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.

 

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