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Madden sim: Dallas wins 24-17. Others: 28-19 (Accuscore); 27-24 (WhatIfSports); 25-18 (Teamranking); 27-17 (Numberfire) pic.twitter.com/J78hqnaj
— kickholder (@kickholder) November 18, 2012
The Cowboys will meet the Cleveland Browns for just the 11th time since 1970. During my own lifetime, this hasn’t been any sort of rivalry at all.
Fifteen years later, the Browns visited Dallas in December and stunned the Cowboys thanks to three field goals by Matt Stover.
The other eight games were hardly memorable—for me, at least.
During the 1960s, though, the Browns were actually one of the Cowboys’ chief rivals. Between 1960 and 1966, the teams faced 13 times. Dallas only won two of those games.
The first win came in 1962 when the Cowboys piled up 217 rushing yards and held Jim Brown to just 29 yards in a 45-21 Dallas victory.
The next win did not come until 1966. The teams met twice that year, and Cleveland won the first contest, handing Dallas their first loss of the season. About a month later, though, the Cowboys topped the visiting Browns in a 26-14 win.
Dallas had a four-game winning streak over Cleveland between 1966 and 1968, including the Cowboys’ first-ever playoff win in 1967.
The Browns had the last laugh, though. Dallas had to visit Cleveland in the playoffs in both 1968 and 1969. The Browns won both games in dominating fashion. In both seasons, though, Cleveland lost in the NFL Championship Game.
After that, though, the series all but died.
The Dallas Cowboys may have saved their season thanks to three returns they made for touchdowns in the fourth quarter against Philadelphia. Until that fourth quarter, the Cowboys had not scored on any type of return for nearly an entire calendar year. The last touchdown on a return came against the Buffalo Bills on November 13, 2011 in a 44-7 Dallas win.
This was not the first time the Cowboys have had multiple touchdowns from non-offensive touchdowns (i.e., those made on returns on special teams or defense) in a single game. It was also not the first time the Cowboys scored on three returns in the same game. However, it was the first time the Cowboys scored on three returns in the same quarter, which makes the feat even more remarkable.
Scoring on multiple returns is not common. The Cowboys have now done so only 11 times in team history. Here is a summary:
3 Returns for Touchdowns
The Cowboys scored three touchdowns on Sunday thanks to a punt return by Dwayne Harris, an interception return by Brandon Carr, and a fumble recovery return by Jason Hatcher.
The only other time the Cowboys scored on three returns was almost exactly 47 years ago. On November 7, 1965, in a game against San Francisco, the Cowboys scored on a kickoff return by Mel Renfro, a fumble recovery return by George Andrie, and an interception return by Bob Lilly. These touchdowns did not occur in the same quarter, but they did occur in the same half.
Dallas won the game 39-31. It took a fourth quarter touchdown pass from Don Meredith to Bob Hayes and a field goal by Danny Villanueva to put the game away.
2 Returns for Touchdowns
In nine other games, Dallas managed two returns for touchdowns. In chronological order:
October 14, 1962, Dallas 41, Philadelphia 19: Amos Marsh returned a kickoff 101 yards, and Mike Gaechter returned an interception 100 yards. It marked the first time in NFL history that two players on the same team had returns of at least 100 yards.
October 3, 1966, Dallas 52 Pittsburgh 21: Lee Roy Jordan returned an interception for a score, and Renfro returned a kickoff for a touchdown.
September 18, 1983, Dallas 28, N.Y. Giants 13: Dexter Clinkscale returned an interception for a score, while Michael Downs returned a fumble recovery for a touchdown.
September 9, 1985, Dallas 44, Washington 14: Happy birthday to Joe Theismann. Interception returns by Victor Scott and Dennis Thurman.
December 19, 1994, Dallas 24, New Orleans 16: Emmitt Smith suffered a costly hamstring injury in this win. Tony Tolbert and Darrin Smith returned interceptions for touchdowns.
September 21, 1998, Dallas 31, N.Y. Giants 7: Jason Garrett would remember this one because he started for the Cowboys. Deion Sanders would also remember it. He scored on both an interception return and a punt return.
October 3, 1999, Dallas 35, Arizona 7: This was Michael Irvin’s last full game. George Teague returned an interception for a score, while Greg Ellis returned a fumble 98 yards for another touchdown.
November 4, 2001, N.Y. Giants 27, Dallas 24: Dexter Coakley and Mario Edwards scored on interception returns, but Clint Stoerner’s four interceptions killed the Cowboys in a loss.
December 5, 2010, Dallas 38, Indianapolis 35: Interception returns by Orlando Scandrick and Sean Lee kept the Cowboys in the game at Indianapolis, which the Cowboys won in overtime.
Tony Romo has been the starting quarterback in Dallas during six of the last seven months of November (he was injured in 2010). Heading into Sunday’s game at Philadelphia, Romo had a record of 19-4 during those November games.
Romo played a good part of his 24th November game on his back, thanks to an offensive line that could not give Romo more than three seconds to get rid of the ball. The defense wasn’t helping, thanks to a number of penalties on third downs.
Nevertheless, the Cowboys knocked Michael Vick out the game and held a 10-7 lead at the half.
The Cowboys went three and out to open the second half, however, and rookie QB Nick Foles drove the Eagles into Dallas territory. On 1st and 20, Foles threw a pass into the end zone to a wide open Jeremy Maclin. The touchdown gave Philadelphia its first lead of the game.
The Cowboys went three and out again.
The Eagles drove down and added a field goal.
Philadelphia 17, Dallas 10, and it looked like the story for the game would be an obituary for the season.
With 2:14 left in the the third quarter, Dallas faced a 3rd and 5. Romo once again did not have time to throw the ball. However, he maneuvered in the pocket and bought enough time to find Miles Austin on a 25-yard reception. Three plays later, Romo hit Dez Bryant in the end zone on a deep post. Replay officials confirmed that the play was a touchdown.
No more obituary. From that point, the Cowboys took control.
Former Cowboy Mat McBriar punted with just under 14 minutes left in the game. Dwayne Harris headed towards the left sideline and found a lane. He raced 78 yards for a touchdown, giving the Cowboys the lead once again.
Philadelphia managed to score with just under two minutes left, but Alex Henery missed the extra point. The Eagles held the Cowboys and got the ball back at their own 11 with 53 seconds remaining.
But there was no magic finish for the Eagles. Anthony Spencer sacked Foles and stripped the ball. Jason Hatcher recovered the fumble in the end zone, giving Dallas its third touchdown on defense or special teams in the fourth quarter alone.
The game did not start out especially well for the Dallas defense. Two encroachment penalties gave the Eagles first downs, and Riley Cooper made a great catch in the end zone to give the Eagles a 7-0 lead.
The Cowboys came right back, though, driving 80 yards on 13 plays. Felix Jones took a short pass 11 yards for a touchdown to tie the game.
Both offenses struggled for much of the first half. Romo’s 49-yard pass to Dez Bryant with six minutes left in the second quarter helped to set up a field goal that gave the Cowboys their 10-7 halftime lead.
The Cowboys had good fortune earlier in the day as well. The Giants lost to the Bengals, giving New York a 6-4 record. If Dallas beat Cleveland next week, the Cowboys will be just one game out in the NFC East.
Tony Romo is currently on pace to set personal records for attempts, completions, and yards (and, um, interceptions) in a season. It is generally well-known, though, that putting the ball in Romo’s hands usually isn’t a good answer for the Cowboys.
The reason why Romo’s stats are up across the board? This Dallas rushing “attack” may be the worst in team history. Yes, much of this is because DeMarco Murray has been injured, but the incompetence is beyond ridiculous.
Dallas currently has 667 rushing yards, for an average of 83.4 per game. That ranks 29th in the pass-happy NFL of today.
At this rate, the Cowboys would finish with 1,334 rushing yards and 8 TDs.
Now consider these forgettable seasons:
1960: Dallas infamously finished with a record of 0-11-1.
That’s an average of 87.4 yards per game, which is better than what Murray, Felix Jones, and company have managed so far.
1989: Dallas infamously finished with a record of 1-15.
The Cowboys traded Herschel Walker after five games and were left with Paul Palmer and pre-Moose-hype Daryl Johnston. The team finished with 1,409 rushing yards.
Of course, that’s better than the 2012 team would have at the current pace.
2010: Dallas started with a 1-7 record before finishing at 6-10.
Dallas has had similar problems running the ball in the recent past. Remember 2010? That was the year that the team started 1-7, leading Jerry Jones to fire Wade Phillips.
The offensive coordinator during those first eight games was Jason Garrett. The rushing stats during those eight games:
605 yards. 2 TDs.
It’s worth noting that the 2010 Cowboys ran the ball considerably better in the second eight games, gaining at least 100 yards in each of those games. The 2012 Cowboys have managed to reach the century mark as a team in only two games. The exact stats may not matter, but the ground game had better improve if this team wants to finish better than 6-10.
As of last night, Jason Witten is the Dallas Cowboys’ all-time leading receiver in terms of receptions. Witten now has 754 receptions, surpassing Michael Irvin’s total of 750.
After a well-publicized slow start in 2012, Witten has caught fire. He has 58 receptions for 538 yards in just eight games. At this pace, he would finish the season with 116 receptions for 1076 yards. He has surpassed more than 1,000 receiving yards three times during his career but has never had more than 96 receptions in a season.
He needs 3,457 yards to surpass Irvin in receiving yards. The question for now: can he last long enough to break the mark?
Somewhat amazingly, Witten is only 30 years old. Many may look at Tony Gonzalez (now 36) to suggest that Witten has five or six more years left in him.
However, Gonzalez is really the exception in terms of durability at the tight end position. Consider these stats:
- In NFL history, tight ends age 30 or older have had at least 50 receptions 45 times. Gonzalez has at least 50 receptions in each season since he turned 30, including the current season.
- Once tight ends reach the age of 33, their production typically falls off considerably. Only six tight ends have had 50 receptions after reaching the age of 33. Gonzalez is one of them, of course, along with former Cowboy Jay Novacek, Pete Metzelaars, , Pete Retzlaff, Shannon Sharpe, and Wesley Walls.
- Only five tight ends age 30 or older have had at least 1,000 receiving yards in a season. Gonzalez did it twice when he was still with Kansas City.
- The oldest tight end to have 1,000 receiving yards was Retzlaff, who played in Philadelphia during the 1960s.
When the schedule came out for the 2012 season, most (including me) looked at December, because that’s when the Dallas Cowboys usually implode.
Then we looked at the middle of the schedule—three straight road games against the Giants, Falcons, and Eagles. The pessimists said the Cowboys would lose all three. After tonight’s loss to the Falcons, Dallas is two-thirds of the way there.
[Correction (11/5): Dumb mistake on my part. The Cowboys play three road games in four weeks, but the Giants game last week was at home. The other road game was at Carolina.]
Yes, the Cowboys played the only unbeaten team in the league very tough. Yes, the Cowboys could have had a chance to win with just one more defensive stop with less than five minutes remaining.
But this is the modern-era Cowboys. We should know better.
With a 16-13 lead, the Falcons faced a 3rd-and-6 from their own 24 with just under 4 minutes left. Matt Ryan threw to Jacquizz Rodgers in the flat. Orlando Scandrick just had to make a tackle to force a punt. Rodgers instead broke the tackle and raced 31 yards past midfield.
Three plays later, the Falcons faced a 3rd-and-8. The Cowboys appeared to force an incomplete pass, but the referees called Scandrick for defensive holding.
From there, Atlanta ran the clock down and kicked a field goal. There were no miracles in store for the Cowboys, who fell to 3-5 with the loss.
At least the second half was a bit lively. The first half featured a total of four field goals. Dallas drove into the red zone twice in the first quarter before stalling and having to settle for field goals. The Falcons then tied the game with two of their own in the second quarter.
The Cowboys moved into Atlanta territory on the first possession of the second half, but the drive stalled. The Cowboys did not manage to move into Atlanta territory until midway through the fourth quarter.
The Cowboys came to life thanks to a quick drive that lasted just 2:28. Tony Romo hit Kevin Ogletree on a 21-yard touchdown to pull the Cowboys to within a field goal. However, the defense could not hold the Falcons when it mattered most.
The Cowboys didn’t turn the ball over, marking the first time that has happened all season. However, the Cowboys did not force a turnover, so Dallas still has a turnover ratio of minus-11.
Dallas also only had 7 penalties for 50 yards. However, Atlanta had only 2 for 15 yards, and the Cowboys’ penalties came at the worst times.
This felt like a solid defensive effort, but the Cowboys gave up some yardage. Turner had more than 100 yards on the ground, while both Julio Jones and Roddy White had more than 100 receiving yards each.
The Cowboys are still a half-game from the division cellar thanks to the Redskins’ loss to the Panthers on Sunday. If the Eagles lose to the Saints on Monday, the Cowboys will be tied with Philadelphia entering into next week’s matchup at Lincoln Financial Field.
Not many others agree. Every simulation has the Falcons coming away with a win, with most predicting that both teams will score more than 20 but less than 30 points.
Here’s a list:
What If Sports: Atlanta 27, Dallas 20
AccuScore: Atlanta 28, Dallas 24
Number Fire: Atlanta 25, Dallas 22
TeamRankings: Atlanta 25, Dallas 23
Madden (via ESPN): Atlanta 31, Dallas 21
Among ESPN commentators, only Merril Hoge and Ron Jaworski predicted a Dallas win. Even fewer in Dallas think the Cowboys will win as seven of eight reporters with the Dallas Morning News picked Atlanta to win.
The Cowboys first faced the Atlanta Falcons during Atlanta’s inaugural season in 1966. Dallas won in a 47-14 blowout.
Blowouts were the norm in the early part of this series, as Dallas won the first five games by a combined score of 145-38. The teams played three of these five games at Atlanta.
The last of the five games took place in 1974 during the opening week. The Cowboys had little trouble with the Falcons that day, taking a 17-0 halftime lead on the way to a 24-0 win.
Here is a video with highlights:
It was a nice way to open the season for Dallas, but the weeks that followed were less than great. Dallas lost four in a row and wound up finishing at 8-6. The team missed the playoffs for the first time since 1965.
The Cowboys lost to the Falcons for the first time in 1976, and the teams have been a bit more even in the series after the early domination by the Cowboys. Dallas holds a 16-8 edge in 22 games, including two playoff wins.
Tony Romo set a record for passing attempts on Sunday against the Giants and came close to setting a few more. However, nobody will want to remember these numbers. The stat line was as follows:
- 62 attempts (team record)
- 36 completions (2nd highest total in team history)
- 437 yards (3rd highest total in team history)
- 4 interceptions (tied for the second highest total in team history)
- 22,907 career yards (now the second highest total in team history, surpassing Roger Staubach)
It stands to reason that the Cowboys have not fared well when quarterbacks have thrown multiple interceptions. However, in the history of the Cowboys, days with big passing yards have also been bad. Consider these statistics:
Only three Dallas quarterbacks have had at least 50 passing attempts in a game. This includes Romo, Troy Aikman, and Vinny Testaverde. The Cowboys’ record in those games: 1-7. Here’s a look:
|1||Tony Romo||32-190||2012-10-28||NYG||L 24-29||62|
|2||Troy Aikman*||32-005||1998-11-26||MIN||L 36-46||57|
|3||Tony Romo||29-229||2009-12-06||NYG||L 24-31||55|
|4||Troy Aikman*||31-023||1997-12-14||CIN||L 24-31||53|
|5||Troy Aikman*||30-318||1997-10-05||NYG||L 17-20||52|
|6||Tony Romo||30-151||2010-09-19||CHI||L 20-27||51|
|7||Tony Romo||27-170||2007-10-08||BUF||W 25-24||50|
|8||Vinny Testaverde||40-304||2004-09-12||MIN||L 17-35||50|
Romo is the only Cowboys quarterback with at least 36 completions in a single game. He holds the team record with 41, set in 2009 against the Giants. The result in both games? Losses, of course.
This is the fifth time that Romo has completed at least 34 passes. His record in those games is 1-4. Aikman completed 34 passes twice and lost both games. Jon Kitna completed 34 passes in 2010, and the Cowboys lost.
Romo, Aikman, and Don Meredith are each on the list of QBs with 400 yards passing in a game. Their combined record: 1-4.
|1||Don Meredith||25-214||1963-11-10||DAL||SFO||L 24-31||460|
|2||Troy Aikman*||32-005||1998-11-26||DAL||MIN||L 36-46||455|
|3||Tony Romo||32-190||2012-10-28||DAL||NYG||L 24-29||437|
|4||Tony Romo||30-172||2010-10-10||DAL||TEN||L 27-34||406|
|5||Don Meredith||28-217||1966-11-13||DAL||WAS||W 31-30||406|
Not surprisingly, the Cowboys have a terrible record when QBs have thrown at least four interceptions. Romo has now done it three times and has a 1-2 record in those games. The Cowboys’ historic record when QBs have thrown at least four picks is 5-19.
Danny White had the most games with at least four picks with six. Strangely, though, he had a 4-2 career record in those six games.
No surprise that Romo surpassed Staubach in passing yardage.
The comparisons end there. Period.