Nearly All of the Cowboys’ Gambles Backfired

Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys.

Jerry says changes are coming. No, he won’t replace himself, Jason Garrett, or Tony Romo. But changes are coming. Involving someone. Or something.

The potential “big” news this offseason is Jerry Jones’ statement that he will consider making some significant changes. Involving someone. Or something.

Rick Gosselin says that Jerry needs to make dramatic changes.

We know what changes Jerry won’t make, though, so it’s hard to take this talk seriously at this point.

Think about this—the Cowboys’ current playoff drought is as long as the period when Dave Campo coached the team. Yes, the current team has done better than the five-win teams of 2000, 2001, and 2002, but has it really been better as a fan?

Well, not while we watch the playoffs without the Cowboys yet again.

Three teams that played on Sunday—Indianapolis, Washington, and Seattle—took major gambles this year, and each team had fantastic years given initial expectations.

Jerry keeps calling his team a Super Bowl team (tough without making the playoffs), but his gambles in 2012 (and 2011 for that matter) failed quite miserably.

A review:

1. Receiving Corps

Gamble: Hoping someone would emerge as a third receiver.

Backfire: Kevin Ogletree had one good game early in the season. After catching eight passes in the season opener against the Giants, he averaged less than two receptions per game for the rest of the year.  Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley showed some promise, but the Cowboys stuck with Ogletree for much of the year.

2. Loading Up on Corners

Gamble: Loading up on cornerbacks but not picking up a quality strong safety.

Backfire: Barry Church looked like a decent starter but missed the final 13 games with an Achilles injury. That left the Cowboys with plenty of corners and Danny McCray at safety. At one point, Dallas used $50 million cornerback Brandon Carr as a free safety on passing downs. Other safeties included household names like Charlie Peprah and Eric Frampton.

Speaking of those corners, they combined for a total of four interceptions.

3. Younger Guards 

Gamble: The Cowboys tried to get younger by moving on from Kyle Kosier (34) and Montrae Holland (32) and signing Nate Livings (30) and Mackenzy Bernadeau (26).

Backfire: Although the middle of the line seemed to get better by the end of the season, Romo often faced pressure up the middle. Moreover, the team was abysmal running the ball, averaging less than 80 yards per game.

4. Swapping Tackles

Gamble: The Cowboys moved Doug Free to right tackle and Tyron Smith to left tackle. Both players would therefore return to their natural positions.

Backfire: Free was a disaster. By year’s end, the team often substituted Jermey Parnell at right tackle, ostensibly to give Free a “break.” Smith was better, but not much better.

5. Injury-Prone Young Stars

Gamble: In the past few drafts, the team found some budding stars in Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, and DeMarco Murray. However, all three came to the team with injury problems.

Backfire: All three  have shown great promise but all three have missed significant time because of injuries. The team relied heavily on Lee as a playmaker, and his absence in the final 10 games hurt. Carter seemed to fill Lee’s shoes, but he missed the last five games. The result was that the Cowboys had to turn to Dan Connor and Ernie Sims late in the season, and it was no coincidence that the team could not slow down the Redskins in the season finale.

Murray looks like a lead running back, but he missed five games in 2012 along with the final three in 2011. And with Felix Jones showing next to nothing for most of the year, the team needed Murray for more than 11 games.

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Washington 28, Dallas 18: Cowboys’ Season Ends with Another Thud

 

Tony Romo's third interception against the Redskins cost the Cowboys a chance to win the game and reach the playoffs.

Tony Romo’s third interception against the Redskins cost the Cowboys a chance to win the game and reach the playoffs.

Roger Staubach led the Cowboys to two Super Bowls. He capped off his great career by leading the Cowboys to a win over Washington after trailing 34-21 in the fourth quarter in a regular-season finale with the NFC East on the line.

 

Tony Romo has led the Cowboys to one playoff win. He is well-remembered for dropping a snap on an easy field goal that might have given the Cowboys a win over the Seahawks in the playoffs. He also led the Cowboys to a 44-6 loss to the Eagles to end the 2008 season; a 34-3 loss to the Vikings in the 2009 playoffs; and 31-14 loss to the Giants when the NFC East title was on the line in the season finale in 2011.

We may not remember Romo for those failures, though, thanks to his final interception of the 2012 season.

Dallas trailed 21-10 with less than 7 minutes remaining. Dallas finally forced a Washington punt, and Dwayne Harris returned the ball to the Washington 31. A facemask penalty moved the ball to the 16.

Three plays later, Romo hit Kevin Ogletree for a touchdown. A two-point conversion cut the Washington lead to 21-18.

The defense forced another stop. Dallas got the ball back with 3:33 remaining. Romo moved the ball to the Dallas 29 on a pass to Jason Witten.

And then he threw another pass. He lofted a ball in the left flat towards DeMarco Murray, and the ball seemingly hung in the air like a short punt. Murray didn’t catch it. Redskins’ linebacker Rob Jackson did.

We fondly remember Staubach hitting the likes of Tony Hill, Butch Johnson, Ron Springs, and Preston Pearson in that 1979 finale against the Redskins. We may spend years remember Romo lofting a ball to the flat and into the waiting arms of a Washington linebacker.

Another 8-8 season. No playoffs.

Dallas barely stopped Alfred Morris all night, and Morris ran six times on the ensuing drive. Dallas might have forced a field goal attempt, but Jason Hatcher hit Robert Griffin III‘s helmet on a third-down play and drew a penalty.

Romo finished the night with three interceptions, having thrown two in the first quarter. He redeemed himself with a touchdown pass to Jason Witten to give the Cowboys a 7-0 lead in the first half, but the Cowboys gave up a touchdown run by Morris later in the quarter.

When Griffin scored in the third quarter, Washington took a 14-7 lead. That meant the Cowboys trailed in every single game this season. Moreover, the Cowboys held halftime leads in only 3 games. No wonder the team finished 8-8.

The makeshift defense gave up 200 rushing yards to Morris, who eventually scored three times. Murray finished with 76 yards.

Dez Bryant and Miles Austin both left the game early with injuries, forcing the Cowboys to play Ogletree, Harris, and Cole Beasley. Those were the receivers in the game when the Cowboys started their drive that ended with Romo’s last interception.

So, we have about 116 days until the NFL Draft. The Cowboys will pick 18th. I’m not the least bit excited about anything.

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A Short History of Season Finales Between Dallas and Washington

Tony Hill came up huge in 1979 when the Cowboys came from behind to beat Washington and win the NFC East.

Tony Hill came up huge in 1979 when the Cowboys came from behind to beat Washington and win the NFC East.

On Sunday night, the Cowboys and Redskins will face off in a season finale for the sixth time in history. Here is a review of the previous five games.

1979—Dallas 35, Washington 34

Many fans remember the first time the teams met to end a regular season. Dallas and Washington were both 10-5 when they faced off at Texas Stadium on December 16, 1979. The winner would win the NFC East, while a Dallas loss would have sent the Cowboys to the wildcard game one week later to play the Eagles.

Washington took a 34-21 lead in the fourth quarter and had the ball with about four minutes left.

Nothing looked good for the Cowboys until a series of plays that allowed Roger Staubach to pull off one last miracle.

  • On a 3rd and 5 play with just under 4 minutes left, Clarence Harmon fumbled the ball, and Randy White recovered.
  • Staubach went to work right after the fumble, hitting Butch Johnson, Tony Hill, and Ron Springs on consecutive passes. The 26-yard pass to Springs for a touchdown cut the Washington lead to 34-28.
  • Washington faced a critical 3rd-and-2 with 2 minutes left. John Riggins tried to run outside, but Larry Cole burst through the hole and caught Riggins for a loss.
  • The Cowboys got the ball back with 1:46 at their own 25. Hill came up with another huge reception, picking up 20 yards on the first play of the drive.
  • On the next play, Staubach evaded the rush and hit Preston Pearson over the middle for another 23-yard gain.
  • Pearson’s second reception of the drive moved the ball to the Washington 8, which set up Staubach’s game-winning pass to Hill.

Here’s a video worth watching:

1996—Washington 37, Dallas 10

The Cowboys had nothing to gain when they faced the Redskins in the season finale in 1996. This was the last game ever played at RFK Stadium, and the Cowboys barely showed up in a 37-10 loss.

1998—Dallas 23, Washington 7

Two years later, the Cowboys hosted Washington with a chance to sweep the entire division. Dallas beat the Redskins but then turned around and lost to division rival Arizona one week later.

2002—Washington 20, Dallas 14

There was nothing on the line when the teams faced off in 2002. The game proved to be Emmitt Smith’s last with Dallas. He entered the game needing 38 yards to reach 1,000 for the 12th consecutive year. He managed just 13 yards on 18 carries.

2007—Washington 27, Dallas 6

Many thought the Cowboys needed momentum heading into the 2007 playoffs. Instead, the Redskins thumped Dallas, and two weeks later, Dallas lost to the Giants in the playoffs.

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New Orleans 34, Dallas 31 (OT): Another Comeback Falls Short

Dez Bryant

Dez Bryant had a career day, hauling in 224 receiving yards with 2 TDs in a 34-31 loss to New Orleans.

Tony Romo said during the week that if the Cowboys were down by 10 or 14 points in the fourth quarter, they would find a way to win the game.

Until lately, this was a laughable thought. The Dallas team was better known for blowing 10- to 14-point leads.

With just under 10 minutes remaining on Sunday, the Cowboys were down by 14 and had to punt. On the previous drive, the Saints had marched 98 yards on 10 plays to take the 2-touchdown lead.

New Orleans moved the ball to midfield but were unable to move further. The Saints punted the ball, and Dallas took over with just under 5 minutes left.

On a 2nd-and-2 play from the Dallas 28, Romo found Dez Bryant, who added to his monster game with a 41-yard reception. Three plays later, Romo hit Dwayne Harris for a touchdown to cut the lead to 31-24.

Dallas needed and got a stop, forcing another punt with less than two minutes left.

Romo drove the team back inside the red zone but faced a 4th and 10 from the New Orleans 19. Romo bought some time and lofted a pass to the right side of the end zone. Miles Austin was there and caught the pass, tying the game and forcing overtime.

From there, it was all Saints. Dallas received the kickoff but could not pick up a first down. The Saints took over after the Dallas punt at the Saint 26-yard line.

The first play was a 26-yarder to Jimmy Graham to move the ball into Dallas territory. Five plays later, Drew Brees hit Marques Colston, who fumbled. However, the ball rolled forward more than 20 yards, and Graham recovered. Referees upheld the play on review, and one play later, the Saints kicked a field goal to win the game.

The loss ruined a career day by Bryant, who finished with 224 yards on 9 receptions. Romo had four touchdowns along with 416 passing yards.

As it turns out, the Cowboys are still in the playoff hunt. The Giants lost to the Ravens, meaning that the winner of the Cowboys-Redskins game next week will win the NFC East. This is the fourth time since 2008 that the Cowboys have faced a division foe on the final week of the season with either the division title or a playoff berth on the line.

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A Look Back (1973): Cowboys Thump Saints on Monday Night Football

Archie Manning visited Texas Stadium on a Monday night in 1973.

Archie Manning visited Texas Stadium on a Monday night in 1973.

The Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints have faced one another 24 times since 1967. The Cowboys won the first five games between 1967 and 1969, but most of those games were relatively close.

In 1971, Dallas faced New Orleans in October at time when Tom Landry was still alternating between Roger Staubach and Craig Morton. The result was a disaster for the Cowboys—a 24-14 loss that dropped the team’s record to 3-2. The Cowboys needed to forget that game and the six turnovers the team committed.

Of course, the Cowboys returned to New Orleans the following January and won Super Bowl VI.

Two years later, the Saints visited Dallas on a Monday night in September. It was the second appearance for New Orleans on Monday Night Football.

The Saints probably wanted to forget that one. The Cowboys scored three touchdowns in the third quarter and turned a 12-3 game into a 40-3 rout. New Orleans quarterback Archie Manning only managed 97 passing yards, and the team fumbled six times (though only lost one of those fumbles).

Robert Newhouse scored two touchdowns for the Cowboys, while Calvin Hill led the overall rushing attack with 71 yards.

Some interesting side notes:

* The headline for the Dallas Morning News on the morning after the game (September 25, 1973): “Nixon Moves to Kill Panel Bid for Tapes.” This was during a time when Richard Nixon was still refusing to release tapes that may have recorded conversations regarding Watergate. Judge John Sirica eventually issued a subpoena for those tapes. Want more? See Wikipedia.

* The Cowboys beat the Bears, Saints, and Cardinals to start the 1973 season at 3-0. However, Dallas stumbled and lost three of its next four.

* In 1971, Manning scored on a two-yard run to put the game away in a 24-14 win over Dallas. However, Manning never beat the Cowboys again, losing in 1973, 1978, and 1982 (the latter as a member of the Houston Oilers).

* Archie’s sons have fared a bit better than his 1-3 mark vs. Dallas. Peyton has a 2-2 record against Dallas, while Eli has a 10-7 mark.

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Dallas 27, Pittsburgh 24: An Unexpected Opportunity

Brandon Carr's overtime interception set up Dan Bailey's game-winning field goal.

Brandon Carr’s overtime interception set up Dan Bailey’s game-winning field goal.

The Dallas Cowboys may have quietly ended their traditional December slump.

This is a team that has not swept its December games since 1993. Recent failures will live in infamy.

The 2012 Cowboys, though, have managed to win three straight in December. With today’s win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas is now tied with Washington and New York atop the NFC East.

This simply was not the kind of game the Cowboys usually win, especially late in the year.

With three minutes remaining, the Cowboys forced the Steelers to punt. Dallas got the ball at its own 12 but could not pick up the first down. Dwayne Harris caught a third-down pass short of the first down, forcing a Dallas punt.

Brian Moorman‘s kick took a nice roll for Dallas and moved the Steelers back to their own 20. The Dallas defense had done a good job containing Pittsburgh up to that point, but a penalty on DeMarcus Ware on second down moved the ball to the Pittsburgh 46.

This would be the spot in previous years where Dallas would give up a long pass that would put the Steelers in field-goal range.

Instead, these 2012 Cowboys recorded back-to-back sacks by Sean Lissemore and Anthony Spencer.

The Steelers punted, and Harris managed a huge return to the Steelers 49. However, the Cowboys missed the opportunity and ended up having to punt. When Pittsburgh sat on the ball, the teams headed to overtime.

During the offseason, the Cowboys spent $50 million on a cornerback named Brandon Carr. He has been fine but hardly the shutdown corner fans expected.

On the second play of overtime, Carr became the hero. He stepped in front of a Ben Roethlisberger pass intended for Mike Wallace and returned the ball all the way to the Pittsburgh 1. Dan Bailey’s short field goal gave the Cowboys the win and an 8-6 record.

The game marked just the second time this season that the Cowboys did not trail in the first half. Dallas led 10-0 with 11 minutes left in the first half thanks to a Dan Bailey field goal followed by a touchdown pass from Tony Romo to Jason Witten.

The Steelers, though, were able to tie the game. With 47 seconds left in the half, Roethlisberger dropped back and avoided the Dallas rush for nine seconds before finding Heath Miller along the sideline. Miller scored to tie the game at 10.

The Cowboys took a 17-10 lead in the third quarter when Romo found Dez Bryant on a 24-yard touchdown. However, the Steelers scored the next two touchdowns, and with 10 minutes left in the game, forced a Dallas punt when Pittsburgh still led 24-17.

Nevertheless, Antonio Brown fumbled the punt, and John Phillips recovered. The Cowboys then drove 44 yards, and DeMarco Murray capped off the drive with a three-yard touchdown to tie the score at 24.

Dallas held the ball for more than 34 minutes and outgained Pittsburgh 415 yards to 388. The Cowboys also won the turnover battle thanks to Carr’s interception in overtime.

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Cowboys Receiving Trio Could Reach Historical Mark

Miles Austin, Dez Bryant

Miles Austin could join Dez Bryant in reaching 1,000 receiving yards this year.

Until 2006, the Cowboys managed to have two receivers hit the 1,000-yard mark in the same season once. That occurred in 1979 when Tony Hill and Drew Pearson passed the mark.

Since 2006, the Cowboys have have four pairs reach 1,000 yards. This included Terry Glenn and Terrell Owens (2006), Owens and Jason Witten (2007), and Witten and Miles Austin (2009 and 2010).

It is possible that the Cowboys could have three receivers surpass 1,000 yards this year. Dez Bryant already has 1,028 yards. Witten has 880 yards, while Austin has 819. There are three games remaining, and two of the defenses (Saints and Redskins) are not especially good at defending the pass.

Below is a list of the 1,000-yard receivers in team history.

Games Receiving
Player Year ? Age Draft G Rec Yds Y/R TD
Frank Clarke 1962 28 5-61 12 47 1043 22.19 14
Bob Hayes* 1965 23 7-88
14-105AFL
13 46 1003 21.80 12
Bob Hayes* 1966 24 7-88
14-105AFL
14 64 1232 19.25 13
Lance Rentzel 1968 25 2-23
6-48AFL
14 54 1009 18.69 6
Drew Pearson 1974 23 14 62 1087 17.53 2
Drew Pearson 1979 28 15 55 1026 18.65 8
Tony Hill 1979 23 3-62 16 60 1062 17.70 10
Tony Hill 1980 24 3-62 16 60 1055 17.58 8
Tony Hill 1985 29 3-62 15 74 1113 15.04 7
Michael Irvin* 1991 25 1-11 16 93 1523 16.38 8
Michael Irvin* 1992 26 1-11 16 78 1396 17.90 7
Michael Irvin* 1993 27 1-11 16 88 1330 15.11 7
Michael Irvin* 1994 28 1-11 16 79 1241 15.71 6
Michael Irvin* 1995 29 1-11 16 111 1603 14.44 10
Michael Irvin* 1997 31 1-11 16 75 1180 15.73 9
Michael Irvin* 1998 32 1-11 16 74 1057 14.28 1
Rocket Ismail 1999 30 4-100 16 80 1097 13.71 6
Terry Glenn 2005 31 1-7 16 62 1136 18.32 7
Terry Glenn 2006 32 1-7 15 70 1047 14.96 6
Terrell Owens 2006 33 3-89 16 85 1180 13.88 13
Jason Witten 2007 25 3-69 16 96 1145 11.93 7
Terrell Owens 2007 34 3-89 15 81 1355 16.73 15
Terrell Owens 2008 35 3-89 16 69 1052 15.25 10
Jason Witten 2009 27 3-69 16 94 1030 10.96 2
Miles Austin 2009 25 16 81 1320 16.30 11
Jason Witten 2010 28 3-69 16 94 1002 10.66 9
Miles Austin 2010 26 16 69 1041 15.09 7
Dez Bryant 2012 24 1-24 13 75 1028 13.71 9
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/11/2012.
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Dallas 20, Cincinnati 19: A Somber Win

Jerry Brown, 1987-2012If the Cowboys appeared distracted on Sunday, it was for good reason. It would be impossible for the team to concentrate fully on the game while the death of practice squad linebacker Jerry Brown was fresh on everyone’s minds.

Even before the accident occurred, many had doubts about the Cowboys’ chances. Just before the game started, a radio commentator with ESPN said he thought the game would come down to the Cowboys needing a defensive stop. He didn’t think the Cowboys would get one and would lose the game accordingly.

Until the 6:35 mark of the fourth quarter, it was hard to argue with him. Until then, most were just hoping that Jason Garrett would stop Rob Ryan from coming onto the field after the defensive coordinator was called for unsportsmanlike conduct, extending a Cincinnati drive early in the third quarter. (More on the bone-headed move below.)

The Dallas defense indeed made that critical stop, which gave the Cowboys a chance to drive for the game-winning field goal in a 20-19 Dallas win.

Thanks to the win, the Cowboys are not dead in the playoff race. However, wins by the Giants, Seahawks, and Redskins did not help the Cowboys’ chances. At 7-6, the Cowboys are going to need help to take either a wildcard or a division title.

Back to the game.

This Dallas squad just isn’t a first-half team, whatever the reason may be. The Cowboys have trailed at some point in the first halves of 12 of 13 games. The only exception was the Atlanta game, which was a 6-6 tie at the half before the Falcons ran away with the game.

Sunday’s game against the Bengals followed a typical pattern. Dallas moved the ball a little bit early but could not punch it in.

An early 3-0 lead became a 10-3 deficit. Cincinnati led 13-10 at the half as the Dallas offense struggled.

The third quarter should have belonged to the Bengals. The Cowboys had three possessions but could only manage 42 yards with no points.

Had the Bengals not made some critical mistakes, including several drops, Cincinnati’s 19-10 lead may have been much worse.

The Cowboys trailed by nine when they took the ball at their own 32 with 9:47 remaining. Things looked bad again when referees called Doug Free for holding, setting up a 1st-and-20 at the Dallas 35.

On the next play, though, Romo hit Kevin Ogletree on a 23-yard play to give the Cowboys a first down.

Three plays later, the Cowboys faced a 3rd-and-10 from the Cincinnati 42, but Romo was able to find Miles Austin for 15 yards.

On the next play, Romo hit Dez Bryant over the middle for a 27-yard touchdown pass. Dallas suddenly had life.

Cincinnati took over with 6:35 remaining. This was the spot where the Cowboys needed a stop. After one first down, the Bengals stalled. Anthony Spencer had the best play of the day on defense by sacking Andy Dalton on a 3rd-and-4 play, forcing the Bengals to punt.

The Cowboys took over at their own 28 with 3:44 left. They managed to convert three third-down plays on the drive and moved the ball to the Cincinnati 22. Dan Bailey nailed a 40-yard field goal as time expired to give the Cowboys the win.

* * *

It may not be hard to tell that I’m not a Rob Ryan fan.

I hated Buddy Ryan. I’m not a Rex Ryan fan. Rob Ryan has been a defensive coordinator for nine years but has yet to coach a team with a winning record. Hype, hype, hype.

Yes, the defense helped to win the game today, but this was the same defense that could not generate a pass rush until the very end. Had several Bengal receivers not dropped some critical passes, the game may have been out of reach by the fourth quarter.

Here’s the scenario on Sunday: Cincinnati led 13-10 and had driven inside the Dallas red zone. The Bengals faced a 1st-and-15 after a penalty.

Andy Dalton faced almost no pressure but ran to his right to extend the play. As he moved to his right, Ryan (and other coaches) were already on the field screaming. Here’s the shot:

You can see Rob Ryan on the field in the upper right-hand corner.

Maybe Ryan had every right to be mad. However, he continued his rant by shouting some variations of a word that starts with F at tackle Andre Smith.

“I think you fouled up, you freaking, foolish, facetious failure.”
Today’s win is sponsored by the letter F.

I’ve now seen Ryan shout f-this and f-that into his headset. I’ve seen him yell at an opposing team’s tackle. I have yet to see Ryan yell at a member of the Cowboys’ defense.

* * *

As for the playoffs, the Cowboys needed the Seahawks, Giants, and Redskins to fall today. Instead, the Seahawks beat the Cardinals 58-0, the Giants beat the Saints 52-27, and the Redskins beat the Ravens 31-28 in overtime.

Because the Cowboys will lose tiebreakers to the Bears and Seahawks (and even the Redskins, depending on a few scenarios), the Cowboys’ best chance may be the division title and not the wildcard. It’s not looking good.

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A Look Back to 1973: Cowboys Dominate Bengals in Their First Meeting

Cliff Harris returns a punt against the Cincinnati Bengals in 1973.

Though the Cincinnati Bengals became a franchise in 1968, the Dallas Cowboys did not face the new Cincinnati team until 1973. That was because the Bengals were part of the AFL until 1970, and the teams were in different conferences when the leagues merged in 1970.

The teams finally met on November 4, 1973 at Texas Stadium. It was Cincinnati head coach Paul Brown’s first visit to Dallas since he coached the Browns in 1962 and turned out to be his last visit to Dallas during his 25-year NFL career.

In 1962, his Browns lost in a 45-21 blowout to the Cowboys, who were two years removed from their inaugural year. In 1973, the Dallas team was two years removed from its first Super Bowl title, and the result of the game was another blowout win for the Cowboys.

The video highlights and story of the game are below. Interesting note: the loss to Dallas dropped the Bengals to 4-4. Nevertheless, the team rebounded with six consecutive wins to finish the season at 10-4. They made the playoffs but eventually lost to the Super Bowl champion Miami Dolphins.

As for the Cowboys, they also finished at 10-4 and made it to the NFC championship game before losing to the Minnesota Vikings.

 

 

Doomsday Cuts Loose on Bengals

 11/5/1973

 By BOB ST. JOHN / The Dallas Morning News

Actually, it all started earlier in the week, though the records will show it ended very impressively for the Dallas Cowboys on a mostly gray Sunday afternoon at Texas Stadium.

“We started working with the right kind of attitude last Wednesday,” said middle linebacker Lee Roy Jordan, shortly after he’d made a tour of the Cowboys dressing room, shaking hands with every member of the team.

“Since we lost to Washington we really hadn’t had the consistent attitude and concentration. This week we made up our minds. We played well in practice. We were making interceptions and so that meant we were moving better. We felt the same thing would continue in the game.”

It did … in the game, Jordan intercepted three passes in the first period off the arm of Cincinnati quarterback Ken Anderson, ran one 31 yards for a touchdown and set up a score with anther one. These interceptions sent the Bengals reeling and they never really recovered as Dallas stormed off with an impressive 38-10 victory over a good team before a crowd of 54,944. There were 3,658 no shows.

So Dallas, perhaps, has turned the corner once again, heading for another playoff berth. Anyway, the Cowboys can do worse than remain a single game behind Washington in the NFC Eastern race and could move into a tie for the lead, should Pittsburgh top the Redskins on Monday night.

“We’ve got it started and we’re not going to do the same thing we did after beating the Giants a couple of weeks ago,” continued Jordan. “We were up for that one and then came back in practice the following week and let it get away. So the Eagles beat us. This time we’ll go back out there this week and keep it going.

“We’re not even thinking about a wild card berth. We’re going for the championship.”

The most impressive thing was the Cowboy defense, which did everything it had not been doing. What happened basically was that they had their collars loosened, Cowboy linemen were turned loose more, instead of reading so much and then rushing the passer. Thus there was more pressure than there had been since the Redskin game. And Dallas blitzed 7-3 times, very un-Cowboy like. Conservatism was thrown to the wind.

“They turned us loose, let us go and we went after them,” said cornerback Mel Renfro. “I hope we do it from now on.”

The Cowboy defense was so impressive that Dallas had such fine field positions on the Cincinnati 42, 17, 42, 44 and 7 yard lines. The Cowboy offense only had to go 42, 44, 55, and 7 yards for touchdowns.

“It wasn’t an offensive day,” said quarterback Roger Staubach, who had a fine personal day with 14 hits on 18 passes for 209 yards and three touchdowns. And he threw no interceptions, the thing that had killed Anderson … killed the Bengals. “Our defense just gave us great field position all day.

“Cincinnati has a fine defense and we needed everything we could get. I’d rate the Bengals on defense right up there next to Washington.”

Jordan first struck with Dallas leading 3-0 on Toni Fritsch’s 34-yard field goal and with neither team seeming able to move. But Anderson threw for wide receiver Chip Myers on the sideline and Lee Roy, whose man was blocking and didn’t go out, ran across field and picked off the throw, following practically the entire defensive entourage to the end zone. The second interception was tipped as free safety Cliff Harris crunched into tight end Bob Trumpy, causing him to cough up a ball he never had control of in the first place. Jordan got the third one by reaching up, one-handing it, and bringing it into control and setting up Dallas in TD business at the Cincy 42.

“On the first interception we blitzed,” said Lee Roy, “I just looked up and he was throwing a down-and-out. It was so hard I didn’t think I could hold it.”

“Jordan has range, experience and is a fine player,” said Anderson. “The first interception was very impressive because he ran a long way to get there. He just seemed to get to the right place at the right time. But that’s what it takes to make a good linebacker.”

Renfro and tackle Jethro Pugh combined to set up the final Cowboy TD. Renfro jarred running back Essex Johnson loose from the ball as Anderson, in trouble, dropped the football off to his back. Pugh picked up the ball and ran 30 yards in about 30 minutes to the Cincy seven, from which Dallas scored. Pugh has never scored a touchdown and was zooming in on the end zone but just couldn’t make it. “If it had been downhill I believe I’d have scored,” said Pugh.

The defense also held the Bengals out of the end zone on four downs from the Dallas four just before the half when a TD could have put them back into the game. Tackle Bob Lilly led two of the charges and Jordan, Pugh, Cole, Rodrigo Burnes and others stopped a final play from a half yard out.

Cincinnati got 10 points in the third period, the big one being much like big ones of recent weeks. Wide receiver Isaac Curtis got behind cornerback Charlie Waters and took a perfect throw for a 50-yard touchdown. A less than perfect throw and Waters of Harrison would have knocked it down.

Anderson was also not pressured on the bomb after faking play action. This was not what he became accustomed to during this day. He was trapped five times for 45 yards in losses. End Larry Cole got him twice and assisted tackle Bill Gregory on another trap, rookie end Harvey Martin banged him down once and Cornell Green got him on a safety blitz.

Cincinnati shut down Calvin Hill which was one of their prime purposes. Hill had a season low of just 39 yards on 16 carries and Dallas wasn’t able to run that well, netting 119 yards.

Split end Bobby Hayes and tight end Billy Joe DuPree each caught five passes, each scoring a touchdown as did flanker Mike Montgomery, taking a Staubach pass over the middle and racing 32 yards for a TD.

But there was a long one to Hayes. Staubach had been blitzed a great deal on this afternoon and this time he spotted it coming with the Cowboys at the Cincy 39. Roger called an audible, which meant Hayes streaked deep. Bobby ran between the two Bengal safeties and took the throw on his finger tips for six.

The specialty teams, a great source of embarrassment for Dallas in recent weeks, perked up greatly. Montgomery’s fine 63-yard opening kickoff return set up Fritsch’s field goal, and Marv Bateman, back from never-never, averaged 53 yards on five punts, and a 57-yarder which backed up Cincy to its own four eventually put Dallas in field position for a TD. Dallas also got boost by Mike Clark, booming all his kickoffs.

But in the end this day belonged to the defense. There were traps, turnovers, interceptions, fine individual plays such as Waters twice throwing Bengals for losses on screens and Dallas was doing what it had not been doing.

“The turnovers were big plays for us today,” said Tom Landry. “We’ve been talking about these since before the Washington game and we got them back today.”

“I hope we continue to cut loose and not play so conservatively,” added Jordan. “We might get hit with a big play and give up some yardage but we’ll also be coming up with the big play.”

So at this time it appears the Dallas Cowboys are not depending on somebody beating Washington. It appears they are depending on themselves.

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Dallas 38, Philadelphia 33: Great Breaks at the Right Times

Morris Claiborne’s 50-yard fumble return for a score was a key play in the Cowboys’ 38-33 win over the Eagles.

The Cowboys usually begin their nose dive when they reach December. Since 2008, Dallas has won its first game in December only once—an overtime win at Indianapolis in an otherwise forgettable 2010 season.

Since 2006, the Cowboys have an overall record of 13-19 during the months of December and January, including the playoffs.

Thus, when the Cowboys fell behind to the Eagles by a score of 14-3, it was easy to think this did not look good. When the Eagles took a 24-17 lead in the third quarter after the Cowboys had tied the game, things did not look good.

On the final play of the third quarter, the Cowboys faced a 4th and 1. DeMarco Murray ran up the middle, and the original spot was short of the first down.

Bad news.

But Jason Garrett challenged the spot and won. Three plays later, Romo hit Miles Austin on a 27-yard touchdown to tie the game again.

The Dallas defense was poor for much of the night, and the Eagles were able to drive back into Dallas territory. A 43-yard Alex Henery field goal gave the Eagles another lead with less than 10 minutes to play.

The lead did not last. The Cowboys moved right back down field, going 86 yards in 7 plays thanks to long passes to Dez Bryant and Jason Witten.

The Eagles had a chance on the next drive, especially once rookie quarterback Nick Foles avoided DeMarcus Ware and completed a pass for a first down on a 3rd-and-8 play.

Bryce Brown had hurt the Cowboys all game. My Facebook post at just before 10 p.m. read:

Combination of: (1) Bryce Brown is really good; (2) this Dallas defense is pathetic tonight.

Moments later, Josh Brent knocked the ball out of Brown’s hand. Morris Claiborne picked up the ball and ran 50 yards for the touchdown.

The game should have ended at 38-27, but the special teams unit somehow gave up a 98-yard punt return. Fortunately, the Cowboys recovered the onside kick, ending the game.

Murray had 83 yards and a touchdown in his return to the lineup. Bryant scored twice, giving him 8 on the season. His 98 receiving yards gives him 978 on the season.

Witten had 108 yards, while Austin had 46. It is possible that Bryant, Witten, and Austin could each finish the season with more than 1,000 receiving yards.

This marks the first time since 2009 that the Cowboys have swept the Eagles. In 2011, the Cowboys only managed 7 points in both losses to Philadelphia. In 2012, the Cowboys scored 38 in both wins.

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