50 Seasons Series

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Review each year in the history of the Dallas Cowboys, starting with the planning stages in 1959 and through the present day.

 

50 Seasons Series: ’66 Cowboys Clinch the Eastern Conference

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

The 1966 Dallas Cowboys did not fly through the second half of the season as they did during the first half, but the team’s 5-2 finish was enough to give Dallas a 10-3-1 record. Thanks to the Cardinals losing their final three games, the Cowboys walked away with the Eastern Conference title and a date in the NFL Championship Game against the Packers.

Week 8: Philadelphia 24, Dallas 23

The Cowboys’ special teams let the team down in a 24-23 loss to the Eagles. Philadelphia’s Timmy Brown returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, and Aaron Martin returned a punt for yet another touchdown. Martin’s score gave the Eagles the lead for good. Philadelphia only managed 80 total yards in the Eagle win.

Eagles Clip Cowboys (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 9: Dallas 31, Washington 30

In a wild one at Washington, Danny Villanueva’s 20-yard field goal gave Dallas a 31-30 win over the Redskins. Don Meredith engineered a drive that put the Cowboys in position to win the game. Here is the Dallas Morning News description:

With 1:10 remaining and the Cowboys backed to their 3-yard line by a

freakish punt, Meredith took them to glory in six plays, each one like

having your fingernails pulled out.

First he hit Pete Gent for 26; But the Cowboys had no timeouts remaining

and Gent couldn’t get to the side line. Okay, so Meredith stopped the

clock himself, first gaining 12 yards on a roll around right end. Now 59

seconds separated Dallas from oblivion, the Cowboys still 60 yards away.

Walt Garrison got a yard with a swing pass. Bui he did manage to get out

of bounds. Then Meredith hit Gent at the Redskin 33. Meredith ran for

another six, which not only stopped the clock but Gent at the Redskin

33. Meredith ran for another six, which not only stopped the clock but

cost Washington 15 yards when Redskin linebacker John Reger took a late

shot at Meredith.

With that done, Meredith retired to the side lines and hid his eyes

while Villanueva kicked the winning field goal.

Meredith finished with 406 passing yards. Bob Hayes established a team record with 246 receiving yards.

Dandy Don Marches Cowboys to Glory (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 10: Dallas 20, Pittsburgh 7

Don Meredith rushed for one touchdown and threw for another in a 20-7 win over the Steelers. The Cowboy defense was once again dominant, holding Pittsburgh to 163 total yards. The win gave Dallas 7 in 1966, which matched the team record for wins set in 1965. More importantly, the victory moved Dallas back into a first-place tie with the Cardinals.

Cowboys Power Past Steelers, 20-7 (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 11: Dallas 26, Cleveland 14

The Browns did not spoil the Cowboys’ first Thanksgiving Day game. Dallas overcame a 14-13 halftime deficit by shutting down the Browns in the second half of a 26-14 Dallas win. Don Perkins rushed for 111 yards and scored the final touchdown that put the game out of reach.

Happiness Is Cranberried Browns! (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 12: Dallas 31, St. Louis 17

In one of the biggest games in franchise history up to that point, the Cowboys (8-2-1) faced the Cardinals (8-2-1) with the lead in the Eastern Conference at stake. The winner would have a huge one-game lead with only two games remaining.

Tom Landry’s strategy for winning:

We’re going to have to hold them under 20 points and score more than

20. They’re going to score on us. This is too big a game for a shutout.

We’re going to have to run the ball and make the big plays offensively,

and our defense is going to have to control them . . . .

The plan worked. Although St. Louis outgained Dallas 295 to 190, the Cardinals turned the ball over five times and scored fewer than 20 points. Don Perkins scored twice, and Dan Reeves and Bob Hayes also added scores for the Cowboys.

Cowboys Keep Cards in Fog, 31-17 (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 13: Washington 34, Dallas 31

Charley Gogalak of the Redskins kicked a 29-yard field goal with only four seconds left to give Washington a 34-31 win. Don Meredith only managed 47 yards passing before being knocked out of the game. Craig Morton and Jerry Rhome alternated for the rest of the game.

The Cowboys had a chance to win this one. With the score tied at 17 in the fourth quarter. Dan Reeves scored on a 67-yard touchdown run. After the Redskins answered, the Cowboys again took the lead on a Don Perkins’ TD run. However, Sonny Jurgensen hit Charley Taylor on a 65-yard touchdown pass, and the Redskins had enough time left to set up Gogolak’s game-winning field goal, shown below.

U1539074.jpg(The Dallas player to the right is safety Mike Gaechter).

Even with the loss, the Cowboys could do no worse than tie St. Louis thanks to the Cardinals’ 16-10 loss to the expansion Falcons.

Cowboys Cinch Title Tie in 34-31 Loss (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)


Week 14: Dallas 17, New York 7

The Cardinals lost to the Browns earlier in the day, so the Cowboys had already wrapped up the Eastern Conference when Dallas faced the Giants. Don Meredith sat out, leaving the QB duties to Craig Morton and Jerry Rhome. George Andrie scored a touchdown by returning his only career interception six yards for a score. The 17-7 win by Dallas was far less impressive than the team’s 52-7 win to open the season, but the 10-3-1 record was the best in franchise history.



Downhill a Climb for Cowboys, 17-7 (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Coming Up…

The Cowboys face the Packers for all the marbles.

50 Seasons Series: High-Powered ’66 Cowboys Storm Out of the Gate

dial.run.jpgThis post is part of the 50 Seasons in 50 Weeks Series.

During the first six seasons of the Dallas Cowboys’ existence, the team never scored more than 50 points in a game. In two of the first four games of the 1966 season, Dallas accomplished the feat twice. And by midseason, the Cowboys had scored more than 50 three times.

The offense that tended to be anemic in previous years caught fire in 1966. The Cowboys managed more than 500 yards in total offense in the opening game of the season. During the first seven games of the season, Dallas was never held below 314 yards of total offense.

Week 1: Dallas 52, N.Y. Giants 7

For the second consecutive year, the Cowboys destroyed the Giants to open the regular season. Don Meredith threw for 358 yards and 5 TDs in the win. Dan Reeves was on the receiving end of three of the TD passes, and Bob Hayes caught the other two. Both Reeves and Hayes finished with more than 100 receiving yards. Cornell Green ended the scoring on the day with a 41-yard interception return for a touchdown.

renfro.run.jpg

This picture is a rare shot of Mel Renfro playing running back. He was injured early in the season and soon moved back to safety. #84 is tight end Pettis Norman. #57 for the Giants is Jeff Smith.

Cowboys Take One Giant Step, 52-7 (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 2: Dallas 28, Minnesota 17

The Cowboys overcame a 10-7 halftime deficit by scoring three touchdowns in the second half to beat the Vikings. Meredith had only two touchdown passes against Minnesota, but Dallas did not turn the ball over. Reeves and Meredith both scored rushing touchdowns.

Blended Cowboys Find Viking Valhalla, 28-17 (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 3: Dallas 47, Atlanta 14

The Cowboys jumped out to a 17-7 halftime lead over the expansion Falcons, and a 30-point second half turned the game into a rout. Reeves scored two more touchdowns on the ground in the win. Veteran linebacker Chuck Howley also added some points by scoring his first career touchdown on a 97-yard return of a fumble recovery in the fourth quarter.

Dallas Accepts Falcon Hospitality in 47-13 Win (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 4: Dallas 56, Philadelphia 7

Dallas scored three touchdowns before the Eagles could manage a first down in the Cowboys’ 56-7 win over Philadelphia in week 4. Meredith again threw five touchdown passes, this time to Hayes (3), Frank Clarke, and Dan Reeves. Walt Garrison and Les Shy added touchdown runs. By the time the Eagles scored, Dallas led 49-0.

On the day, the Cowboys put up a team record 652 yards. At the time, it was the fourth best offensive day in league history.

Meredith Fires 5 TD Passes in 56-7 Romp (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 5: Dallas 10, St. Louis 10

The Cowboys could not hold on to a 10-7 fourth quarter lead and had to settle for a tie with the Cardinals. Dallas turned the ball over four times, including three picks by Don Meredith. Reeves continued to be a scoring machine by rushing for his ninth touchdown overall (four rushing and five receiving).

Judgment Day Delayed by Deadlock (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 6: Cleveland 30, Dallas 21

The Cowboys were unable to beat their old nemesis, the Cleveland Browns, during week 6. Cleveland raced out to a 30-7 lead before the Cowboys could make the score appear to be more respectable late in the game. Meredith again threw multiple interceptions (4) in the loss.

Browns run away with 30-21 victory (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 7: Dallas 52, Pittsburgh 21

Dallas scored 24 straight points in the second quarter and continued to pour it on during the second half of a 52-21 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in week 7. Lee Roy Jordan scored his first career touchdown by returning an interception 49 yards for a score. Dan Reeves scored two more touchdowns, and Frank Clarke, Pete Gent, and J.D. Smith also added touchdowns.

Mel Renfro returned a kickoff for a touchdown, marking his fifth career TD return (2 interceptions, 2 kickoffs, and 1 punt). Renfro did not score another touchdown until 1973.

Cowboy Defense Spooks Steelers, 52 to 21 (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Coming up…
The Cowboys clinch the Eastern Conference and prepare to face the Packers in the NFL Championship Game.

50 Seasons Series: Cowboys Picked to Win the East

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

The vast majority of writers in 1966 picked the Cowboys to win the Eastern Conference. The biggest reason for this was the unexpected retirement of the great Jim Brown of the Cleveland Browns, the team that had won the East in 1965 with an 11-3 record.

In a poll by United Press International, 26 writers picked Dallas to finish first, compared with 14 votes for Cleveland and one each for St. Louis and New York. The consensus pick for the Western Conference was Baltimore, the club that beat Dallas in the 1965 Playoff Bowl.

Dallas head coach Tom Landry downplayed the predictions, asserting that Cleveland was still the team to beat.

It has to put great pressure on a team (Dallas) that has never won. A team like Cleveland has won it before. The Browns expect to win. It wouldn’t bother them. But the ball has to bounce right that first time. Once you’ve won it, then it’s not hard to repeat.

Sports Illustrated thought the Cowboys would win the East as well, noting that the Dallas offense should improve in 1966. However, SI based its prediction in part on the conversion of Mel Renfro to halfback, which was a move that did not last long.

Coach Tom Landry, who in the past devoted most of his energies to fashioning the complicated but crushing defense, has now turned his considerable talents to souping up the Dallas offense. His first move was to shift one of his best defensive players from safety to running back. Mel Renfro, a sprinter and broad jumper in college, was an All-League safety in 1965. With luck and good blocking he could be an All-Pro halfback in 1966. Whether he is depends on the speed with which he adjusts to the subtleties of his new role.

“He is still uncertain on his moves when he comes out wide,” Landry says. “His timing with the guards when they pull out to lead him is not good yet. He has to learn to wait for them. But I’m sure he will.”

Given the wide threat of Renfro and the in-and-out slashing of Perkins, the Cowboys could have the best deep threat from a running attack in football. As of now the Packers are the best running team, but their specialty is short-haul banging. Perkins and Renfro have the speed to score from anywhere on the field.

Renfro played running back early in the season and even caught a 42-yard pass in the opening game. However, he only managed 94 yards of total offense before being moved back to safety.

50 Seasons Series: Building the 1966 Dallas Cowboys

roster_full_1966.jpg

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

During the second half of the season, the 1965 Dallas Cowboys proved that the club had the talent to become a true contender. The team’s offseason in 1966 focused more on whether the existing players could get the job done, rather than on which pieces of the puzzle were missing.

1966 Draft

The Cowboys let Perry Lee Dunn go to Atlanta in the 1966 expansion draft, so Dallas spent eight of its picks on running backs. Three of those backs made the team, including Walt Garrison.


Round

Player

Pos.

College

Career
1 John Niland G Iowa Dallas, 1966-1974;
Philadelphia, 1975
2 Willie Townes DE Tulsa Dallas, 1966-1969; New
Orleans, 1970
5 Walt Garrison RB Oklahoma St. Dallas,
1966-1974
6 Bob Dunlevy E West Virginia n/a
7 Arthur Robinson E Florida A&M n/a
8 Don Kunit HB Penn St. n/a
9 Darrell Elam E West Virginia Tech. n/a
10 Mason Mitchell HB Washington n/a
11 Austin Denney TE Tennessee Chicago, 1967-1969; Buffalo
1970-1971
12 Les Shy RB Long Beach State Dallas, 1966-1969; N.Y.
Giants, 1970
12 Craig Baynham RB Georgia Tech Dallas, 1967-1969; Chicago,
1970; St. Louis, 1972
13 Ron Lamb RB South Carolina Denver, 1968; Cincinnati,
1968-1971; Atlanta, 1972
14 Lewis Turner HB Norfolk St. n/a
15 Mark Gartung T Oregon St. n/a
16 Tom Piggee HB San Francisco St. n/a
17 George Allen T West Texas A&M Houston, 1966
18 Steve Orr T Washington n/a
19 Byron Johnson T Central Washington n/a
20 Lou Hudson FL Minnesota n/a

Niland was a six-time Pro Bowler who stepped into the starting lineup in 1967. Townes became a starter in 1966 but injuries shortened his career. Garrison, of course, became an all-time favorite. Shy and Baynham saw action throughout the rest of the 1960s.

Grade the 1966 Dallas Cowboys Draft

Please take a minute to grade the 1966 Dallas Cowboys draft, either using the form below or by visiting Zoho Polls.

My Grade: B. The 1966 NFL draft was not strong overall, producing only one Hall-of-Famer (Tom Mack of the Rams) and a handful of Pro Bowlers. Dallas found three starters with the team’s first three picks, and that’s pretty good. The downside to this draft was that 11 of the team’s 19 picks never played professional football.

New Starters and Contributors

A few members of the Cowboys saw an increase in their contributions in 1966. These players include the following:

RB Dan Reeves: Tom Landry called Reeves the smartest player on the team. Reeves had his best season in 1966, gaining 757 yards on the ground and another 557 through the air.

LB Lee Roy Jordan: Jordan finally took over the leadership spot on defense with the partial retirement of Jerry Tubbs (though Tubbs was eventually reinstated as a player).

G/T Tony Liscio: Liscio was the team’s first great offensive linemen, but he suffered an injury in 1964 that forced him to miss the entire 1965 season. He came back in 1966 to start at left guard.

WR Pete Gent: The author of North Dallas Forty replaced Buddy Dial as the team’s #2 receiver in 1966, catching 27 passes for 474 yards and a touchdown.

Did You Know?

The Cowboys planned to convert Mel Renfro from safety to running back in 1966. The team traded for safety Henry Gremminger, who had played ten seasons in Green Bay prior to coming to Dallas. However, Gremminger unexpectedly quit the team in July, and Dallas eventually moved Renfro back to safety. Renfro earned his third straight trip to the Pro Bowl after the 1966 season.

50 Seasons Series: The Cowboys’ First “Playoff” Game

2009-03-11_204713.gifThis post is part of the 50 Seasons in 50 Weeks Series.

The 1965 Dallas Cowboys pulled themselves together in the second half of the season to qualify for the first of the team’s three appearances in the Bert Bell Benefit Bowl, also known as the Playoff Bowl. This game was played each year from 1961 through 1970 and featured the runners up in each conference.

Dallas (7-7) earned a spot representing the Eastern Conference by winning a tiebreaker against the Giants. In the Western Conference, the Packers and Colts (both 10-3-1) had to face off to decide the winner of the Western Conference. The Packers pulled out a controversial 13-10 win, sending Green Bay to the NFL Championship Game against Cleveland while the Colts went to Miami to face the Cowboys.

The Colts had rather famously had to rely on running back Tom Matte to fill in at quarterback after the team lost quarterbacks Johnny Unitas and Gary Cuozzo to injuries. Matte had led the Colts to a win over Los Angeles in the final week of the 1965 season.

Dallas had three weeks to prepare for the Colts, who were coached then by 36-year-old Don Shula. The Cowboys had some pride on the line, given that many thought the Western Conference teams were vastly superior to the seven teams in the Eastern Conference.

Thumbnail image for U1501694.jpgOn the eve of the game, seven Dallas players became ill with a stomach virus. This included  linebacker Lee Roy Jordan, center Dave Manders, and running back Dan Reeves (shown in the picture at the top).

The Cowboys played as if the entire squad was sick, managing only three points in a 35-3 rout. Touchdowns by Lenny Moore and Jerry Hill gave Baltimore a 14-3 halftime lead, and Matte’s two touchdown passes to Jimmy Orr in the second half helped to put Dallas away. Dallas only managed 182 yards in total offense, as the Dallas attack never got anything going.

According to a sportswriter in Miami, “the most exciting thing that Dallas contributed to this game was the band of pretty marching girls from Tyler, Texas.” These were the days prior to the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, and the pretty girls were the Apache Belles of Tyler Junior College.

The same writer later called the Cowboys inept.

This was about seven years before the Dallas girls started revealing a little bit more than the aforementioned Apache Belles.

And while the Cowboys’ competence continued to improve, it would be another six years before Dallas won it all. Of course, five years after this Playoff Bowl, Dallas and Baltimore met again in the Orange Bowl, and the results were just as frustrating for Cowboy fans.

Ugh! It’s a Colt Day in Miami, 35-3 (Dallas Morning News)

50 Seasons Series: 1965 Cowboys Start Looking Great

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

2009-03-09_202929.gifAfter two consecutive seasons of disappointment, followed by a 2-5 start in 1965, the Cowboys had given fans little reason for optimism during the second half of the ’65 season.

But whatever bad luck the Cowboys had in their first five and a half years of existence went away quickly during the second half of ’65 as Dallas finished with a 5-2 record. The team’s 7-7 record was good enough to qualify the Cowboys for the (rather infamous) Playoff Bowl during January of 1966.

Week 8: Dallas 39, San Francisco 31

In a wild game, the Cowboys first gave up a 27-10 lead and then came from behind to win 39-31 over the 49ers. Mel Renfro opened the scoring with a 100-yard return of the opening kickoff, and defensive end George Andrie recovered a fumble for a touchdown in the first half. Bob Hayes scored on two touchdown passes from Don Meredith, including a 34-yarder that gave Dallas the lead for good. Hayes finished with 108 receiving yards on four receptions.

The 39 points were the most the Cowboys had scored since beating Cleveland 45-21 in 1962.

Dallas Plucks Wild One From SF, 39-31 (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 9: Dallas 24, Pittsburgh 17

The Cowboys scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to come back and beat Pittsburgh, 24-17. Dan Reeves tied the game at 17 with a two-yard run, and Don Meredith gave the Cowboys the lead for good with a 28-yard pass to Bob Hayes. Meredith also threw a touchdown pass to Frank Clarke. Dallas missed several other opportunities in the game due to miscues.

Former Cowboy tight end Lee Folkins returned a fumble for a touchdown in the third quarter to give the Steelers a 17-10 lead.

Cowboys score twice in final period to nip Steelers, 24-17 (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 10: Cleveland 24, Dallas 17

Gary Cartwright of the Dallas Morning News wrote one of the most infamous leads to a story in the history of the Cowboys after Dallas lost to Cleveland, 24-17:

Outlined against a grey November sky, the Four Horsemen rode again

Sunday.

You know them: Pestilence, death, famine and Meredith.

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A record crowd of 76,251 packed the Cotton Bowl to watch the Cowboys try to improve to .500 on the season. However, three Meredith interceptions hurt the Cowboys’ cause, though Meredith also threw two second-half touchdowns to Pettis Norman and Bob Hayes. The defense also did its part, holding the Browns to only 200 total yards of offense.

Cowboys Blunder, Browns Win, 24-17 (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 11: Washington 34, Dallas 31

The Redskins lost six turnovers to the Cowboys’ 2, and Dallas held such leads as 21-0, 24-6, and 31-20 during the game. However, Sonny Jurgensen hurt the Cowboys once again by throwing for 411 yards and three touchdowns. Dallas defenders Cornell Green and Mike Gaechter scored touchdowns, as did halfback Perry Lee Dunn and receiver Frank Clarke. The loss dropped the Cowboys to 4-7, but Dallas did not lose again in the regular season in 1965.

Cowboys sniff 2nd, then crash, 34-31 (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 12: Dallas 21, Philadelphia 19


With the Cowboys leading by only two points and the Eagles driving deep in Dallas territory, safety Obert Logan picked off a Norm Snead pass to give the Cowboys the win. Don Meredith rushed for one touchdown and threw two more to Bob Hayes and Frank Clarke. The Eagles moved the ball well, gaining 370 net passing yards. However, Philadelphia had to settle for four field goals by former Cowboy Sam Baker.

Cowboys Clip Eagles’ Wings, 21-19 (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 13: Dallas 27, St. Louis 13


Don Meredith threw three touchdown passes, including two in the fourth quarter, as the Cowboys beat St. Louis, 27-13. The game marked the first time since 1963 that Meredith surpassed 300 yards in a game. He threw touchdowns to Bob Hayes, Dan Reeves, and Pettis Norman.


Cowboys Enjoy ‘Dandy’ Day, 27-13 (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 14: Dallas 38, New York 20

The Cowboys clinched a spot in the Playoff Bowl by beating the Giants, 38-20. The win allowed Dallas to finish with a 7-7 record, which was the team’s first non-losing season. The Cowboys would not have another losing season until 1986. Meredith again threw for three touchdown passes but also did not throw an interception all game. Bob Hayes caught two of the TDs, while Buddy Dial caught the third. Dial’s touchdown gave Dallas a 31-20 lead and pretty much put the game way.

Below are a couple of screen shots showing the touchdown pass to Dial. These were shown in the Don Meredith video posted here on March 3.

2009-03-09_215536.gifThumbnail image for 2009-03-09_215601.gifCowboys Win Playoff Bowl Spot, 38-20 (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Coming up next… the 1965 Playoff Bowl.

The Dallas opponent in the Playoff Bowl was not decided until December
26, when Green Bay hosted Baltimore in a divisional round. Both the
Packers and the Colts finished with 10-3-1 records, while Dallas
finshed with a 7-7 record.

50 Seasons Series: Five-Game Losing Streak Sours Promising Start

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

U1490944.jpg
The 1965 Cowboys opened their season with two impressive wins over the Giants and Redskins. By the end of week 7, however, Dallas found itself at 2-5, which was a half-game worse than the Cowboys’ record in 1964. This team appeared to be cursed.

On the bright side, the Cowboys unveiled first-year receiver Bob Hayes (pictured above in the week 4 matchup against Philadelphia), who wowed everyone with this speed and playmaking ability.

Week 1: Dallas 31, New York 2

There have not been many games in NFL history to end with one team only scoring a safety.  A record crowd of 59,366 showed up at the Cotton Bowl to watch the Cowboys’ defense completely shut down the Giants’ offense. New York managed only 139 yards in total offense, including 40 net passing yards, in the Dallas win.

Halfback Perry Lee Dunn scored twice for the Cowboys. Rookie free agent Dan Reeves also scored, as did Bob Hayes on a 45-yard reverse.

Trivia Item #1: The only other game in NFL history to end in a 31-2 score was a 1936 contest between the Green Bay Packers and the Boston Redskins.

Trivia Item #2: It was during the 1965 season that the press referred to Dallas defense as the “Doomsday Defense.” From what I could gather, the first time the Dallas Morning News referred to this phrase was during the 1965 training camp.

Cowboy Defense Dwarfs Giants, 31-2 (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 2: Dallas 27, Washington 7

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 0629clarkewrlarge.jpgThe Cotton Bowl crowd during the week 2 matchup with Washington set another record when 61,577 attended. The Cowboys did not disappoint. Though Don Meredith only completed 6 of 21 passes on the day, he threw a touchdown pass to Bob Hayes in the first quarter to give Dallas a 7-0 lead. Another Hayes touchdown on a reverse, coupled with two Danny Villanueva field goals, gave the Cowboys a 20-0 halftime lead. Running back J.D. Smith rounded out the scoring in the fourth quarter.

Cowboys Shoot Down Redskins, 27-7 (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 3: St. Louis 20, Dallas 13

The St. Louis Cardinals had given Dallas fits in the season openers in 1963 and 1964, and it was the Cardinals who began the Cowboys’ five-game losing streak in 1965. The Cowboys fell behind 14-0 thanks to a Charley Johnson touchdown pass and a Bill Triplett rushing touchdown. A 90-yard interception return by Mel Renfro kept the Cowboys in the game, but the offense struggled all day. The Cowboys only gained 181 yards in total offense, compared with 353 for St. Louis.

Cardinals tumble Cowboys, 20-13 (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 4: Philadelphia 35, Dallas 24

Tom Landry determined that Don Meredith was in a slump (and Cowboys’ fans apparently agreed). Landry therefore turned to a shuttle system at quarterback and alternated rookies Craig Morton and Jerry Rhome. Although the Cowboys managed 234 total net passing yards, both Morton and Rhome made mistakes that cost Dallas the game.

From the DMN article:

Rookies are supposed to make make

crucial mistakes and this pair was strictly on schedule, bumping between

the brilliant and the atrocious.

. . .

With his new command trailing by four and driving in the final quarter,

Morton lost a snap from center on the Philadelphia 21, then watched like

a man who couldn’t determine if this thing on the ground was a football

or a hungry cobra. As he decided, a 245-pound Eagle named George

Tarasovic, who moves with the speed and grace of a freight elevator,

gathered it and ran unmolested, 52 yards for a touchdown.

Rhome, the co-commander, wasted no time to express himself in his game

of Rookie-Do-Big. Two plays after the Morton disaster, Rhome threw one

nowhere close to Hayes. Irv Cross intercepted on the Dallas 40 and the

Eagles scored in seven plays.

Hayes was the star of the game, even in the loss. He caught eight passes for 177 yards an scored two touchdowns.

Eagles trip Dallas, 35-24 (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 5: Cleveland 23, Dallas 17

scan0003-300x194.jpgThe quarterback carousel continued during the week 5 matchup at Cleveland. Landry started Jerry Rhome at quarterback, then alternated Rhome and Craig Morton, and then gave the job back to Don Meredith. Meredith threw touchdown passes to Pettis Norman and Pete Gent, but it was not enough to overcome Cleveland’s second half lead.

The Dallas defense gave up 353 total yards to the Browns, marking the third consecutive game that Dallas had allowed 300 or more yards. That streak, though, was about to end.

Ryan, Browns trip Cowboys, 23-17 (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 6: Green Bay 13, Dallas 3

Five Dallas turnovers hurt the Cowboys’ chances of pulling off an upset of the Packers. The Dallas defense certainly did its part. The Cowboys held Green Bay to minus-10 net passing yards (42 passing yards but 52 yards lost on sacks) along with only 73 rushing yards. The Dallas offense, though, only fared a bit better, recording minus-one net passing yard but gaining 193 rushing yards.

Don Perkins had 133 rushing yards on 22 carries. Those yards were not enough, for the Green Bay defense forced the turnovers when it had to.

Packers cash Cowboys mistakes, 13-3 (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 7: Pittsburgh 22, Dallas 13

Three Bill Nelson touchdown passes helped the Steelers to a 19-6 lead, as the Steelers pushed the Cowboys into a tie for last place in the NFL’s Eastern Conference. Don Meredith threw two touchdown passes in the loss.

For the first time since the week 3 loss to St. Louis, Meredith started the game. During the week that followed the loss to Pittsburgh, Tom Landry announced he would start Meredith for the remainder of the season.

Cowboys stumble into NFL cellar (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Coming up next The Cowboys turn things around in the second half of the 1965 season, leading to the team’s first “playoff” game of sorts.

50 Seasons Series: Building the 1965 Dallas Cowboys

roster_full_1965.jpg
This post is part of the 50 Seasons in 50 Weeks Series.

During the 1965 offseason, the Cowboys added a few more pieces to the team that would soon become dominant. A few of the players who had been acquired before 1965 were ready to move into starting slots. Though the 1965 draft wasn’t great, the team picked up two future starters. Dallas also acquired a tackle who would become one of the great offensive linemen in team history.

1965 Draft

Round Player Position/College Career
1 Craig Morton QB/California Dallas,
1965-1974; N.Y. Giants, 1974-1976; Denver, 1977-1982
2 Malcolm Walker C/Rice Dallas,
1966-1969; Green Bay, 1970
4 Jimmy Sidle RB/Auburn Atlanta, 1966
4 Bob Svihus T/USC Oakland,
1965-1970; N.Y. Jets, 1971-1973
5 Roger Pettee LB/Florida n/a
6 Sonny Utz FB/Virginia Tech n/a
7 Brig Owens DB/Cincinnati
Washington, 1966-1977
8 Russell Wayt LB/Rice Dallas, 1965
9 Jim Zanios FB/Texas Tech n/a
10 Gaylon
McCollough
C/Alabama n/a
11 Jethro Pugh DT/Elizabeth City STate Dallas,
1965-1978
12 Ernie Kellermann DB/Miami (OH) Cleveland,
1966-1971; Cincinnati, 1972; Buffalo, 1973
13 Jack Schraub E/California n/a
14 Garry Porterfield DE/Tulsa Dallas, 1965
15 Gene Foster RB/Arizona State San Diego,
1965-1970
16 Doug McDougal E/Oregon State n/a
17 Mitch Johnson T/UCLA Dallas, 1975;
Washington, 1966-67; Los Angeles, 1969-1970; Cleveland, 1971
18 Marty Amsler DE/Evansville Chicago, 1967,
1969; Cincinnati, 1970; Green Bay, 1970
19 Marv Rettenmund HB/Ball State n/a
20 Don Barlow T/Kansas State n/a

The two significant picks in this draft were, of course, Morton and Pugh. Morton saw significant playing time from 1965 to 1968, and then he took over as the starter for two seasons. Pugh became a full-time starter in 1967 and remained in the lineup for more than a decade.

The other players on the list are hardly worth mentioning. Brig Owens is the most noteworthy of these others. Owens was traded to Washington in 1966, and he played 12 seasons with the Redskins. In 2002, he was named one of the 70 Greatest Redskins.

Players Dallas Missed in the 1965 Draft

The first round of the 1965 draft featured the likes of Dick Butkus, Gale Sayers, Joe Namath, and Mike Curtis. Future Hall-of-Famer Fred Biletnikoff was a third-round pick by Detroit, but he decided to play for the Raiders. Other notables in the 1965 draft include running back Ken Willard, running back Tucker Frederickson, running back Donny Anderson, running back Jim Nance, running back Johnny Roland, receiver Dick Gordon, and tight end Jerry Smith.

Ironically, two of the picks the Cowboys missed– Lance Rentzel and Ralph Neely– later joined Dallas.

Grade the 1965 Draft

Here is your chance to grade the 1965 draft of the Dallas Cowboys:

My Grade: C-. Morton was a good quarterback, and Pugh was a great find by Gil Brandt and company. The others were mostly forgettable.

Cowboys Sign Ralph Neely

The Colts drafted Oklahoma tackle Ralph Neely in the second round of the 1965 draft. Neely was also drafted by Houston in the AFL draft. He purported to sign with the Oilers, but when he learned that the Colts had traded him to Dallas, he began to negotiate with the Cowboys. In June 1965, a federal judge in Oklahoma ruled that Neely belonged to the Cowboys, and thus  Neely’s career in Dallas started in 1965. He stayed with the club for 13 seasons.

Other New Faces

* The Cowboys welcomed an Olympic sprinter named Bob Hayes in 1965. Hayes took over for Tommy McDonald at split end after Dallas traded McDonald to Los Angeles.

* With Buddy Dial moving into the starting lineup as well, receiver Frank Clarke moved to tight end, where he split time with Pettis Norman.

* Jim Ridlon retired and was replaced at safety by Obert Logan.

* Dallas welcomed yet another new kicker in Danny Villanueva, who had previously played for the Rams.

50 Seasons Series: ’64 Defense Shows Improvement

2009-03-05_004219.gifThis post is part of the 50 Seasons in 50 Weeks Series.

The shot above was taken during the Cowboys’ 1964 season finale against Pittsburgh. Players shown include Dave Edwards (#52), Jim Ridlon (#42), and Jerry Tubbs (#50). The Steeler running back is John Henry Johnson. Ridlon played for several seasons in San Francisco, and he had some highlights in 1964 with Dallas by scoring two defensive touchdowns.

The second half of the 1964 season began to look promising when the Cowboys evened their record at 4-4-1 after week 9. However, a four-game skid late in the season ended any hope of the team finishing at or above .500.

The Dallas defense started showing signs that it could be dominant. No team gained more than 367 total yards against the Cowboys all year, and in four of the final seven games, Dallas opponents gained less than 300.

On the other hand, the Cowboys never managed more than 300 yards during any of the final seven games, and in three of the last four games, Dallas gained fewer than 100 passing yards. That’s what we call bad.

Week 8: Dallas 24, Chicago 10

A touchdown run by Don Perkins and a touchdown reception by Jim Stiger helped Dallas jump out to a 17-3 halftime lead. A Don Meredith touchdown run in the fourth quarter finally iced the game for the Cowboys, who improved to 3-4-1 with the win.

Small note: the win marked the first time that the Cowboys ever defeated a defending NFL champion.

Cowboys Spring Bear Trip, 24 to 10 (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 9: Dallas 31, N.Y. Giants 21

The Cowboys converted four of five New York turnovers into touchdowns as Dallas improved to 4-4-1 by beating the Giants. Don Meredith threw two touchdown passes to Frank Clarke and another to Tommy McDonald. Defensive back Jim Ridlon also returned an interception for a touchdown, marking the first time he scored during his eight-year career with Dallas and San Francisco.

Cowboys Slap Bobbling Giants, 31-21 (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 10: Philadelphia 17, Dallas 14

The Cowboys’ hopes of having a winning record ended with a loss to the Eagles. Here’s what lost it for the Cowboys:

King Hill, the angel of second rate quarterbacks in the National
Football League, took a Philadelphia team which hadn’t made a first
down the entire second half 96 yards in 17 incredible plays, and with
2:09 remaining, facing fourth and 15 on the Dallas 38, threw a
touchdown pass to Pete Retzlaff and beat the Cowboys, 17-14.

The Dallas offense managed only 223 yards against the Eagles, which was a season low up to that point. Rather unbelievably, though, Dallas did not manage anywhere close to that many yards during its next three games.

Eagles Burst Cowboy Bubble, 17-14 (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 11: Washington 28, Dallas 16

Another Dallas Morning News description says it all: “the Dallas Cowboy offense slipped and clamored around the Cotton Bowl like tinker toy soldiers while the defense played like a tribe of dervishes . . . .” Former Eagle quarterback Sonny Jurgensen threw for more than 300 yards against Dallas, marking the third time he had accomplished the feat again the Cowboys. Dallas was never really in the game as the offense only managed 60 net passing yards.

Redskins Skin Dallas, 28-16 (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 12: Green Bay 45, Dallas 21

The Cowboys faced the Packers in week 12 before a crowd of 44,975, which established a new record. The many thousands who showed up saw Dallas be destroyed by Green Bay. It did not help that Dallas was without quarterback Don Meredith and fullback Don Perkins.

Dallas kept things close in the first half thanks to a punt return for a touchdown by rookie Mel Renfro. The Cowboys scored a second touchdown in the first half thanks to the likes of Perry Lee Dunn, John Roach, Billy Lothridge and Buddy Dial. Lothridge was the team’s punter and also served as a reserve quarterback. He alternated with Roach and scored a touchdown after recovering his own fumble deep in Green Bay territory.

The second half was awful for Dallas as the Packers raced to a 45-14 lead. A Warren Livingston fumble return for a touchdown gave Dallas 21 points, marking the only time in the final five weeks that the Cowboys scored more than 20.

Green Bay Hobbles Cowboys, 45-21 (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 13: Philadelphia 24, Dallas 14

Rookie quarterback Jack Concannon threw two touchdowns as the Eagles knocked off the Cowboys in week 13. Dallas actually led for much of this game, thanks to a fumble recovery for a touchdown by Jimmy Ridlon and a touchdown pass from Don Meredith to Tommy McDonald. However, the Eagles scored 17 fourth quarter points to put the Cowboys away. Dallas managed only 73 net passing yards, giving the Cowboys a total of 187 net passing yards during a three-game span.

Cowboys Rocked to Sleep Again, 24-14 (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 14: Dallas 17, Pittsburgh 14

A hobbled Don Meredith helped to give Dallas fans something to cheer about in the season finale. Meredith threw a touchdown to Pettis Norman and helped set up a touchdown run by Perry Lee Dunn in the fourth quarter, giving Dallas a 17-7 lead. The Cowboy defense held the Steelers during two late goalline stands, as Dallas held on to win, 17-14.

Cowboys Clip Steelers, 17-14, in Finale (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

2009-03-05_004147.gifTough trivia question: Can you name each of the players in the shot above?

No, neither could I. The answer is (l to r): George Andrie, Jim Colvin, Dave Edwards, Cornell Green, and Bob Lilly.

50 Seasons Series: 1964 Season Brings More Disappointment

renfro.jpgThis post is part of the 50 Seasons in 50 Weeks Series.

The Cowboys did not enter the 1964 season with the same high hopes that they had in 1963. Unfortunately, the results in the first half of the ’64 season were no better than the results from the previous year.

Dallas opened its 1963 season with a devastating loss to the Cardinals, and the loss set a bad tone for the rest of the season. The Cowboys season opener in 1964 was also against the Cardinals, and Dallas entered the game as seven-point underdogs. Stories previewing the season noted that the Cowboys had not made any significant improvements on either offense or defense, and Don Meredith was injured for much of training camp.

Week 1: St. Louis 16, Dallas 6

The somewhat good news is that the Cowboys’ loss to St. Louis in the opening game of 1964 was the last time that Dallas would lose an opener until 1982. Frank Clarke had a great game (10 rec., 145 yards) and caught a touchdown in the first quarter. Dallas failed to score after that, though. The Cowboys had a chance to tie the game in the fourth quarter when St. Louis led 13-6, but the Cardinals stopped Dallas on a 4th-and-1 play.

Dallas Morning News: Cowboys Drop Opener To Cardinals, 16 to 6 | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 2: Dallas 24, Washington 18

Rookie Mel Renfro returned an interception 39 yards for a touchdown (the play is shown in the picture at the top of this post), which helped Dallas beat the Redskins, 24-18. Don Perkins had two touchdown runs to help Dallas in the win. Former Cowboy J. W. Lockett scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter that closed the gap to six points, but Lockett then dropped a pass late in the game that could have won it for Washington.


Dallas Morning News: Cowboys Edge Washington, 24-18
| Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 3: Pittsburgh 23, Dallas 17

Pittsburgh ran out to a 23-10 lead thanks to three Ed Brown touchdown passes, but the Cowboys cut the lead to 23-17 when a limping Don Meredith scored on a two-yard touchdown run. The Cowboys had several opportunities to win the game when they drove deep inside Pittsburgh territory during the final four minutes. However, the Steelers held the Cowboys at the one-yard line on a fourth down play, and the Cowboys could not manage to pull out the win.

Clarke had his second 100-yard receiving game of the season. He also scored on a touchdown pass in the second quarter.


Dallas Morning News:

Cowboys Miss By a Yard | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 4: Cleveland 27, Dallas 6

Cleveland’s Frank Ryan threw three touchdown passes as the Cowboys fell hard to the Browns, 27-6. Quarterback John Roach threw his only touchdown pass as a member of the Cowboys (a five-yarder to Pettis Norman in the second quarter), but the rest of the game was discouraging for Dallas.


Dallas Morning News:
Browns Boot Cowboys | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 5: Dallas 13, N.Y. Giants 13

The Cowboys overcame a 13-3 halftime deficit to tie the Giants in week 5. The Dallas defense held quarterback Y.A. Tittle to just 33 net yards passing, and the Cowboys outgained the Giants 463 yards to 128. However, Dallas was unable to convert several scoring opportunities and had to settle of the tie.

Don Perkins rushed for 137 yards on 17 carries. Tommy McDonald had his first 100-yard game as a Cowboy, catching 10 passes for 108 yards. Frank Clarke also had a 100-yard day (7 rec., 120 yds).

Dallas Morning News: Cowboys Maul but Only Tie NY
| Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 6: Cleveland 20, Dallas 16

For the second time in three weeks, the Cowboys struggled against the Browns.The Cowboys offense, described as having “the killer instinct of a Cocker Spaniel,” gave the game away in every way imaginable. Don Meredith crossed the line of scrimmage before throwing what would have been a touchdown pass to Tommy McDonald. Even worse was when Meredith was picked off in the fourth quarter by Bernie Parrish, who returned the pick 54 yards for a touchdown. Dallas led 16-13 just before the Parrish touchdown, and the Cowboys could not score again.

Jim Brown rushed for 188 yards on 26 carries for Cleveland.


Dallas Morning News: Browns Steal Pass, 20-16 Victory
| Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 7: Dallas 31, St. Louis 13

The Cowboys ended the first half of their season on a high note, routing the St. Louis Cardinals 31-13. Amos Marsh rushed for two touchdowns, and Frank Clarke again had more than 100 yard receiving. After leading 14-3 at halftime, Dallas put the game away with 17 points in the fourth quarter.


Dallas Morning News: Cowboys Club Cards, 31-13
| Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Wrap Up

After seven games in 1964, the Cowboys stood at 2-4-1. The offense that had looked so promising in 1962 was now a major disappointment. However, the defense continued to look better. The second half of the 1964 season wasn’t great by any means, but the defense started showing signs that Doomsday wasn’t too far away.