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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 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.
This post is part of the 50 Seasons in 50 Weeks Series.
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.”
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.
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.
|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|
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.
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.
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.
It 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 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.
I 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).
If 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:
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.
The Cowboys have success in the first two rounds of the 1980 playoffs.