Dallas Cowboys History
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Thursday’s loss to the Washington Redskins was certainly not the first Thanksgiving loss for the Cowboys. Dallas now holds an overall record of 28-16-1 during the annual game, which is quite good.
However, the loss to Washington was one of the worst in team history on Thanksgiving. In fact, I am going to name it as the worst. Here is a list of the contenders.
10. Miami 16, Dallas 14 (1993)
This game just has to make the list, even though the Cowboys never lost another game and eventually won Super Bowl XXVIII. Dallas and Miami played in the snow at Texas Stadium, and the Cowboys appeared to secure the win by blocking a final field-goal attempt. However, Leon Lett tried to recover the loose ball. When he failed, Miami recovered and had one more chance. Pete Stoyanovich made his next try, giving Miami the win.
9. Houston Oilers 30, Dallas 24 (1979)
A Heisman Trophy winning player from Texas visited Dallas and torched the Cowboys. Sound familiar? Playing in his second year, Earl Campbell ran all over Dallas, gaining 195 yards and scoring two touchdowns. The Cowboys had a lead for much of the game, but the Oilers came from behind to win it. The loss dropped Dallas to 8-5, but the Cowboys won their remaining regular-season games.
8. Minnesota 44, Dallas 38 (1987)
At 5-5, the Cowboys had to beat the Vikings to have any realistic chance to make the playoffs. Sound familiar? Minnesota went up by 14 points on several occasions, but the Cowboys kept battling back. Danny White’s four touchdown passes kept Dallas in the game, but his interception during overtime killed the team’s chances. Minnesota won, White never played in a significant game again, and Tom Landry never competed for a playoff spot again.
7. San Francisco 31, Dallas 10 (1972)
The 7-3 Cowboys hosted the 49ers trying to stay close to the 9-1 Redskins. Instead, it was the Skip Vanderbundt show. He scored touchdowns on fumble and interception returns in a game that was never close. Dallas ended up finishing one game behind Washington in the NFC East. Of course, Dallas managed to avenge the loss to San Francisco in the playoffs in Roger Staubach’s first miracle comeback.
6. Miami 40, Dallas 21 (2003)
The Cowboys were 8-3 when they hosted the Dolphins on Thanksgiving. Dallas had just won a big game over Carolina, and hopes were high that the Cowboys would do something in the playoffs. Instead, the Cowboys gave up 23 points in the first half in a bad loss. The Cowboys finished the season at 10-6 and lost to the Panthers in the playoffs.
5. Tennessee Oilers 27, Dallas 14 (1997)
The Cowboys entered this game at 6-6 and were still in the playoff hunt. Quarterback Steve McNair helped to end those playoff hopes by leading Tennessee to 24 first-half points. After the loss, the Cowboys quit and lost their final three games to finish at 6-10.
4. Denver 24, Dallas 21 (2005)
The 7-3 Cowboys needed a win to help their playoff chances. They trailed for much of the game but forced overtime thanks to a late touchdown from Drew Bledsoe to Jason Witten. In overtime, though, Ron Dayne ran right through the Dallas defense on a 55-yard run, setting up the game-winning field goal. The Cowboys finished at 9-7 and missed the playoffs for the second straight year.
3. Philadelphia 27, Dallas 0 (1989)
The Cowboys weren’t contending for anything when they hosted the Eagles on Thanksgiving. Nevertheless, Dallas had to play for pride during the first infamous Bounty Bowl in which Buddy Ryan, father of the Cowboys’ current defensive coordinator, put a price on the heads of several Cowboys. There was not much pride left in Dallas after the 27-0 loss.
2. Minnesota 46, Dallas 36 (1998)
A few thought the 8-3 Cowboys could contend with the 10-1 Vikings. Then rookie Randy Moss made his first visit to Texas Stadium. The Cowboys had no clue how to stop him as he caught three passes for 163 yards and 3 touchdowns. Troy Aikman threw for 455 yards, but Dallas was never really in the game. The Cowboys finished the season at 10-6 and lost to the Cardinals in the playoffs.
1. Washington 38, Dallas 31 (2012)
At 5-5, the Cowboys had hopes they could contend for the NFC East title. Instead, rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III rode into Dallas, and Rob Ryan’s defense had no clue how to stop him. It was 28-3 at halftime thanks to three RGIII touchdowns, and Tony Romo’s 441 passing yards meant nothing in the loss.
The Cowboys first faced the Atlanta Falcons during Atlanta’s inaugural season in 1966. Dallas won in a 47-14 blowout.
Blowouts were the norm in the early part of this series, as Dallas won the first five games by a combined score of 145-38. The teams played three of these five games at Atlanta.
The last of the five games took place in 1974 during the opening week. The Cowboys had little trouble with the Falcons that day, taking a 17-0 halftime lead on the way to a 24-0 win.
Here is a video with highlights:
It was a nice way to open the season for Dallas, but the weeks that followed were less than great. Dallas lost four in a row and wound up finishing at 8-6. The team missed the playoffs for the first time since 1965.
The Cowboys lost to the Falcons for the first time in 1976, and the teams have been a bit more even in the series after the early domination by the Cowboys. Dallas holds a 16-8 edge in 22 games, including two playoff wins.
Between 1960 and 1996, the Cowboys were seldom mediocre. The team had its ups and downs, but by 1996, the Cowboys had turned their fortunes around after two very bad years to end the 1980s.
Between 1991 and 1996, Dallas went 70-26 with a playoff record of 12-3. Everyone knows that three of those seasons ended in Super Bowl titles.
One of those three playoff losses, though, came against a team that did not play a single game until 1995. Of all teams to end a dynasty, it couldn’t be an expansion team in its second year.
But that’s what happened.
Nobody who even barely followed the Cowboys in 1996 can forget the many scandals. Michael Irvin missed five games because of drug charges, and it appeared as if he and offensive tackle Erik Williams were going to face even more severe problems when a woman accused them of raping her.
The charges didn’t stand, but the loss did. Once the Cowboys lost Irvin to a shoulder injury, the team was just never quite in the game. Meanwhile, Dallas could not stop the great Anthony Johnson, who ran for 104 yards on 26 carries.
(What do you mean you don’t remember Anthony Johnson? The Notre Dame fullback? Emerged from nowhere in 1996 before returning to obscurity after that?)
From Sports Illustrated:
The Carolina Panthers not only beat the scandal-scarred Super Bowl champion Cowboys on offense, defense and special teams at Ericsson Stadium, but they also showed more poise. However, the most stunning thing about Carolina’s 26-17 win in this NFC divisional playoff game was that it wasn’t so stunning. Dallas’s run for a fourth Super Bowl victory in five years ended in part because of drug suspensions and injuries but mostly because the Panthers were the setter team. Running back Anthony Johnson carried Carolina in crunch time when Smith couldn’t carry Dallas. Panther Kerry Collins was a better quarterback than Troy Aikman, who threw interceptions to kill the Cowboys’ last two drives. With a complex blitz package and a secondary that played tighter coverage than Dallas ever anticipated, the Carolina defense frustrated the Cowboys for the better part of 60 minutes.
Anyway, the franchise that was seldom mediocre has been anything but since then. Between 1997 and 2012, here are the numbers:
* Regular season record: 122-123
* Playoff record: 1-6
* One of those six teams: Carolina in 2003
I’ve heard someone try to argue that Carolina has “owned” the Cowboys, but that is certainly not true. While Dallas has fallen to the Panthers in two playoff games, Dallas has an overall record of 8-3 against Carolina, including wins in the last four.
The NFL welcomed two expansion teams in 1976. Tampa Bay was the more notable of the two, as the Buccaneers went 0-14. Dallas did not get to face Tampa Bay until 1977.
Dallas did, however, face the other expansion team, which was the Seattle Seahawks. The head coach was Jack Patera, who was a member of the original Dallas Cowboys in 1960. The quarterback was Jim Zorn, whom the Cowboys cut at the end of training camp in 1975.
Nobody gave the 0-3 Seahawks a chance against the 3-0 Cowboys, but in the second quarter, Seattle had jumped out to a 13-0 lead thanks to two Zorn touchdown passes.
The Cowboys woke up to score 28 unanswered points and came away with a 28-13 win. Dallas finished the year at 12-2, while Seattle only managed a 2-12 mark.
Here’s the video, which features some nice plays by Golden Richards, Charley Young, and “stumpy” Robert Newhouse.
The 2006 season was the first one I covered for this blog. The Cowboys looked very mediocre early that season as Drew Bledsoe continued to earn a “statue” nickname and Terrell Owens did little to help the Cowboys stand out.
Then came the emergence of a new quarterback. He played college in Charleston, Illinois, which is where I was born. The college was Eastern Illinois University, which is where my father received two degrees. The new QB was also the kick holder, which is the nickname I used on here because I couldn’t think of anything else.
I’m not sure what all of that was supposed to mean, but none of it turned out to be good luck in the end. The Cowboys made the playoffs as a wildcard but had to travel to Seattle to face the defending NFC Champions.
Though Dallas fell behind in the second half, a 93-yard kickoff return by an unknown receiver named Miles Austin gave the Cowboys a lead. In the fourth quarter, that lead was 20-13.
Then came what amounted to an implosion. Dallas had the ball at its own 2 with 6:42 remaining. Romo threw a short pass to Terry Glenn, who fumbled. This lead to a safety (after a review), and the Dallas lead shrank to 20-15.
Though Seattle regained the lead, the Cowboys were still in a position to win the game. Many tend to forgot that with just under two minutes left to play, Romo hit Jason Witten on a 3rd-and-7 play, and the original mark gave Dallas a first down at the Seattle 1. Had the spot held up up, the Cowboys would have run down the clock and probably kicked on third down. Had there been an error on the snap, the Cowboys would have had a second chance.
Instead, the replay moved the ball to the 2, and Dallas faced a fourth down. Here’s the play that everyone does remember:
My comments after the game:
How is it that I use the name kickholder on here even though I haven’t actually been a kick holder since high school (er… I guess I did hold some kicks on the practice squad in college, but that is beside the point)? And how does the Cowboys season end? On a dropped snap by Tony Romo when he served as a kick holder.
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Anyway, I well beyond sick right now and hope that the shock keeps me numb for a couple of days. Nothing good can possibly come from this loss or this season as a whole, unless you want to prove the Dallas Cowboy franchise is one that has no clue how to win in this league on a consistent basis. Enjoy the off-season, boys.
He played during a time before many of us were around to watch the Cowboys. He was, though, associated with the team for just as long as Tex Schramm and Tom Landry, and more should be familiar with who he was.
He was a first-round draft pick of the Chicago Cardinals in 1957 but did little to stand out during his first three years in the NFL. The San Francisco 49ers left him unprotected in the 1960 expansion draft, and the Dallas Cowboys acquired him.
He was part of the first core group of players for the Cowboys. In 1962, he earned a berth in the Pro Bowl along side Bob Lilly and Don Bishop. That marked the first year that a defensive player for Dallas made the Pro Bowl.
He remained a starter until 1966, when Lee Roy Jordan moved over to the middle. Tubbs suffered a back injury in 1966 and played in only four games.
Tubbs joined the Dallas coaching staff in 1968 and remained as an assistant until the end of the Tom Landry era in 1989.
He was survived by his wife, Marlene.
It’s hard to believe, but it has been five years since the Cowboys opened their 2007 season against the Giants at Texas Stadium. Dallas was coming off a playoff season after going 9-7, while the Giants had finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs. Dallas came into the game favored by as many as six points.
In one of the great opening games in franchise history, Dallas continued to find ways to score points and came away with a 45-35 win. Led by new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, Dallas amassed 478 yards of total offense, including 345 passing yards on just 15 completions.
Here is a summary provided by CBS:
Dallas picked up another win over the Giants later in 2007 and finished the regular season with a 13-3 record. The Cowboys were 7.5-point favorites when Dallas hosted the Giants in the playoffs. As most know, though, the Cowboys lost 21-17, and the Giants went on to win Super Bowl XLII.
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Incidentally, news about the Cowboys is hard to come by these days. One of the leading Cowboys stories is about former coach Jimmy Johnson peddling medically ineffective penis pills. Ahem.
The year 1973 was not a great one in Dallas Cowboys history, but it is notable for a few reasons.
Dallas entered the final game of the season with a 9-4 record. The Cowboys had defeated Washington in week 13, and win over the Cardinals in week 14 would give Dallas the NFC East title.
Here is a video from that game:
Pearson had a huge game with 140 yards and two touchdown reception. It marked the first time he had gained more than 100 receiving yards.
Dallas moved on to defeat the Rams in the NFC playoffs before losing to Minnesota in the NFC Championship Game.
- Dallas Cowboys History in Quotes: Early Team History (knowyourdallascowboys.com)
- Great Dallas Cowboys Drafts: 1975 (examiner.com)
- The Dallas Cowboys have never lost to the Washington Redskins on Thanksgiving (examiner.com)
- Great Dallas Cowboys Drafts: 1964 (examiner.com)
The sad news today was that former Cowboys special teams coach Joe Avezzano died at the age of 68. He was coaching in Italy at the time.
He served as special teams coach from 1990 to 2002. He also served as head coach of the now-defunct Dallas Desperados of the Arena Football League.
He appeared as an analyst on the Cowboys post-game show last season. He offered unfiltered insights about the team, and his comments were typically a highlight after both wins and losses.
In honor of Avezzano, here are three quotes as part of the Dallas Cowboys history in quotes series.
“He’ll get blamed for things he can’t control, like injuries. But as far as decisions? He came in and said, ‘You guys have been very successful. Go to work.’ That’s a helluva decision right there. The correct one.”
Avezzano about former head coach Barry Switzer, who joined the Cowboys in 1994 after Jimmy Johnson resigned. Switzer and Avezzano had known each other for years.
Source: Sports Illustrated, Aug. 1, 1994
“They are legislating mediocrity. The attempt, in my mind, is to devalue the kicking game. I marvel at the amount of time that’s spent trying to mess with the kicking game. You’re going to be penalized for having a strong kicker.”
Avezzano about a proposal to move the ball to the 25-yard line after touchbacks. The proposal fell through.
Source: Sports Illustrated, March 14, 1999
“What kind of [expletive] question is that? Can you show me the [expletive] stats that show punt returners get hurt more frequently than any other [expletive] player?
“This is [expletive] pro football. Players get hurt all the [expletive] time no matter what they’re doing.”
Avezzano to reporter Jean-Jacques Taylor, who had asked the coach in 1995 why the team was using receiver Kevin Williams as a punt returner.
Source: ESPN, April 5, 2012
Did You Know?
Avezzano was a three-year letterman at Florida State, where he played guard. The website Nolefan.org included this comment:
Offensive Guard from Miami…big, tough and capable…an excellent pass blocker with good speed…good at pulling to trap and lead sweeps…along with tackle Del Williams, provided tremendous pass protection for Steve Tensi for three years…played one year in the AFL for the Boston Patriots in 1966.
The site also includes a picture of Avezzano during his college playing days. Great stuff:
The Dallas Cowboys announced this week that former defensive lineman Leon Lett will join the staff as assistant defensive line coach. He previously helped the Cowboys during training camp in 2011.
Of course, none of us have forgotten about the Leon Lett stories of the 1990s. Although Lett was very important to the team’s success in 1995, his gaffes remain legendary.
As part of the Dallas Cowboys history in quotes series, here are three quotes about these gaffes.
“How could I hear someone that small and that fast. I was the one making all the noise.”
Lett about Don Beebe, who stripped Lett of the football in Super Bowl XXVII before Lett could score. Had Lett scored, the Cowboys would have won 59-17 and set a Super Bowl record for points scored.
Source: New York Times, Feb. 1, 1993
“After that play, I kind of felt if we didn’t make it [to the Super Bowl], it would’ve been my fault.”
Lett in his first meeting with the press after he cost the Cowboys a win over the Miami Dolphins by trying to recover the ball after Dallas blocked a game-winning field goal attempt at the end of the Thanksgiving Day game. Dolphin kicker Pete Stoyanovich got a second chance and kicked a 19-yard field goal to give Miami the win.
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 26, 1994
“This is a time of concern for Leon Lett the person. Our thoughts are with him and his family and we will continue to offer our help and support in any way we can.”
Jerry Jones in a statement after the NFL suspended Lett for a year for testing positive for cocaine. Lett missed parts of the 1996 and 1997 seasons because of the suspension.
Did You Know?
Although Lett was a vital member of the Dallas defensive lines of the 1990s, his contributions did not show up in the stat columns. He never recorded more than four sacks or 36 tackles in a single season. Other defensive tackles of the era, including Jimmie Jones, Chad Hennings, and Hurvin McCormack (yes, that Hurvin McCormack) had better numbers on paper.
- Leon Lett joins Cowboys coaching staff (profootballtalk.nbcsports.com)
- The Nearly Men: The Top 5 Almost-Touchdowns of All Time (Video) (bleacherreport.com)
- A Review of Breakthrough ‘Boys, A Good Book on Dallas Cowboys History (examiner.com)
- Dallas Cowboys History in Quotes: The Story of the 1971 Dallas Cowboys (knowyourdallascowboys.com)
- Team History in Quotes: Acquiring Cornerbacks (knowyourdallascowboys.com)