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This is another post in a short series focusing on the Dallas Cowboys in 2006. This blog launched on August 20, 2006.
A few stories about the Cowboys during their training camp in August 2006…
Vanderjagt Doesn’t Like His Holder
The Cowboys signed kicker Mike Vanderjagt during the offseason in 2006, but he did not get off to a good start.
According to an article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Vanderjagt blamed his struggles on having a new holder—backup quarterback Tony Romo. His comment:
It’s a transition because he is a quarterback. He doesn’t have a lot of time for me. We are going to have to work to find time and work the kinks out. In the past, I have had a punter. We can hang out all day and kick field goals. Tony is going to have to find time for me.
What actually happened: Vanderjagt made only 13 of 18 field-goal attempts in 2006 before being cut after ten games. Romo remained the holder after Dallas signed Martin Gramatica. Sadly, Romo botched the hold of a short field goal attempt late in the playoff game against Seattle, and the miss lost the game for Dallas.
Romo Getting Plenty of Work
Romo did not have much time to work on his holding because he was taking plenty of snaps at QB.
Bill Parcells said Romo had shown promise, but Parcells did not trust Romo to play during a regular-season game in 2005. Parcells commented:
I’ve got to decide where he is. Our plans are to play him a lot. I’ve been around him for three years now. I see a guy that’s pretty smart. It looks like in practice, he’s making fewer and fewer mistakes. Had we just thrown him to the wolves two years ago or something, it probably would have ruined his career. But now he’s got enough background and enough knowledge and enough training and enough understanding that it’s time to go forward.
What actually happened? Romo’s preseason performances in 2006 once again excited fans, and he took over the starting QB position from Drew Bledsoe six weeks into the season.
Would It Be Julius Jones‘ Season?
Bill Parcells generally required his running backs to start performing around year 3.
Julius Jones was entering his third year in 2006 and needed to put up better numbers.
It’s a big year for me. Parcells likes to see what a player can do in their third year. He gives you three years to prove something. I still have something to prove.
What actually happened? Jones started all 16 games and became the first running back not named Emmitt Smith to rush for more than 1,000 yards since Herschel Walker in 1988.
A night of some perhaps.
It was perhaps a matter of time before the Tony Romo’s surgically repaired back would give out and cause him to miss playing time.
That occurred with just under eight minutes left in the third quarter of Monday night’s game against the Washington Redskins. Romo was in obvious pain and went to the locker room for most of the second half.
He returned, but he was unable to lead Dallas to an overtime win. Washington kicked a field goal and then stopped Dallas on its only overtime possession to pull out the 20-17 win. The loss dropped the Cowboys to 6-2.
Perhaps it was a matter of time before DeMarco Murray’s fumbles became especially costly.
He had a great catch-and-run early in the second quarter, but after gaining 36 yards inside the Washington 10, he fumbled for the fifth time this season. At the time, Dallas trailed 3-0 and looked like it would take the lead.
Although the Cowboys went into the half with a 7-3 lead, a touchdown after the Murray play could have allowed the Cowboys build a more sizable advantage before halftime.
Instead, the Cowboys four-point lead turned into a three-point deficit when Washington took the second-half kickoff and marched 80 yards for a go-ahead score.
Which leads us to the final perhaps—
Perhaps it was time that this no-name defense could not save the day.
With Romo heading to the locker room, the defense forced a three-and-out. However, after the Cowboys tied the game at 10 in the third quarter, the defense looked vulnerable.
DeSean Jackson burned the Dallas secondary for a 45-yard gain on the final play of the third quarter. It was his second gain of more than 40 yards during the game, and the second play set up a touchdown run by quarterback Colt McCoy.
Yes, that Colt McCoy. The former Texas Longhorn, Cleveland Brown, and Redskin third-stringer sliced up the Dallas defense for nearly 300 passing yards. Washington entered the game with one of the worst third-down percentages in the league. Against the Cowboys late in the game, however, the Redskins converted a number of key third downs.
Thanks to backup quarterback Brandon Weeden, the Cowboys stayed in the game in the fourth quarter. He led the Cowboys on two second-half scoring drives. Dallas forced a Washington punt at the two-minute warning with the game tied at 17.
A bonus perhaps—it was perhaps through the miracle of modern medicine that Tony Romo left the locker room and reentered the game to try to engineer a game-winning drive.
Whether Romo should have returned will be a point of debate all week. At that point, Weeden had led the Cowboys on two scoring drives. Romo was obviously not going to be mobile in his condition.
Facing heavy pressure with just over a minute to play, Romo fumbled the ball at the Dallas 5. Though Murray recovered and Dallas managed a first down to keep the drive alive, the Cowboys could not move the ball past their own 28. In fact, on 3rd and 1 from the 28, Romo was called for intentional grounding, forcing the Cowboys to punt.
The Redskins had little trouble moving the ball 58 yards in overtime to set up what would be the game-winning field goal.
Dallas could not manage a single first down on its drive, ending the game.
The Cowboys still lead the NFC East by a half-game, but a win would have given Dallas some breathing room. The Cowboys now have a short week before facing the Arizona Cardinals at home on Sunday afternoon.
After a poor performance to open the 2014 season, the Dallas Cowboys have stunned many people by winning six consecutive games.
Historical context: this is the eighth time in team history that the Cowboys have won six straight regular season games. The team made the playoffs during each of the previous seven times. The Cowboys won the Super Bowl during three of those seasons.
The Cowboys opened the season by going 6-0 and finished the regular season with a 12-2 record. However, the Cowboys fell apart in the playoffs, losing to Cleveland.
For the second consecutive season, Dallas started with a 6-0 record. However, after finishing 11-2-1, the Cowboys stumbled again in the playoffs, losing to the Browns.
The Cowboys stumbled out of the gate in 1971, recording a 4-3 record after seven weeks. However, Roger Staubach took over as the full-time starter and led Dallas to an 11-3 finish. The Cowboys won their first Super Bowl that year.
Dallas had its strongest start in team history in 1977, going 8-0. The Cowboys finished the season 12-2 and won Super Bowl XII.
The Cowboys looked like world-beaters in 1983, starting at 7-0. However, the team stumbled in the season half of the season and was knocked out of the playoffs in the wildcard round.
Dallas started the 1993 season by going 0-2 while Emmitt Smith held out. Once Smith returned, the Cowboys won seven straight and finished the regular season at 12-4 before winning Super Bowl XXVIII.
The last time anyone considered the Cowboys to be among the best in the league was 2007. Dallas started at 5-0 and won seven straight later in the season to improve to 12-1. However, the team lost two of its last three and finished 13-3. Dallas then lost to the eventual Super Bowl Champion New York Giants in the playoffs.
Almost exactly seven years ago, the Dallas Cowboys beat the Minnesota Vikings to improve to 6-1. No Dallas team since then has recorded that record.
After that game seven years ago, I wrote:
The Cowboys did everything they could to give Minnesota a chance to win today, but the Dallas efforts weren’t enough. All joking aside, today’s heroes included one likely source– Marion Barber– and a couple of the least likely sources, including Chris Canty and Patrick Watkins.
In beating the Giants on Sunday in 2014, Dallas did what it could to give New York the edge. However, at least one unlikely source came through to help Dallas to a 31-21 win.
With the game tied at 7 in the second quarter, Dez Bryant fell down on a route. Tony Romo’s pass fell into the hands of Prince Amukamara, who returned the ball to the Dallas 27. One play later, a touchdown pass from Eli Manning to Daniel Fell gave the Giants a 14-7 lead.
But Dallas marched right back to score a game-tying touchdown with just over two minutes remaining in the half. Once again, Romo’s target on the game-tying touchdown was Terrance Williams, who now has six scores on the year.
But Williams was not the unlikely source. That would be tight end Gavin Escobar. After catching his first touchdown against the Seahawks last week, Escobar grabbed two TD receptions against the Giants. His second touchdown of the day —a great grab up the seam in the middle of the field—gave Dallas a 21-14 lead.
The Cowboys took advantage of a New York fumble in the fourth quarter and extended their lead to 28-14.
Of course, Manning has a way of bringing the Giants from behind against Dallas, and the Cowboys did little to prevent New York from cutting the Dallas lead to 28-21.
But as the Cowboys keep proving, this is just a different year. The Cowboys responded to the Giant touchdown by driving 49 yards in 10 plays to set up Dan Bailey’s field goal, which secured the win for the Cowboys.
DeMarco Murray became the first player in NFL history to rush for at least 100 yards in each of his first seven games of the season. The only player who had rushed for 100 yards in six games to open a season was the great Jim Brown.
With the Eagles on a bye this week, Dallas has a half-game lead in the NFC East.
This is your weekly reminder that the Dallas Cowboys are winning games they would have lost during the past four years. Thanks for tuning in.
In 2012, for example, the Cowboys traveled to Seattle after what many thought was a significant win over the New York Giants to open the season.
The Seahawks punched the Cowboys in the mouth, figuratively speaking. Dallas fumbled the opening kickoff, leading to a Seattle field goal. The Seahawks then returned a blocked punt for a touchdown in the first quarter. Dallas looked defeated before the first quarter ended and eventually lost the game, 27-7.
Two years later, the Cowboys were 4-1 as they headed back to Seattle. The Seahawks seldom lose at home. Most thought Seattle would again punch the Cowboys in the mouth, figuratively speaking, and the Cowboys would limp back to Dallas.
Sure enough, Seattle blocked a punt in the first quarter. Like the 2012 game, Dallas found itself behind 10-0 in the first quarter.
It was ov…
Well, no, it wasn’t over. The Cowboys not only tied the game in the second quarter but also took a 17-10 lead. In fact, Dallas had drives of 10 and 15 plays during the second quarter and held the ball for nearly 75 percent of that quarter.
Even when Dwayne Harris muffed a punt, which Seattle returned for a touchdown, Dallas was not out of it.
Seattle took a three-point lead. Dallas tied it.
Seattle took another three-point lead. With 8:16 remaining, Dallas needed to drive to tie the game.
But then the Cowboys faced a 3rd-and-20 from their own 31. Less than five minutes remained. A punt could allow Seattle to exhaust the clock.
Seattle put pressure on Tony Romo, who limped around much of the game. He somehow managed to escape the rush before releasing a pass in the general direction of both Jason Witten and Terrance Williams.
Williams snagged the ball and dragged his toes inbounds for a 23-yard gain. First down. It was, like many other plays this year, something the Cowboys had not seen in quite some time.
Three plays later, DeMarco Murray gave Dallas a 27-23 lead with a touchdown run. Although the Cowboys were unable to run out the clock on offense, Rolondo McClain’s interception with less than 50 seconds remaining secured the win for Dallas.
Yes, this author predicted a 3-13 finish. That 3-13 team is now 5-1. Who would have thought.
In 2010, the Dallas Cowboys would have folded in half after blowing a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter.
They would done the same thing in 2011. And 2012. And 2013.
But this current team is just full of surprises. The Cowboys could not maintain a 17-7 lead in the final three minutes of regulation.
Dallas had a shot to put the game away in regulation, but Dan Bailey missed his first field goal in his last 31 attempts on the final play of the fourth quarter.
In overtime, Houston moved the ball into Dallas territory near midfield but had to punt. The Cowboys got the ball but faced a 3rd-and-8 on their own 32.
From there, Dez Bryant made the highlight-reel pass of the season thus far, hauling in a 37-yard pass to give the Cowboys the ball at the Houston 31.
Two plays later, Bailey redeemed himself, nailing a 49-yarder to give the Cowboys their fourth straight win.
It marks the first time since the Cowboys have had a four-game winning streak. Dallas has not been 4-1 since 2008.
DeMarco Murray rushed for 136 yards on 31 carries, giving him a total of 670 in only five games. (Have to mention his latest fumble parenthetically, though.) Bryant had nine receptions for 85 yards.
Had Bryant not stolen the show with this overtime reception, the players making the best play would have been Tony Romo and Terrance Williams. Romo dodged J.J. Watt and heaved a pass to Williams in the end zone. The touchdown gave Dallas a 10-7 lead.
Bryant caught a short touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to give Dallas a 17-7 lead.
The Cowboys have a tough game next week as they travel to Seattle.
This is the third part of a ten-part series focusing on ten pivotal regular season games in the history of the Dallas Cowboys.
Not all famous games will appear on this list. For example, the Mad Bomber game from Thanksgiving Day in 1974 is a famous game, but it was hardly pivotal, given that the Cowboys missed the playoffs that year.
Instead, this series focuses on games that marked turning points—good and bad—in franchise history.
November 7, 1971:
“The Dodger Era Begins”
The Cowboys struggled during both the 1970 and 1971 seasons. The team’s turnaround in 1970 was the subject of Part 2 of this list.
In 1971, Dallas was 4-3 following a frustrating 23-19 loss to the Chicago Bears. Tom Landry’s strategy of shuttling Roger Staubach and Craig Morton bombed. The Super Bowl could not have been on anyone’s mind.
Landry named Staubach the permanent starter before the team’s week 8 game at St. Louis. When Dallas fell behind 10-3 at the half, though, some might have thought Landry would go back to Morton.
But he didn’t, and Staubach led the Cowboys to a come-from-behind win. With the game tied 13-13, kicker Toni Fritsch nailed the game-winner. His comment following the win—”I no choka.”
The Cowboys did not choka for the rest of the season, either. The Cowboys won their final seven regular season games by a combined score of 202-77.
Dallas plowed their way back to the Super Bowl, then demolished Miami to win Super Bowl VI.
Although Morton had to start throughout most of the 1972 season because of an injury to Staubach, Dallas remained Staubach’s team during the rest of the decade. By the time the decade—and the Staubach era—ended, the Cowboys were America’s Team.
The Dallas Cowboys stormed down the field on their opening drive of Sunday night’s game against New Orleans. A touchdown pass from Tony Romo to Terrance Williams gave the Cowboys an early lead.
This marked the first time all season the Cowboys had scored on an opening drive. The first quarter was also the first where the Cowboys did not have to overcome a DeMarco Murray fumble.
But even with the great start, Dallas fans had to be cautious about any optimism. This was the Saints. They were the team that walked all over the Cowboys last season in a 49-17 New Orleans win at the Superdome.
As it turns out, nobody needed to be cautious about being excited until the fourth quarter. Dallas scored 17 points in the second quarter to extend the lead to 24-0 at the half.
Meanwhile, the Saints punted twice, had a pass intercepted, and missed a field goal in the first half.
DeMarco Murray looked nearly unstoppable. Tony Romo did not need to set the world on fire, but he was effective. Everything that failed to work in the 2013 debacle worked on Sunday night.
Then came the fourth quarter. The Cowboys defense that had played so well all game gave up two touchdown drives, and a 31-3 lead became a 31-17 lead.
The Dallas offense stalled on three straight possessions in the third and fourth quarters.
Blow a 28-point lead in the fourth quarter? Surely not.
Well, no, it didn’t happen. The Dallas defense forced a fourth-down play with 7:45 remaining, and the Saints lined up for a punt. Dallas only had ten players on the field.
The Saints called a fake, and punter Thomas Morstead tried to throw a pass for the first down. He wound up face first on the ground.
Seven plays later, Romo hit Dez Bryant on an 18-yard touchdown pass, which iced the game.
This marked the 20th time the Cowboys had led by 24 or more points at the half. The team is now 20-0 in those games.
With the Eagles losing to the 49ers today, Dallas and Philadelphia are now tied for first in the NFC East.
This is the second part of a ten-part series focusing on ten pivotal regular season games in the history of the Dallas Cowboys.
Instead, this series focuses on games that marked turning points—good and bad—in franchise history.
November 22, 1970:
“Road to the Super Bowl Begins in Washington”
By 1970, the Dallas Cowboys had become Next Year’s Champions. The team had highly successful regular seasons but faltered in the playoffs.
The 1970 season looked different, but not in a good way. The Cowboys started out with a 5-2 record before losing to the New York Giants on the road on November 8. One week later, the bottom fell out as the Cowboys lost to the St. Louis Cardinals, 38-0.
Nine weeks into the season, the Cowboys were 5-4. They trailed both the Cardinals and the Giants in the division and had already lost to the Cardinals twice.
It appeared that Dallas would miss the playoffs for the first time since 1965. This was hardly the best start to the first season after the NFL-AFL merger.
Fortunes changed on Sunday, November 22. Quarterback Craig Morton, who entered the game with a completion percentage of 41.5, hit on 12 of 15 pass attempts. His two touchdown passes in the second quarter helped the Cowboys build a 24-7 halftime lead en route to a 45-21 rout.
The Cardinals ended their game in a tie with Kansas City. St. Louis improved to 8-2-1 the following week but lost three straight to end the season at 8-5-1.
The Giants lost two of their last five to finish at 9-5.
Meanwhile, Dallas won its final five games of the regular season to win the division with a 10-4 record. The Cowboys then beat the Lions and 49ers in the NFC playoffs to reach the Super Bowl.
Of course, Dallas lost to the Colts in Super Bowl V, so this season did not have a happy ending. Nevertheless, the team had gone one step further than it ever had, setting the stage for their first championship season one year later.
It came as no big surprise when DeMarco Murray fumbled on the Cowboys’ first offensive drive of Sunday’s game against the St. Louis Rams. It was the third time in three games that Murray had lost a fumble early in the game.
It was hardly a shock that Tony Romo threw an interception returned for a touchdown in the middle of the second quarter. The score gave the Rams a 21-0 lead with 6:06 remaining in the first half.
Up to that point, the Dallas defense displayed that Can’t St0p Anyone look that opposing offenses love. Dallas made second-year quarterback Austin Davis look like Norm Van Brocklin or Bob Waterfield or Pat Haden (or just help me out here by inserting an old Rams QB you might remember).
Anyway, following Murray’s fumble, Davis threw a 51-yard touchdown pass to Brian Quick, who beat Morris Claiborne deep. It was neither the first nor the last time the Rams picked on poor Claiborne, who looked more like one of those just-signed-off-the-street guys than a #6 draft pick.
Only twice in franchise history have the Cowboys won games after trailing by 21 points. In both of those games (1984 vs. New Orleans and 1999 vs. Washington), Dallas won in overtime.
Fortunately, the Cowboys rebounded a bit in the second quarter. They took advantage of a pass interference call in the end zone, giving Dallas the ball at the St. Louis 1 just before the two-minute warning. Murray scored to cut the Ram lead to 21-7.
Davis fumbled a snap a few plays later, and the Cowboys drove down to kick a field goal before halftime.
It had seemed improbable that the Cowboys could erase a 21-point deficit, but Dallas trailed by just 11 points at the half.
It seemed improbable that Romo would be able to lead a comeback, given that his throwing has been off all year thus far.
But on the fourth play of the second half, Romo found a wide open Dez Bryant on a 68-yard touchdown play that cut the St. Louis lead to 21-17.
Midway through the third quarter, a 44-yard run by Murray set up a Dan Bailey field goal. St. Louis 21, Dallas 20.
The Rams kicked a field goal to increase their lead to 4, but Dallas answered with a touchdown drive, giving the Cowboys their first lead, 27-24.
Improbable, it seemed, that the shorthanded defense would make a critical play when the Rams got the ball back. But on the first play after the Dallas touchdown, linebacker Bruce Carter recorded his first career interception and returned the ball for his first career touchdown. Dallas then held a 10-point lead.
The Rams still had life, and Davis continued to pick on Claiborne. Davis’ touchdown pass to Austin Pettis ( who snuck behind Claiborne in the end zone) cut the Dallas lead to 3.
The Cowboys had a chance to put the game away, but Romo was unable to connect on a third-down pass just before the two-minute warning. The Rams got the ball back with 1:58 left to play.
Nearly all of us prayed the Rams would not pick on Claiborne, who had trouble covering anyone.
Improbable at that point for Claiborne to make a key play.
But when Davis threw a deep pass to the left sideline to Quick—the same guy who burned Claiborne earlier in the game—Claiborne made the play, reaching to grab the overthrown pass and secure the win with the interception.
Dallas is now 2-1 and alone in second place in the NFC East. The Eagles are 3-0 after beating Washington.