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

Dallas 31, Jacksonville 17: Redemption Was Across the Pond

Today belonged to Dez Bryant, who hauled in six receptions for 158 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-17 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Today belonged to Dez Bryant, who hauled in six receptions for 158 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-17 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

It looked for a little while that a complete change of scenery for the Dallas Cowboys—of course, meaning a trip to London—may not have cured the Cowboys of their problems during the past two games.

Tony Romo missed a wide open Jason Witten on the Cowboys’ opening drive, and Dallas had to settle for a 54-yard field goal by Dan Bailey.

Then the Dallas defense had trouble stopping Jacksonville. Denard Robinson ran free on a 32-yard touchdown run in the first quarter against a Dallas defense that has struggled. The 1-8 Jaguars had an early 7-3 lead and then forced the Cowboys to punt on the next possession.

Fortunately for the Cowboys, the Jaguars were 1-8 for a reason. Ace Sanders muffed a punt, and the Cowboys recovered. Two plays later, Romo did not miss Witten in the end zone, and the Cowboys regained the lead—for good.

The Cowboys never looked back in the second quarter thanks to The Dez Bryant Show.

Bryant took a short pass on a crossing route and turned it into a 35-yard touchdown. Then, with 31 seconds remaining in the half, Bryant hauled in a bomb and ran it in the rest of the way for a 68-yard touchdown. The halftime score of 24-7 was just what the Cowboys needed.

Joseph Randle added another nice looking 40-yard touchdown in the third quarter, and the Cowboys were able to run the clock out for their seventh win of the season.

Dallas could take another half-game lead in the division if Philadelphia loses on Monday night to Carolina. Dallas has a half-game lead over Green Bay and Seattle in the NFC.

Dallas Cowboys: Ten Worst Performances by Backup Quarterbacks in Team History

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.

Arizona 28, Dallas 17: Without Romo, “We Done”

Brandon Weeden did what he could to make Tony Romo look irreplaceable/

Brandon Weeden did what he could to make Tony Romo look irreplaceable.

Rookie cornerback Tyler Patmon returned an interception 58 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter of the Dallas Cowboys’ game against Arizona on Sunday.

Less than seven minutes later, the Cowboys extended that lead to 10-0 thanks to a 52-yard field goal by Dan Bailey.

The rest of the game was nearly unwatchable for Cowboys fans. The Cardinals scored twice in the first half to take the lead, and they never looked back in a 28-17 win for Arizona.

Even Bailey missed a kick when Arizona’s Justin Bethel blocked a field goal attempt at the end of the first half.

Backup QB Brandon Weeden filled in for an injured Tony Romo. It won’t be long before we start chanting, “We Done.” Get it?

Weeden completed a 40-yard screen pass to Lance Dunbar in the first quarter. For the rest of the game, Weeden had trouble hitting anyone.

Dez Bryant did not catch a pass until the very end of the game, despite 10 targets.  Weeden was able to get Jason Witten involved, hitting the tight end on six passes for 62 yards.  However, one of Weeden’s attempts in Witten’s direction wound up in the hands of Arizona’s Tyrann Mathieu during the third quarter, killing a Dallas drive in the red zone.

The Cardinals extended a 14-10 lead to 21-10 in the fourth quarter. On the next drive, Weeden threw another pick, which led to another Arizona touchdown.

Game over.

DeMarco Murray’s streak of 100-yard games ended at eight, as he gained on 79 yards on 19 carries.

With Philadelphia’s win over Houston on Sunday, the Cowboys fell into second place in the NFC East. The Cowboys travel to London to face Jacksonville next week. Whether Tony Romo can play will be a question all week.