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No fan of the Dallas Cowboys could possibly be happy with the fate of the 2015 team thus far. A 2-0 start has disintegrated into a 2-4 start, and the team could be out of the playoff race before Tony Romo returns later in November.
The Cowboys have been in a similar situation in the past. The team of the 1970s was nearly a dynasty, and by 1974 Dallas had been the playoffs eight consecutive years. Moreover, Dallas had at least made the NFC Championship Game in each season between 1970 and 1973.
The 1974 season was, however, one to forget. As you can see below, that season and the 2015 season have some similarities.
Then (1974): The Cowboys had reached the playoffs each season between 1966 and 1973. The team had reached the Super Bowl in 1970, won the Super Bowl in 1971, and reached the NFC Championship Game in 1972 and 1973.
Now (2015): The Cowboys have not had recent success like the 1970s Cowboys did, but Dallas reached the playoffs in 2014 and beat Detroit in the first round.
Then: Dallas dominated the Atlanta Falcons before losing consecutive games against the Eagles and Giants. Dallas also lost to the Vikings and Cardinals, leaving the Cowboys with a 1-4 record.
Now: Dallas recorded wins over the Giants and Eagles before losing to the Falcons. Additional losses to the Saints, Patriots, and Giants have left the Cowboys with a 2-4 record.
Then: Dallas rebounded with a 31-24 win over the Eagles in week 6. Dallas eventually won four straight to get back into the playoff race with a 5-4 record.
Now: Dallas faces the defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks in week 8.
Then: The Cowboys had a good backup QB with Craig Morton, but the Cowboys traded Morton to the Giants early in the season. When Roger Staubach went down with an injury against the Redskins on Thanksgiving Day, backup Clint Longley entered the game. In one of the most famous games in team history, Longley threw two touchdown passes to bring the Cowboys from behind in a 24-23 win.
Now: Dallas lost starting QB Tony Romo in week 2, and the team did not have a good backup. The team lost three straight games with Brandon Weeden, followed by a fourth loss with starter Matt Cassel.
Then: The Cowboys still had a quality starter at RB with Calvin Hill. However, Hill would leave the team after the 1974 season to join the World Football League. In 1976, Hill returned to the NFL, joining the division rival Washington Redskins.
Now: The Cowboys had arguably the best running back in the NFL in 2014 with DeMarco Murray. However, Murray left via free agency to join the division rival Philadelphia Eagles.
Then: Although the Cowboys finished with a winning record in 1974, the team missed the playoffs. Nevertheless, a strong draft in 1975 helped Dallas to rebuild quickly, and the team reached the Super Bowl in 1975.
Now: Jason Garrett’s teams have reached the playoffs just once since he took over as the head coach of the Cowboys. A feel-good season in 2014 has evaporated into a distant memory, and unless the team can turn things around in a hurry, the Cowboys will have another disappointing finish in 2015.
Darren McFadden has earned the starting RB job in next Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks. He will start in place of Joseph Randle, who suffered an injury against the New York Giants.
McFadden was effective last weekend, rushing 29 times for 152 yards and a touchdown. He is the first Dallas running back this season to rush for more than 100 yards.
It marked the fourth time in McFadden’s career that he had 29 or more attempts in a game. He twice ran the ball 30 times while a member of the Oakland Raiders. Unlike last Sunday for the Cowboys, the Raiders won all three games when McFadden had at least 29 attempts.
In team history, a Dallas running back has carried the ball 29 times or more in 43 games. Not surprisingly, the Cowboys have won most of those games, holding a 36-7 record.
The last time a Dallas running back carried the ball at least 29 times in a loss was January 2, 2005, when Julius Jones carried the ball 29 times for 149 yards and a touchdown in a 28-24 loss to the Giants.
Jones had at least 29 carries five times during his four seasons in Dallas, ranking him second in team history. The franchise leader in this category is hardly a shock: Emmitt Smith carried the ball 29 or more times in 22 games.
Here is a summary of the backs who have carried the ball this many times:
Emmitt Smith (22)
Julius Jones (5)
Tony Dorsett (4)
DeMarco Murray (4)
Calvin Hill (3)
Troy Hambrick (2)
Herschel Walker (1)
Eddie George (1)
Darren McFadden (1)
The Dallas Cowboys were once 2-0 and had beaten two division rivals.
That was once upon a time, as in September 20, 2015.
Just over a month later, the Cowboys find themselves with a 2-4 record and sole possession of last place in the division. The team could not hold on to a halftime lead, making numerous mistakes in the second half that cost Dallas the game in a 27-20 loss to the Giants.
The loss ruined a good game by Darren McFadden, who carried the ball 29 times for 152 yards. The defense held Eli Manning to 171 passing yards and a QB rating of 76.7.
McFadden’s touchdown with 2:17 left in the first half gave Dallas a 13-7 lead. It appeared that the Cowboys had stopped the Giants on the next drive, but Rolondo McClain was called for illegal hands to the face, extending the New York drive. The Giants ended up kicking a field goal.
New starter Matt Cassel did not make any major mistakes in the first half, but the third quarter was disastrous. He threw three picks, one of which was returned for a touchdown by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Another interception occurred at the Giant 1-yard line, and the Giants were able to drive nearly the length of the field to kick a field goal.
Dallas kept the game close in the fourth quarter. Cassel made a few nice plays on an 80-yard drive, and his touchdown pass to Devin Street with 7:14 remaining tied the game at 20.
But former Cowboy Dwayne Harris returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. Dallas tried to drive the ball back for a game-tying score, but the Giants stopped the Cowboys on downs.
The Cowboys held the Giants and still had 1:36 to score. However, Cole Beasley muffed the punt, and the Giants recovered. Game over.
This is the team’s worst start since 2010, when Dallas started at 1-7. The last time the Cowboys had a 2-4 record after six games was 2001. That team finished 5-11.
With the Eagles’ win over the Giants on Monday night, the Dallas Cowboys are now a half-game behind both of those teams and a half game ahead of the Washington Redskins.
Dallas faces the Giants next Sunday and could end up back in first place with a win coupled with a Philadelphia loss at Carolina.
Anyway, below are a few random statistics.
Joseph Randle vs. DeMarco Murray
Murray rushed for 107 yards against the Eagles, giving him 239 for the season. He still trails Joseph Randle’s five-game total of 289 yards, but Murray has shown improvement while Randle has not.
At his current pace, Randle would finish the season with 924 rushing yards. Of course, with Christine Michael expected to carry the ball more often, Randle may not reach the 900-yard mark.
Witten has 30 receptions in five games, putting him on pace to catch 96 passes in 2015. That would be the most since he caught 110 in 2012.
He is not on pace for 1,000 receiving yards, though. The last time he topped 1,000 yards was also 2012, when he had 1,039.
Witten’s 9.0 yards-per-catch average is the lowest in his career.
The Cowboys have drafted a tight end in the second round of a draft three times during the past decade. The strategy has not worked.
The last of those three picks, Gavin Escobar, was supposed to be more of a weapon this year, but he has managed only 4 receptions for 24 yards. That gives him 22 receptions for 263 yards in three seasons.
That’s 8 fewer receptions than Witten has this year alone.
Brandon Weeden’s Lack of Touchdown Passes
Weeden has attempted 98 passes this season but has thrown only 2 touchdown passes.
In team history, a Dallas quarterback has attempted at least 98 passes in a season 72 times (this includes backups, of course). No quarterback has thrown for fewer than 3 touchdown passes while attempting at least 98 passes. The closest to Weeden is Steve Pelluer, who threw 3 touchdown passes in 1987 in 101 attempts.
The Dallas Cowboys have had a bye week during week 6 several times in the past, including 2000, 2001, and 2009. Prior to that, the only other week 6 bye occurred in 1996, and that year is the focus of today’s then and now feature.
After the Cowboys won Super Bowl XXX, several in the local Dallas media expected the Cowboys to win one more time during the 1990s. A win after the 1996 season would have given Dallas four titles in five years, which would have been (and still would be) unprecedented. Of course, the Cowboys did not win another championship—and still haven’t.
Below we will compare and contrast the 1996 Cowboys and today’s Cowboys.
Then (1996): The Cowboys had gone 12-4 in 1995 before making it to and winning Super Bowl XXX. Dallas beat Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game before defeating Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl. It marked the Cowboys’ third title in four years.
Now (2015): The Cowboys went 12-4 in 2014 but lost to Green Bay in the NFC playoffs. Dallas beat Detroit during the opening round of the playoffs, marking the team’s third playoff win in the past 19 seasons.
Then: Barry Switzer entered this third season as head coach in 1996. Although he received no credit for his football knowledge or coaching ability (of course, he was coaching Jimmy Johnson’s players), he had compiled a 28-8 regular season record and a 4-1 playoff record in two seasons.
Now: Jason Garrett is in his fifth season as head coach. He receives all the credit in the world for his intelligence (of course, he went to Princeton, so he’s smarter than any other coach who did not go to Princeton). Before 2015, he had a career coaching record of 41-31 with a playoff record of 1-1.
Then: The Cowboys lost wide receiver Michael Irvin to a five-game suspension before the season began. To make matters worse, Emmitt Smith suffered what appeared to be a devastating neck injury during the season opener. Although Smith did not miss a game, he struggled at times. For instance, during a 10-7 loss at Buffalo in week 4, Smith had only 25 rushing yards on 15 carries. Having Troy Aikman was not enough during the first five games as the future Hall of Fame quarterback failed to throw for more than 200 yards in four of those games.
Now: The Cowboys had a new version of the triplets in 2014 with Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, and DeMarco Murray. However, Murray left the team via free agency, Bryant suffered a foot injury in week 1, and Romo suffered a broken clavicle in week 2.
Then: The Cowboys limped along without Irvin, losing to the Bears, Colts, and Bills. However, Dallas managed wins over the Giants and Eagles to remain in the race.
Now: The Cowboys looked strong in wins over the Giants and Eagles. However, without Romo or Bryant, Dallas has lost to the Falcons, Saints, and Patriots in consecutive games.
Then: Dallas should have suffered a whipping at the hands of the Eagles in week 5, but strong rushing by Smith and good defense allowed the Cowboys to sneak out of the game with a 23-17 win. The win improved the Cowboys’ record to 2-3.
Now: Dallas should have suffered and did suffer a whipping at the hands of the Patriots in week 5. The loss dropped Dallas to 2-3.
Then: The 1996 Cowboys showed guts and resolve. They overcame a 1-3 start to win 9 of their final 12 games. The 10-6 mark was enough to give Dallas another division title. Had Jimmy Johnson been the coach, the turnaround would have provided even more evidence of his genius. However, because Barry Switzer was the coach, most felt that he just won with Jimmy’s players.
Now: The 2015 Cowboys have not shown much of anything since losing Romo and Bryant. Although the defense showed signs of life early in the game against New England, the team appeared to all but give up in the second half. Jason Garrett is still a genius because he went to Princeton, and anyone who studies history at Princeton is a genius football coach. The genius nevertheless needs to find a way to win without his stars or the 2015 season will be lost.
Perhaps the greatest upset in the history of the Dallas Cowboys…
…never came close to happening today.
The Dallas Cowboys played strong defense for part of the first half, allowing Dallas to keep the game close. But once Tom Brady and the Patriots started to get going, the Cowboys did not look like they had a chance.
The Cowboys had one 47-yard drive in the first half that led to a field goal. Dallas had to punt after the remaining drives. Other than the one 47-yard drive, Dallas managed only 13 yards in total offense.
A 13-3 Patriot lead at halftime soon became 20-3 in the third quarter. The Cowboys did put together a 75-yard drive on 15 plays in the third quarter but had to settle for a field goal.
New England turned around and scored on a 59-yard touchdown on a catch-and-run by Julian Edelman. It appeared that four Cowboys had a chance to tackle Edleman, but he ran it in with little trouble.
So the Cowboys are now 2-3 and tied with Philadelphia and Washington. Should the Giants beat the 49ers on Sunday night, the Cowboys will have lost their lead in the NFC East.
The last time the Cowboys scored 6 points or fewer was the season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles in 2008. Dallas needed to win to take the NFC East and return to the playoffs. Instead, the Eagles destroyed Dallas in a 44-6 romp.
Unless something dramatic happens in 2015, the Cowboys will not be playing for a playoff spot in the season finale. Dallas needs to find a way to win a game, let alone eight or so necessary to make the playoffs.
Jason Witten is the most accomplished receiver on the team, but he did not have a single catch until the third quarter. The catch allowed him to extend his streak of games with a reception to 108.
It was not, however, a game to remember for Witten. He caught 5 passes for 33 yards but lost a fumble after one of those receptions.
The last time the Cowboys were 2-3 was 2013 after Dallas lost consecutive games to San Diego and Denver. The Cowboys have a week off before traveling to New York to face the Giants on October 25.
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.
As 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.
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.
For 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.