Week 2 Prediction: Cowboys Should Handle Bears in Home Opener

Nearly every commentator thinks that Bradie James and the Cowboys will shut down the Bears.

In each of the past three seasons, the Cowboys have opened so strongly that fans just had to get excited about things to come. The last time the team had to concern itself with a 0-2 start was 2006, when Dallas had to follow a poor showing at Jacksonville with a home game against the Redskins. The Cowboys won that game and the next one to go to 2-1 on their way to a 9-7 playoff season.

Most of the focus this week has been on the Cowboys’ failure at Washington. There has been some speculation that the Bears could catch the Cowboys looking backward, but most commentators predict a Dallas win.

ESPN: Unanimous

Unlike last week, nobody at ESPN has predicted a Dallas win. This includes the four commentators on Sunday Countdown as well as the eight remaining experts.

Here is a video from Countdown Daily:

Peter Schrager, Fox Sports: Cowboys 27, Bears 17

I’m going to include this prediction mostly because if this asinine comment:

Seemingly every talking head on TV, radio and Twitter took their shots at Alex Barron on Sunday night following the Cowboys’ 13-7 loss in Washington. Sure, Barron committed three holding penalties in the final 31 minutes, and yes, he’s the most penalized player since 2005. But if Barron doesn’t commit that last penalty, Romo gets sacked, possibly injured and there’s no game-winning pass attempt at all. Without that hold, Jon Kitna’s quite possibly your Week 2 Cowboys quarterback!

Alex Barron didn’t play well Sunday night, but he didn’t deserve the slaying he received from the media hounds and Cowboys fans after the game. I think Dallas regroups and finds a way at home on Sunday, and Garrett has Romo take a knee the next time there’s four seconds on the clock and more than 50 yards to go before the half.

Alex Barron doesn’t deserve a job in the NFL. He wouldn’t make it in the UFL. He got what he deserved.

But, Mr. Schrager, your prediction for the game is just fine.

Madden Simulation: Dallas 24, Chicago 13

Madden does seem to like the Cowboys, and once again, Dallas won the simulation. Here’s the summary:

After suffering a heartbreaking loss to the Redskins in Week 1, the Cowboys bounce back against the Bears with a 24-13 win. The best sign for Cowboy fans is that their offense finally found a spark as Romo threw for 249 yards, including touchdown strikes to both Miles Austin and Roy Williams.

AccuScore: Cowboys Win 72% of Simulations

The Cowboys again won the majority of AccuScore’s 10,000 simulations. Here is the video summary of the game:

WhatIfSports: Dallas 25, Chicago 11

The Cowboys won 86.8% of WhatIfSports’ predictions by an average score of 25-11. Strangely, though, when I simulated several games on the system, the Bears won most of them.

I’m not going there…

My Guess (0-1 in 2010)

My guess last week about a low-scoring game wasn’t awful, but I had too much faith in the Cowboys’ kicking and general decision-making.

Against the Redskins, the Cowboys will have to rely on David Buehler more than they wanted. His two field goals mark the only scores of the first half. However, the Dallas defense plays well, and the Cowboys have a 6-0 halftime lead. Washington comes out early in the third quarter to take a 7-6 lead, but the Cowboys’ offense finally comes to life. Two Tony Romo touchdown passes give the Cowboys a 20-7 lead, and the Redskins can only manage a field goal.

In real life, Buehler missed his only field goal attempt from 34 yards out. The Cowboys would have trailed 3-0 at the half if it weren’t for the team’s decision to run a pass play at the very end of the first half. Washington took the lead and kept it, even when the Cowboys offense came to life in the second half.

This week, I think the Cowboys start strong but then stall. Chicago, however, will not be able to close the gap, and the Cowboys hold on to a 14-0 lead for much of the game. Dallas relies on three field goals in the second half, while the Bears only manage three points.

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My score: Dallas 23, Chicago 3.

1999 Review: Early Lead Dissolves in Playoff Loss at Minnesota

This 11-day-old child got to "watch" the Cowboys' 27-10 loss to the Vikings in 1999. He would have to wait 10 more years before the Cowboys would win a playoff game.

I don’t recall anyone having faith that the Cowboys would travel to Minnesota and beat the Vikings in the 1999 playoffs. Dallas was 8-8 that season, compared with the Vikings’ 11-5 record. The only glimmer of hope was that the Cowboys had a 17-0 lead over the Vikings earlier that season but lost the lead when Emmitt Smith and Troy Aikman went down with injuries.

For the 16th time in 17 games, the Cowboys held a lead in a football game. This was thanks to a short Eddie Murray field goal and a touchdown run by Smith in the first quarter.

For the 8th time in those 16 games in which the Cowboys led in 1999, Dallas blew the lead. Touchdown passes by Jeff George to Robert Smith and Randy Moss gave the Vikings a 17-10 lead at the half, and the Cowboys could not manage to score again. Rocket Ismail had a great game, catching 8 passes for 163 yards, while Smith gained nearly 100 yards on the ground (15 att., 99 yards). Dallas actually outgained Minnesota for the game, 389 yards to 374. However, Dallas committed three turnovers, including two fumbles.

Incidentally, you really know your Dallas Cowboys if you can name all three receivers who started for the Cowboys that day.

The franchise at that point did not appear to be heading up. Chan Gailey was not a popular coach among the fans or among players who mattered. Two days after the Cowboys’ loss, Jerry Jones fired Gailey. The news item:

Team owner and general manager Jerry Jones spent most of Tuesday morning and early afternoon alone in his Valley Ranch office. Late in the afternoon, he went to Mr. Gailey  ‘s office, where the head coach was meeting with assistants.

Mr. Jones stressed that he had no criticism of Mr. Gailey the person. He praised the coach’s integrity and diligence but pointed to the Cowboys’ offensive struggles as the reason for the move.

Mr. Gailey , 48, was the franchise’s fourth coach, hired in February 1998 to succeed Barry Switzer. Mr. Gailey ‘s record was 18-16 in two seasons, including two playoff losses.

“This decision that I had to make today was about football,” said Mr. Jones, who declined to give a timetable for naming a replacement. “It was not about egos. It was not about friendships gone awry.”

It was, in a nutshell, about a Cowboys offense that started strongly each of the last two seasons but waned in November and particularly December.

It was about a team that was the NFL’s most-penalized this season. It was about a team that started this season 3-0 but lost its final eight road games en route to an 8-9 finish, including Sunday’s 27-10 playoff loss at Minnesota.

Was it a product of an aging team wearing down, one that sorely missed injured wide receiver Michael Irvin? Or was it an offense that failed to use the talents of established stars such as quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith and offensive lineman Larry Allen?

Mr. Jones sounded like a man who clearly faulted the system more than the players.

“They tried their hearts out,” he said. “They worked at it to try to make it productive. We just aren’t as productive offensively as we need to be, and we haven’t been the last two years.”

The 1999 Cowboys were ranked 11th in the league in points scored with 352 and 16th in total yards with 5,178. Dallas would not score more than 300 points in a season until 2005 and would no surpass 352 until 2006. As for yardage, Dallas fell from 16th in 1999 to 30th by 2002.

Cowboy Teams Fare Well in ESPN’s Super League

Bob Lilly and the 1971 Cowboys beat Kurt Warner and the 1999 Rams in ESPN's Super League.

ESPN is running a fantasy league that features two Dallas teams. If there’s a blog that should cover this league, KYDC should be it. I think.

Here’s a description of the league:

Using simulations from Accuscore, ESPN.com’s Super League features 16 of the most dominant Super Bowl champions squaring off over a full season to determine the best team of the era. Accuscore simulated each matchup 10,000 times and produced one single box score that typifies the most common result. After a 15-week regular season, the top two teams will square off in the most super of Super Bowls.

The two Dallas teams in the league are the 1971 and 1992 teams. The 1971 team faced off against the 1999 Rams, while the 1992 team played the 1991 Washington Redskins. Here are the results:

1971 Dallas Cowboys 24, 1999 St. Louis Rams 20

Thanks largely to a Herb Adderley interception return for a touchdown, the Cowboys edged the Rams. The summary:

Everyone expected a high-scoring affair with the high-powered offenses of the 1971 Dallas Cowboys and 1999 St. Louis Rams moving up and down the field. Instead, both teams were held to fewer than 300 yards and the key play was a defensive touchdown, as Dallas won 24-20.

Roger Staubach only threw the ball 19 times, completing 11 passes for 111 yards. Duane Thomas added 67 yards on the ground.

1992 Dallas Cowboys 26, 1991 Washington Redskins 17

Michael Irvin came up huge against the Redskins, catching nine passes for 170 yards. Emmitt Smith only managed 42 yards on the ground, though, even with 20 carries.

Michael Irvin was ready for the challenge.

The Dallas Cowboys’ star receiver battled Darrell Green, the Washington Redskins’ Pro Bowl cornerback, and dominated in a superlative performance, catching nine passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns as the ’92 Cowboys opened their Super League season with a 26-17 victory over their longtime rivals.

Next week…

The ’71 Cowboys face the ’85 Bears, while the ’92 Cowboys face the ’72 Dolphins.

1999 Review: 3-0 Start Turns Into a Battle to Make the Playoffs

Michael Irvin's career ended at Veterans Stadium in Philadephia on Oct. 10, 1999. Losing Irvin marked the end of an era for the Cowboys.

After the 1999 Cowboys roared back to beat the Redskins to open the 1999 season, the team had some momentum. After the third game  of the year, Dallas stood at 3-0 and looked like one of the strongest teams in the NFC. Then came a trip to Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia.

The remainder of the season was tough to watch. The story of 1999: Dallas gets early lead. Dallas offense stalls. Opponent comes back. Opponent wins game by scoring 13 points. In fact, four of the Cowboys’ eight losses occurred when their opponents scored exactly 13 points. Moreover, Dallas held the lead in 15 of its 16 games but only managed an 8-8 record.

Week 2: Dallas 24, Atlanta 7

The Cowboys hosted the defending NFC champions on Monday Night Football in week 2. The Cowboys jumped out to a 17-0 lead and cruised to a 24-7 win. Emmitt Smith had two touchdown runs, and Greg Ellis returned an interception 87 yards for a touchdown.

Week 3: Bye

Week 4: Dallas 35, Arizona 7

The Cowboys avenged their playoff loss to the Cardinals from 1998 by routing Arizona in week 4. Michael Irvin caught his final touchdown pass in the first quarter. Ellis scored a touchdown in consecutive weeks by returning a fumble 98 yards for a score.

Week 5: Philadelphia 13, Dallas 10

The Cowboys’ momentum came to a crashing halt against the Eagles. At the end of the first quarter, the team lost Irvin for good when he injured his neck after catching the last of his 750 career receptions. Though Dallas held a 10-0 lead at halftime, the Eagles clawed back into it and won the game when Doug Pederson hit Charles Johnson on a 28-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter.

Week 6: N.Y. Giants 13, Dallas 10

The story of 1999: Dallas gets early lead. Dallas offense stalls. Opponent comes back. Opponent wins game by scoring 13 points. Against the Giants, the Cowboys tied the game at 10-10 in the fourth quarter on an Emmitt Smith touchdown, but the Giants secured the win with a late field goal.

Week 7: Dallas 38, Washington 20

In the rematch from the week 1 shootout, the Cowboys exploded to a 17-0 lead. Though the Redskins managed to cut the lead to 24-20 by the end of the third quarter, the Cowboys put the game away in the fourth quarter. Deion Sanders helped matters with a 70-yard punt return.

Week 8: Indianapolis 34, Dallas 24

The Colts entered the game at 4-2 and had won more games than in all of 1998. The Cowboys looked dominant in racing out to a 17-3 lead. However, it didn’t last. The Colts took a 21-17 lead by the third quarter, and though the Cowboys regained the lead on a Smith touchdown run, Indianpolis put the game away with 13 fourth quarter points.

Week 9: Minnesota 27, Dallas 17

Emmitt Smith looked like he might rush for 300 yards after gaining 140 in the first half. His two touchdown runs helped Dallas to a 17-0 lead, but he was injured on the second of those runs and missed the rest of the game. Troy Aikman suffered a concussion and also left the game. The Vikings erased the early Dallas lead, and two Jeff George touchdown passes, including a 47-yarder to Randy Moss, put the Cowboys away.

Week 10: Dallas 27, Green Bay 13

Jason Garrett only completed 13 of 23 passes, but he connected on two touchdown passes. Chris Warren filled in for Smith and rushed for 85 yards. Brett Favre threw the ball 50 times, but the Cowboys picked him off twice. George Teague returned the second of those picks 95 yards for a touchdown that secured the Dallas win.

Week 11: Arizona 13, Dallas 9

The story of 1999: Dallas gets early lead. Dallas offense stalls. Opponent comes back. Opponent wins game by scoring 13 points. Against the Cardinals, Garrett could only manage 111 passing yards. Though Smith rushed for 127 yards, he could not get the Cowboys into the end zone. Making matters worse was that Richie Cunningham continued to have kicking problems. His miss against the Cardinals was his fourth in three games.

Week 12: Dallas 20, Miami 0

In a bit of a shocker, the Cowboys shut out the 8-2 Dolphins. Dan Marino completed fewer than half of his passes and threw five interceptions. It might have been the worst outing of his career, given that it was the only game in which he threw so many picks. Dexter Coakley returned one of those picks for a touchdown. Rocket Ismail also gave the Cowboys a spark by catching a 65-yard touchdown pass from Troy Aikman.

Week 13: New England 13, Dallas 6

The story of 1999: Dallas gets early lead. Dallas offense stalls. Opponent comes back. Opponent wins game by scoring 13 points.

Of course, the Cowboys broke away from this trend against the Patriots, because for the only time in the 1999 season, Dallas never held the lead. Then again, the Cowboys only managed 203 total yards of offense. Richie Cunningham missed yet another field goal in what turned out to be his final game in Dallas.

Week 14: Dallas 20, Philadelphia 10

Eddie Murray returned to the Cowboys at the age of 43. He made two field goals to help the Cowboys to a 13-3 lead, but he also missed two kicks. The game marked Donovan McNabb’s first start against the Cowboys, but he only managed to complete seven passes for 49 yards.

Week 15: N.Y. Jets 22, Dallas 21

The Jets came to Dallas trying to erase a poor early start and finish the season with an 8-8 record. Dallas wanted to avoid an 8-8 record if at all possible. The Cowboys held a 21-13 lead but yet again could not hang on. John Hall’s field goal in the fourth quarter gave the Jets a 22-21 win.

Week 16: New Orleans 31, Dallas 24

The 1999 Dallas Cowboys were supposed to be a playoff team. The 1999 New Orleans Saints were 2-12 and were starting a former NFL Europe QB in Jake Delhomme (then a complete unknown). The Cowboys overcame an early deficit to take a 24-17, but New Orleans dominated the fourth quarter. The Cowboys fell to 7-8 and were below .500 for the first time all season.

Week 17: Dallas 26, N.Y. Giants 18

The Cowboys weren’t the only mediocre team in the NFC in 1999. When Green Bay and Carolina both lost in the final week of the season, the Cowboys had a chance to make the playoffs with an 8-8 record simply by beating the Giants at home. Dallas raced out to a 23-3 lead thanks to two Troy Aikman touchdown passes, including a 90-yarder to first-year wideout Jason Tucker.

The good news: the Cowboys made the playoffs for the eighth time in ten seasons during the 1990s. The bad news: Dallas would have to travel to Minnesota for the first round of the playoffs.

Five Trivia Questions About Cowboys vs. Redskins, Week 1

Jon Kitna joined the Cowboys before the 2009 season. Including the Washington game, in how many games has he appeared?

Which of the following young linebackers was active for the opening game?

How many of Mat McBriar's six punts were downed inside the 20?

According to the NFL's official gamebook, who led the Cowboys in special teams tackles?

Which receiver was targeted the most against the Redskins?

Are the Cowboys and Chargers Destined for Disappointment?

Writing this as I’m wondering why to have any faith in the Cowboys “brain” “trust”…

When the Cowboys and Chargers bid farewell to head coaches Bill Parcells and Marty Schottenheimer after the 2006 season, the teams crossed paths when deciding who to hire as replacements. The Cowboys’ choices came down to San Diego defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and one-time Dallas offensive coordinator Norv Turner. Dallas chose Phillips, of course, and the Chargers turned around and hired Turner.

There were a few differences between the teams at the time. San Diego had just finished a 14-2 season and had the best record in the AFC in 2006. Dallas only managed a 9-7 record that season, though Dallas did make the playoffs.  The Chargers’ offense featured a future hall-of-famer in LaDainian Tomlinson, while the Cowboys relied on Julius Jones and Marion Barber, neither of which would be confused with Tomlinson.

On the other hand, the teams had some similar features– e.g., young quarterbacks (Rivers and Romo); 3-4 defenses with emerging stars at outside linebacker (Merriman and Ware). And after the 2009 season, the teams also shared the distinction of helping (in a sense) the Saints to win the Super Bowl. Dallas had employed Sean Payton as an offensive assistant from 2003 to 2005. Payton left to become the head coach of New Orleans in 2006. When Payton came on board, he helped to recruit Drew Brees to sign as a free agent after the Chargers had released him. You probably know the result.

Since hiring Phillips, the Cowboys have gone 33-15. Since hiring Turner, the Chargers have gone 32-16. In 2007, Dallas went 13-3 and hosted a playoff game, only to lose to a New York team (Giants) with an inferior record during the regular season. In 2009, the Chargers went 13-3 and hosted a playoff team, only to lose to a New York team (Jets) with an inferior record during regular season.

And so far in 2010, both teams are 0-1 after losing to divisional rivals in primetime matchups. No, the Chargers didn’t do anything as stupid as the Cowboys did on Sunday night (that would be really tough to do), but San Diego was unable to score the game-tying touchdown after moving the ball from the Charger 33 to the Kansas City 4 with 1:14 remaining in the game.

Anyway, San Diego fans don’t have to humor themselves by inventing such phrases as Hell Mary, but it looks like Cowboy and Charger fans are practically destined to be in the same boat.

Washington 13, Dallas 7: Not a Funny Comedy, Alex Barron

That's what we're asking, Wade.

Pondering what to say if Alex Barron is still employed by the Dallas Cowboys as of tomorrow morning. Perhaps hire Phil Pozderac as an offensive-line consultant?

Let’s review:

  • With 11 seconds left in the first half, the Cowboys had the ball at their own 46. It was close enough that the team could have moved into field-goal range. On a first-down play, Barron was called for holding, moving Dallas back to the 36. On the next play, the Cowboys inexplicably lined up in a pass formation. Tony Romo flipped the ball to Tashard Choice, who was stripped from the ball by DeAngelo Hall, who ran the ball in for a touchdown to give Washington a 10-0 lead at the half.
  • With the Cowboys down 10-7 in the fourth quarter, Romo appeared to hit Jason Witten on a pass to the Washington 44, which would have given Dallas a first down. Nope– holding, #71, offense.
  • With three seconds remaining, the Cowboys had one last chance from the Washington 13. Romo bought some time, rolled right, and found Roy Williams for an apparent touchdown. Then the flag came in, and the call wasn’t even close. Barron put a bear hug on Brian Orakpo in one of the most obvious holds anyone could imagine.

No touchdown. No win.

So the team could do without Flozell Adams, who was the second-most penalized player in the NFL since 2005. Instead, the team acquired and now has to start Alex Barron, the most penalized player in the NFL since 2005.

Some other decisions either haunted or could have haunted the Cowboys.

The Cowboys thought they could turn to kickoff specialist David Buehler to handle field goal duties. He went 10-for-11 in the preseason and hit the game-winner against Miami. His lone regular-season field goal attempt, and miss, looked like a Nick Folk special from 2009. Making matters worse was that Buehler’s two kickoffs were returned 34 and 42 yards, respectively.

Dez Bryant wasn’t bad tonight, catching eight passes for 56 yards. However, on the final drive of the game, Bryant didn’t realize he was the hot read and didn’t look for the ball when Romo tried to hit him. The ball bounced off LeRon Landry’s hands, fortunately, but it was the type of play where the Cowboys could have used a veteran like Patrick Crayton.

And then there’s the playcalling. The final play of the first half was the dumbest in recent memory. It may be the dumbest in distant memory. I’d rather not think about it for now.

The Dallas offense tried hard to get the WR screen set up in the first half. One might think the calls would set up something else later. Instead, the Cowboys struggled to move the ball effectively and consistently during the entire first half.

Miles Austin was huge, catching 10 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown. His 30-yard reception on 4th-and-10 from the Washington 43 with less than 20 seconds left gave the Cowboys a chance to win the game.

Marion Barber and Felix Jones were less effective. Each carried the ball eight times and combined for 77 rushing yards.

The Cowboys are 0-1 to start a season for the first time since 2006. The team’s next three opponents—Chicago, Houston, and Tennessee—each won their openers. In fact, the only opponent in the first nine weeks that lost its opener was Minnesota, and that was to the New Orleans Saints.

Pondering where to find some optimism.

Week 1 Prediction: Cowboys Edge Redskins in Low-Scoring Opener

The majority of commentators and simulations predict a Dallas win on Sunday night.

Most commentators have predicted the Cowboys will beat the Redskins on Sunday night in the opening week of the season. There are concerns about the Cowboys’ offensive line because of the injuries to Kyle Kosier and Marc Columbo. However, the Redskins have installed new offensive and defensive systems, and concerns about Washington are greater than those about the Dallas line.

ESPN Votes: Dallas 10, Washington 2

Three of the four commentators on ESPN Sunday Countdown picked Dallas, with Keyshawn Johnson providing the lone vote for Washington. Of eight commentators who voted on Pigskin Pick’em, only Adam Schefter voted for Washington.

Madden Prediction: Dallas 30, Washington 27

Unlike other simulations, the Madden simulation on ESPN predicted that this game will be a shoot-out. Here’s the summary:

One of the best rivalries in the NFL heats up in Week 1 as Tony Romo and the Cowboys duke it out against Donovan McNabb and the Redskins. And while Dallas seems like everyone’s favorite to win the NFC East, Washington proves that it belongs in the discussion, scoring a touchdown in the final minute to send the game into overtime before losing on a 31-yard field goal.

AccuScore Simulations: Cowboys Win 61%

In AccuScore’s 10,000 simulations, the Cowboys won 61% of the games. The summary:

AccuScore is forecasting a close game with the Dallas Cowboys winning 59% of simulations, and the Washington Redskins 41% of simulations. In close games, turnover margin is especially important. The Dallas Cowboys commit fewer turnovers in 45% of simulations and they go on to win 81% when they take care of the ball. The Washington Redskins wins 59% of the simulations in which they commit fewer turnovers. Felix Jones is averaging 48 rushing yards per sim. If he can have a great game with better than average rushing yards and at least a 1 rushing TD (22% chance) then he helps his team win 81%. Clinton Portis is averaging 60 rushing yards per sim. If he can have a great game with better than average rushing yards and at least a 1 rushing TD (26% chance) then he helps his team win 60%.

WhatIfSports: Dallas 22, Washington 18

The Cowboys won 65.4% of WhatIfSports’ simulations by an average score of 22-18.

My Guess

Last year’s predictions didn’t turn out too bad, with a final record of 11-7. However, my guess that the Cowboys would beat the Vikings 27-24 in overtime was awful.

Against the Redskins, the Cowboys will have to rely on David Buehler more than they wanted. His two field goals mark the only scores of the first half. However, the Dallas defense plays well, and the Cowboys have a 6-0 halftime lead. Washington comes out early in the third quarter to take a 7-6 lead, but the Cowboys’ offense finally comes to life. Two Tony Romo touchdown passes give the Cowboys a 20-7 lead, and the Redskins can only manage a field goal.

personalized greetings

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I never seem to get bored with online generators. So I provide for you a link to Jerry doing the ugly dance in celebration of tomorrow’s game:

This isn't any worse than Jerry's Papa John's commercials, is it? Click on the picture to see the site.

Oh yes, there's more.

1999 Review: The Last Time the Cowboys Opened a Season at Washington…

Few who watched it could forget the season opener between the Cowboys and Redskins in 1999, which was the last time that the teams faced one another in the first week of the season. That streak, of course, ends on Sunday night.

In the first quarter and a half, it looked as if Dallas might run away with the game after Troy Aikman hit David LaFleur on two touchdown passes. The Redskins, however, stormed back, scoring 32 unanswered points to take a commanding 35-14 lead by the start of the fourth quarter.

The Triplets’ last hurrah didn’t last long in 1999 (more on that later), but against Washington, the trio reminded fans they had something left in the tank. Emmitt Smith rushed for 109 yards on 23 carries and scored a touchdown that cut the Washington lead to 35-21.

Then Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin went to work. Aikman threw his third and fourth touchdown passes to Irvin in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 35. Yes, this was the same Michael Irvin who disappeared in the Cowboys’ playoff loss to Arizona one year earlier.

The teams went to overtime, during which the Cowboys faced a 3rd and 2 from their own 24. Aikman gave a great play-action fake to Smith, and new acquisition Rocket Ismail found a seam down the middle of the field. Aikman hit Rocket at the Washington 40, and nobody was close to catch him.

Here is a clip of the play:

Aikman finished with 362 yards, marking the only time in 1999 he would surpass the 300-yard mark. Irvin recorded the last 100-yard game of his career, while Ismail recorded the first of five 100-yard games.

1999 Review: Cowboys Bank on Tar Heel DEs and a Rocket

Rocket Ismail was the Cowboys' big off-season acquisition in 1999.

After their loss to the Arizona Cardinals in the 1998 playoffs, the Cowboys had some work to do on the roster. Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin had moments where they showed some greatness, but each had as many moments that left fans frustrated.

To help Aikman and Irvin in the passing game, Dallas brought some speed to the second wide receiver position by signing Rocket Ismail from the Carolina Panthers. Ismail had been a minor disappointment in his first five seasons in the league, but he gained more than 1,000 yards in 1998 with Carolina. Dallas was convinced that Rocket would ease the burden on Irvin.

The team improved its offensive line with three moves. Dallas brought back Mark Stepnoski after he had spent four seasons with the Oilers. Dallas also moved Flozell Adams to left tackle, which allowed the Cowboys to move Larry Allen back to guard. Everett McIver returned from injury to start 14 games in 1999.

On defense, Randall Godfrey moved from outside linebacker to middle linebacker, and Darren Hambrick became the new starter at left outside backer. Kevin Smith, who never returned to form after returning from an Achilles injury suffered in 1995, only played in eight games in 1999.

When the draft came around, the Cowboys for the fourth time in six seasons selected a defensive end with their first pick. Dallas believed that the combination of former North Carolina standouts Greg Ellis and Ebenezer Ekuban would give the team bookend defensive ends for years to come. But while Ellis was a solid player for more than a decade, Ekuban only lasted five seasons after recording 12.5 sacks with the Cowboys. He did, however, have more success with Cleveland and Denver.

Here is the entire draft:

1(20) Ebenezer Ekuban, DE, North Carolina
2(55) Solomon Page, G, West Virginia
3(85) Dat Nguyen, LB, Texas A&M
4(118) Wane McGarity, WR, Texas
4(132) Peppi Zellner, DE, Fort Valley State
6(193) MarTay Jenkins, WR, Nebraska-Omaha
7(229) Mike Lucky, TE, Arizona
7(243) Kelvin Garmon, G, Baylor

  • Nguyen turned out to be the best player in this group, though he only managed three full seasons as a starter.
  • Page, Garmon, and Zellner became starters, though they played when the team was especially poor in the early 2000s. ‘
  • McGarity was not a bad slot receiver, but the team cut him in the middle of the 2001 season after he failed to meet expectations as a slot receiver.
  • Lucky was a blocking tight end for three seasons.
  • Jenkins never played for the Cowboys but later played for the Cardinals.