Animated Trivia: Deion Sanders Touchdown

In five years with the Dallas Cowboys between 1995 and 1999, Deion Sanders returned four punts for touchdowns. The animated GIF below shows one of them:

Trivia questions:

(1) Kind of hard to tell, but the opponent here was the Chicago Bears. During which season did this play occur?

(2) Who won this game?

(3) Deion scored his final touchdown as a Cowboy in 1999. Against which team did this occur?

Animated Trivia: Dallas Cowboys vs. Carolina Panthers

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?

Dallas Cowboys Video, 1984: What Followed This Bizarre Touchdown?

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.

Dallas Cowboys: Ten Pivotal Regular Season Games, Part 10 (2010)

This is the tenth 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.

mediocrity-1September 12, 2010

Washington 13, Dallas 7

“The Dawn of Mediocrity”

It looked as if the Dallas Cowboys had turned a corner in 2009. The team won its final three games of the regular season to capture the NFC East title and then won a playoff game for the first time since 1996.

Most of that team returned in 2010, and many fans expected the Cowboys to take even more positive steps.

Then Dallas visited Washington on the evening of Sunday, September 12, 2010.

The Dallas offense struggled throughout the first half, and the one drive that ended up inside the Washington 10 ended with a missed field goal by David Buehler.

Washington led 3-0 near the end of the first half. Dallas only needed to kneel on the ball to try to regroup.

Instead, Tony Romo threw a pass to running back Tashard Choice, who fumbled. DeAngelo Hall recovered and returned the recovery for a touchdown.

The remained close, nevertheless, as the Cowboys scored in the third quarter. Dallas trailed only 13-7 late in the game, despite being called for numerous penalties.

In the final two minutes, the Cowboys moved the ball from their own 19 to the Washington 13. With three seconds remaining, it looked as if Romo had thrown the game-winning touchdown to Roy Williams. However, a holding call on Alex Barron negated the play, and Dallas lost.

The Cowboys never really recovered that year. They started the season at 1-7 before Jerry Jones finally fired head coach Wade Phillips. Jason Garrett took over to lead the team to a 5-3 finish, leading Jones to hire Garrett as the permanent head coach.

Dallas struggled for three years, recording 8-8 records in 2011, 2012, and 2013.

Of course, Garrett led the Cowboys to a 12-4 record in 2014 and the first trip to the playoffs since 2009. However, the team had to survive a long period of mediocrity before accomplishing what it did in 2014.

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

Part 7, November 23, 1997: “A Dynasty Crumbles”—Green Bay 45, Dallas 17

Part 8, September 3, 2000: “Pickle-Juice Loss Signals Dark Times Ahead”—Philadelphia 41, Dallas 14

Part 9, October 23, 2016: “Welcome, Tony Romo”—N.Y. Giants 36, Dallas 22

Dallas Cowboys: Ten Pivotal Regular Season Games, Part 9 (2006)

This is the ninth 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.

October 23, 2006

N.Y. Giants 36, Dallas 22

Once upon a time, Tony Romo was a new shining star.

Once upon a time, Tony Romo was a new shining star.

“Welcome, Tony Romo”

The Drew Bledsoe era in Dallas was not a long one. He started only 22 games for the Cowboys, and his 12-10 record was not horrible.

The team was, though, mediocre at best in 2005 and 2006 when he started. He could make plays with his arm, but he too often stood like a statue in the pocket.

The team was not going to fall back into its 5-11 ways with him at the helm, but the team also wasn’t going to get close to the Super Bowl with him as the starter.

Dallas had a backup named Tony Romo, who had provided quite a bit of excitement during preseason games. When Dallas started the 2006 season at 3-2, including a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in week 5, fans started calling for Romo to take over.

In week 6, Romo threw his first NFL pass and led the team to a touchdown during cleanup work against the Texans.

One week later, the Cowboys hosted the New York Giants with both teams sporting 3-2 records. Dallas needed a win to keep pace with the Eagles and have an edge over the Giants.

Instead, Bledsoe’s limitations cost the Cowboys. Although he rushed for a touchdown, he also threw a costly pick at the end of the first half.

Because of that play, Dallas coach Bill Parcels had little choice but to turn to Romo. A new era began.

Of course, the Giants picked off Romo’s first pass attempt. By the end of the night, the Giants had picked off Romo three times, returning one of those picks 96 yards for a touchdown.

Then again, Romo threw two touchdowns, including a 53-yarder to Patrick Crayton. He brought excitement to the QB position—more so than any other QB had in quite some time.

With Romo as the starter, Dallas eventually improved to 8-4 before finishing at 9-7. His era continues to this day, of course.

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

Part 7, November 23, 1997: “A Dynasty Crumbles”—Green Bay 45, Dallas 17

Part 8, September 3, 2000: “Pickle-Juice Loss Signals Dark Times Ahead”—Philadelphia 41, Dallas 14

Dallas Cowboys: Ten Pivotal Regular Season Games, Part 8 (2000)

This is the eighth 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.

September 3, 2000

Philadelphia 41, Dallas 14

weird-eats-pickle-juice-ss“Pickle-Juice Loss Signals Dark Times Ahead”

The 1999 season for the Dallas Cowboys was a frustrating one. The team held a lead in every game, yet only finished 8-8 and lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Minnesota Vikings.

Gone in 2000 were Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders, but the Cowboys had some new weapons that gave the fans hope. Joining Rocket Ismail at receiver was former Seahawk Joey Galloway. The speed of those two receivers was supposed to drive defenses nuts.

On defense, Dallas added cornerback Ryan McNeil, who had recorded nine interceptions in 1997 while with the Rams. The Cowboys also added former Giant Phillippi Sparks. Those two had to replace the duo of Sanders and Kevin Smith after the latter injured his knee in training camp.

None of those roster moves worked.

Dallas opened the season against division-rival Philadelphia, which successfully executed an onside attempt on the opening kickoff. The Eagles scored on that drive on their way to a 24-6 halftime lead. The game was never close, and Dallas lost, 41-14.

The game became somewhat famous because of news that the Eagles had consumed pickle juice to address the heat in Texas Stadium that day. It turns out that Dallas would need much more than pickle juice to compete in 2000.

By halftime, the Eagles had knocked Troy Aikman out of the game with a concussion. He had not yet completed a pass when he suffered the injury. Randall Cunningham made his Dallas debut but could not give the Cowboys much of a boost.

Aikman eventually returned a few games later, but his career would end after the 2000 season thanks largely to back and concussion problems.

Galloway scored a fourth-quarter touchdown against the Eagles but later injured his knee. He was lost for the season. He returned to the Cowboys in 2001, but he never made the impact the team expected after sending two first-round picks to Seattle to obtain him.

The defense was no better. After allowing 41 points to the Eagles, the Cowboys went on to have their worst defensive season since 1989, when the Cowboys finished 1-15.

Dallas recorded a 5-11 record and would repeat this in 2001 and 2002. By the time the team returned to the playoffs in 2003, nearly all of the key players from the dynasty era were gone.

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

Part 7, November 23, 1997: “A Dynasty Crumbles”—Green Bay 45, Dallas 17

DeMarco Murray: Most Touches in a Season

workhorseA 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.

Green Bay 26, Dallas 21: Sickening Call, Blown Chances

Thanks to one of the most frustrating rules in the NFL, Dez Bryant did not catch this pass.

Thanks to one of the most frustrating rules in the NFL, Dez Bryant did not catch this pass.

The replay of Dez Bryant’s incredible catch in the fourth quarter—which was subsequently overturned—will haunt every Cowboys’ fan this offseason just as much as Tony Romo fumbling the snap on the field-goal attempt in 2006 or Patrick Crayton failing to run the correct route in a playoff loss to the Giants in 2007.

The circumstance: Dallas faced a 4th-and-2 from the Green Bay 32 with 4:42 remaining in the fourth quarter. Dallas trailed, 26-21. Tony Romo threw a fade pass to Bryant, who jumped over Sam Shields to grab the ball. Bryant took at least three steps before beginning to stretch for the goal line. Referees initially concluded that Bryant had made the catch and marked the ball inside the 1.

However, the tip of the ball hit the ground and bounced up slightly. Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy challenged the play, and officials overrruled the call. Green Bay took possession, and the Dallas defense was unable to stop the Packers.

Green Bay 26, Dallas 21. Season over.

It was no guarantee that Dallas would have won, even if the Cowboys scored after the Bryant catch. Dallas made numerous mistakes during the game, and those mistakes had as much to do with the loss as the call.

The Cowboys led 14-7 in the second half and had a chance to increase the lead before halftime. However, facing a 3rd-and-1, the Cowboys tried a pass. Romo could not find a receiver, setting up a field-goal attempt.

Dan Bailey has been nearly automatic during his career, but he has not been automatic this postseason. He missed an attempt against Detroit last weekend, and he missed his first attempt on Sunday. He had a second chance, however, when officials waived off the play. Nevertheless, he missed the second try from 51 yards, as Green Bay appeared to tip the ball.

Green Bay managed to move the ball 33 yards in 30 seconds to set up a field goal, so instead of Dallas leading 17-7 at the half, it was 14-10.

Early in the second half, DeMarco Murray took the ball, and it appeared he might be off to the races. Instead, Julius Peppers stripped the ball, and Green Bay recovered. A Packer field goal cut the lead to 14-13.

The Cowboys answered with a touchdown drive. On the ensuing kickoff return, Reggie Cobb fumbled. However, James Hanna could not recover that fumble, and Green Bay retained possession.

Later in that drive, the Packers faced a 3rd and 15 from the Dallas 46. Aaron Rodgers found Davante Adams, who got behind Sterling Moore and made J.J. Wilcox miss. Adams’ touchdown cut the Dallas lead to 21-20.

The Packers took the lead with just over nine minutes remaining in the game, and the overturned call killed any chance of the Cowboys coming from behind.

Another long offseason. This loss was sickening.

 

 

Dallas 24, Detroit 20: Redeemed at Long Last

redeemed_definition_bThe Dallas Cowboys overcame an early 14-0 deficit and scored 10 points in the fourth quarter to beat the Detroit Lions in the wildcard round of the 2014 playoffs.

Several of those involved in the win were redeemed after some past failures.

Jason Garrett was the coach when the Cowboys blew two games (2011 and 2013) where Dallas should have beaten the Lions. On Sunday, Dallas trailed for much of the game, but Garrett made some calls that factored into the win.

Most notably, with the team facing a 4th and 6 from the Detroit 42, Garrett went for it. Tony Romo hit Jason Witten on a 21-yard gain.

Tony Romo’s playoff failures have largely defined his legacy in Dallas. On Sunday, he had trouble with the Lions’ pass rush all day.

But when it mattered most, Romo came through. Nine plays after he hit Witten on the fourth-down play, the Cowboys faced a 3rd-and-goal from the Detroit 8. Romo bought time in the pocket before finding Terrance Williams in the end zone for what turned out to be a game-winner.

It was Williams’ second touchdown of the game. His first came when the Cowboys needed it the most. Trailing 14-0, the Cowboys faced a 3rd-and-2 from their own 34. Williams was called for offensive pass interference, pushing Dallas back to its own 24.

Romo hit Williams on the next play, and Williams went off to the races. He split the Detroit defenders on his way to a 76-yard touchdown. The play cut the Detroit lead to 14-7 and largely kept the Cowboys in the game at that point.

The defense did not tackle well and had breakdowns in the secondary. The first breakdown occurred less than four minutes into the game, as Golden Tate took a slant pass and raced 51 yards for the first score of the game.

But after the Lions scored 14 points in the first 13 minutes of the game, the Dallas defense held its own. Detroit only scored six more points in the final 47 minutes.

Calvin Johnson abused Brandon Carr at Detroit last year, gaining 329 yards on 17 receptions.

In the playoff game, Johnson had five receptions for 85 yards, but he did not have the huge plays that killed the Cowboys last year.

The special teams did not have a special day. In the first quarter, Detroit faced a 4th-and-5 from its own 6 and had to punt. However, Dekoda Watson (playing in his first game as a Cowboy) ran into the Detroit punter, giving the Lions a first down.

The automatic Dan Bailey even missed a field goal.

However, Bailey nailed an important 51-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to cut the Detroit lead to 20-17. A poor punt by Detroit’s Sam Martin also gave Dallas great field position for what turned out to be the game-winning drive.

Rookie DeMarcus Lawrence needed redemption as well. With the game nearing the two-minute warning, Anthony Spencer sacked Matthew Stafford, who fumbled. Lawrence picked up and tried to advance it, but he lost the ball and fumbled it back to the Lions.

Nine plays later, Lawrence sacked Stafford on a fourth-down play and forced yet another fumble. This time, Lawrence recovered the fumble, effectively ending the game.

* * *

The Cowboys will face the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round of the playoffs at noon on Sunday. This marks the seventh time the Cowboys and Packers have faced off in the playoffs, but only the second time they have played at Green Bay. The last time was the Ice Bowl in 1967.

* * *

Speaking of the Packers, in Tom Landry’s first playoff game as the Cowboys’ head coach in the 1966 NFL Championship Game, Green Bay jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.

Dallas came back to tie the game before the end of the first quarter but lost the lead before halftime. Dallas kept the game close but never finished the comeback.

In Jason Garrett’s first game as the Cowboys’ head coach, Dallas fell behind 14-0, and it took all game to come back. But unlike the ’66 championship game, Dallas finished the comeback.

* * *

People will remember the Cowboys’ first playoff win in five years—and second in the last 18—in wildly different ways.

Detroit fans will undoubtedly (and quite understandably) dispute a fourth-quarter play where Cowboys’ linebacker Anthony Hitchens was originally called for pass interference. The referees inexplicably picked up the flag, and Detroit faced a fourth down. Martin shanked the punt, giving Dallas great field position.

Great break for the Cowboys, but objectively speaking, it’s hard to understand why the referees waived off the penalty. If that happened to the Cowboys, we would be utterly furious.

Just being fair.

Dallas 44, Washington 17: Wrapping Up an Unforgettable December

celebrateThe NFL released its 2014 schedule in late April. We all saw the slate of December games—at Chicago, at Philadelphia, vs. Indianapolis, at Washington.

Would Dallas go 1-3? 0-4? Would the Cowboys even have anything to play for in December?

Instead, the Cowboys scored 40 or more points in three of those four games. Dallas went undefeated in December for the first time since 1991.

Dallas heads to the NFC playoffs with a full head of steam. Jason Garrett not only played starters against the Redskins on Sunday but also went for the win.

A long catch-and-run by DeSean Jackson gave Washington the early lead, but it did not last. Dez Bryant had his own catch-and-run for a 65-yard touchdown to give Dallas the lead in the first. Another Bryant touchdown later in the first extended the lead to 17-7, and Dallas never looked back.

After Dallas added a field goal early in the second quarter, Garrett approved an onside kick attempt. The Cowboys recovered and scored on the ensuing drive, bringing the Dallas lead to 27-7.

Washington cut the lead to 27-17 in the fourth quarter, but the Cowboys quickly ended any thought of a serious Washington comeback.

A 51-yard pass from Tony Romo to Terrance Williams set up another field goal.  Two plays later, Terrell McClain sacked Robert Griffin III, who fumbled. Anthony Spencer recovered and scored his first career touchdown. Joseph Randle later completed the scoring on a 65-yard run during mop-up duty.

DeMarco Murray surpassed Emmitt Smith to set the franchise’s single-season record for rushing yards with 1845. Bryant broke Terrell Owens’ record for receiving touchdowns in a season with 15.

This marks the first time since 1995 that the Cowboys have had a 12-4 record. The team will discover its playoff schedule depending on the outcome of the afternoon games on Sunday.