Dallas Cowboys: Ten Pivotal Regular Season Games, Part 7 (1997)

This is the seventh 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 23, 1997

Green Bay 45, Dallas 17

“A Dynasty Crumbles”

The Cowboys had historically performed well against the Green Bay Packers until Dallas took a trip to Lambeau Field in 1997.

The Cowboys had historically performed well against the Green Bay Packers until Dallas took a trip to Lambeau Field in 1997.

The Dallas Cowboys’ dynasty of the 1990s had been falling apart from the moment the team won Super Bowl XXX.

First, it was Michael Irvin’s arrest for drug possession and his subsequent suspension at the beginning of the 1996 season. Second, it was the false allegations that Irvin and Erik Williams had raped a woman. The latter occurred just days before Dallas lost to the Carolina Panthers in the 1996 playoffs.

The 1997 season was not a great one. Barry Switzer was arrested for gun possession in an airport before the season began, so the team had yet another distraction to begin the year.

A loss to San Francisco in week 10 left the Cowboys with a 4-5 record, but not all hope was lost because Dallas rebounded with consecutive wins over Arizona and Washington.

The 6-5 Cowboys then had to travel to Lambeau Field for the first time since 1989 (the teams played in Milwaukee in 1991). Green Bay had lost five consecutive games to Dallas, but the last four of those took place in Dallas.

The Packers were the defending Super Bowl champions, and they played like it. Although the Cowboys took a 10-7 lead in the first half, it seemed to be a matter of time before the Cowboys fell apart. Brett Favre threw three touchdowns in the second half, and the Packers rolled over the Cowboys, 45-17.

Some of us irrationally believed the Cowboys had enough talent for the dynasty to continue throughout the decade. The loss to Green Bay ended that illusion.

Dallas lost four more games in 1997 to finish at 6-10. A 20-7 loss to the Giants in the season finale was so bad that Irvin cried on the sideline.

Although Dallas replaced Barry Switzer with Chan Gailey, and the Cowboys returned to the playoffs in 1998 and 1999, the team was never the same.

Previously:

Part 1, December 5, 1965: “A Loser No More”—Dallas 21, Philadelphia 19

Part 2, November 22, 1970: “Road to the Super Bowl Begins in Washington”—Dallas 16, St. Louis 13

Part 3, November 7, 1971: “The Dodger Era Begins”—Dallas 16, St. Louis 13

Part 4, December 13, 1975: “Wildcard Berth It Is”—Dallas 31, Washington 10

Part 5, November 2, 1986: “Goodbye Danny, So Long America’s Team”— New York Giants 17, Dallas 14

Part 6, November 24, 1991: “A Dynasty Is Born”—Dallas 24, Washington 21

Dallas Cowboys: History of Division-Clinching Games

The Dallas Cowboys clinched their 22nd division title in franchise history with a 42-7 win over the Colts.

The Dallas Cowboys clinched their 22nd division title in franchise history with a 42-7 win over the Colts.

The Dallas Cowboys have struggled to win the NFC East in recent years, but in their history, the Cowboys have had great success within the division, as well as the old NFL Eastern Conference and Capitol Division before the merger in 1970. After beating the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday, the Cowboys have won 22 division titles in the history of the franchise.

Below is a list of division-clinching games. Note that in a couple of instances, the Cowboys won the division thanks to losses by other teams. Note also that until 1978, the NFL regular season featured only 14 regular-season games instead of 16.

Week 13, 1966: The Cowboys lost to Washington on Dec. 11 and saw their record fall to 9-3-1. However, a Cleveland loss to Philadelphia on the same day clinched the NFL Eastern Conference title for the Cowboys.

Week 11, 1967: Dallas 46, St. Louis 21. The Cowboys ran away with the new Capitol Division of the NFL and clinched the division title with a win on Thanksgiving Day.

Week 12, 1968: Dallas 29, Washington 20. The Cowboys’ win over the Redskins on Thanksgiving Day, coupled with a loss by the Giants three days later, gave the Cowboys the Capitol Division title for the second straight year.

Week 12, 1969: Dallas 10, Pittsburgh 7. The Cowboys wrapped up their third consecutive (and final) Capitol Division title by beating the Steelers in an ugly game at Pitt Stadium.

Week 14, 1970: Dallas 52, Houston 10. The Cowboys reached Super Bowl V in 1970, of course, but the playoff position was not secure until Dallas routed Houston in the season finale, giving the Cowboys the NFC East title.

Week 14, 1971: Dallas 31, St. Louis 12. The Cowboys had secured at least a playoff berth by the time they played the Cardinals in the regular season finale in 1971. A 31-12 win gave Dallas the division title over a Washington team that faded late in the season.

Week 14, 1973: Dallas 30, St. Louis 3. Dallas had entered its week 13 matchup with Washington a game behind the Redskins. However, the Cowboys beat Washington and then beat the Cardinals in the regular-season finale. A tiebreaker gave the 10-4 Cowboys the NFC East title.

Week 13, 1976: Dallas 26, Philadelphia 7. The Cowboys had stormed out of the gate in 1976 with a 9-1 record but could not clinch the division title until they beat the Eagles in week 13. Dallas won the division with an 11-3 record, followed by Washington and St. Louis, which both finished at 10-4.

Week 12, 1977: Dallas 24, Philadelphia 14. The Cowboys had little trouble winning the NFC East in 1977, wrapping up the division title with two games remaining.

Week 14, 1978: Dallas 17, New England 10. The 1978 season was the first to feature 16 regular-season games. Dallas clinched the NFC East title yet again with two games remaining thanks to a win over the Patriots coupled with losses by Washington and Philadelphia.

Week 16, 1979: Dallas 35, Washington 34. This is perhaps the most famous division-clinching game in the history of the Cowboys. Roger Staubach brought Dallas from behind to beat Washington in his final regular-season game.

Week 15, 1981: Dallas 21, Philadelphia 10. After losing the division title to Philadelphia in 1980 thanks to a tiebreaker, the Cowboys earned revenge by wrapping up the division with a win over the Eagles.

Week 15, 1985: Dallas 28, New York Giants 21. The Cowboys celebrated their last NFC East title under head coach Tom Landry with a 28-21 win over the Giants. Although Dallas, New York, and Washington each finished with 10-6 marks, Dallas won the title on tiebreakers.

Week 15, 1992: Dallas 41, Atlanta 17. After a seven-year drought, the Cowboys won a division title thanks to a win on Monday Night Football over Atlanta. This win featured one of Emmitt Smith’s most famous touchdown runs, where he did his best impression of Barry Sanders.

Week 18, 1993: Dallas 16, N.Y. Giants 13. If the 1979 game on this list is not the most famous, the 1993 game is. Emmitt Smith played much of the game with a separated shoulder, yet willed the Cowboys to an overtime win to give Dallas its second consecutive NFC East title.

Week 14, 1994: Dallas 31, Philadelphia 19. Unlike the 1993 season, the Cowboys wrapped up the division title well before the regular season ended, winning the title with three games remaining.

Week 17, 1995: The Cowboys had a one-game lead over the Eagles heading into the regular-season finale in 1995, so it looked as if Dallas would need to beat the Cardinals to win the NFC East. As it turned out, the Eagles lost, so the Cowboys had won the division before playing Arizona. The win over Arizona was not meaningless, however, as the Cowboys secured home-field advantage in the playoffs thanks to a loss by San Francisco.

Week 16, 1996: Dallas 12, New England 6. The Cowboys overcame a 1-3 start and were able to wrap up a record fifth consecutive division title by beating New England in a game that featured nothing but field goals.

Week 16, 1998: Dallas 13, Philadelphia 9. The Cowboys won their sixth NFC East title in seven years by beating the Eagles in a rather unimpressive game. Dallas would not win another division title for nine years, though.

Week 14, 2007: Dallas 28, Detroit 27. Dallas won the NFC East title with three games remaining thanks to a come-from-behind win over the Lions. Tony Romo’s 16-yard touchdown pass to Jason Witten with 22 seconds remaining gave Dallas the win.

Week 17, 2009: Dallas 24, Philadelphia 0. With the division title on the line in the season finale, the Cowboys thumped the Eagles in a 24-0 shutout. Dallas hosted the Eagles one week later, when the Cowboys won their first playoff game since 1996.

Week 16, 2014: Dallas 42, Indianapolis 7.  For three consecutive years, the Cowboys lost in their season finale to division opponents with the division title on the line. In 2014, however, the Cowboys took advantage of a Philadelphia loss to Washington and clinched the division title by routing the Colts.

Dallas 42, Indianapolis 7: Trouncing Their Way to the NFC East Title

For the first time during the Jason Garrett era, the Cowboys are heading to the playoffs.

For the first time during the Jason Garrett era, the Cowboys are heading to the playoffs.

Before Saturday, the Cowboys knew they had to beat Indianapolis to give them a chance to win the NFC East. This presumed Dallas needed to beat Washington next week as well.

The reason for this presumption? Surely the Eagles would beat the Redskins and Giants in the final two weeks of the season. Right?

Wrong. Philadelphia made numerous mistakes on Saturday and wound up falling to Washington, 27-24, on a late field goal.

So on Sunday, the Cowboys needed to beat a Colt team with little motivation to win. Indianapolis had already clinched its division title and could not improve its playoff seeding.

Dallas put the game away soon after most people found their seats. Tony Romo threw touchdown passes in the first quarter to Terrence Williams and Dez Bryant, followed by a third touchdown early in the second quarter to Cole Beasley.

A touchdown run later in the second by DeMarco Murray increased the lead to 28-0. The Colts barely put up a fight, and the game’s outcome was not in question during the entire second half.

Murray gained 58 yards on 22 carries while playing with his surgically repaired left hand.

Romo was nearly perfect, completing 18 of 20 passes for 218 yards and four touchdowns. When he threw a touchdown pass to Jason Witten in the third quarter, Romo surpassed Troy Aikman as the team’s all-time leader in passing yards. Romo now has 32,971 yards compared with 32,942 for Aikman.

The Cowboys could possibly earn a bye in the first-round of the NFC playoffs, but Dallas would need Seattle to lose or Green Bay and Detroit to tie. The more likely scenario is that the Cowboys will have the #3 seed and host a playoff game in two weeks.

 

Dallas 38, Philadelphia 27: A Signature Win

Dez Bryant was nearly unstoppable, catching three touchdown passes in the Cowboys' 38-27 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Dez Bryant was nearly unstoppable, catching three touchdown passes in the Cowboys’ 38-27 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

In October last season, I wrote a post noting how I had completely lost faith in Jason Garrett. Dallas had just lost a game to the Detroit Lions even though Dallas had the ball in Detroit territory with less than 90 seconds remaining in the game.

It looked as if the Cowboys might add another signature loss to Garrett’s resume. Dallas had a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter but watched that lead evaporate. When Darren Sproles scored with 5:42 left in the third quarter, the lead was gone.

What Dallas did on the ensuing drive after the Sproles touchdown could be a defining moment of the season. In four plays, Dallas moved the ball into Philadelphia territory. From the Eagle 44, DeMarco Murray made a tough run off left tackle and rumbled 21 yards to the Eagle 23. Tony Romo then hit Dez Bryant down to the 2, and Murray scored from there. The Cowboys did not trail again.

It was Murray’s second touchdown of the game. The Eagles contained him for the most part, but he made some critical runs when they mattered most.

The real hero on offense, though, was Bryant, who scored two touchdowns in the first half. After J.J. Wilcox recorded an interception in Eagle territory on the final play of the third quarter, the Cowboys were again in scoring position. Bryant scored his third touchdown to increase the Dallas lead to 11.

The Eagles never gave up and cut the Dallas lead to 35-27 on the next drive before holding Dallas to a three and out.

It looked as if Philadelphia had made a first down on the next drive, but tight end Brent Celek lost the ball on what was first called a first-down reception. The replay showed that he fumbled the ball. The Cowboys could not score a touchdown after taking the ball in Eagle territory again, but Dan Bailey’s field goal gave the Cowboys a 38-27 lead.

Bruce Carter put the game away by intercepting a Mark Sanchez pass with less than two minutes remaining.

At 10-4, Dallas controls its destiny. Wins over the Colts and Redskins guarantee an NFC East title. We need not discuss right now what happens if Dallas loses either of those games.

 

Dallas Cowboys: Ten Pivotal Regular Season Games, Part 6 (1991)

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.

Steve Beuerlein came to the rescue in a 1991 game at Washington.

Steve Beuerlein came to the rescue in a 1991 game at Washington.

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.

Previously:

Part 1, December 5, 1965: “A Loser No More”—Dallas 21, Philadelphia 19

Part 2, November 22, 1970: “Road to the Super Bowl Begins in Washington”—Dallas 16, St. Louis 13

Part 3, November 7, 1971: “The Dodger Era Begins”—Dallas 16, St. Louis 13

Part 4, December 13, 1975: “Wildcard Berth It Is”—Dallas 31, Washington 10

Part 5, November 2, 1986: “Goodbye Danny, So Long America’s Team”— New York Giants 17, Dallas 14

Dallas 41, Chicago 28: 8-8 No More

DeMarco Murray touched the ball 41 times in the Cowboys' 41-28 win over the Chicago Bears.

DeMarco Murray touched the ball 41 times in the Cowboys’ 41-28 win over the Chicago Bears.

I have made no secret that I thought the Cowboys would go 3-13 this season. Had I been right, the Cowboys would have traveled to Chicago tonight with nothing on the line.

Instead, Dallas remains in the playoff hunt. And the team needed a win against the Bears to help its chances in that playoff hunt.

The result: Dallas jumped out to a 35-7 fourth quarter lead and held on to win 41-28. The win was the Cowboys’ ninth of the season and guarantees the first winning season since 2009.

DeMarco Murray was amazing, touching the ball 41 times. He rushed for 179 yards and added another 49 receiving yards. He scored the first touchdown of the game in the second quarter.

Receiver Cole Beasley only caught three passes, but two of them were touchdowns, and he was tackled at the half-yard line on the other. He also recovered an onside kick attempt in the fourth quarter.

The Cowboys have had problems holding on to leads during the Jason Garrett era, and it appeared that Dallas might struggle to hang on to its 28-point fourth-quarter lead.

Chicago scored early in the quarter. The Bears scored again, then recovered an onside kick when Gavin Escobar could not hang on to the ball. When Jay Cutler rushed for a touchdown with just over six minutes left, the Dallas lead was only ten at 38-28.

But Dallas recovered the next onside kick attempt, then drove the ball inside the Chicago 20. A field goal gave Dallas a 13-point lead.

The Bears nearly scored again late in the game, but Orlando Scandrick picked off a Cutler pass in the end zone, effectively ending the game.

Dallas is off for 10 days before playing the Philadelphia Eagles a week from Sunday.

Dallas Cowboys: Ten Pivotal Regular Season Games, Part 5 (1986)

This is the fifth 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 2, 1986

New York Giants 17, Dallas 14

“Goodbye Danny, So Long America’s Team”

The Dallas Cowboys opened the 1986 season with a 6-2 record. For a franchise that had recorded 20 consecutive winning seasons dating back to 1966, it seemed almost a sure thing that the Cowboys would continue to win and return to the playoffs.

But Dallas had to travel to Meadowlands on November 2, 1986 to face the tough New York Giants, who were also 6-2. The Cowboys suffered a huge blow when they lost quarterback Danny White early in the game.

Steve Pelleur played  fairly well, but the Giants took a 17-7 lead in the fourth quarter. Nevertheless, the Cowboys kept game close thanks to a touchdown run by Tony Dorsett.

Dallas could have tied the game or scored the game-winning touchdown late in the game thanks to two long plays inside the Giant 10. But both plays were called back thanks to penalties on tackle Phil Pozderac, who also gave up a costly sack. Rafael Septien’s 63-yard field goal attempt came up short, and the Cowboys lost.

The game cost the Cowboys more than a single loss. Several years ago, I summarized the loss of White as follows:

[I]n five full seasons as a starter, White led the team to the playoffs five times and to the NFC Championship Game three times. Prior to his injury in 1986, his record as a full-time starter beginning in 1980 was 62-24 (the team went 5-6 in games that he did not start during that time period). The team’s record for the remainder of the decade after he suffered his injury was 11-36, with no winning seasons. There were, of course, other factors involved, but the sharp contrast of the team before his injury compared to what happened afterward shows his value.

Among the pivotal regular season games I am summarizing on here, this one ranks right there with the Cowboys’ win over the Washington Redskins in 1991 in terms of importance.

Stay tuned.

Previously:

Part 1, December 5, 1965: “A Loser No More”—Dallas 21, Philadelphia 19

Part 2, November 22, 1970: “Road to the Super Bowl Begins in Washington”—Dallas 16, St. Louis 13

Part 3, November 7, 1971: “The Dodger Era Begins”—Dallas 16, St. Louis 13

Part 4, December 13, 1975: “Wildcard Berth It Is”—Dallas 31, Washington 10

 

Philadelphia 33, Dallas 10: No Thanks

Many of us looked like this for three hours on Thursday.

Many of us looked like this for three hours on Thursday.

Last Sunday evening, the Giants tore through the Dallas defense to take a 21-10 lead. The Cowboys might have had a much more difficult time coming back had Barry Church not picked off an Eli Manning pass in the third quarter, after which Dallas scored to take the lead. Of course, Dallas won the game after a clutch drive in the final two minutes.

On Thanksgiving Day, the Eagles made it look even easier to run through the Dallas defense. With the Eagles leading 23-7 in the third quarter, it looked like Dallas got another big break in the form of a turnover. The Cowboys stripped LeSean McCoy from the ball and recovered at the Philadelphia 13. DeMarco Murray then gained nine yards on first down, giving Dallas a 2nd-and-1 from the Philadelphia 4.

A touchdown would mean the Cowboys would cut the lead to 9 with about 10 minutes remaining in the third quarter. That would have been a manageable deficit.

Instead, the Cowboys lost a total of six yards on the next two plays and had to settle for a field goal. The deficit was still 13.

And the Dallas defense still could not stop the Eagles. On the next drive, Philadelphia went 80 yards on six plays, capped off by a 38-yard touchdown run by McCoy. The touchdown extended the Eagle lead to 30-10 and ended the competitive phase of the game.

Romo played his worst game of the season, throwing for less than 200 yards with two interceptions. The Eagles contained the entire Dallas offense, holding Murray to 73 rushing yards and Dez Bryant to 73 receiving yards. McCoy outgained their combined yardage total with 159 rushing yards.

The loss drops Dallas (8-4) to second place in the NFC East with four games remaining. In the wildcard race, the Seahawks and Lions both have 8-4 records as well. Dallas would win the tiebreaker with Seattle because of the Cowboys’ win over the Seahawks earlier this season. Detroit, however, has a better conference record than Dallas.

Even worse, Seattle looks like it is on a roll, winning two straight without giving up a touchdown. The Lions ended a two-game losing streak by beating Chicago today, and Detroit faces Tampa Bay, Minnesota, and Chicago during the next three weeks.

Dallas 31, N.Y. Giants 28: A Spark from Another Unlikely Source

 

Cole Beasley caught two critical passes in the Cowboys' 31-28 win over the New York Giants on Sunday night.

Cole Beasley caught two critical passes in the Cowboys’ 31-28 win over the New York Giants on Sunday night.

For the second time this season, the Cowboys relied on an unlikely source to provide a spark to beat the New York Giants.

In October, that player was tight end Gavin Escobar, who caught two touchdown passes in the Cowboys’ 31-21 win.

On Sunday, that player was receiver Cole Beasley.

Dallas trailed 21-10 at halftime and was having all sort of problems stopping the Giants. This was especially true on third down. During the game, New York converted 11 of 16 third downs.

With the score still 21-10 with about seven minutes left in the third, Dallas finally forced a punt. Dallas moved the ball to the Giant 45 before Tony Romo found Beasley on a short route. Beasley did the rest of the work, weaving through four defenders and racing for the touchdown to cut the New York lead to 21-17.

Following a key interception by Barry Church deep in Dallas territory, the Cowboys regained the lead at the end of the third quarter on a touchdown from Romo to Dez Bryant. It looked as if the Cowboys could take control of the game in the fourth quarter, but with Dallas leading 24-21, a Cowboys drive stalled, forcing a punt. The Giants then took the ball 93 yards for a score to regain the lead at 28-24.

Dallas had exactly three minutes to score. Romo used Bryant, DeMarco Murray, and Jason Witten to move the ball near midfield. But it was another pass play to Beasley that pushed the Cowboys into Giant territory. Beasley’s 21-yard reception gave the Cowboys the ball at the Giant 36.

Two passes to Bryant covered those 36 yards. The offensive line gave Romo more protection than he has ever had as a starting quarterback. On two plays, Romo had more than seven sections to find Bryant. The second play was a 13-yard touchdown to give Dallas the lead.

The Giants had one more chance with a minute left, but Dallas forced a fourth down. It appeared that the Giants had converted the 4th-and-2, but a replay showed that Eli Manning’s pass to Rashad Jennings had not covered the distance. Dallas killed the clock to secure the team’s eighth win of the season.

Dallas remains tied with the Eagles at 8-3. The teams face one another on Thanksgiving Day.

* * *

A huge part of the Cowboys’ problems tonight was receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. Among his amazing catches was a one-handed grab on a bomb early in the second quarter. No matter if we hate the Giants or not, that was worth a standing ovation, as I doubt any of us will see too many catches as impressive.

Wow. Just wow.

Wow. Just wow.

* * *

Only some children of the 1960s/1970s might know this reference:

Cole Beasley’s hair is what I might have expected on Mrs. Beasley. But as it turns out, Cole has more hair than Mrs. Beasley.

Cole's hair.

Cole’s hair.

72.55.12.1-2

Mrs. Beasley’s hair.

Dallas Cowboys: Ten Pivotal Regular Season Games, Part 4 (1975)

This is the fourth 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.

December 13, 1975

Dallas 31, Washington 10

“Wildcard Berth It Is”

redskinsAfter the Dallas Cowboys finished the 1974 regular season with an 8-6 record and missed the playoffs, few expected much from the 1975 team. But then Dallas had a famous draft, where 12 rookies made the team.

During the 1974 season, the Cowboys came from behind to beat the Washington Redskins on Thanksgiving Day, thanks to the efforts of backup quarter Clint Longley. That game was hardly pivotal, however, because the Cowboys still missed the playoffs.

When Dallas and Washington faced one another on December 13, 1975, both teams had 8-4 records. The Redskins had already defeated the Cowboys earlier in the season, so a Dallas loss would have knocked the Cowboys out of the playoffs.

Washington took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, but the Cowboys took control in the second thanks to a touchdown pass from Roger Staubach to Golden Richard and a touchdown run by Staubach.

Dallas then put the game away in the fourth quarter with 17 points.

With the win, Dallas knocked Washington out of the playoffs because the Cowboys finished with a better division record. The Redskins missed the playoffs for the first time since 1970.

The Cowboys, on the other hand, reached their third Super Bowl, thanks to a Hail Mary against the Vikings and dominating win over the L.A. Rams. The Cowboys started a new playoff streak that would last until the 1984 season.

 

Previously:

Part 1, December 5, 1965: “A Loser No More”—Dallas 21, Philadelphia 19

Part 2, November 22, 1970: “Road to the Super Bowl Begins in Washington”—Dallas 16, St. Louis 13

Part 3, November 7, 1971: “The Dodger Era Begins”—Dallas 16, St. Louis 13