Monday Night Football
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This is the fourth 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, Roger Staubach’s final regular-season game against the Redskins was unforgettable, but the Cowboys turned around two weeks later and lost to the Rams in the playoffs.
Instead, this series focuses on games that marked turning points—good and bad—in franchise history.
December 13, 1975
“Wildcard Berth It Is”
After the Dallas Cowboys finished the 1974 regular season with an 8-6 record and missed the playoffs, few expected much from the 1975 team. But then Dallas had a famous draft, where 12 rookies made the team.
During the 1974 season, the Cowboys came from behind to beat the Washington Redskins on Thanksgiving Day, thanks to the efforts of backup quarter Clint Longley. That game was hardly pivotal, however, because the Cowboys still missed the playoffs.
When Dallas and Washington faced one another on December 13, 1975, both teams had 8-4 records. The Redskins had already defeated the Cowboys earlier in the season, so a Dallas loss would have knocked the Cowboys out of the playoffs.
Washington took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, but the Cowboys took control in the second thanks to a touchdown pass from Roger Staubach to Golden Richard and a touchdown run by Staubach.
Dallas then put the game away in the fourth quarter with 17 points.
With the win, Dallas knocked Washington out of the playoffs because the Cowboys finished with a better division record. The Redskins missed the playoffs for the first time since 1970.
The Cowboys, on the other hand, reached their third Super Bowl, thanks to a Hail Mary against the Vikings and dominating win over the L.A. Rams. The Cowboys started a new playoff streak that would last until the 1984 season.
Try to imagine Tony Romo making less than not one but two backup quarterbacks on the Dallas Cowboys’ roster. Now consider this—
The Cowboys lured quarterback Don Meredith from SMU in 1960 by offering him what “was considered one of the finest in the history of professional football.”
Five years later, the team gave him a “slight raise” to about $27,000 per year when he signed a new contract.
Meredith was reportedly happy. He said, “I got what I wanted and I hope the club gets what it wants next season.”
The team selected quarterback Craig Morton in the first round of the 1965 draft, and Morton would make more as a rookie in 1965 than Meredith made even with the raise.
But what was even stranger was that another backup, Jerry Rhome, also made more than Meredith did. Rhome was a 13th round pick in 1964.
Of course, those were long before the days of free agency, so players had no real bargaining power. Moreover, Tex Schramm and the Cowboys were notorious about underpaying even the best players on the team.
I’m guessing Jerry would be quite jealous.
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.
As one of the NFL’s highest profile teams, the Dallas Cowboys were often featured on Monday Night Football. The Cowboys appeared on MNF at least once each year between 1970 and 1988. After returning in 1991, the team has been featured on a Monday each year except 2002.
At 43-31, the team’s total record on Monday Night Football is respectable enough. The Cowboys have won four of their last five games on Monday night, with the only loss coming against the Giants in 2010 when Tony Romo was knocked out for the season after a hard sack in the first half.
Each of the last five games was rather memorable, including the team’s 25-24 come-from-behind win over the Bills in 2007. Here are those games:
Oct. 8, 2007: Dallas 25, Buffalo 24
Sept. 15, 2008: Dallas 41, Philadelphia 37
Sept. 28, 2008: Dallas 21, Carolina 7
Oct. 25, 2010: N.Y. Giants 41, Dallas 35
Sept. 26, 2011: Dallas 18, Washington 16
A few trivial matters:
- Dallas has faced Chicago on Monday Night Football only once, losing at Chicago to open the 1996 season. That marked Deion Sanders‘ first game as a starting receiver. He caught 9 passes for 87 yards.
- The team played on Monday three times before ABC introduced Monday Night Football in 1970. Those games included a 20-13 loss to the Cardinals in1965, a 28-17 loss to the Packers in 1968, and a 25-3 win over the Giants in 1969.
- The most successful starting Dallas quarterback on Monday Night was Troy Aikman, who had a record of 13-9. Danny White went 9-7, while Roger Staubach surprisingly went just 6-7. Tony Romo is now 4-2.
The Dallas Cowboys’ offensive starters played until the beginning of the second quarter on Monday night. The team gained nine yards on that possession, which doubled what the offense had gained on its first two possessions in the first quarter.
The rest of the game wasn’t any more impressive, as the Cowboys struggled to move the ball all game long. The teams were tied 0-0 at halftime.
Kyle Orton led the Cowboys on their longest drive of the game, taking the offense from its own 18 to the Oakland 15 before the drive stalled. The key play was a 20-yard completion to rookie tight end Andrew Szczerba. A pass interference penalty on the Raiders also helped.
The defense had some trouble with rookie receiver Rod Streater, but neither he nor the rest of the Oakland offense could pose much of a threat in Dallas territory. The Raiders missed two field goals in the loss, and the Cowboys put the game away when Mana Silva picked off Terrelle Pryor with less than 40 seconds left in the game.
Running back Jamize Olawale from the University of North Texas led the Cowboys in the ground by rushing 12 times for 42 yards. DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones combined for a total of four rushing yards.
Dez Bryant played and caught a 24-yard pass. Andre Holmes caught three passes for 40 yards.
Dallas next plays at San Diego on Saturday night.