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A short crossword puzzle featuring questions about the 1980 Dallas Cowboys.
This is the third entry in a short series about underappreciated or forgotten performances in team history. Previous entries covered underappreciated quarterbacks and running backs with largely forgotten performances.
Today’s entry covers receiving performances that not everyone remembers. Excluded from this list were performances by the likes of Michael Irvin, Bob Hayes, Drew Pearson, Dez Bryant, and Terrell Owens.
Dallas Cowboys: Good Receiving Performances Nobody Remembers
The Dallas Cowboys have had plenty of great performances by their famous receivers, including Michael Irvin, Drew Pearson, Dez Bryant, Bob Hayes, and others.
Not all great receiving performances have involved the most famous receivers. This list focuses on ten good receiving performances that not everyone remembers.
Lance Rentzel, November 19, 1967
Lance Rentzel had some big games during the late 1960s. None of his performances was bigger than his game against the Washington Redskins on November 19, 1967. He caught 13 passes for 223 yards with a touchdown in a 27-20 loss.
(Pictures is not from the same game.)
So I caught a few highlights of Cowboys games from the 1970s and saw a reel of the 1972 game between Dallas and Washington. The teams played in Dallas on December 9, just three weeks before they would face off again in the NFC Championship Game. Of course, Washington reached the Super Bowl that year.
Dallas was the victor on December 9, though, and the leading rusher was not who you would expect—Walt Garrison, who outgained Calvin Hill, 122 yards to 111 yards.
How many good (if not great) performances by a running back have most fans forgotten? This list introduces a few of those games.
Dallas Cowboys: Good Running Back Performances Nobody Remembers
Most fans of the Dallas Cowboys remember great games by the likes of Emmitt Smith, Tony Dorsett, and even DeMarco Murray or Ezekiel Elliott.
But the Dallas franchise is 57 years old, and several running backs have had memorable games that few, if any, would remember.
This list focuses on those games.
Joseph Randle, Sept. 27, 2015
Randle began the 2015 as the starting running back before he ran into legal problems. His best game as a pro occurred on September 27, 2015, when he rushed for 87 yards and scored three touchdowns. However, he played in only three games after that before Dallas released him.
Scott Laidlaw, Nov. 11, 1978
Scott Laidlaw served largely as a backup fullback in Dallas between 1975 and 1979. He rarely carried the ball more than ten times per game and had only two games with 100 or more rushing yards.
Against the Redskins on November 23, 1978, he had his best game, rushing for 122 yards with two touchdowns in a 37-10 Dallas win.
(Image is not from the same game.)
Daryl Johnston, December 24, 1989
Daryl Johnston will also be one of the all-time great Cowboys, as he served as the hard-nosed fullback for the great Emmitt Smith.
Did he ever lead the team in rushing yards?
On December 24, 1989, with the pipes in Texas Stadium freezing, Moose rushed for 60 yards in a 20-10 Dallas loss.
(Image is not from the same game.)
Tashard Choice, December 5, 2010
Tashard Choice was the third running back behind Felix Jones and Marion Barber in 2010, but he wound up with some opportunities to play.
During the dreadful season, Dallas had a 3-8 record when the team traveled to Indianapolis to face Peyton Manning and the Colts.
Dallas blew a 17-0 lead and a 27-14 lead before finally winning the game in overtime.
Choice had one of his best games as a pro, rushing for 100 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. It was his only career game with 100 rushing yards.
Chris Warren, Oct. 4, 1998
Chris Warren had been a star running back in Seattle, but he was only a backup when he arrived in Dallas in 1998.
In three seasons in Dallas, he watched as Emmitt Smith chased the career rushing mark.
Warren had one game, though, that stood out. On October 4, 1998, he filled in for Smith and gained 104 yards on 14 carries, scoring twice.
(Image is not from the same game.)
Darren McFadden, Oct. 25, 2015
Nobody wants to remember the 2015 season, when the Dallas Cowboys were 4-12.
Darren McFadden had better rushing days as the lead back in Oakland, but he had a game to remember against the Giants, gaining 152 yards on 29 carries with a touchdown.
Of course, Dallas found a way to lose anyway.
Duane Thomas, Oct. 25, 1970
Duane Thomas certainly made a name for himself in Dallas, despite playing only two seasons with the Cowboys. He had six career 100-yard games for Dallas during the regular season, plus some great playoff performances.
The game few would remember was his first 100-yard performance. On October 25, 1970, the team traveled to Kansas City to face the Chiefs, who were the defending Super Bowl champions. Up to that point, Thomas had only 127 total rushing yards, but he surpassed his season total in one game, gaining 134 yards with two touchdowns in a 27-16 Dallas win.
Troy Hambrick, Dec. 14, 2003
Troy Hambrick was the immediate successor to Emmitt Smith in Dallas, but Hambrick lasted only one season.
He had his bright spots, though. Against the Redskins on December 14, 2003, he gained 189 yards on 33 carries, far surpassing any other performance during his career.
Felix Jones, Jan. 9, 2010
Felix Jones had bright spots during his Dallas career, but he was too inconsistent to develop into a quality starter.
His best performance came in the playoffs. Dallas managed to win its first playoff game in more than a decade on January 9, 2010, beating Philadelphia 34-14. Jones led the way, gaining 148 yards on 16 carries, including a great 73 yard touchdown run that put the game away.
Walt Garrison, Dec. 9, 1972
Walt Garrison was an integral part of the 1972 Dallas Cowboys rushing attack, but he managed to gain more than 100 yards in only one game.
That game occurred against division rival Washington on December 9, 1972. The Cowboys managed a 34-24 win against the eventual NFC champions, and Garrison helped to lead the way with 121 rushing yards and a touchdown.
It marked the second, and final, time that Garrison surpassed 100 rushing yards in a game.
Julius Jones, Dec. 6, 2004
Julius Jones looked at times to be the next great back after the departure of Emmitt Smith.
As a rookie in 2004, he had a game to remember--that not everybody remembers.
In a wild game in Seattle, Dallas came from behind to win 43-39. Jones ran the ball 30 times and gained 198 yards.
Remarkably, Jones had run the ball 30 times or more during each of the previous two games as well, giving him three consecutive games with 30 or more carries. However, he would have 30 or more attempts only once more during his career.
Emmitt Smith, Nov. 28, 2002
Emmitt Smith had so many memorable games that he probably does not belong on this list.
One game does, however.
During his final season in Dallas, Smith struggled. He frequently ran fewer than 15 times during games, and until Thanksgiving Day, he had gained more than 100 yards only once.
Then he had his last great game as a Cowboy.
At age 33, Smith rushed 23 times for 144 yards, leading the Cowboys to a 27-20 win over Washington.
Tony Romo will probably leave the Dallas Cowboys this off-season. His career seemed to have so much promise, and thanks to individual accomplishments, he will likely wind up in the Ring of Honor.
But there is this matter of two playoff wins in a decade as a starter. Many will remember the dropped snap against Seattle. Or the failed pass at the end of the game against the Giants in 2007. Or the playoff losses at Minnesota and Green Bay in 2009 and 2014. Or interceptions that often overshadowed his otherwise great achievements.
Is he the most unappreciated Dallas Cowboys quarterback in team history? This list ranks quarterbacks falling in that category (meaning those not named Meredith, Staubach, Aikman, or Prescott).
Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, the Cowboys have gone 14-9 during divisional round playoff games. The team’s first loss in the division round occurred in 1976.
The team’s first loss in the division round occurred in 1976. The 11-3 Cowboys hosted the 10-3-1 Rams at Texas Stadium.
Dallas had a 10-7 lead heading into the fourth quarter, but the Rams regained the lead and held on for a 14-12 win. The lack of a running game prompted the Cowboys to trade for a draft pick that allowed them to select Tony Dorsett.
One Dallas player during that 1976 playoff loss recorded two interceptions and a fumble recovery. Who was it?
The picture below is not from the game in question but provides the answer.
Sort of lost in all the other stories this season is the fact that the Cowboys have had three different running backs rush for more than 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons.
(Hat tip to Robert Stiltner, who asked me on Facebook why nobody has mentioned this. I did the research based on his comment.)
The Cowboys are the third team in NFL history to accomplish the feat. The other two instances each happened since 2003.
Denver Broncos (2003-2006)
The Broncos under Mike Shanahan became famous for finding a seemingly endless number of running backs. Between 2003 and 2006, a different Denver running back rushed for more than 1,000 yards.
2003 – Clinton Portis: 290 attempts, 1,591 yards
2004 – Reuben Droughns: 275 attempts, 1,240 yards
2005 – Mike Anderson: 239 attempts, 1,014 yards
2006 – Tatum Bell: 233 attempts, 1,025 yards
New York Giants (2006-2008)
The Giants kept trying to develop its “thunder and lightning” attack with various running backs during the mid-2000s. They became the second franchise to have three different backs with at least 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons. Moreover, during the third of those three seasons, the Giants had two 1,000-yard backs.
2006 – Tiki Barber: 327 attempts, 1,662 yards
2007 – Brandon Jacobs: 202 attempts, 1,009 yards
2008 – Derrick Ward: 182 attempts, 1,025 yards; Brandon Jacobs: 219 attempts, 1,089 yards
Dallas Cowboys (2014-2016)
The Cowboys have featured what is probably the best offensive line in football during the past few years, so it is no coincidence that the team has had three 1,000-yard backs.
2014 – DeMarco Murray: 392 attempts, 1,845 yards
2015 – Darren McFadden: 239 attempts, 1,089 yards
2016 – Ezekiel Elliott: 310 attempts, 1,551 yards (through 14 games)
Some other teams have come close to appearing on this list. Quite a number have had different backs rush for more than 1,000 yards in (for example) three of four or five seasons.
Atlanta nearly made this list thanks to quarterback Michael Vick. Warrick Dunn rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 2004, 2005, and 2006, and Vick added 1,039 rushing yards of his own in 2006. The Falcons did not have a 1,000-yard rusher in 2006, but Michael Turner gained 1,699 yards in 2008.
The Colts were another team that barely missed this list. Below are the Indianapolis rushing leaders from 1998 to 2001:
1998 – Marshall Faulk: 324 attempts, 1,319 yards
1999 – Edgerrin James: 369 attempts, 1,553 yards
2000 – Edgerrin James: 387 attempts, 1,709 yards
2001 – Dominic Rhodes: 233 attempts, 1,104 yards
The Colts did not have a 1,000-yard rusher in 2003, but a back rushed for at least 1,000 yards every year from 2003 to 2007 (James from 2003-2005; Joseph Addai in 2006-2007).
The following quiz asks ten questions about Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks.
One surprise was the selection of Efren Herrera’s 1977 season as the greatest ever. I call this a surprise because Herrera only hit 62.1% of his field goals that season (and missed two extra points), and he was gone one year later. (I would have picked Rafael Septien’s 1981 season.) Nevertheless, Herrera was an all-pro selection in 1977, so it was not as if he didn’t deserve consideration.
Now for some trivia: why did the Cowboys trade Herrera to Seattle?
The short answer is that Herrera was demanding too much money. In fact, he wanted to double his salary from 1976.
Double means going from about $40,000 per year to about $80,000 per year. In 2016 dollars, that would be like Herrera asking for a raise from $159,000 to $318,000. Of course, the current minimum veteran salary for a fourth-year pro (which Herrera was in 1978) is $760,000.
Salary of current kicker Dan Bailey in 2016? $3.3 million, including his prorated signing bonus.
Dallas traded Herrera to Seattle on August 14, 1978, in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick. He played for Seattle for four years and became somewhat famous for his involvement with trick plays. In fact, he caught two passes for a total of 29 yards.
He played part of one season in Buffalo. He was signed by a couple of USFL teams but did not play in that league.
After the trade with Seattle in 1978, Dallas was left with unheralded Jay Sherrill and Skip Butler at kicker. Fortunately, the Cowboys were able to sign Septien as a free agent about two weeks after trading Herrera.
The late Pete Gent is well-known for his book, North Dallas Forty. He played for the Cowboys for five seasons between 1964 and 1968.
Although he was never a full-time starter, he had a pretty good season in 1966. He started ten games that season and caught 27 passes for 474 yards and a touchdown. Dallas had its first winning season that year, finishing 10-3-1 before losing to Green Bay in the NFL Championship Game.
Because the Cowboys did so well that year, several publications featured the team. One publication quoted Gent, who was often very quotable.
Below is a quote. Can you fill in the blank?
“What I lack in speed, I make up for in _____________________.”
Here’s a bonus quote trivia item.
The same publication also featured some quotes from placekicker Danny Villanueva.
Calling Villanueva “invaluable” (with a FG% of 54.8% that season!), the publication notes the following:
“[Villanueva] makes a grand showing of avoiding tackling at all costs on the grounds that he is a “______________ _____________.”
Here is an animated GIF showing a play from Super Bowl XIII. Trivia questions follows:
(1) Hollywood Henderson is the player who took Terry Bradshaw to the ground after the fumble. What did Henderson famously say about Bradshaw’s intelligence before the game?
(2) Which player returned the fumble for a touchdown?
(3) True or false? This play is the only defensive touchdown the Cowboys scored in eight Super Bowl appearances.
(4) Bradshaw fumbled twice against the Cowboys in SB XIII. Which Dallas player recovered the first fumble?
(5) Another linebacker recorded an interception against the Steelers in SB XIII. Who was that player?