His Last Plays: Cliff Harris

This is a series that focuses on the last games and/or (when possible) the last plays of various members of the Cowboys. The final plays for a few of these players, such as Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman, and Michael Irvin, are well known. Others may be more difficult to research, but I will do my best.

Cliff Harris is one of several Cowboys who should have a place in Canton, Ohio.

Six Pro Bowls. Named first-team All Pro three times. First-team member of the All-Decade Team of the 1970s.

In fact, Harris is one of only two players named to the first team of the 1970s All-Decade Team who has not been named to the Hall of Fame. The other is former Cowboy Drew Pearson.

Anyway, Harris retired at the age of 31 after the 1979 season so that he could focus on his business interests. That means that his final plays occurred during the same games as Roger Staubach.

In the Cowboys’ playoff loss to the Rams on December 30, 1979, Harris did record a key interception. With Dallas trailing 14-12 late in the third quarter, the Rams had the ball on the Dallas 43. Vince Ferragamo threw a pass over the middle, but Harris picked it off and returned the pick 22 yards. The play set up a Dallas touchdown drive that gave the Cowboys the lead.

Here’s the sequence:

Vince Ferragamo looks downfield.

Vince Ferragamo looks downfield.

Cliff Harris is in the right place and picks off the pass.

Cliff Harris is in the right place and picks off the pass.

Harris races 22 yards to give Dallas great field position.

Harris races 22 yards to give Dallas great field position.

Unfortunately, that was one of the last career highlights for Captain Crash.

The Rams regained the lead with less than two minutes remaining, and the Cowboys offense failed. The defense needed to pull off a miracle to give Dallas any sort of a chance.

The Rams ran the clock down and lined up for a field goal with 13 seconds left. But instead of attempting the kick to increase the lead to 5, L.A.’s Nolan Cromwell, the holder, went for a fake. Harris was the contain man on the play but missed the tackle, and Cromwell gained seven yards to give the Rams the first down.

The play—

The Rams lined up for the field-goal attempt with 13 seconds left.

The Rams lined up for the field-goal attempt with 13 seconds left. Harris appears furthest to the right.

Nolan Cromwell keeps the ball and runs around right end. Harris has contain.

Nolan Cromwell keeps the ball and runs around right end. Harris has contain.

Unfortunately, Harris missed the tackle, and Cromwell made the first down. Game over.

Unfortunately, Harris missed the tackle, and Cromwell made the first down. Game over.

The Rams lined up in Victory Formation with six seconds left, so it appears that Harris’s final play for the Cowboys was at safety when the Rams ran the clock out.

Harris’s final game was, like Staubach’s, the 1980 Pro Bowl. And Harris had a better game than Staubach.

According to my reading of the Gamebook, Harris recorded three tackles for the NFC and recovered a Franco Harris fumble. His final tackle occurred in the third quarter when he stopped Stanley Morgan after a 20-yard pass from Dan Fouts.

So here are Harris’s final plays:

Final Interception as a Cowboy: Picked off Vince Ferragamo in the third quarter of the Cowboys’ 21-19 loss to the L.A. Rams on December 30, 1979.

Final Plays as a CowboyMissed a tackle on a fake field goal run, then played safety when the Rams knelt on the ball with six seconds remaining, in 21-19 loss to L.A. Rams on December 30, 1979.

Final Tackle as a Professional: Credited with tackling Stanley Morgan in the third quarter of the Pro Bowl on January 27, 1980.

His Last Plays: Emmitt Smith

This is a series that focuses on the last games and/or (when possible) the last plays of various members of the Cowboys. The final plays for a few of these players, such as Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman, and Michael Irvin, are well known. Others may be more difficult to research, but I will do my best.

Like we do with Roger Staubach, we as fans tend to want to remember Emmitt Smith’s great highlights rather than what happened at the very end. Thus, in a more perfect world, perhaps Emmitt would have eclipsed Walter Payton’s record for career rushing yards and then immediately walked off the field for good. Our final memory might be something like this—

smith

Heck, he could have left for good after his final Thanksgiving Day game as a Cowboy, when he rushed for 144 yards in a 27-20 win.

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But no, he kept going. In his last game as a Cowboy against Washington on December 29, 2002, Emmitt needed to rush for 38 yards to surpass 1,000 for the season. It would have marked the 12th consecutive season for him to rush for at least 1,000 yards.

Instead? 18 carries. 13 yards.

No, I am not going to post a picture from the game.

It was just an amazingly bad ending for such an amazing player. Offensive coordinator Bruce Coslet keep feeding Emmitt the ball, but Emmitt never got anything going. It was not his worst game as pro (16 carries for 6 yards against New Orleans in 1998 probably was), but this performance was one of the worst.

Emmitt’s final run occurred with 8:25 remaining in the game. He lost four yards.

Of course, Emmitt’s career continued after he left the Cowboys. He played two seasons for the Arizona Cardinals.

His final game as a pro ended better than the last game with the Cowboys. He gained a total of 69 yards on 23 carries in a 12-7 Arizona win over Tampa Bay.

The last run of his career wasn’t one to remember, though: he lost two yards and fumbled the ball out of bounds. Ugh.

So in summary—

Final 100-Yard Game as a Cowboy: Gained 144 yards vs. Washington on November 28, 2002.

Final Game as a Cowboy: Gained 13 yards on 18 carries vs. Washington on December 28, 2002.

Final Rushing Attempt as a Cowboy: Lost four yards on a play in the fourth quarter vs. Washington on December 28, 2002.

Final 100-Yard Game as a Professional: 106 yards as an Arizona Cardinal vs. Seattle on October 24, 2004.

Final Game as a Professional: Gained 69 yards vs. Tampa Bay on January 2, 2005.

Final Rushing Attempt as a Professional: Lost two yards on a run with 1:56 remaining on the fourth quarter in a 12-7 Arizona win over Tampa Bay on January 2, 2005.

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