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A Complete History of Win One, Lose One

I noted on Tuesday that the Cowboys had opened their season with a win followed by a loss five times since 1997. In each of those seasons, the Cowboys won their third game.

win-someIn team history, the Cowboys started with a win followed by a loss 11 times. During those seasons, the Cowboys have an overall 8-3 record during their their third game.

Here is a complete list:

1974: Beat Atlanta, lost to Philadelphia, lost to N.Y. Giants

1980: Beat Washington, lost to Denver, beat Tampa Bay

1984: Beat L.A. Rams, lost to N.Y. Giants, beat Philadelphia

1985: Beat Washington, lost to Detroit, beat Cleveland

1990: Beat San Diego, lost to N.Y. Giants, lost to Washington

1991: Beat Cleveland, lost to Washington, lost to Philadelphia

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.

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Simulation Review: Cowboys Are Favored by a Touchdown

Most simulations have the Cowboys winning by about a touchdown, or perhaps more.

It’s been a long nine days since the Cowboys ruined our Thanksgiving. Dallas returns to the field tomorrow night to face the Philadelphia Eagles, who have not won since September.

The simulations do not think the game will be close. Notwithstanding the Thanksgiving performance, the sims have the Cowboys winning by about a touchdown. In some cases, the spread is more.

AccuScore: Dallas 30, Philadelphia 18
TeamRankings: Dallas 25, Philadelphia 17
NumberFire: Dallas 27, Philadelphia 18
WhatIfSports: Dallas 25, Philadelphia 19
Madden: Dallas 27, Philadelphia 13

The story of the Madden sim:

Remember when all the Eagles talk revolved around the words “Dream Team” and “Dynasty”? Talk about a team that couldn’t walk the walk. Philadelphia loses another one this week, scoring only 13 points against the rival Cowboys, while never really being able to get on track on either side of the ball. Tony Romo stars for Dallas in the win, throwing for 283 yards and two touchdowns in the 27-13 victory.

* * *

The Saints’ loss to the Falcons helped the Cowboys’ playoff chances just a bit, but those chances are still rather poor. At 5-6, Dallas is a game out of the second wildcard position. The Cowboys also have the same record as Washington, which would win the head-to-head tiebreaker at this point. The teams involved:

Seattle (6-5): Beat Minnesota and Dallas and have a relatively easy schedule in December.

Tampa Bay (6-5): Beat Minnesota but lost to Dallas and Washington.

Minnesota (6-5): Lost to both Seattle, Tampa Bay, and Washington.

Washington (5-6): Has wins over Tampa Bay, Minnesota, and Dallas.

Dallas (5-6): Beat Tampa Bay but lost to Seattle and Washington. Any loss from this point out may all but kill the Cowboys’ chances.

New Orleans (5-7): Beat Tampa Bay but lost to Washington. Saints’ chances are nearly hopeless.

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Looking for Some Hope from the 1970 Season

Very much by default, I usually corner the market on posts that draw comparisons with Cowboys teams of old. The Dallas Morning News blog asked the following question yesterday, which I planned to answer in full:

Is this the most embarrassing game in Cowboys history? It has to rank pretty high on the list. After all, they’re playing the Rams, dude.

Mr. Vela at Blue and Silver Report beat me to it, though. Here is his summary of really bad games in team history:

* 1970, week 9 — Cardinals 38, Cowboys 0. A second consecutive loss that drops the ‘Pokes to 5-4;
* 1971, week 7 — Bears 23, Cowboys 19. A loss to a weak Bears team in the infamous QB rotation game leaves Dallas 4-3.
* 1978, week 10 — Dolphins 23, Cowboys 16. A second consecutive loss, this one in dreaded Miami, where Tom Landry always lost, drops the Cowboys to 6-4.
* 1981, week 6 — 49ers 45, Cowboys 14. A second consecutive loss drops Dallas to 4-2 after a 4-0 start.
* 1992, week 5 — Eagles 31, Cowboys 7. Dallas comes out of its bye week and gets thrashed on a Monday Night in Philly.
* 1995, week 15 — Eagles 20, Cowboys 17. Dallas loses its second in a row and third in five weeks in the infamous 4th-and-1-x-2 game. Their record is 10-4 but they’re being written off as yesterday’s champs, done in by Jerry’s meddling and Barry’s ineptitude.

Every one of these teams made it to the conference championship game. Five of them made it to the Super Bowl. Three of them won it.

What came to my mind immediately was the 1970 loss to St. Louis. The Cowboys started the season at 2-0 but lost to St. Louis in week 3. Dallas beat Atlanta before getting demolished 54-13 by the Minnesota Vikings. The Cowboys showed resolve by winning three straight but then fell to 5-3 with a 23-20 loss to the Giants.

That’s when the 6-2 team from St. Louis (Cardinals then, of course) visited the Cotton Bowl. The result was worse than the debacle against the Rams on Sunday. Here’s a video.

The Cowboy-killer for St. Louis that day was Johnny Roland, who scored three touchdowns. The Cowboys committed six turnovers.

The Dallas Morning News article then sounded awfully familiar:

The shaky world of the Dallas Cowboys, that club which was once the apple of pro football’s eye, came tumbling down on a cold Monday night in the Cotton Bowl.

You remember the Cowboys, of course … those 40 outstanding individuals without a team, which is somewhat like a man without a country.

St. Louis, heir, apparent to the Eastern Division title, stomped the Cowboys, 38-0, as 69,233 fans gathered at the funeral. The rest of the country interested in professional football watched in living color — So color the Cowboys red.

That 1970 Cowboys team responded brilliantly by traveling to Washington and beating up on the Redskins in a 45-21 rout. Both the Giants and the Cardinals faded down the stretch, and the Cowboys were able to pull out the division with a 10-4 record.

I now have a blog post predicting a 9-7 finish for the 2008 Cowboys, and I am not going to regress a day later. This year’s squad doesn’t have the leadership of Bob Lilly, Lee Roy Jordan, Chuck Howley, Mel Renfro, and so forth. This team instead has quite a few me-firsts and a bunch of others who seem unwilling to take on leadership roles.

The Cowboys lost some bad games during good years under Tom Landry, as Mr. Vela points out, but what was very common under Landry’s teams was that they tended to bounce right back from defeat. Can you imagine this team losing a game 54-13 and then winning two straight (1970)? Or getting beat 45-14 and then winning four straight (1981)?

What concerns me is that the Cowboys teams of the recent past have shown no relationship to these great teams. There is the 1999 team that started at 3-0 but crawled to a 8-8 finish. There is the 2004 team that started at 2-1 but collapsed afterward, losing six of seven. There is the 2005 team and the 2006 team, both of which looked like playoff teams but could not put anything together at the end the season, finishing with identical 9-7 records.

I would love to believe that this team has some fight in it like the 1970 version, but I just don’t see it. The veteran leadership consists of players who have been on the mediocre or worse teams of the past few years, along with some others (Owens, Thomas) who have only experienced marginal success elsewhere. The team has shown that it will roll over and die when the pressure hits, and I have a feeling that is exactly what we’ll continue to see this Sunday against Tampa Bay.