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Last Sunday evening, the Giants tore through the Dallas defense to take a 21-10 lead. The Cowboys might have had a much more difficult time coming back had Barry Church not picked off an Eli Manning pass in the third quarter, after which Dallas scored to take the lead. Of course, Dallas won the game after a clutch drive in the final two minutes.
On Thanksgiving Day, the Eagles made it look even easier to run through the Dallas defense. With the Eagles leading 23-7 in the third quarter, it looked like Dallas got another big break in the form of a turnover. The Cowboys stripped LeSean McCoy from the ball and recovered at the Philadelphia 13. DeMarco Murray then gained nine yards on first down, giving Dallas a 2nd-and-1 from the Philadelphia 4.
A touchdown would mean the Cowboys would cut the lead to 9 with about 10 minutes remaining in the third quarter. That would have been a manageable deficit.
Instead, the Cowboys lost a total of six yards on the next two plays and had to settle for a field goal. The deficit was still 13.
And the Dallas defense still could not stop the Eagles. On the next drive, Philadelphia went 80 yards on six plays, capped off by a 38-yard touchdown run by McCoy. The touchdown extended the Eagle lead to 30-10 and ended the competitive phase of the game.
Romo played his worst game of the season, throwing for less than 200 yards with two interceptions. The Eagles contained the entire Dallas offense, holding Murray to 73 rushing yards and Dez Bryant to 73 receiving yards. McCoy outgained their combined yardage total with 159 rushing yards.
The loss drops Dallas (8-4) to second place in the NFC East with four games remaining. In the wildcard race, the Seahawks and Lions both have 8-4 records as well. Dallas would win the tiebreaker with Seattle because of the Cowboys’ win over the Seahawks earlier this season. Detroit, however, has a better conference record than Dallas.
Even worse, Seattle looks like it is on a roll, winning two straight without giving up a touchdown. The Lions ended a two-game losing streak by beating Chicago today, and Detroit faces Tampa Bay, Minnesota, and Chicago during the next three weeks.
Know Your Dallas Cowboys has existed since 2006, covering eight seasons. This period includes some of the most frustrating points in franchise history. I need not summarize.
Add another gut wrenching loss to the mix of gut-wrenching losses suffered during those eight seasons.
With the division title and a playoff berth on the line, the Cowboys appeared to have lost by the middle of the fourth quarter. Trailing 17-16, the Cowboys faced a 4th and 1 near the Philadelphia 40. Jason Garrett decided to go for it, but Kyle Orton’s pass was deflected at the line of scrimmage. The Eagles then drove the ball down the field for the next 5 minutes and scored to make it a 24-16 game.
Dallas faced a 4th and 9 from the Eagle 32 on the next drive, and the situation looked bleak. But then Orton found Dez Bryant over the middle, and Bryant not only made the first down but also made it all the way to the end zone. The Cowboys could not convert the 2-point conversion, though, and still trailed 24-22.
The defense that has not been able to stop anyone all year made a critical stop, and the Cowboys got the ball back at their own 32 with 1:49 remaining.
Tony Romo was not the quarterback, but the result was just all too familiar.
Orton tried to get the ball to Miles Austin on the first play of the drive, but Orton underthrew his receiver. The ball hit Brandon Boykin in the chest, and the interception effectively ended the Cowboys’ season.
Orton and Jason Witten had good games on paper, but both made critical mistakes. Witten could not manage to knock down a poorly thrown pass in the first half, and the play resulted in an interception. The Eagles turned around and scored a touchdown. DeMarco Murray fumbled earlier in the game, and the Eagles turned around and kicked a field goal.
Including the 4th and 1 play, the Eagles were able to score 17 points off Dallas mistakes. Those points were just enough to keep the Cowboys out of the playoffs for the fourth straight year.
It has become easy to forget that the Dallas Cowboys were supposed to have turned a corner in 2009 when they beat the Philadelphia Eagles in back-to-back games. The first win clinched the NFC East title for Dallas. The second gave the Cowboys their only playoff win since 1996.
Here are the video highlights. Some faces are the same, but you will see quite a bit of Marion Barber and Patrick Crayton, along with big plays by Felix Jones, Doug Free (on Jones’ touchdown run), and Jay Ratliff.
With the Eagles’ 24-16 win over the Redskins on Sunday, the Cowboys at 5-5 now sit a half-game out of first place in the NFC East. The Cowboys are also a full game behind the 49ers, Bears, and Cardinals for the last wildcard spot. Even if Carolina loses to New England tonight, the Panthers would still have a 6-4 record.
Dallas now has to travel to the Meadowlands for a rematch with the resurgent Giants, who have won four straight. In fact, none of the remaining games are going to be easy for the Cowboys, and it is possible that Dallas will have to beat the Redskins on the road and Eagles at home in the final two weeks of the season to reach the playoffs.
On the positive side, that is exactly what the Cowboys did in 2009, the last year the Cowboys made the playoffs.
On the negative side, should the team fail, the Cowboys will have the third-longest playoff drought in franchise history.
The longest period where the Cowboys missed the playoffs was the first six years of the team’s existence from 1960 to 1965.
The next longest period was the five years from 1986 through 1990, which included the final Landry years and the first two years under Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones.
The current Cowboys have missed the playoffs three straight years. That was the same number of years the franchise missed the playoffs under Dave Campo.
Yes, the current Dallas Cowboys could have a longer streak of missing the playoffs than the teams led by the rotating of quarterbacks that included an aging Troy Aikman, an aging Randall Cunningham, Anthony Wright, Clint Stoerner, Quincy Carter, Ryan Leaf, and Chad Hutchinson.
Jerry gave more money to Tony Romo last off-season than any other player in team history, yet one more season without the playoffs means that the Quincy Carter (et al.) era may start looking better than what we are seeing now.
Hard to believe that Tony Romo has started 100 games. It was seven years ago on a late October evening that the Cowboys fell behind 14-0 to the Carolina Panthers, only to see Romo bring the team from behind in a 35-14 win.
No quarterback in NFL history has completed as many passes or thrown for as many yards as Romo. The Fort Worth Star Telegram has more.
Here’s the list of the most yards in a QB’s first 100 games:
Tony Romo, 27,485
Kurt Warner, 27,441
Dan Marino, 27,274
Peyton Manning, 26,008
Trent Green, 25,108
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Romo threw 2 interceptions against the Eagles on Sunday. It marks just the fifth time that Romo has thrown 2 or more picks in a Dallas win.
The Cowboys’ record in games where Romo has thrown 2 or more picks is 5-15.
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The Cowboys picked off Philadelphia QBs 3 times on Sunday. It marked the 16th time that the Cowboys have recorded at least 3 picks against the Eagles.
The Cowboys’ record in those 16 games is now 13-3.
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The Cowboys committed 12 penalties for 75 yards against the Eagles on Sunday.
The last time the Cowboys committed at least 12 penalties in a game came on November 11, 2012. Against the Eagles. At Lincoln Financial Field.
Thankfully, the Cowboys also won that game, beating the Eagles 38-23.
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The Cowboys are tied for 18th in the league in terms of penalties per game. They have committed 7.0 penalties per game thus far, down from 7.4 in 2012.
However, the team has committed an average of 9.3 penalties during the past 3 games.
In the weekly What-If Wednesday posts, we review some event (draft, game, or whatever) and consider what might have happened if history had been different. This week’s post focuses on the 1980 NFC Championship Game between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles.
In real life…
The label of quarterback Danny White as a failure began with the Dallas Cowboys’ loss in the 1980 NFC Championship Game.
White was, however, anything but a failure. He led the 1980 Cowboys to a better record than the 1979 Cowboys had posted with Roger Staubach at the helm. And one week before the 1980 NFC title game, White threw two late touchdown passes to bring the Cowboys from behind to beat the Atlanta Falcons in one of the great games in NFL history.
White’s magic ran out at Veterans Stadium on January 11, 1981. In 12-degree weather, White completed only 12 of 31 passes for 127 yards with an interception.
The Eagles took a 7-0 lead with Wilbert Montgomery’s most famous play:
Although the Cowboys tied the game before halftime, Dallas could not overcome a 10-point third quarter by Philadelphia. Dallas lost 20-7.
The Eagles turned around and lost to the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XV. Neither the Eagles nor the Cowboys made another Super Bowl during the 1980s.
What if the Cowboys had defeated the Eagles?
1. The Blue-Jersey Curse Would End
Ask a Cowboys fan over the age of 40 about origins of the blue-jersey curse. Many would point to the 1980 title game.
(Of course, older fans would point to SB V, when Dallas lost to the Baltimore Colts while wearing blue.)
A big win at Philadelphia would have ended the curse, and it is possible that the Cowboys might have worn blue more often. Instead, most of us don’t want to see those blue jerseys.
2. White Might Have Avoided Comparisons with Roger Staubach and, later, Tony Romo
Many fans like to compare current QB Tony Romo to Danny White because both lost big games.
The comparison is not fair because of the big games involved.
Fans during White’s era also liked to compare him to Roger Staubach, and the comparisons were almost always negative towards White.
White led the Cowboys to three consecutive NFC title games and five playoff appearances in six years. A win at Philadelphia might have done wonders to avoid these comparisons.
3. A Sixth Trip
The Cowboys would have made Super Bowl XV with a win over Philadelphia. It would have been the Cowboys’ sixth Super Bowl appearance since 1970 and their second Super Bowl trip to the Superdome in four seasons. Moreover, the Cowboys would have played a Super Bowl in New Orleans for a third time.
The other two trips to New Orleans? Wins in SB VI and SB XII.
I ran 10 simulations of a Super Bowl XV between the Cowboys and Raiders on SimMatchup Football. It does not look good. Oakland won 8 of the 10 simulations by an average score of 22-17.
I cannot express my disappointment clearly enough.
5. And So No, White Would Not Avoid Comparisons with Roger Staubach or Tony Romo
Do Cowboys fans remember Craig Morton fondly? He was, of course, the first Dallas QB to lead the Cowboys to a Super Bowl.
The answer is no. And if Danny White led the Cowboys to Super Bowl XV and lost 22-17 to the Raiders, nobody would remember White or the 1980 season fondly.
Some random trivia items focusing on yesterday’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs:
The Dallas Cowboys have played 862 regular-season and playoff games. I have no idea what the actual odds of this happening are, but how possible is it for the Cowboys to play back-to-back games with final scores unique to any of the other 860 games?
Last week, the Cowboys beat the Giants 36-31, marking the first time the Cowboys have ever played in a game with that particular score.
Yesterday, the Cowboys lost a game with a final score of 17-16 for the first time ever. The Cowboys had previously played in one game with a score of 17-16, but that was in a win over the New York Giants on October 29, 1961.
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KC quarterback Alex Smith frustrated the Cowboys with his running yesterday, leading all rushers with 57 yards on 8 carries. Andy Reid apparently found a read-option quarterback where one did not previously exist.
Smith’s previous high rushing mark before yesterday was 49 yards against Buffalo in 2012. He has gained 30 or more yards only 7 times during his career.
Smith had faced the Cowboys only once previously in 2011. He had only 21 rushing yards for the 49ers then.
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Reid coached the Philadelphia Eagles for 14 seasons. He faced the Cowboys 29 times during that period, including the playoffs.
During that time, the Eagles had some athletic quarterbacks, including Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick, and Jeff Garcia.
Also during that time, a total of 22 Eagles rushed for 57 or more yards against the Cowboys.
How many of those players were quarterbacks?
Just one. McNabb rushed for 67 yards in a 2002 game and 58 yards in a 2000 game.
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Jason Witten now ranks second on the all-time list of receptions by a tight end.
Few doubt that Witten is the greatest tight end in franchise history. Of course, he plays in a different era than the likes of Billy Joe DuPree, Doug Cosbie, and Jay Novacek, but Witten’s numbers are amazing even considering that he plays in such a pass-happy league now.
Consider this: DuPree, Cosbie, and Novacek combined to catch 906 passes for 10,869 yards. Witten’s current numbers include 817 receptions for 9,030 yards.
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During five seasons dating back to 1997, the Cowboys have won their season opener only to lose their second game of the season.
The good news? In each of those five seasons, the Cowboys have won their third game. A review:
1997: Beat Pittsburgh, lost to Arizona, beat Philadelphia.
1998: Beat Arizona, lost to Denver, beat N.Y. Giants.
2005: Beat San Diego, lost to Washington, beat San Francisco.
2009: Beat Tampa Bay, lost to N.Y. Giants, beat Carolina.
2012: Beat N.Y. Giants, lost to Seattle, beat Tampa Bay.
The 1974 season was not a good one for the Dallas Cowboys. The team had made the playoffs for eight consecutive years, but the streak came to an end in ’74 thanks to a bad start.
A big part of the problem was last-second losses early in the year. Dallas fell to 1-4 after five games, and three of the four losses came on last-second field goals by the opposing teams.
The last of these losses came against the St. Louis Cardinals, who had one of the best seasons for the organization while it was located in St. Louis. In week 5, a 31-yard field goal by Jim Bakken gave the Cardinals a 31-28 win over Dallas and improved the Cardinals’ record to 5-0. St. Louis finished the season at 10-4, while Dallas finished at 8-6.
A play during that loss to the Cardinals gave us the Most Obscure Player for 1974, though. In the first quarter, a rookie running back named Dennis Morgan returned a punt 98 yards for a touchdown. It tied an NFL record and established a franchise record.
The video below shows highlights of the game. Morgan’s punt return starts at about :29.
That play was Morgan’s career highlight. The Cowboys cut him at the end of the season. He played in four games for the Philadelphia Eagles in 1975 but did not play again.
According to his Wikipedia page, Morgan’s nickname was “Strawberry” because of his red hair. That’s the extent of the obscurity about Dennis Morgan the football player.
If folks had just done their homework, they may have discovered an actor named Dennis Morgan, who appeared in a number of movies between 1936 and 1956.
The last of those movies was Uranium Boom, a story about two mining partners striking uranium pay dirt. Apparently there wasn’t much more to the story, because the movie only lasted 67 minutes.
I like the title, though, so while we are giving out the MOP Award retroactively, we might as well give Dennis Morgan the football player a nickname retroactively: The Uranium Boom.
The Dallas Cowboys have won a single playoff game between 1997 and right now. That occurred in 2009 when the team beat the visiting Philadelphia Eagles in the playoffs.
Members of the 2008 draft class were rather prominent in the victory.
Felix Jones (1st round in 2008) carried the ball 16 times for 148 yards and helped to put the game on ice with a 73-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
Tashard Choice (4th round in 2008) helped in the effort, carrying the ball 14 times for 42 yards with a touchdown.
The other first-round pick from 2008, Mike Jenkins, recorded an interception.
Martellus Bennett (2nd round in 2008) and Orlando Scandrick (5th round) weren’t as prominent in the 2009 playoffs, but both of the played roles.
Now it’s 2013. Choice and Bennett have been gone for some time.
Sixth-round pick Erik Walden never played a down in Dallas but became a starter in Green Bay.
Now it looks like Jones and Jenkins will leave the team via free agency. They are among five free agents the Cowboys will likely lose according to the Dallas Morning News.
The Cowboys usually begin their nose dive when they reach December. Since 2008, Dallas has won its first game in December only once—an overtime win at Indianapolis in an otherwise forgettable 2010 season.
Since 2006, the Cowboys have an overall record of 13-19 during the months of December and January, including the playoffs.
Thus, when the Cowboys fell behind to the Eagles by a score of 14-3, it was easy to think this did not look good. When the Eagles took a 24-17 lead in the third quarter after the Cowboys had tied the game, things did not look good.
On the final play of the third quarter, the Cowboys faced a 4th and 1. DeMarco Murray ran up the middle, and the original spot was short of the first down.
The Dallas defense was poor for much of the night, and the Eagles were able to drive back into Dallas territory. A 43-yard Alex Henery field goal gave the Eagles another lead with less than 10 minutes to play.
The Eagles had a chance on the next drive, especially once rookie quarterback Nick Foles avoided DeMarcus Ware and completed a pass for a first down on a 3rd-and-8 play.
Combination of: (1) Bryce Brown is really good; (2) this Dallas defense is pathetic tonight.
Moments later, Josh Brent knocked the ball out of Brown’s hand. Morris Claiborne picked up the ball and ran 50 yards for the touchdown.
The game should have ended at 38-27, but the special teams unit somehow gave up a 98-yard punt return. Fortunately, the Cowboys recovered the onside kick, ending the game.
Murray had 83 yards and a touchdown in his return to the lineup. Bryant scored twice, giving him 8 on the season. His 98 receiving yards gives him 978 on the season.
Witten had 108 yards, while Austin had 46. It is possible that Bryant, Witten, and Austin could each finish the season with more than 1,000 receiving yards.
This marks the first time since 2009 that the Cowboys have swept the Eagles. In 2011, the Cowboys only managed 7 points in both losses to Philadelphia. In 2012, the Cowboys scored 38 in both wins.