Then and Now: Cowboys vs. Falcons, 1986 vs. 2015

The Cowboys lost a shootout to the Atlanta Falcons in week 3 of the 1986 season.

The Cowboys lost a shootout to the Atlanta Falcons in week 3 of the 1986 season.

The Cowboys have faced the Atlanta Falcons during week 3 of a season only once before. That game took place in 1986 at Texas Stadium.

This is the second time this year a Then and Now feature has focused on the 1986 season. The previous entry addressed the season-opener against the New York Giants.

Here is a look the matchup in 1986 (then) compared with Sunday’s game against the Falcons (now).

Then (1986): The Cowboys faced the Falcons nine times between 1966 and 1985. Dallas won eight of those games, including two playoff victories.

Now (2015): The Cowboys last played the Falcons in 2012, losing 19-13. Dallas has played Atlanta five times since 2001 and has lost three of those games. The last Dallas win came in 2009.


 

Then: Atlanta’s starting quarterback was David Archer. He played college football at Snow College in Utah and was not drafted in 1984. He started 23 games with the Falcons between 1985 and 1987.

Now: Dallas would have started its own undrafted quarterback, Tony Romo, but Romo suffered a broken clavicle against the Eagles last week. Instead, the Cowboys will start Brandon Weeden, who has started 21 games during his career with Cleveland and Dallas.


Then: The Falcons’ starting running back was Gerald Riggs. One year earlier, Riggs carried the ball 397 times and gained 1,719 yards. He was still effective in 1986, finishing the season with 1,327 yards. However, he had trouble staying healthy and never reached the 1,000-yard mark again after turning 27.

Now: The Cowboys had their own workhorse in 2014. DeMarco Murray carried the ball 392 times that season and rushed for a franchise-record 1,845 yards. However, running backs in the past, including Riggs, have usually struggled after touching the ball so many times in one season, and the Cowboys led Murray leave via free agency. In two games with the Eagles in 2015, Murray has gained only 11 yards in 21 carries.


 

Then: Atlanta had not made the playoffs since 1982 and had suffered through a 4-12 season in 1985.  Things looked good in 1986 as the team started at 4-0. However, the Falcons lost five straight in the middle of the season and finished at 7-8-1.

Now: Atlanta was one of the better teams in the league between 2010 and 2012. However, the teams suffered through a 4-12 season in 2013 and a 6-10 season in 2014. Hopes are higher now, as Atlanta won its first two games.


 

Then: The Cowboys won their first two games before losing to the Falcons. Dallas eventually improved its record to 6-2, but an injury to Danny White in week 9 caused a downward spiral. The Cowboys finished with a 7-9 record.

Now: The Cowboys have won their first two games but have lost both Tony Romo and Dez Bryant for the next several weeks. Whether the Cowboys can avoid a downward spiral will determine whether the Cowboys can reach the playoffs again.

Blocked Punts Returned for Touchdowns

Danny McCray blocked a Donnie Jones punt in the third quarter in the Cowboys' 20-10 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on September 20, 2015.

Danny McCray blocked a Donnie Jones punt in the third quarter in the Cowboys’ 20-10 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on September 20, 2015. Kyle Wilbur returned the ball for a touchdown.

A huge play in the Dallas Cowboys’ win over the Philadelphia Eagles yesterday was Danny McCray’s blocked punt, which Kyle Wilbur returned for a touchdown.

I have heard a number of different estimates about the last time the Cowboys returned a blocked punt for a touchdown, but most of the estimates I heard were wrong.

According to the data on Pro-Football-Reference, the last time the Cowboys returned any type of blocked kick for a touchdown was 2007, when Pat Watkins returned a blocked field goal 68 yards for a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings.

We have to look back to 1992 for the last time the Cowboys scored on a blocked punt. In week 2 of that season, Robert Williams scored after the Cowboys blocked a Sean Landeta punt.

That was actually Williams’s second career touchdown from a blocked punt. One year earlier, he scored after Dallas had blocked a Greg Montgomery punt against the Houston Oilers.

Here is a list of all five times the Cowboys have scored on blocked punts.

1977: Charlie Waters scored after a blocked punt in a 16-10 win over the Eagles.

1985: Jesse Penn returned a blocked punt 46 yards for a touchdown in a 50-24 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

1991: Robert Williams returned a blocked punt 18 yards for a touchdown in a 26-23 loss to the Houston Oilers.

1992: Robert Williams recovered a blocked punt and scored in a 34-28 win over the New York Giants.

2015: Kyle Wilbur returned a blocked punt 26 yards for a score in a 20-10 win over the Eagles.

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Tony Romo injured in a 20-10 win by the Dallas Cowboys over the Philadelphia Eagles.

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Dallas Cowboys running backs: review games where Dallas has faced running backs who previously gained 1,000 rushing yards as members of the Cowboys.

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The Dallas Cowboys face the New York Giants on Sunday Night Football.

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Preview, Week 1: Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants

Preview Sunday night’s week 1 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants.

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Thursday’s Then-and-Now: Opening the Season vs. N.Y. Giants

The Dallas Cowboys are opening the season against the New York Giants. This post takes a look at a previous opening-week game in 1986.

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