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Dallas Cowboys: Ten Pivotal Regular Season Games, Part 5 (1986)

This is the fifth 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.

November 2, 1986

New York Giants 17, Dallas 14

“Goodbye Danny, So Long America’s Team”

The Dallas Cowboys opened the 1986 season with a 6-2 record. For a franchise that had recorded 20 consecutive winning seasons dating back to 1966, it seemed almost a sure thing that the Cowboys would continue to win and return to the playoffs.

But Dallas had to travel to Meadowlands on November 2, 1986 to face the tough New York Giants, who were also 6-2. The Cowboys suffered a huge blow when they lost quarterback Danny White early in the game.

Steve Pelleur played  fairly well, but the Giants took a 17-7 lead in the fourth quarter. Nevertheless, the Cowboys kept game close thanks to a touchdown run by Tony Dorsett.

Dallas could have tied the game or scored the game-winning touchdown late in the game thanks to two long plays inside the Giant 10. But both plays were called back thanks to penalties on tackle Phil Pozderac, who also gave up a costly sack. Rafael Septien’s 63-yard field goal attempt came up short, and the Cowboys lost.

The game cost the Cowboys more than a single loss. Several years ago, I summarized the loss of White as follows:

[I]n five full seasons as a starter, White led the team to the playoffs five times and to the NFC Championship Game three times. Prior to his injury in 1986, his record as a full-time starter beginning in 1980 was 62-24 (the team went 5-6 in games that he did not start during that time period). The team’s record for the remainder of the decade after he suffered his injury was 11-36, with no winning seasons. There were, of course, other factors involved, but the sharp contrast of the team before his injury compared to what happened afterward shows his value.

Among the pivotal regular season games I am summarizing on here, this one ranks right there with the Cowboys’ win over the Washington Redskins in 1991 in terms of importance.

Stay tuned.

Previously:

Part 1, December 5, 1965: “A Loser No More”—Dallas 21, Philadelphia 19

Part 2, November 22, 1970: “Road to the Super Bowl Begins in Washington”—Dallas 16, St. Louis 13

Part 3, November 7, 1971: “The Dodger Era Begins”—Dallas 16, St. Louis 13

Part 4, December 13, 1975: “Wildcard Berth It Is”—Dallas 31, Washington 10

 

Dallas Cowboys History: 6-Game Winning Streaks

winningstreak

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 history—

1968

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.

1969

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.

1971

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.

1977

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.

1983

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.

1993

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.

2007

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.

Dallas Cowboys: Ten Pivotal Regular Season Games, Part 3 (1971)

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.

Likewise, 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.

November 7, 1971: 

Dallas 16, St. Louis Cardinals 13

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.

Previously:

Part 1, December 5, 1965: “A Loser No More”—Dallas 21, Philadelphia 19

Part 2, November 22, 1970: “Road to the Super Bowl Begins in Washington”—Dallas 16, St. Louis 13

Dallas Cowboys: Ten Pivotal Regular Season Games, Part 2 (1970)

This is the second 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.

Likewise, 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.

1970November 22, 1970: 

Dallas 45, Washington 21

“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.

Previously:

Part 1, December 5, 1965: “A Loser No More”—Dallas 21, Philadelphia 19

 

Animated Trivia: Emmitt Smith

Here is another animated GIF, with this one featuring Emmitt Smith. Trivia questions are below the image.

Questions:

(1) During which season did this play occur?

(2) Smith scored two touchdowns during an 18-second span. However, he missed the entire second half because of an injury suffered on this play. What was the injury?

(3) Troy Aikman was also removed from this game because of a concussion. Who replaced Aikman at QB, and how did the backup perform?

Denver as a Landing Spot for Cowboys’ Linemen

Demarcus Ware | Dallas Cowboys

DeMarcus Ware is no longer a member of the Cowboys. He signed with the Broncos on Wednesday.

The news today is that DeMarcus Ware signed a three-year contract with the Denver Broncos. Ware thus joins a fairly short list of Dallas players who have eventually migrated to Denver.

Some relevant trivia:

  • The first noteworthy Dallas player to join the Broncos was Craig Morton, who led Denver to the Super Bowl after joining the team in 1977.
  • Of course, former Cowboy running back Dan Reeves became the Broncos’ head coach in 1981, and two of his assistants—Wade Phillips and Chan Gailey—later became head coaches in Dallas.
  • Former Dallas defensive back Charlie Waters was the Broncos’ defensive coordinator under Phillips in 1993 and 1994.
  • Ware is the highest-profile Dallas player to become a member of the Broncos via either trade or free agency since Tony Dorsett’s trade to Denver in 1988.
  • And for trivia that is beside the point—What did the Cowboys get for Dorsett? A conditional fifth-round pick. The selection? Defensive tackle Jeff Roth of Florida. He never played a game in the NFL.
  • As for Ware, he was scheduled to make $12.25 million with Dallas but will now make $13 million in Denver. Makes sense.

Now some trivia questions:

Two defensive linemen for the Cowboys during the 1990s joined the Broncos as free agents in the early 2000s. Who were they?

The scratch-off card below reveals the answer.

 


Orkut Scrap Toys
 

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Photo Trivia: Pro Football Hall of Fame All-Decade Team, 1960s

Pro Football Hall of Fame, at Canton, Ohio, Un...

A Dallas player not named Bob Lilly made the Hall of Fame’s all-decade team for the 1960s.

The Dallas Cowboys had four solid seasons to close out the 1960s. However, the team did not have the star power that franchises such as Green Bay and Baltimore (Colts) had.

Only two players who played for the Cowboys during the 1960s appeared on the Pro Football Hall of Fame All-Decade team. One of those players was defensive tackle Bob Lilly.

Who was the other?

One hint: the player isn’t even in the Ring of Honor.

Second hint: complete the puzzle below:

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Quote Trivia: Super Bowl XII

Super Bowl XII

Super Bowl XII (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Dallas Cowboys played in their fourth Super Bowl after the 1977 season as heavy favorites against the Denver Broncos, who were making their first trip to the big game.

Of course, the Dallas defense was ferocious for much of the game, forcing eight turnovers and recording four sacks. The highly touted Denver defense forced six Dallas fumbles but only managed to recover two of them.

Dallas won, of course, 27-10, giving Tom Landry his second and final world title.

Leading to our quote of the day. Who said this after the game?

Orange Crush is soda water, baby. You drink it. It don’t win football games.

Thirty-six seasons later, the Broncos are heading to their seventh Super Bowl thanks to their 26-16 win over New England on Sunday.

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What-If Wednesday: What if the Cowboys had won the 1980 NFC Championship Game?

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.

What if the Cowboys had stopped Wilbert Montgomery and the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1980 NFC Championship Game?

What if the Cowboys had stopped Wilbert Montgomery and the Philadelphia Eagles 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.

4. However…

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.

Sorry, Danny.

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What-If Wednesday: What if the Cowboys had hired Mike Shanahan after the 2008 season?

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 Mike Shanahan, who became available as a head coach after the 2008 season.

In real life…

The Dallas Cowboys were supposed to be Super Bowl contenders in 2008. The team had gone 13-3 in 2007 before losing to the eventual champion Giants in the playoffs. The team a deep pool of talent in 2008, and many predicted the Cowboys would take the next step in their evolution.

Mike Shanahan

What if the Cowboys had hired Mike Shanahan after the 2008 season?

Some fans and some in the media called on Jerry Jones to fire Wade Phillips after the playoff loss in 2007 because he had allowed players to vacation during the off week.

When the ’08 Cowboys lost 44-6 to the Eagles in the final week of the season and missed the playoffs, few could believe that Phillips would return. And when Mike Shanahan was fired as the Broncos head coach, many thought Jerry Jones should fire Wade and bring in Shanahan.

Instead, Shanahan took a year off before becoming head coach of the Redskins.

What if the Cowboys had fired Phillips after the 2008 season and hired Shanahan?

The argument in favor of hiring Shanahan was that the team needed a high-profile coach to coach the high-profile Pro Bowl players. Shanahan had won two Super Bowl titles in Denver, so it stands to reason that he would repeat his success in Dallas. Right?

1. The Cowboys under Shanahan would have no better success in finding and developing talent.

Between 1996 and 2005, Shanahan had great success, including two Super Bowl titles and seven playoff appearances.

Between 2006 and 2008, the team had no playoff appearances. The team had some talent with quarterback Jay Cutler, receiver Brandon Marshall, and the likes of Champ Bailey and Elvis Dumervil, but to the extent Shanahan was involved with personnel decisions, the team was not improving its talent significantly in the last few years.

The Cowboys still had talent in 2009, but several key players were starting to age. The team needed to rebuild its line, find new skills players, and so forth.

It’s hard to believe that Jerry would give up the right to make personnel decisions, so Shanahan likely would just had a voice. And unless his voice made the Cowboys change their draft strategy in 2009, the results probably would have been the same.

2. Shanahan’s magic would not rekindle in Dallas.

The Broncos fired Shanahan after the team started the 2008 season at 8-5 but lost the final three to finish at 8-8. The Broncos missed the playoffs for the third consecutive year.

So the Cowboys were going to solve their annual December woes by hiring the coach of a team that had blown its playoff chances by losing three straight?

No.

A big part of the reasoning behind hiring someone like Shanahan is that a coach who has been to the top before will know how to get there again. And, to be sure, managers in baseball, coaches in basketball, and even coaches in college football have been able to repeat success elsewhere.

For whatever reason, that has rarely happened in the NFL. No head coach has won a Super Bowl with multiple teams.

Sure, Shanahan’s Redskins beat the Cowboys to make the playoffs in 2012. His record in the other seasons in Washington, though, is 12-24, and he has made a number of questionable decisions during his tenure.

3. The Rams would have hired Jason Garrett has head coach and fired him three years later.

Jason Garrett nearly left the Cowboys after the 2008 season to become the head coach of the St. Louis Rams. Instead, he stayed in Dallas and eventually became head coach.

The Rams were a mess in 2009, finishing at 1-15.

Garrett is smart, but Garrett would not fix that mess. He would have been back on the street after the 2011 season.

4. The Cowboys would have another head coach by now—Jason Garrett.

It is entirely possible that that Jerry would have grown tired of 8-8 seasons under Shanahan had fired him after the third season in 2011.

In hunting for a new coach, Jerry turns to…

Jason Garrett, who was recently fired as head coach of the Rams in our alternative universe.

 

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