This is the sixth part of a ten-part series focusing on ten pivotal regular season games in the history of the Dallas Cowboys.
Not all famous games will appear on this list. For example, Roger Staubach’s final regular-season game against the Redskins was unforgettable, but the Cowboys turned around two weeks later and lost to the Rams in the playoffs.
Instead, this series focuses on games that marked turning points—good and bad—in franchise history.
November 24, 1991
Dallas 24, Washington 21
“A Dynasty Is Born”
By 1991, the Dallas Cowboys had rebounded from two years as the league’s worst team to become a mediocre team. The 1990 squad just missed the playoffs with a 7-9 record, thanks largely to horrific performances by backup quarterback Babe Laufenberg, who filled in for an injured Troy Aikman during the final two games.
The 1991 squad won four straight during September and October to improve to 5-2. However, the team then lost three of four, including a 22-9 loss to the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants in Week 12.
On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, Dallas had to travel to Washington to face the undefeated Redskins. Washington had come from behind to beat the Cowboys in September, and the Redskins had beaten the Steelers 41-14 one week before hosting Dallas.
Despite a start that included an interception return for a touchdown by Washington’s Martin Mayhew, the Cowboys managed to take a 14-7 halftime lead thanks to an Emmitt Smith touchdown and a Hail Mary play to Alvin Harper in the end zone just before the end of the second quarter.
However, it was hard not to think of the 1990 season when Aikman went down again with an injury. The backup in 1991 was former Notre Dame player and former Raider Steve Beuerlein, who had thrown only five passes in 1991 before replacing Aikman.
Early in the fourth quarter, though, Beuerlein found Michael Irvin on what turned out to be a 24-yard touchdown pass. The Cowboys held off a Washington rally and handed the Redskins their first defeat of the season.
Dallas did not lose another regular season game in 1991 and even beat Chicago at Soldier Field that season. Dallas lost to Detroit in the second round of the playoffs, but the franchise’s fortunes had changed.
Consider this: Between the first game of the 1988 season and the Week 13 game at Washington, Dallas had a combined record of 17-42 with no playoff appearances.
Between the Week 13 win at Washington and the end of the 1995 season, Dallas recorded an overall record of 54-15 during the regular season with a playoff record of 11-2.
That, friends, was a dynasty.