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The Dallas Cowboys may have saved their season thanks to three returns they made for touchdowns in the fourth quarter against Philadelphia. Until that fourth quarter, the Cowboys had not scored on any type of return for nearly an entire calendar year. The last touchdown on a return came against the Buffalo Bills on November 13, 2011 in a 44-7 Dallas win.
This was not the first time the Cowboys have had multiple touchdowns from non-offensive touchdowns (i.e., those made on returns on special teams or defense) in a single game. It was also not the first time the Cowboys scored on three returns in the same game. However, it was the first time the Cowboys scored on three returns in the same quarter, which makes the feat even more remarkable.
Scoring on multiple returns is not common. The Cowboys have now done so only 11 times in team history. Here is a summary:
3 Returns for Touchdowns
The Cowboys scored three touchdowns on Sunday thanks to a punt return by Dwayne Harris, an interception return by Brandon Carr, and a fumble recovery return by Jason Hatcher.
The only other time the Cowboys scored on three returns was almost exactly 47 years ago. On November 7, 1965, in a game against San Francisco, the Cowboys scored on a kickoff return by Mel Renfro, a fumble recovery return by George Andrie, and an interception return by Bob Lilly. These touchdowns did not occur in the same quarter, but they did occur in the same half.
Dallas won the game 39-31. It took a fourth quarter touchdown pass from Don Meredith to Bob Hayes and a field goal by Danny Villanueva to put the game away.
2 Returns for Touchdowns
In nine other games, Dallas managed two returns for touchdowns. In chronological order:
October 14, 1962, Dallas 41, Philadelphia 19: Amos Marsh returned a kickoff 101 yards, and Mike Gaechter returned an interception 100 yards. It marked the first time in NFL history that two players on the same team had returns of at least 100 yards.
October 3, 1966, Dallas 52 Pittsburgh 21: Lee Roy Jordan returned an interception for a score, and Renfro returned a kickoff for a touchdown.
September 18, 1983, Dallas 28, N.Y. Giants 13: Dexter Clinkscale returned an interception for a score, while Michael Downs returned a fumble recovery for a touchdown.
September 9, 1985, Dallas 44, Washington 14: Happy birthday to Joe Theismann. Interception returns by Victor Scott and Dennis Thurman.
December 19, 1994, Dallas 24, New Orleans 16: Emmitt Smith suffered a costly hamstring injury in this win. Tony Tolbert and Darrin Smith returned interceptions for touchdowns.
September 21, 1998, Dallas 31, N.Y. Giants 7: Jason Garrett would remember this one because he started for the Cowboys. Deion Sanders would also remember it. He scored on both an interception return and a punt return.
October 3, 1999, Dallas 35, Arizona 7: This was Michael Irvin’s last full game. George Teague returned an interception for a score, while Greg Ellis returned a fumble 98 yards for another touchdown.
November 4, 2001, N.Y. Giants 27, Dallas 24: Dexter Coakley and Mario Edwards scored on interception returns, but Clint Stoerner’s four interceptions killed the Cowboys in a loss.
December 5, 2010, Dallas 38, Indianapolis 35: Interception returns by Orlando Scandrick and Sean Lee kept the Cowboys in the game at Indianapolis, which the Cowboys won in overtime.
The 49ers got to celebrate the 30th anniversary of “The [@#%$&!!!] Catch” on January 10 this year. I don’t need to remind anyone, but one dynasty began that day while the Cowboys fell into mediocrity in a few short seasons.
I’ve always thought the entire defense was to blame for the entire drive. However, I have also thought that Walls had Clark in man coverage. The Wikipedia entry for Walls notes, without attribution, that Walls thinks The Catch “tarnished his otherwise outstanding pro career.”
Others disagree that the play was actually Walls’ fault, and that may very well be the case. Safety Michael Downs was playing in the middle of the field, and it appears that Walls briefly released Clark to Downs on the play. Here is the replay:
Still, in a recent interview, Walls does not provide much insight about who is to blame, and we might just need to leave good enough (or bad enough) alone.
Here is the interview: