Trivia and Stats
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Emmitt Smith faced the Carolina Panthers five times as a member of the Dallas Cowboys. Here is an animated GIF from one of those games:
Trivia: During which season did this play take place? Did the Cowboys win?
The 1984 Dallas Cowboys were 9-6 entering the season finale against the 13-2 Miami Dolphins. A Dallas win would ensure the team’s tenth consecutive playoff appearance. However, the Cowboys fell behind 21-14 late in game.
Someone last summer posted this video clip showing a touchdown reception by Tony Hill. I vaguely remember this play. It took place after the two-minute warning. Dallas had the ball at its own 34 with a first and ten.
Here’s a trivia question for today: what happened after this play? The answer is significant for a couple of reasons.
A big debate for at least part of his offseason is whether the Cowboys should or will sign free-agent running back DeMarco Murray. A significant part of that conversation will focus on Murray’s workload in 2014 and the effect it could have on him moving forward.
He had 449 touches in 2014, which is the most for any running back in team history during a regular season. Here are the numbers:
Murray had another 48 touches in two games to give him 497. By comparison, Emmitt Smith had 439 regular-season touches in 1995 and added another 80 in three playoff games. Smith also exceeded 500 touches in 1992, when he had 432 regular-season touches plus another 84 in three playoff games.
Smith was one of the most durable running backs in NFL history, but his numbers did decline after his record-breaking 1995 season. He played nine more season but never rushed for more than 1,400 yards again. Of course, part of that had to do with an aging offensive line during the late 1990s, but he was never quite the same back after 1995.
Murray ranks 6th in NFL history for touches in a regular season (Smith now ranks 10th). Of the five players with 450 or more touches, here is a quick summary of the rest of their careers.
5. Edgerrin James (Indianapolis, 450 touches, 2000): James had five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons between 2003 and 2007. However, following his 450-touch season in 2000, he played in only six games in 2001 and 14 games in 2002.
4. LaDainian Tomlinson (San Diego, 451 touches, 2006): Tomlilnson was the back who could have challenged Smith’s all-time rushing title, but Tomlinson had only two more seasons with more than 1,000 yards after touching the ball 451 times in 2006.
3. Eddie George (Tennessee, 453 touches, 2000): George had two more 1,000-yard seasons after 2000, but he never averaged more than 3.4 yards per carry after touching the ball 453 times that year.
2. Larry Johnson (Kansas City, 457 touches, 2006): Johnson played in all 16 games only twice during his career, including the 2006 season when he touched the ball 457 times. He never played a full season again and never came close to matching his rushing totals from 2005 (1,750 yards) or 2006 (1,789 yards).
1. James Wilder (Tampa Bay, 492 touches, 1984): Wilder had never rushed for 1,000 yards until he carried the ball 407 times and caught another 85 passes in 1984. He had only one more 1,000-yard season after 1984 before he started suffering injuries.
Brandon Weeden looked decent in relief against the Washington Redskins last week, but he struggled nearly all day against Arizona on Sunday.
In light of Weeden’s performance, here is a look at ten of the worst performances by backup quarterbacks in team history, including Weeden’s.
10. Brandon Weeden, November 2, 2014
Filling in for an injured Tony Romo, Weeden struggled hitting anyone not named Jason Witten all day. He threw two costly fourth-quarter interceptions that killed any chance for a Dallas comeback.
Stats: 18-33, 183 yds., 1 TD, 2 Int.
9. Jon Kitna, October 31, 2010
When the Cowboys lost Romo for the year in 2010, they turned to Jon Kitna to salvage the season. And he did an admirable job that year, leading the Cowboys to four wins in nine starts. However, his first start against Jacksonville was a disaster, as Kitna threw four picks in a 35-17 Dallas loss.
Stats: 34-49, 379 yds., 1 TD, 4 Int.
8. Randall Cunningham, November 5, 2000
Many fans wanted to see Cunningham start over Troy Aikman during the 2000 season, as he looked generally impressive in two starts against the Cardinals and Redskins. However, when he started his final game as a Cowboy against his old team, the Philadelphia Eagles, on November 5, 2000, the results were hardly positive. He completed just 14 passes for 109 yards in a 16-13 loss.
Stats: 14-22, 109 yds., 0 TD, 1 Int.
7. Ryan Leaf, November 18, 2001
Most fans would prefer to forget the Ryan Leaf experiment. It did not last long. He started three games, and the low point was his performance in a 36-3 loss to Philadelphia on November 18, 2001. He completed just 11 passes and threw two interceptions, both of which the Eagles returned for touchdowns.
Stats: 11-26, 102 yds., 0 TD, 2 Int.
6. Kevin Sweeney, November 13, 1988
Kevin Sweeney became a fan favorite due to his performance as a replacement player in 1987. With the Cowboys’ record at 2-8, Tom Landry turned to Sweeney, looking for magic. Instead, Sweeney threw four picks in a 43-3 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Yuck.
Stats: 10-28, 93 yds., 0 TD, 4 Int.
5. Steve Pelleur, November 9, 1986
The Cowboys lost quarterback Danny White on November 2, 1986. One week later, Pelleur got the start against the Los Angeles Raiders. Five interceptions later, the Cowboys lost 17-13.
Stats: 14-30, 168 yds., 0 TD, 5 Int.
4. Brad Johnson, October 19, 2008
The Cowboys seemed to have confidence in Brad Johnson, the former Super Bowl champion, as the backup in 2008. However, when the team lost Romo for several weeks, Johnson showed what he did not have left in a 34-14 loss to the St. Louis Rams. Although he threw for 234 yards, he struggled all day.
Stats: 17-34, 234 yds., 1 TD, 3 Int.
3. Clint Stoerner, November 4, 2001
Before Tony Romo, there was a no-name backup QB in Dallas named Clint Stoerner. After leading the Cowboys to a 17-3 win over Arizona (with a whopping 93 passing yards on 9 completions), he got off to a hot start at New York. He led the Cowboys to a 24-7 halftime lead. However, his four second-half interceptions killed the Cowboys, who fell in overtime, 27-24.
Stats: 13-23, 177 yds., 1 TD, 4 Int.
2. Anthony Wright, December 25, 2000
Anthony Wright was not supposed to start a game for the Dallas Cowboys at quarterback in 2000. He proved that on Christmas night against the Tennessee Titans. Five completions. 35 yards. Passer rating of 0.0.
Stats: 5-20, 35 yds., 0 TD, 2 Int.
1. Babe Laufenberg, December 23, 1990
The 1990 Cowboys were on the verge of making the playoffs, one year after the franchise had recorded a 1-15 record. But when Troy Aikman went down with an injury against the Eagles, Jimmy Johnson had to turn to Babe Laufenberg. The result: four interceptions in a 17-3 loss. Laufenberg was no better one week later in a loss to the Falcons, which knocked Dallas out of the playoffs.
Stats: 13-36, 140 yds., 0 TD, 4 Int.
After a poor performance to open the 2014 season, the Dallas Cowboys have stunned many people by winning six consecutive games.
Historical context: this is the eighth time in team history that the Cowboys have won six straight regular season games. The team made the playoffs during each of the previous seven times. The Cowboys won the Super Bowl during three of those seasons.
The Cowboys opened the season by going 6-0 and finished the regular season with a 12-2 record. However, the Cowboys fell apart in the playoffs, losing to Cleveland.
For the second consecutive season, Dallas started with a 6-0 record. However, after finishing 11-2-1, the Cowboys stumbled again in the playoffs, losing to the Browns.
The Cowboys stumbled out of the gate in 1971, recording a 4-3 record after seven weeks. However, Roger Staubach took over as the full-time starter and led Dallas to an 11-3 finish. The Cowboys won their first Super Bowl that year.
Dallas had its strongest start in team history in 1977, going 8-0. The Cowboys finished the season 12-2 and won Super Bowl XII.
The Cowboys looked like world-beaters in 1983, starting at 7-0. However, the team stumbled in the season half of the season and was knocked out of the playoffs in the wildcard round.
Dallas started the 1993 season by going 0-2 while Emmitt Smith held out. Once Smith returned, the Cowboys won seven straight and finished the regular season at 12-4 before winning Super Bowl XXVIII.
The last time anyone considered the Cowboys to be among the best in the league was 2007. Dallas started at 5-0 and won seven straight later in the season to improve to 12-1. However, the team lost two of its last three and finished 13-3. Dallas then lost to the eventual Super Bowl Champion New York Giants in the playoffs.
Here is an animated GIF from an old-school game between the Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Rams. Trivia questions are below the image.
1. The Cowboys beat the Rams on Thanksgiving Day. During which season did this game take place?
2. Who was the L.A. running back being tackled by Bob Lilly and Cornell Green?
3. Which former Cowboy caught a 41-yard pass for the Rams?
4. Which Dallas player scored the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter?
5. The Rams had changed from their gold-and-blue uniforms to blue-and-white uniforms in 1965. When did the Rams return to gold and blue?
Jason Witten will someday become a member of the Ring of Honor, and he has a chance to become a member of the Hall of Fame.
His career, though, appears to be on the decline. After two weeks, he has only 46 yards on six receptions.
He now has 9,845 receiving yards, meaning he needs 155 more yards to surpass 10,000. He ranks 42nd in NFL history in receiving yards. Among tight ends, he ranks third behind Tony Gonzalez and Shannon Sharpe. Witten should surpass Sharpe soon, as Witten trails Sharpe by 215 yards.