchdowns in the second half, but the game was not close. Dez Bryant left the game after apparently suffering dehydration. He was not much of factor before that.
The drubbing thrilled the crowd, which apparently consisted of more Niner fans than Cowboy fans. Not surprising, but still disappointing.
The Redskins lost to the Texans, but the Eagles came back to beat the Jaguars. The Cowboys are going to be in an uphill battle for the division. If today is any indication, battle is not the right word.
The Dallas Cowboys host the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. Nearly all simulations and predictions favor the 49ers.