Dallas Cowboys Friday Photo Trivia: Cowboys vs. Chargers, 1986

The Cowboys faced the San Diego Chargers on November 16, 1986. The player featured in the puzzle below led the Cowboys in rushing during that game.

Two questions:

1. What was the significance of this game to the Cowboys?

2. What was the significance of this game to the player in the puzzle?

 




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The Recent Week 4 Curse

The Dallas Cowboys feel good about themselves after their 31-7 win over the St. Louis Rams last Sunday. The team can improve to 3-1 for the first time since 2008 with a win over the Chargers on Sunday.

The Cowboys are hoping to reverse a recent curse that has caused a 1-5 record during week 4 games since 2007.

The Cowboys are hoping to reverse a recent curse that has caused a 1-5 record during week 4 games since 2007.

It will require the Cowboys to win during week 4 for the first time since 2007.

Tony Romo has started during week 4 every season since 2007. The team’s record in those games is 1-5.  He has thrown at least one interception during each of these week 4 games.

The week 4 games during the last three games were especially bad.  He threw three picks against the Titans in 2010, three picks in a dreadful loss to the Lions in 2011, and five picks in a loss to the Bears last year.

Here is a complete list of those games:

2007

Dallas 35, St. Louis 7

Romo: 21 of 33, 339 yards, 3 TD, 1 Int.

2008

Washington 26, Dallas 24

Romo: 28 of 47, 300 yards, 3 TD, 1 Int.

2009

Denver 17, Dallas 10

Romo: 25 of 42, 255 yards, 0 TD, 1 Int.

2010

Tennessee 34, Dallas 27

Romo: 31 of 46, 406 yards, 3 TD, 3 Int.

2011

Detroit 34, Dallas 30

Romo: 34 of 47, 331 yards, 3 TD, 3 Int.

2012

Chicago 34, Dallas 18

Romo: 34 of 43, 307 yards, 1 TD, 5 Int.
Totals

Dallas record during week 4 since 2007: 1-5

Romo’s statistics: 173 of 258, 1938 yards, 13 TD, 14 Int.

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What-If Wednesday: What if the Cowboys had taken Junior Seau in the 1990 draft?

In the weekly What-If Wednesday posts, we review some event (draft, game, or whatever) and consider what might have happened if history had been different. This week’s post focuses on the 1990 NFL Draft, where the Cowboys targeted USC linebacker Junior Seau.

In real life…

The 1988 Dallas Cowboys finished with a league-worst 3-13 record, giving the team the first overall pick in 1989 NFL Draft. Most knew the Cowboys would take quarterback Troy Aikman, and the team did so.

What if the Cowboys had taken Junior Seau in the 1990 NFL Draft?

What if the Cowboys had taken Junior Seau in the 1990 NFL Draft?

The team also took a chance in the supplemental draft that year by picking up another quarterback in Steve Walsh. The idea was that if Aikman had failed, the team might have a franchise QB in Walsh.

Aikman evolved into a franchise quarterback, but that took time. Meanwhile, the team finished with a 1-15 record and would have had the first overall pick in the 1990 draft. However, the team lost its pick because of its selection of Walsh. That meant that the first pick went to the Colts, who took Jeff George.

Most believe that the Cowboys would have taken USC linebacker Junior Seau, who went to the San Diego Chargers with the fifth pick overall. The Cowboys later traded up to get the #17 overall pick and took Florida running back Emmitt Smith. Not bad.

Seau played 20 seasons in the NFL but tragically died in 2012.

What if the Cowboys had drafted Seau?

1. The Cowboys would not have taken Walsh in the supplemental draft.

The Cowboys would have needed a high draft pick in 1990 to take Seau.  This means that the Cowboys would have likely  needed that first overall pick they lost because of the Walsh pick.

Walsh was the starting QB in the team’s only win in 1989. Of course, his numbers hardly suggest that the team would have lost without him. He completed 10 of 30 passes for 142 yards in the win over the Redskins.

2. The Cowboys would have taken Smith with the 17th overall pick.

The Cowboys traded a 1st and a 3rd pick to Pittsburgh to get the 17th overall pick. Even with the team taking Seau with the first overall selection, the Cowboys would have traded up to get Smith.

3. The Cowboys would not have had the 70th overall pick to take tackle Erik Williams in 1991.

The Cowboys traded Walsh to the Saints for three draft choices. One of these picks was the 70th overall selection in the 1991 draft, and the Cowboys took tackle Erik Williams.

Whether the Cowboys would have taken Williams at all is a good question. Williams came out of Central State in Ohio and was one of the great finds for any NFL team during the 1990s. Perhaps the Cowboys would get him in the 4th or 5th round, but the Cowboys would have had to grab him somewhere around the 97th pick.

The other picks received from the Walsh trade did not yield great results. The Cowboys traded the 14th pick from the Saints to the Patriots in exchange for 1st and 4th round picks. Dallas then traded down again to wind up with the 20th overall selection. However, the Cowboys were only able to pick up defensive lineman Kelvin Pritchett and linebacker Darrick Brownlow with those selections.

4. Seau would have been a major part of the dynasty years.

The Cowboys had some quality linebackers in Ken Norton, Dixon Edwards, Darrin Smith, and Robert Jones. However, Seau was significantly better than any of these players. The team would have had its core group of Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, Daryl Johnston, Jay Novacek, Alvin Harper, Kevin Smith, Darren Woodson, Russell Maryland, Charles Haley, and so forth. Adding Seau to this mix would just make the team better.

5. Seau would have left via free agency.

The Cowboys did not put a high priority on signing linebackers during the championship years of the 1990s. The Cowboys let the likes of Ken Norton, Robert Jones, Vinson Smith, Darrin Smith, and Dixon Edwards leave via free agency.

Keeping Seau would have meant the team would have lost another player. This would have made it difficult for the team to sign Deion Sanders or keep some other stars during the mid-1990s.

My bet? Seau would have left via free agency after the 1995 season.

* * *

In 2011, I wrote another piece asking what if the Cowboys had hired Norv Turner instead of Wade Phillips in 2007. Here is that article.

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Cowboys-Rams Instant Trivia: DeMarcus Ware, the Beast

sacksWith his two sacks on Sunday against the St. Louis Rams, DeMarcus Ware became the franchise leader in sacks with 115.0.

The list now appears as follows:

Ware, 115.0

Harvey Martin, 114.0

Randy White, 111.0

Too Tall Jones, 106.0

George Andrie, 97.0

Of course, the numbers for the last four are unofficial stats kept by the team, given that the NFL did not count sacks as an official statistic until 1982. The official sack totals would appear as:

Martin, 10.0

White, 52.0

Jones, 57.5

Andrie, 0.0

* * *

Which player formerly held the official record for team sacks?

It was Jim Jeffcoat with 94.5.

* * *

Ware’s first sack came against San Francisco on September 25, 2005. The quarterback was Tim Rattay.

* * *

Ware had 2.0 sacks against the Rams. It marked the 24th time that Ware had 2.0 or more sacks in a game.

* * *

DeMarco Murray and the offensive line had great games against the Rams.

If Murray only played against the Rams, Emmitt Smith might start worrying about his career rushing mark.

In two games against St. Louis, Murray has had 400 rushing yards on 51 carries. That’s 7.8 yards per carry and 200 yards per game.

In 24 games against everyone else, Murray has had 1446 rushing yards on 332 carries. That’s 4.4 yards per carry and 60.25 yards per game.

* * *

The Cowboys now sit alone in first place in the NFC East with a 2-1 record.

The last time the Cowboys had sole possession of the division was not as long ago as it may seem. In 2011, the Cowboys improved their record to 7-4 with a win over Miami and held first place for two weeks. However, the 7-5 Cowboys lost to the 6-6 Giants at home, and the Cowboys lost again to the Giants in the season finale to lose a chance to make the playoffs.

 

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Dallas 31, St. Louis 7: Domination for Once

Just over 80,000 fans watched the Cowboys record their first rout in two seasons.

Just over 80,000 fans watched the Cowboys record their first rout in two seasons.

The Dallas Cowboys managed to play their entire 2012 season by trailing in every single game at some point. The widest margin of victory was 15 points in a 38-23 win over the Eagles. That game was hardly a blowout, given that the Cowboys scored 21 points in the fourth quarter.

The last blowout win before today dated back to November 2011, when the Cowboys routed the Bills 44-7. That season also featured a 34-7 win at home over the Rams.

The Cowboys should have defeated the Rams again on Sunday and did so in dominant fashion. By halftime, the Cowboys had 17 points. The Rams had 18 total yards.

As a team in the first two games, the Cowboys had a combined total of 124 rushing yards. By halftime against the Rams, DeMarco Murray had 96 rushing yards.

The day went so well that the bad plays for Dallas meant nothing. Dwayne Harris fumbled a punt early in the game, giving the Rams the ball inside Dallas territory. The Cowboys defense managed to back up the Rams, though, forcing St. Louis to try a fake punt.

Rams returner Tavon Austin returned a punt 84 yards for an apparent touchdown, but the play was called back because of a penalty (actually two) on the Rams. The Cowboys forced a three-and-out on the ensuing drive.

Dan Bailey missed a field goal. But the Cowboys did not end up needing the points.

Miles Austin left the game with a hamstring injury. But the Cowboys did not end up needing him, as Harris and Gavin Escobar both scored touchdowns while Austin was on the sideline.

Yep, it was that sort of day.

Murray ran all over the Rams defense, finishing with 175 yards on 26 carries. His running set up a first-quarter drive that ended with a touchdown pass from Tony Romo to Dez Bryant.

Murray also led the charge on a drive in the second quarter and then found the end zone by touching the pylon on a run around the end. That gave Dallas a 17-0 lead, and the team barely looked back.

The defense simply suffocated the Rams. Dallas allowed St. Louis to convert only 1 of 13 third-down attempts, and the Cowboys recorded 6 sacks.

DeMarcus Ware recorded 2 of those sacks and became the franchise’s career leader in sacks, surpassing Harvey Martin. More on that later.

The win gives the Cowboys (2-1) sole possession of first place in the NFC East. The Eagles (1-2), Redskins (0-3), and Giants (0-3) each lost on Sunday.

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A Complete History of Win One, Lose One

I noted on Tuesday that the Cowboys had opened their season with a win followed by a loss five times since 1997. In each of those seasons, the Cowboys won their third game.

win-someIn team history, the Cowboys started with a win followed by a loss 11 times. During those seasons, the Cowboys have an overall 8-3 record during their their third game.

Here is a complete list:

1974: Beat Atlanta, lost to Philadelphia, lost to N.Y. Giants

1980: Beat Washington, lost to Denver, beat Tampa Bay

1984: Beat L.A. Rams, lost to N.Y. Giants, beat Philadelphia

1985: Beat Washington, lost to Detroit, beat Cleveland

1990: Beat San Diego, lost to N.Y. Giants, lost to Washington

1991: Beat Cleveland, lost to Washington, lost to Philadelphia

1997: Beat Pittsburgh, lost to Arizona, beat Philadelphia.

1998: Beat Arizona, lost to Denver, beat N.Y. Giants.

2005: Beat San Diego, lost to Washington, beat San Francisco.

2009: Beat Tampa Bay, lost to N.Y. Giants, beat Carolina.

2012: Beat N.Y. Giants, lost to Seattle, beat Tampa Bay.

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What-If Wednesday: What if the Cowboys had beaten the Rams in the 1976 playoffs?

In the weekly What-If Wednesday posts, we review some event (draft, game, or whatever) and consider what might have happened if history had been different. This week’s post focuses on the 1976 divisional playoff game between the Cowboys and Los Angeles Rams.

In real life…

The Dallas Cowboys made the Super Bowl in 1975 and returned with a solid season in 1976. The team finished with an 11-3 record.

Scott Laidlaw scored from the 1 to give Dallas a 10-7 lead over the Rams in the 1976 playoffs. What if this was the game-winner?

Scott Laidlaw scored from the 1 to give Dallas a 10-7 lead over the Rams in the 1976 playoffs. What if this was the game-winner?

Few probably remember that the Cowboys and Rams had quite a playoff rivalry. Between 1973 and 1985, the teams faced each other eight times in the playoffs, with each team winning four games.

The bad part for the Cowboys was that three of the wins for the Rams took place at Texas Stadium. The first of those losses was a 14-12 defeat at home during the 1976 playoffs.

Dallas had a 10-7 halftime lead thanks to a Scott Laidlaw touchdown, but the Cowboys fell behind in the fourth quarter after a Lawrence McCutcheon score. The Cowboys drove into Ram territory more than once but could not punch the ball in to regain the lead.

Charlie Waters had one of the great games in team history. He blocked two punts and had a key interception, but his efforts were not enough.

The clip below shows Waters’ second block, which could have set up the game-winner. However, on a 4th-and-10 play, Roger Staubach’s pass to Billy Joe DuPree came up inches short, and the Rams held on for the 14-12 win.

The Cowboys had almost no rushing attack, and many blamed the loss on the running game. This team featured the likes of Preston Pearson, Robert Newhouse, Doug Dennison, and Laidlaw.

The loss played a part in the Cowboys trading four draft picks to the Seattle Seahawks for the rights to the second overall pick. With that pick, Dallas took Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett of Pittsburgh.

What if the Cowboys had defeated the Rams?

If the Cowboys had beaten the Rams, Dallas would have traveled to Minnesota to face the Vikings on December 26, 1976. One year earlier, the Cowboys had beaten the Vikings on the road thanks to the famous Hail Mary game.

1. The Cowboys would have beaten the Vikings again.

This is a bold statement, given that the Vikings were the best team in the NFC in 1976.  How could I possibly say that that Cowboys would win another game at Minnesota?

WhatIfSports said so. I ran ten simulations of the game on that site, and the Cowboys won seven of them by an average score of 17-15.

This is a Cowboys site. Let’s just accept our win.

2. The Cowboys would have lost another Super Bowl.

I ran another ten simulations of a Cowboys-Raiders matchup in Super Bowl XI. The Cowboys lost eight of them. That would mean back-to-back Super Bowl losses.

3. The Cowboys would still make the trade with Seattle to obtain Dorsett.

This is probably the most important prediction. The Cowboys had three second-round picks, and that would not change even if the Cowboys had made it to Super Bowl XI. It’s hard to imagine the Seahawks front office would change its mind just because the Cowboys made it to yet another Super Bowl.

4. The Cowboys win Super Bowl XII but fail to make Super Bowl XIII.

The Cowboys would have become the second team (after Miami) to make three consecutive Super Bowls. After losing the previous two, Dallas would have won Super Bowl XII (just as the Cowboys did in real life).

However, the Cowboys would not make the big game four times, losing in the 1978 playoffs.

* * *

What about the other playoff losses to the Rams?

The Cowboys lost to the Rams in 1979, 1983, and 1985. The 1979 game was especially tough because it was Roger Staubach’s final game.

Had the Cowboys won that game, they would have hosted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Given that the Rams handled Tampa Bay in real life, it would stand to reason that the Cowboys would fare well. That means that the Cowboys would have faced the Steelers in the Super Bowl for the third time in five seasons.

(Again…Cowboys blog…Dallas wins.)

The Cowboys were not going to make the Super Bowl in 1983 or 1985 even if the Cowboys had beaten Los Angeles. The only difference a win over the Rams would have made in 1983 is that perhaps Tom Landry would not have started Gary Hogeboom during the first half of the 1984 season if White had led Dallas to a playoff win the year before.

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Cowboys-Chiefs Instant Trivia: Another Unique Score

cowboys.question.mark

Some random trivia items focusing on yesterday’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs:

The Dallas Cowboys have played 862 regular-season and playoff games. I have no idea what the actual odds of this happening are, but how possible is it for the Cowboys to play back-to-back games with final scores unique to any of the other 860 games?

Last week, the Cowboys beat the Giants 36-31, marking the first time the Cowboys have ever played in a game with that particular score.

Yesterday, the Cowboys lost a game with a final score of 17-16 for the first time ever. The Cowboys had previously played in one game with a score of 17-16, but that was in a win over the New York Giants on October 29, 1961.

* * *

KC quarterback Alex Smith frustrated the Cowboys with his running yesterday, leading all rushers with 57 yards on 8 carries. Andy Reid apparently found a read-option quarterback where one did not previously exist.

Smith’s previous high rushing mark before yesterday was 49 yards against Buffalo in 2012. He has gained 30 or more yards only 7 times during his career.

Smith had faced the Cowboys only once previously in 2011. He had only 21 rushing yards for the 49ers then.

* * *

Reid coached the Philadelphia Eagles for 14 seasons. He faced the Cowboys 29 times during that period, including the playoffs.

During that time, the Eagles had some athletic quarterbacks, including Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick, and Jeff Garcia.

Also during that time, a total of 22 Eagles rushed for 57 or more yards against the Cowboys.

How many of those players were quarterbacks?

Just one. McNabb rushed for 67 yards in a 2002 game and 58 yards in a 2000 game.

* * *

Jason Witten now ranks second on the all-time list of receptions by a tight end.

Few doubt that Witten is the greatest tight end in franchise history. Of course, he plays in a different era than the likes of Billy Joe DuPree, Doug Cosbie, and Jay Novacek, but Witten’s numbers are amazing even considering that he plays in such a pass-happy league now.

Consider this: DuPree, Cosbie, and Novacek combined to catch 906 passes for 10,869 yards. Witten’s current numbers include 817 receptions for 9,030 yards.

* * *

During five seasons dating back to 1997, the Cowboys have won their season opener only to lose their second game of the season.

The good news? In each of those five seasons, the Cowboys have won their third game. A review:

1997: Beat Pittsburgh, lost to Arizona, beat Philadelphia.

1998: Beat Arizona, lost to Denver, beat N.Y. Giants.

2005: Beat San Diego, lost to Washington, beat San Francisco.

2009: Beat Tampa Bay, lost to N.Y. Giants, beat Carolina.

2012: Beat N.Y. Giants, lost to Seattle, beat Tampa Bay.

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Kansas City 17, Dallas 16: Uninspired Yet Again

Why have the Dallas Cowboys struggled to be better than mediocre? Why has this team gone 8-8 in back to back seasons?

Tony Romo could not guide the Cowboys to a win in the fourth quarter against the Chiefs.

Tony Romo could not guide the Cowboys to a win in the fourth quarter against the Chiefs.

Perhaps we will have even more answers later this year, as the Cowboys look very much like an 8-8 team thus far. Most good teams at some point build some momentum. Perhaps the momentum comes from a big win over a rival. Or perhaps the momentum comes from a come-from-behind win. Or perhaps the momentum comes from a blowout win.

The Cowboys got one of those three in the season opener last Sunday. Of course, saying the team has momentum suggests that the momentum carries over to the next game.

Dallas managed to pull out a big win last year at New York, only to fall flat at Seattle.

This year—like most years—was supposed to be different. The Cowboys took what momentum they had from the Giants game and took a 13-7 lead at Kansas City.

Of course, it might have been a bigger lead. Facing a 3rd-and-goal from the Kansas City 9 early in the third quarter, the Cowboys lined up in a bunch formation while lining up Dez Bryant to the left. He had one man covering him. Most 11-year-olds who don’t even watch football were yelling at Tony Romo to get the ball to Bryant.

Romo instead threw a bubble screen to Terrance Williams, who lost three yards on what was called a lateral. Dallas settled for a field goal to go up 13-7.

The defense had been tough up to that point but could not slow down the Chiefs offense on their next possession. Kansas City scored with just under three minutes remaining in the third quarter, and the Cowboys did not lead again.

On the next drive, Lance Dunbar fumbled near midfield. The Chiefs scored another field goal on their ensuing drive to increase their lead to 17-13.

The Cowboys spent the fourth quarter trying to come back. On the first drive of that quarter, Romo fumbled after being hit on a throw.

For the final 9:12 of the game, while the Cowboys were trailing, Romo only completed four passes. On back-to-back drives, the Cowboys faced 3rd-and-10 situations while needing a touchdown to take the lead. On both plays, Romo tried to hit Jason Witten on short passes that would come nowhere close to picking up first downs.

Dallas managed to cut the lead to 17-16 thanks to a 53-yard field goal by Dan Bailey with 3:50 remaining.

The Cowboys defense needed a big stop but instead gave up some big runs by Jamaal Charles. By the time Romo got the ball back, the Cowboys had the ball on their own 4 with 16 seconds left.

Bryant looked unstoppable in the first quarter, catching 5 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown.

He was not great for the final three quarters. He was called for offensive pass interference in the second quarter, negating a 22-yard reception. He was active early in the third quarter, but he largely disappeared after that.

One of the worst plays of the game came with less than nine minutes left. Romo found Bryant on a long pass down the right side of the field. However, Bryant let the ball go through his hands on what would have been a long gain into Kansas City territory. Instead, the Cowboys punted two plays later.

Romo did not help matters. His passes were sailing on him for much of the second half. He was lucky the Chiefs did not intercept him in the fourth quarter—though, of course, it did not end up mattering.

As a team, the Cowboys ran the ball 16 times for 37 yards. Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith ran the ball 8 times for 57 yards. And yes, he ran the ball better than DeMarco Murray.

The defense was not horrible, but the team could not stop Chiefs when it mattered the most. Perhaps the most disappointing play occurred with 2:32 remaining. The Chiefs faced a 3rd-and-10 from the Kansas City 44. Smith attempted a pass to Donnie Avery, and the referees called pass interference on Morris Claiborne. The Chiefs were able to run more time off the clock  thanks to the play.

The Cowboys host the Rams next Sunday.

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Simulations: Chiefs by a Field Goal?

When the NFL schedule came out, most viewed the week 2 matchup between the Cowboys and Chiefs as an easier win for Dallas.

Predictions about the winner of Sunday's game are pretty evenly split.

Predictions about the winner of Sunday’s game are pretty evenly split.

Not now.

After the Chiefs handled the Jacksonville Jaguars in week 1, many view the Kansas City defense as something approaching elite status. The Chiefs enter the game as three-point favorites at home.

Predictions from two sites have Kansas City winning by about three:

Team Rankings

Kansas City 24, Dallas 21

numberFire

Kansas City 23, Dallas 21

 

On the other hand, WhatIfSports thinks that the game will be the game of the week. The Cowboys won 63% of the matchups. The average score:

Dallas 29, Kansas City 24.

One of the more detailed NFL preview sources on YouTube—Football Gameplan—also predicts a Dallas win:

* * *

The Cowboys are trying to improve to 2-0 for the first time since 2008. However, that particular record hardly guarantees anything.

Six teams started the 2012 season with 2-0 records, including the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers (finished 11-4-1), the Atlanta Falcons (finished 13-3), and the Houston Texans (finished 12-4).

The other three? The San Diego Chargers (finished 7-9), the Arizona Cardinals (finished 5-11), and the Philadelphia Eagles (finished 4-12).

And how did those 2008 Cowboys do? They finished at 9-7 and missed the playoffs.

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