The Cowboys’ championship mural doesn’t include references to these Thanksgiving Day losses.
Thursday’s loss to the Washington Redskins was certainly not the first Thanksgiving loss for the Cowboys. Dallas now holds an overall record of 28-16-1 during the annual game, which is quite good.
However, the loss to Washington was one of the worst in team history on Thanksgiving. In fact, I am going to name it as the worst. Here is a list of the contenders.
10. Miami 16, Dallas 14 (1993)
This game just has to make the list, even though the Cowboys never lost another game and eventually won Super Bowl XXVIII. Dallas and Miami played in the snow at Texas Stadium, and the Cowboys appeared to secure the win by blocking a final field-goal attempt. However, Leon Lett tried to recover the loose ball. When he failed, Miami recovered and had one more chance. Pete Stoyanovich made his next try, giving Miami the win.
9. Houston Oilers 30, Dallas 24 (1979)
A Heisman Trophy winning player from Texas visited Dallas and torched the Cowboys. Sound familiar? Playing in his second year, Earl Campbell ran all over Dallas, gaining 195 yards and scoring two touchdowns. The Cowboys had a lead for much of the game, but the Oilers came from behind to win it. The loss dropped Dallas to 8-5, but the Cowboys won their remaining regular-season games.
8. Minnesota 44, Dallas 38 (1987)
At 5-5, the Cowboys had to beat the Vikings to have any realistic chance to make the playoffs. Sound familiar? Minnesota went up by 14 points on several occasions, but the Cowboys kept battling back. Danny White’s four touchdown passes kept Dallas in the game, but his interception during overtime killed the team’s chances. Minnesota won, White never played in a significant game again, and Tom Landry never competed for a playoff spot again.
7. San Francisco 31, Dallas 10 (1972)
The 7-3 Cowboys hosted the 49ers trying to stay close to the 9-1 Redskins. Instead, it was the Skip Vanderbundt show. He scored touchdowns on fumble and interception returns in a game that was never close. Dallas ended up finishing one game behind Washington in the NFC East. Of course, Dallas managed to avenge the loss to San Francisco in the playoffs in Roger Staubach’s first miracle comeback.
6. Miami 40, Dallas 21 (2003)
The Cowboys were 8-3 when they hosted the Dolphins on Thanksgiving. Dallas had just won a big game over Carolina, and hopes were high that the Cowboys would do something in the playoffs. Instead, the Cowboys gave up 23 points in the first half in a bad loss. The Cowboys finished the season at 10-6 and lost to the Panthers in the playoffs.
5. Tennessee Oilers 27, Dallas 14 (1997)
The Cowboys entered this game at 6-6 and were still in the playoff hunt. Quarterback Steve McNair helped to end those playoff hopes by leading Tennessee to 24 first-half points. After the loss, the Cowboys quit and lost their final three games to finish at 6-10.
4. Denver 24, Dallas 21 (2005)
The 7-3 Cowboys needed a win to help their playoff chances. They trailed for much of the game but forced overtime thanks to a late touchdown from Drew Bledsoe to Jason Witten. In overtime, though, Ron Dayne ran right through the Dallas defense on a 55-yard run, setting up the game-winning field goal. The Cowboys finished at 9-7 and missed the playoffs for the second straight year.
3. Philadelphia 27, Dallas 0 (1989)
The Cowboys weren’t contending for anything when they hosted the Eagles on Thanksgiving. Nevertheless, Dallas had to play for pride during the first infamous Bounty Bowl in which Buddy Ryan, father of the Cowboys’ current defensive coordinator, put a price on the heads of several Cowboys. There was not much pride left in Dallas after the 27-0 loss.
2. Minnesota 46, Dallas 36 (1998)
A few thought the 8-3 Cowboys could contend with the 10-1 Vikings. Then rookie Randy Moss made his first visit to Texas Stadium. The Cowboys had no clue how to stop him as he caught three passes for 163 yards and 3 touchdowns. Troy Aikman threw for 455 yards, but Dallas was never really in the game. The Cowboys finished the season at 10-6 and lost to the Cardinals in the playoffs.
1. Washington 38, Dallas 31 (2012)
At 5-5, the Cowboys had hopes they could contend for the NFC East title. Instead, rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III rode into Dallas, and Rob Ryan’s defense had no clue how to stop him. It was 28-3 at halftime thanks to three RGIII touchdowns, and Tony Romo’s 441 passing yards meant nothing in the loss.