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“The Catch” Is Still a Sickening Sight

This post is part of the 50 Seasons in 50 Weeks Series.

The Cowboys had plenty of opportunities to win the 1981 NFC Championship game, though what most people remember is Joe Montana hitting Dwight Clark in the right corner of the end zone with 51 seconds left in the game. The touchdown capped off an 89-yard drive and gave San Francisco a 28-27 lead.

Care to watch?

Danny White’s opportunity to develop any sort of legacy died on the Cowboys’ last possession. White hit Drew Pearson on a 31-yard pass that gave Dallas the ball at the San Francisco 45. It turned out to be Pearson’s only reception of the game, but he nearly pulled out another Hail Mary. Had Eric Wright not grabbed a piece of Pearson’s jersey, Peason likely would have scored.

On the next play, White was stripped by backup defensive end Lawrence Pillars. Lineman Jim Stuckey recovered, securing the win for the 49ers.

It is easy to forget that White put the Cowboys in position to win the game. His 21-yard touchdown pass to Doug Cosbie was the second TD pass of the game and gave Dallas the 27-21 lead four minutes into the fourth quarter.

The Dallas defense forced six turnovers in the game (3 ints., 3 fumbles) but could not stop San Francisco on that last fateful 49er drive.

Dallas recovered in a sense, making the NFC Championship game yet again in 1982. However, the scars from this game did not heal until more than a decade later.

The Cowboys’ Biggest Playoff Rout: Dallas 38, Tampa Bay 0 (1981)

This post is part of the 50 Seasons in 50 Weeks Series.

12695616.jpgThe Cowboys have won some playoff games in blowout fashion, including the 52-14 win over Cleveland in 1966, the 37-7 destruction of the Rams in the 1975 NFC Championship Game, the 28-0 shutout of the Rams in the 1978 NFC title game, and the 52-17 win over the Bills in Super Bowl XXVII.

The biggest rout, though, had to be the divisional playoff win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on January 2, 1982. 
Tampa Bay made the 1981 playoffs as the NFC Central champions but only had a 9-7 record. That said, the Buccaneers had won four of their last five to pull out the division title.
Dallas harassed quarterback Doug Williams all day, sacking him four times and forcing four interceptions. The Dallas passing attack had trouble getting going, but the team was effective on the round, gaining 212 yards and rushing for four touchdowns. Three of those touchdown runs came in the third quarter, putting the game away.
With the win, Dallas planned a trip to San Francisco to take on the 49ers in the NFC Championship game. Things certainly seemed to look promising for Dallas.

1981: Cowboys Overtake Eagles and Win the NFC East

This post is part of the 50 Seasons in 50 Weeks Series.
The 1981 Cowboys headed into their week 9 matchup with the Eagles as three-point underdogs. At the time, Dallas trailed Philadelphia by a full game. And heading into the fourth quarter of the game, the Cowboys trailed the Eagles, 14-3.
But Dallas rallied to beat the Eagles and stayed in the NFC East race. Philadelphia suffered a four-game losing streak near the end of the season, and the Cowboys pulled out their eighth division title since the NFL-AFL merger of 1970.
Week 9: Dallas 17, Philadelphia 14
Danny White’s touchdown pass to Doug Cosbie and Tony Dorsett’s nine-yard touchdown helped the Cowboys to come from behind to beat the Eagles. Philadelphia’s Tony Franklin missed a field goal with less than two minutes remaining, helping the Cowboys to hold on for the win.
Week 10: Dallas 27, Buffalo 14
The Cowboys gave up more than 200 passing yards in the first half and fell behind the Bills. However, Dallas scored 20 points in the third quarter to pull out a 27-14 win. White threw three touchdowns in the win.
Week 11: Detroit 27, Dallas 24
Eddie Murray nailed a 47-yard field goal as time expired, as the Cowboys lost to the Lions and fell a game behind the Eagles. Dallas had trouble stopping Billy Sims, who rushed for more than 100 yards.
Week 12: Dallas 24, Washington 10
White’s touchdown to Doug Cosbie and a touchdown run by Ron Springs broke open a game that was tied 10-10 in the third quarter, as the Cowboys beat Washington, 24-10. The Giants knocked off the Eagles, meaning that the Cowboys and Eagles were once again tied for the NFC East lead. A big negative: Dallas committed 12 penalties for 94 yards.
Week 13: Dallas 10, Chicago 9
Chicago took a 9-3 lead in the fourth quarter on Vince Evans’ short touchdown run, but Too Tall Jones blocked the extra point. That since point turned out to be the difference in the game. Ron Springs scored on a six-yard run, and the extra point was enough to give Dallas a 10-9 lead.
The Dallas-Chicago game was played on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 26). Four days later, the Eagles lost to the Dolphins on Monday Night Football, meaning that Dallas had sole possession of first place in the division.
Week 14: Dallas 37, Baltimore 13
The Cowboys easily took care of the Colts, who entered the game at 1-12. Ron Springs scored three touchdowns (two on rushing, one on a reception), and Glenn Carano won his only career start. Tony Dorsett helped matters by rushing for 175 yards on 30 carries.
Week 15: Dallas 21, Philadelphia 10
The Eagles could still take the division when the Eagles visited Texas Stadium in mid-December, and once again, the Eagles took an early lead. However, Dallas overcame a 10-0 first-half deficit and downed the Eagles, 21-10. Dallas picked off Ron Jaworski four times, with Dennis Thurman intercepting three of those passes.
Week 16: N.Y. Giants 13, Dallas 10

The Giants snuck into the playoffs for the first time since 1963 by beating the Cowboys on a late Joe Delano field goal. Dallas missed a chance to set a team record for wins and finished the season with a 12-4 record. Tony Dorsett finished the game with just 39 rushing yards on 20 carries. He had a 79-yard lead over George Rogers for the NFL rushing title, but Rogers rushed for more than 100 yards against the 49ers. 

’81 Cowboys Keep Rolling with a 6-2 Start

This post is part of the 50 Seasons in 50 Weeks Series.

In retrospect, the 1981 Cowboys squad was Landry’s last Super Bowl-caliber team. The Eagles kept the NFC East race close for much of the season but faltered late, and Dallas pulled away with the division title by two full games.
Tony Dorsett had his most productive season as a pro, rushing for 1,646 yards. This stood as a team record until Emmitt Smith broke it in 1995. Danny White also had a solid season, throwing 22 TDs compared with 13 interceptions.
On the other hand, the Cowboys showed some weaknesses, even during the first half of the 1981 season. The second loss during a 6-2 start was a 45-14 thrashing at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers. The teams would meet again.
Week 1: Dallas 26, Washington 10
Danny White threw touchdown passes to Billy Joe DuPree and Drew Pearson, and Rafael Septien kicked four field goals, as the Cowboys stuffed the Redskins, 26-10. Tony Dorsett led the Dallas rushing attack by picking up 132 yards on 26 carries.
Week 2: Dallas 30, St. Louis 17
Dorsett once again gained more than 100 yards, helping the Cowboys to a win over the Cardinals. Septien tied a team record by making his seventh consecutive field goal. The win was the seventh straight by Dallas over St. Louis.
Week 3: Dallas 35, New England 21
In one of his great plays, Dorsett burst for a 75-yard touchdown run to help propel the Cowboys to a 35-21 win over the Patriots on Monday Night Football. White added two touchdown passes, and the defense picked off Matt Cavanaugh four times.
Week 4: Dallas 18, N.Y. Giants 10
The Dallas offense struggled against the Giants, unlike previous games. However, the Dallas defense kept New York out of the end zone until late in the game, helping Dallas to improve to 4-0.
Week 5: St. Louis 20, Dallas 17
For the first time since 1977, the Cardinals found a way to beat Dallas. St. Louis kicker Neil O’Donoghue kicked a 37-yard field goal with 23 seconds left to give the Cardinals the win. Butch Johnson had 101 receiving yards on five receptions, marking his only 100-yard effort as a Cowboy.
Week 6: San Francisco 45, Dallas 14
The Dallas Morning News summarized this game as:

You’ll have to think hard to recall a more inept showing. The 38-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals back in 1970? Maybe. The 41-20 loss to the Denver Broncos last year? Not even close.

Head coach Tom Landry, examining the wreckage, had little to say. “I could talk all day and not change a thing.” he said. “All I could do was stand out there and watch. We played absolutely terrible.

“This game is as bad as any we’ve played since our early years.”


Week 7: Dallas 29, L.A. Rams 17
Dorsett helped the reignite the Cowboys by gaining 159 yards on 27 carries against the Rams. White hit Tony Hill on a 63-yard touchdown, marking the longest TD pass in White’s career up to that point.
Week 8: Dallas 28, Miami 27
In a wild game, Danny White hit Ron Springs on a 32-yard touchdown pass with 3:10 remaining, and the Cowboys were able to hold off the Dolphins for a 28-27 Dallas win. Miami’s David Woodley threw for 408 yards and three TDs, but he also threw five interceptions.
Although the Dolphins picked on rookie free agent corner Everson Walls for much of the afternoon, Walls also picked off two passes. His interceptions against Miami improved his total after eight games to eight interceptions. Another rookie, Michael Downs, also had two picks against the Dolphins.
With a 6-2 record, the Cowboys were one game behind Philadelphia, with a trip to Veterans Stadium waiting during week 9 on November 1.
More References

1960: Cowboys Face 49ers in First Preseason Game


This post is part of the 50 Seasons in 50 Weeks Series.

We have reached the 1981 season in the 50 Seasons Series, but we’ll return to the 1960 season briefly. In light of tonight’s game between the Cowboys and 49ers at Cowboys Stadium, here is a look at the first exhibition game in the history of the Cowboys.

August 6, 1960: San Francisco 16, Dallas 10 (exhibition game held in Seattle)

The 49ers were an aging team but still had talent left over from some quality teams of the 1950s. The Cowboys, of course, had never played any sort of game before.

Playing before 22,000 fans, the Cowboys kept the game close. The 49ers took a 9-0 lead in the first half thanks to a safety and a 99-yard touchdown drive.

Both teams were held scoreless during the third period. Early in the fourth, though, Dallas got on the board when Fred Cone kicked a 17-yard field goal. Thus (trivia alert), the first player to score a point for the Dallas franchise was Fred Cone.

San Franciso increased its lead to 16-3 after another long drive. But Dallas came back. Cornerback Tom Franckhauser intercepted a pass in Dallas territory. Two plays later, Eddie Lebaron found receiver Frank Clarke, who raced 56 yards for a touchdown. This play cut the 49er lead to 16-10.

Dallas had a chance late in the game, moving the ball to the San Francisco 28 with less than a minute left. However, Dave Baker of the 49ers intercepted a Lebaron pass to end the game.

Dallas Draft Woes Continue in 1981


This post is part of the 50 Seasons in 50 Weeks Series.

The Cowboys were still a Super Bowl-caliber team heading into the 1981 season, and a strong draft would have certainly helped matters. The team focused its efforts on finding offensive linemen, defensive backs, and linebackers.

The result: among the 13 picks, only five players ever played for the Cowboys. Two of the linemen selected became starters, but neither was great. One of the defensive backs, Ron Fellows, eventually became a starter (as did a rookie free agent named Everson Walls, whom will we cover later). Each of the other picks was forgettable.





1 Howard Richards G Missouri Dallas, 1981-1986; Seattle,
2 Doug Donley WR Ohio State Dallas, 1981-1984
3 Glen Titensor G BYU Dallas, 1981-1988
4 Scott Pelluer LB Wash. St. New Orleans, 1981-1985
4 Derrie Nelson LB Nebraska San Diego,
5 Danny Spradlin LB Tennessee Dallas, 1981-1982; Tampa
Bay, 1983-1984; St. Louis, 1985
6 Vince Skillings DB Ohio State n/a
7 Ron Fellows DB Missouri Dallas, 1981-1986; L.A.
Raiders, 1987-1988
7 Ken Miller DB Eastern Michigan n/a
8 Paul Piurowski LB Florida St. n/a
9 Mike Wilson WR Wash. St. San Francisco, 1981-1990
10 Pat Graham DT California n/a
11 Tim Morrison G Georgia n/a
12 Nate Lundy WR Indiana n/a

The Cowboys had high expectations when they took Richards in the first round, but he was injury prone throughout his career. Titensor was a starter for three seasons, but he was less than spectacular.

Fellows eventually earned a started job at corner, and he finished his Dallas career with 17 interceptions before being traded to the Raiders.

Donley eventually became a starter at receiver, but that was during the ill-fated 1984 season. He showed great speed but was fragile.

Spradlin played mostly on special teams during his two-year stint in Dallas.

A few of the other picks made other teams. Of these, receiver Mike Wilson was the most successful, spending 10 seasons as a backup (and winning four Super Bowl rings) in San Francisco.

My grade: C. The Cowboys’ selection of Richards was not terrible, but there were a number of very good players available who were taken in the second and third rounds. Consider:

LB Mike Singletary (2nd round, Chicago)
DE Howie Long (2nd round, Raiders)
LB Rickey Jackson (2nd round, Saints)
WR Cris Collinsworth (2nd round, Bengals)
QB Neil Lomax (2nd round, Cardinals)
RB James Wilder (2nd round, Buccaneers)
G Russ Grimm (3rd round, Redskins)

That said, at least four of the top six picks made the team, and the Cowboys found some eventual starters during the process.

One Ugly Day: Cowboys Fall to Eagles in 1980 NFC Championship Game


This post is part of the 50 Seasons in 50 Weeks Series.

The 1980 Cowboys weren’t supposed to make the playoffs, let alone play for the NFC title. Yet on January 11, 1981, the Cowboys faced the Eagles at Veterans Stadium for the right to attend Super Bowl XV.
The Cowboys’ defense, suspect for much of the 1980 season, gave up a 42-yard touchdown run to Wilbert Montgomery. It was part of Montgomery’s 194-yard effort on the day. Here is a clip of the touchdown:


 Even with the Eagles grabbing the early momentum, the Cowboys were in the game until the second half. Tony Dorsett only managed 41 rushing yards, but his second-quarter touchdown tied the score at 7-7, where it remained at halftime.
The rest of the game was all about the Eagles. The high-scoring Dallas offense had trouble moving the ball. Danny White turned in a poor performance, completing only 12 of 31 passes for 127 yards with an interception. The Eagles also could not throw effectively, but the Philadelphia rushing attack killed the Cowboys.
Where There’s a Wilbert There’s a Way
Box Score

Danny White Leads 1980 Cowboys to Two Playoff Wins

This post is part of the 50 Seasons in 50 Weeks Series.
1980 Wildcard Round: Cowboys 34, Rams 13
On December 15, 1980, the L.A. Rams stomped the Cowboys 38-14 in the teams’ first game since the 1979 divisional round of the playoffs. Thirteen days later, the Cowboys faced the Rams yet again, but with very different results. Danny White threw three second half touchdown passes  to Tony Dorsett, Butch Johnson, and Drew Pearson to break open a game that was tied at halftime.
The Dallas passing game took a back seat to its rushing attack, however. Tony Dorsett rushed for 160 yards on 22 carries, the Cowboys as a team managed 338 rushing yards, as the Cowboys dropped the Rams, 34-13.
White’s three TD passes made up for three interceptions. The Dallas defense picked off Vince Ferragamo three times.
DMN: Dallas Grabs Rams by Horns, 34-13
Box Score
1980 Divisional Round: Cowboys 30, Falcons 27
White took a page from Roger Staubach’s book in the 1980 divisional round of the playoffs. The Cowboys trailed the Falcons 24-10 heading into the fourth quarter and appeared to be ready to pack it in. But White famously hit Drew Pearson on two touchdown passes, including a 23-yarder with less than two minutes to play, as the Cowboys pulled out a 30-27 win. The game was featured as one of the Cowboys’ greatest games on the NFL Films’ DVD that came out last year.
The game featured White’s first career 300-yard game. The Cowboys’ rushing output fell from 338 yards against the Rams to 112 against the Falcons.
DMN: Cowboys Drew Inside Straight, 30-27
Box Score

Cowboys Stadium Lives Up to Every Bit of the Hype

game 021.JPG

You can believe everything you’ve read about Cowboys Stadium. The place is amazing.

I took my nine-year-old son to last night’s game against Tennessee. Consider this the nosebleed review of the stadium.


Much was made about the expense and hassle of parking at Cowboys Stadium. The lots closest to the stadium are, to be sure, very expensive, but there are much cheaper alternatives.

Last year, we paid $30 to park at Texas Stadium and basically ended up in a ditch at the back of the lot. We also must have walked a mile. Yesterday, we parked in the Texas Rangers’ Lot D, which only cost $20. The downside was that we could only see Rangers Ballpark and that we had a little bit more than a mile to walk. Conversely, there was plenty of room to tailgate had we chose to do so, and getting in and out of the lot was simple.

The lots went up in price by $10 for every 500 feet or so. Personally, I’d rather spend $10 on something else and just walk a little but further, but that’s me.

One big difference between Arlington and Irving is that there are several more alternatives to getting to the parking lots in Arlington compared with the alternatives to getting to Texas Stadium. We took the I-20 route to Highway 360 and then drove past Six Flags to get to the parking lot– no traffic problems at all except for a stalled bus. From what I understand, the I-30 option was not bad either.


There were a few complaints about restrictions on tailgating in articles in the past couple of days, but there were plenty of people doing it. The restrictions appeared to be enforced in the lot right next to the stadium more so than any of the other lots. Hardcore tailgaters may have a different perspective.

The Awe

We got to the stadium about 2 1/2 hours before kickoff, just so that we could see everything we wanted to see. We certainly weren’t the first ones there. The doors weren’t open when we first got there, but you could see the video boards through the glass outside.

Put it this way– Texas Stadium looked like a large trash can until you got inside. Cowboys Stadium looks like a palace no matter where you are standing.

game 011.JPGIt stands to reason, of course, but everything inside the stadium is still in pristine condition, also very much unlike the Texas Stadium experience. Waxed floors are hardly commonplace in stadiums I’ve visited, but you can actually see your reflection in the floors near the gates.

The Crowd

The stadium was not at full capacity, but few preseason games have had so many people attend. Watch most preseason games, and you will see a nearly empty stadium by the time the reserves are in the game for the fourth quarter. Last night, the stadium was more than half full even in the fourth quarter.

Party Pass

game 019.JPGI didn’t have Party Pass, so I can’t provide a first-hand account of that experience. However, we sat near one of the long standing areas in the end zone. You cannot see it very well from the picture above, but there is a long counter where people could lean, place their drinks, etc. This area was packed, so those who did not get there early enough were probably trying to see over everyone’s heads to watch the video screen.

Stadium security was pretty vigilant about checking tickets. There appeared to be a few people sitting in our section who may not have had tickets for seats, but once the stadium is filled to capacity, that won’t be a problem. I also saw security on the lower levels checking tickets and turning back those who were trying to move down to better seats (we moved over, but not down, and that was very late in the game).

Video Boards

game 018.JPGIf you have the option, it is worth the price to be able to see the large boards running parallel to the field. The smaller boards are okay, but you can appreciate the difference when you can see the larger ones. The shot above is from our end zone seats. Compare that shot with the one below:

game 020.JPGWe sat at the 40-yard line for the last four minutes of the game, just to see what the large monitors looked like. It was really a different experience.


Concession prices were a little bit more expensive than typical ballpark fare, but not so much so that it was a shock. Unlike Rangers Ballpark, though, there are no cheap alternatives to anything.

Anything Wrong or Missing?

There are just a few minor details about the stadium worth noting. I suspect that yesterday’s game was really a test run, so some of this should be worked out.

(1) There are only four scoreboards, and they are very small. This would not be a big deal, except that the video boards did not always include relevant information that would have been useful. In the first quarter, the boards did not show down and distance. Moreover, throughout the game, the board never showed how many timeouts the teams had. As the Cowboys were driving in the last two minutes of the first half, I could barely see the timeout reading on the tiny scoreboard in one of the corners of the end zone.

(2) There are parts of Texas Stadium that are not yet present. The stadium does not have the Ring of Honor members up yet, though there appears to be a place for them (I hope, at least). The banners are also not up yet. The field itself does not have a star in the middle– just a minor detail, but it was noticeable. The walls near the end zone had stars, though, much like the stars on the walls of Texas Stadium.

(3) The PA announcer was bad. I was sitting in nosebleed but could still tell that Patrick Crayton (#84) caught a pass. The announcer referred to him as Deon Anderson (#34), who didn’t even play.

(4) The sound was also pretty bad. At one point, a spokesman for Papa John’s pizza started blabbing about something, and he was so loud that several people applauded when he was abruptly cut off.


I hated to see Texas Stadium go, but Cowboy fans should be proud of this stadium. It contains enough reminders of the old stadium that you will feel like you are in the Cowboys’ home, and the new stadium adds so much that few are going to wish that the Cowboys hadn’t moved.

’80 Cowboys Can’t Quite Catch the Eagles


This post is part of the 50 Seasons in 50 Weeks Series.
The Cowboys improved from 11-5 in 1979 to 12-4 in 1980, but 12 wins were not enough to win the NFC East. In the final week of the season, the Cowboys had to beat the Eagles by 25 points to win the tiebreaker against Philadelphia. When Dallas only managed a 35-27 win in week 16, the NFC East title went to the Eagles.
Quarterback Danny White had his ups and downs. White set a team record with 28 touchdown passes, but he also tied Eddie LeBaron’s team record with 25 interceptions. 
Week 9: Dallas 27, St. Louis 24
For the first time since taking over as a starter in Dallas, Danny White led the Cowboys to a come-from-behind win. With less than two minutes remaining, he drove the Cowboys 69 yards in six plays, capped off by a 28-yard touchdown pass to Tony Hill. Drew Pearson had 103 receiving yards in the win.
Week 10: N.Y. Giants 38, Dallas 35
In a wild game at the Meadowlands, the Giants scored 10 fourth quarter points to pull out a 38-35 win over the Cowboys. Danny White had one of the worst performances of his career, throwing five interceptions in the loss.
Week 11: Dallas 31, St. Louis 21
White rebounded from a poor performance against the Giants to throw three touchdowns in a 31-21 win over the Cardinals. Dallas fell behind 21-10 in the first half but erased the Cardinals’ lead by the third quarter. Tony Dorsett finished with 122 rushing yards, while Tony Hill caught seven passes for 126 yards.
Week 12: Dallas 14, Washington 10
Larry Cole unexpectedly became the hero in the Cowboys’ week 12 win over the Redskins. With the Cowboys holding on to a 7-3 lead early in the fourth quarter, Randy White hit backup quarterback Mike Kruczek. Cole grabbed the interception and raced 43 yards for his first touchdown since 1969. The win masked an ugly offensive performance, where the Cowboys only managed 199 total yards and turned the ball over six times.
Week 13: Dallas 51, Seattle 7
For the second time during the 1980 season, Dallas managed to score more than 50 points in a game. Tony Dorsett rushed for 107 yards for the Cowboys, who raced to a 30-0 halftime lead and never looked back.
Week 14: Dallas 19, Oakland 13
The Cowboys caught the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East standing by beating the eventual Super Bowl champion Oakland Raiders. Tony Dorsett rushed for 97 yards and scored a touchdown in the Dallas win.
Week 15: L.A. Rams 38, Dallas 14
In a rematch of the 1979 NFC divisional playoffs, the Rams destroyed the Cowboys. Vince Ferragamo threw for 275 yards and three touchdowns, leading the Rams to a 38-0 lead. Dallas saved face with two late touchdowns, but the loss was disconcerting because it appeared that the Cowboys would have to face the Rams in the NFC Wildcard Round.
With the loss, Dallas fell a game behind Philadelphia with one game remaining. The teams were nearly even in every respect, and the fifth tiebreaker would determine the division champion. That tiebreaker compared points scored against division opponents. Dallas had to outscore the Eagles by 25 points to win the division title.
Week 16: Dallas 35, Philadelphia 27
At one point in the season finale, the Cowboys led the Eagles 35-10, meaning that Dallas had reached the 25-point gap necessary to take the division. But the Eagles scored 17 fourth-quarter points, which were not enough to win the game but were enough to take the East. It marked the first time since 1975 that the Cowboys were not division champions.
Coming up…

The Cowboys have success in the first two rounds of the 1980 playoffs.

More references…

DMN Summaries

Box Scores