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A Short History of Season Finales Between Dallas and Washington

Tony Hill came up huge in 1979 when the Cowboys came from behind to beat Washington and win the NFC East.

Tony Hill came up huge in 1979 when the Cowboys came from behind to beat Washington and win the NFC East.

On Sunday night, the Cowboys and Redskins will face off in a season finale for the sixth time in history. Here is a review of the previous five games.

1979—Dallas 35, Washington 34

Many fans remember the first time the teams met to end a regular season. Dallas and Washington were both 10-5 when they faced off at Texas Stadium on December 16, 1979. The winner would win the NFC East, while a Dallas loss would have sent the Cowboys to the wildcard game one week later to play the Eagles.

Washington took a 34-21 lead in the fourth quarter and had the ball with about four minutes left.

Nothing looked good for the Cowboys until a series of plays that allowed Roger Staubach to pull off one last miracle.

  • On a 3rd and 5 play with just under 4 minutes left, Clarence Harmon fumbled the ball, and Randy White recovered.
  • Staubach went to work right after the fumble, hitting Butch Johnson, Tony Hill, and Ron Springs on consecutive passes. The 26-yard pass to Springs for a touchdown cut the Washington lead to 34-28.
  • Washington faced a critical 3rd-and-2 with 2 minutes left. John Riggins tried to run outside, but Larry Cole burst through the hole and caught Riggins for a loss.
  • The Cowboys got the ball back with 1:46 at their own 25. Hill came up with another huge reception, picking up 20 yards on the first play of the drive.
  • On the next play, Staubach evaded the rush and hit Preston Pearson over the middle for another 23-yard gain.
  • Pearson’s second reception of the drive moved the ball to the Washington 8, which set up Staubach’s game-winning pass to Hill.

Here’s a video worth watching:

1996—Washington 37, Dallas 10

The Cowboys had nothing to gain when they faced the Redskins in the season finale in 1996. This was the last game ever played at RFK Stadium, and the Cowboys barely showed up in a 37-10 loss.

1998—Dallas 23, Washington 7

Two years later, the Cowboys hosted Washington with a chance to sweep the entire division. Dallas beat the Redskins but then turned around and lost to division rival Arizona one week later.

2002—Washington 20, Dallas 14

There was nothing on the line when the teams faced off in 2002. The game proved to be Emmitt Smith’s last with Dallas. He entered the game needing 38 yards to reach 1,000 for the 12th consecutive year. He managed just 13 yards on 18 carries.

2007—Washington 27, Dallas 6

Many thought the Cowboys needed momentum heading into the 2007 playoffs. Instead, the Redskins thumped Dallas, and two weeks later, Dallas lost to the Giants in the playoffs.

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The Worst Thanksgiving Games for the Dallas Cowboys

English: Texas Stadium - Dallas Cowboys World ...

The Cowboys’ championship mural doesn’t include references to these Thanksgiving Day losses.

Thursday’s loss to the Washington Redskins was certainly not the first Thanksgiving loss for the Cowboys. Dallas now holds an overall record of 28-16-1 during the annual game, which is quite good.

However, the loss to Washington was one of the worst in team history on Thanksgiving. In fact, I am going to name it as the worst. Here is a list of the contenders.

10. Miami 16, Dallas 14 (1993)

This game just has to make the list, even though the Cowboys never lost another game and eventually won Super Bowl XXVIII. Dallas and Miami played in the snow at Texas Stadium, and the Cowboys appeared to secure the win by blocking a final field-goal attempt. However, Leon Lett tried to recover the loose ball. When he failed, Miami recovered and had one more chance. Pete Stoyanovich made his next try, giving Miami the win.

9. Houston Oilers 30, Dallas 24 (1979)

A Heisman Trophy winning player from Texas visited Dallas and torched the Cowboys. Sound familiar? Playing in his second year, Earl Campbell ran all over Dallas, gaining 195 yards and scoring two touchdowns. The Cowboys had a lead for much of the game, but the Oilers came from behind to win it. The loss dropped Dallas to 8-5, but the Cowboys won their remaining regular-season games.

8. Minnesota 44, Dallas 38 (1987)

At 5-5, the Cowboys had to beat the Vikings to have any realistic chance to make the playoffs. Sound familiar? Minnesota went up by 14 points on several occasions, but the Cowboys kept battling back. Danny White’s four touchdown passes kept Dallas in the game, but his interception during overtime killed the team’s chances. Minnesota won, White never played in a significant game again, and Tom Landry never competed for a playoff spot again.

7. San Francisco 31, Dallas 10 (1972)

 The 7-3 Cowboys hosted the 49ers trying to stay close to the 9-1 Redskins. Instead, it was the Skip Vanderbundt show. He scored touchdowns on fumble and interception returns in a game that was never close. Dallas ended up finishing one game behind Washington in the NFC East. Of course, Dallas managed to avenge the loss to San Francisco in the playoffs in Roger Staubach’s first miracle comeback.

6. Miami 40, Dallas 21 (2003)

The Cowboys were 8-3 when they hosted the Dolphins on Thanksgiving. Dallas had just won a big game over Carolina, and hopes were high that the Cowboys would do something in the playoffs. Instead, the Cowboys gave up 23 points in the first half in a bad loss. The Cowboys finished the season at 10-6 and lost to the Panthers in the playoffs.

5. Tennessee Oilers 27, Dallas 14 (1997)

The Cowboys entered this game at 6-6 and were still in the playoff hunt. Quarterback Steve McNair helped to end those playoff hopes by leading Tennessee to 24 first-half points. After the loss, the Cowboys quit and lost their final three games to finish at 6-10.

4. Denver 24, Dallas 21 (2005)

The 7-3 Cowboys needed a win to help their playoff chances. They trailed for much of the game but forced overtime thanks to a late touchdown from Drew Bledsoe to Jason Witten.  In overtime, though, Ron Dayne ran right through the Dallas defense on a 55-yard run, setting up the game-winning field goal. The Cowboys finished at 9-7 and missed the playoffs for the second straight year.

3. Philadelphia 27, Dallas 0 (1989)

The Cowboys weren’t contending for anything when they hosted the Eagles on Thanksgiving. Nevertheless, Dallas had to play for pride during the first infamous Bounty Bowl in which Buddy Ryan, father of the Cowboys’ current defensive coordinator, put a price on the heads of several Cowboys.  There was not much pride left in Dallas after the 27-0 loss.

2. Minnesota 46, Dallas 36 (1998)

A few thought the 8-3 Cowboys could contend with the 10-1 Vikings. Then rookie Randy Moss made his first visit to Texas Stadium. The Cowboys had no clue how to stop him as he caught three passes for 163 yards and 3 touchdowns. Troy Aikman threw for 455 yards, but Dallas was never really in the game. The Cowboys finished the season at 10-6 and lost to the Cardinals in the playoffs.

1. Washington 38, Dallas 31 (2012)

At 5-5, the Cowboys had hopes they could contend for the NFC East title. Instead, rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III rode into Dallas, and Rob Ryan’s defense had no clue how to stop him. It was 28-3 at halftime thanks to three RGIII touchdowns, and Tony Romo’s 441 passing yards meant nothing in the loss.

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Cowboys Rank High in Total Offense and Defense for Week #1

Here’s a quick look at some Dallas Cowboys statistics.

Week #1 of the NFL season featured plenty of offense. Teams averaged a total of 342.2 yards per game, which was just below the league’s average of 346.8 yards per game in 2011 and higher than the average of 336.0 yards per game in 2010.

Ranking high on the list of total yards, for one week at least, were the Cowboys. The team ranked #11 in 2011 with an average of 375.5 yards per game. Against the Giants, the Cowboys finished with 433 total yards, which ranked third among all teams. Only Washington and Philadelphia had higher numbers.

Dallas finished the week with the highest statistics in yards per play, averaging 7.6 yards for each play. Only the Baltimore Ravens averaged at least 7 yards per play last week. In 16 games in 2011, the Cowboys averaged 5.9 yards per play, which ranked #10.

Offensive line remains a concern, of course. Here’s a noteworthy stat: The Dallas line ranks 30th in terms of total experience, as its five starters have started a total of 144 games. The two teams below the Cowboys are the Indianapolis Colts and Seattle Seahawks, the latter of which the Cowboys play on Sunday. Seattle’s starters have started a total of 89 games. Ranking #1 in the experience category is the Detroit line, which features players who have started a total of 528 games.

The Cowboys’ defense gave up only 269 yards on Wednesday and rank #7 in total defense after one week.

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This Might Be a Scary NFC East

Three of the four NFC East teams started the season at 1-0.

The Cowboys’ season-opening win on Wednesday may have been a statement that the team can contend for the NFC East title. If week #1 is any indication, this will be quite a race.

In the past decade, Dallas has usually been able to count on the Redskins struggling. That may not be the case any longer thanks to a couple of rookies.

Robert Griffin III started the game against the Saints throwing a series of WR screens. Those screens became downfield throws soon enough, and he finished the game completing 19 of 26 passes for 320 yards with 2 TDs and no picks. That’s a passer rating of 139.9. Drew Brees only managed a passer rating of 70.9 in a 40-32 loss to Washington.

The other rookie is running back Alfred Morris, who was previously best known as a deep fantasy sleeper. He ran hard en route to a 96-yard, 2 TD game.

In Cleveland, the Eagles did not look good all game. Michael Vick threw four picks, and the Browns held a 16-10 lead in the fourth quarter. However, Vick managed to hit Clay Harbor with the game-winning touchdown with 1:18 remaining, giving the Eagles a 17-16 win.

That means that defending Super Bowl Champions are now the only 0-1 team in the NFC East.  On top of that, San Francisco, Atlanta, and Chicago each had strong games, showing that the NFC as a whole looks awfully tough.

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A Great Opening Day Game by a Forgotten Cowboy

Dallas receiver Kevin Ogletree managed to change the focus of conversations from “The Cowboys don’t have a third receiver” to “This Ogletree kid looked awfully good. Should I pick him up on waivers for my fantasy team?”

(Eric Karabell at ESPN says yes to the last question. I own Miles Austin in two leagues and would prefer to see better production from #19. That’s a different matter, though).

Anyway, the point of this post isn’t really about Ogletree. It’s about one of the greatest opening-day performances not only in Cowboys history but also in league history. A certain receiver once opened as season by catching 10 passes for 241 yards with 3 TDs, two of which were on pass plays of longer than 50 yards. For those scoring at home, that’s 42.1 fantasy points in most standard leagues and 52.1 points in PPR leagues.

Of course, fantasy points were quite irrelevant to this player, who was not Bob Hayes, Drew Pearson, or Michael Irvin.

The player was Frank Clarke. His 3 TDs helped the Cowboys to a 35-35 tie with the Washington Redskins on opening day in 1962. Those 241 receiving yards are the most by any receiver on opening day in league history, according to a post today at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Of course, without the  fantasy football implications of today, reference to Clarke’s performance did not appear until the ninth paragraph of Charles Burton’s story in the Dallas Morning News:

The tie score obscured a brilliant day of pass receiving and running by Frank Clarke, the veteran wingback, who caught the ball 10 times, made the catches worth 241 yards and three touchdowns.

Incidentally, Clarke had some other monster games for the Cowboys. He had two games in 1963 alone where he had more than 150 receiving yards, including an 8-reception, 190-yard performance against the San Francisco 49ers.

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Dallas Cowboys History in Quotes: The 1989 Season

Back to the Dallas Cowboys history in quote series. Today’s quote focus on the 1989 Cowboys, who went 1-15 in Jimmy Johnson‘s first season as head coach.

Before the quotes, take a look at a “highlight” videos about that team.

Oh, there’s more, including Part 2 and Part 3.

On to the quotes—

“‘K mart’ didn’t try to fall down. That’s just football. You’ve got to accept it.”

Troy Aikman after a 27-21 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. The Cowboys led 21-10 at halftime but could not score in the second half. Aikman was referring to receiver Kelvin Martin, who fell down on a route late in the game, leading to an Aikman interception.

“The rocky days are not over for the Cowboys. But I’m happy to get the win. We’re going to have a lot of wins over the next so-many years in Dallas, and it’s good to get it started.”

Jimmy Johnson after the Cowboys picked up their first and only win of the 1989 season against the Washington Redskins.

“Winning and losing concerns me, but what concerns me more is when you take away from the integrity of the game. It was confirmed last night by an Eagles coach and two Eagles’ players that there was a $200 bounty on Luis Zendejas and a $500 bounty on Troy Aikman. That’s not the way the game is supposed to be played.”

Johnson about bounties that Philadelphia coach Buddy Ryan placed on several Cowboys’ heads. Dallas lost to the Eagles on Thanksgiving Day, 27-0.

Did You Know?

When the Cowboys lost to the Falcons, it marked the first time since 1963 that Dallas had started a season 0-2.

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Cowboys Favored Over Redskins, Though the Spread May Be Tough to Beat

The Cowboys are 11 1/2-point favorites against the 3-6 Redskins. Nearly
everyone believes that the Cowboys will win, but few think that Dallas will
cover this big spread.

According to the simulations, it will be a close call. As noted below, both
AccuScore and WhatIfSports predict an 11-point Dallas win.

Dallas 28, Washington 17

The Cowboys won 80% of AccuScore’s simulations by an average score of 28.3 to

The Cowboys offense took a week off vs. Green Bay but they should be much
better this week. There is a 62 percent chance that Dallas has at least 350
offensive yards and Dallas has an 83 percent chance of winning if the
offense performs as expected. If Washington holds Dallas to under 80 rushing
yards the Redskins are just 42 percent underdogs. If Washington can rush for
80+ yards while holding the Cowboys to under 80 Washington is actually the
65 percent favorite. Both QBs are averaging under 1 INT per simulation and
there are not expected to be many turnovers in the game. If Dallas commits
no more than 1 turnover and Tony Romo has no interceptions the Cowboys are
heavy 89 percent favorites.

WhatIfSports: Dallas 28, Washington 17

The results of the WhatIfSports simulations were nearly identical to
AccuScore’s simulations. On WhatIfSports, the Cowboys won 79.1% of the games by
an average score of 28-17. Tashard Choice had a bigger game in these
simulations, averaging 61 yards on 12 carries compared with Marion Barber’s 50
yards and Felix Jones’ 49 yards. The Dallas passing game was hardly impressive
in the sims, though, with Tony Romo throwing for fewer than 190 yards.

Madden Simulation: Washington 30, Dallas 23

I did a double-take when reading this one, as ESPN’s simulation of the game
using Madden resulted in a Washington win.

Heading into the fourth quarter, Dallas is cruising with a 20-13 lead
against their division rivals from D.C., but that’s when the unthinkable
happens and the Redskins offense explodes for 17 fourth-quarter points to
steal the game, 30-23.

That’s right, we used "Redskins" and "offense explodes" in the same
sentence thanks to the awesome running of Betts (96 yards, one touchdown)
and the game-winning catch by Santana Moss.

The loss is Dallas’ second in a row as they now fall to 6-4 on the season
after watching their defense give up 17 points in a quarter to one of the
lowest scoring teams in the NFL.

My Guess (6-3 this season
based on win-loss).


I had two very good weeks with
my predictions, but last week my guess just stunk. My thoughts last Saturday:

As for Sunday’s game, I
think Dallas will do well. The Packers can be a dangerous team, but their
confidence seemed shaken after the loss to the Vikings two weeks ago. They
were hardly impressive in the loss to Tampa Bay last week. Dallas should
bring a balanced attack, taking advantage of Aaron Kampman’s absence from
the game.

Balanced attack? Dallas passed
its way to a bunch of three-and-outs, and mistake after mistake didn’t help
matters. My poor guess dropped my season record to 6-3.


Week 1: Dallas 34, Tampa Bay 24
(actual: Dallas 34, Tampa Bay 21)

Week 2: N.Y. Giants 17, Dallas
14 (actual: N.Y. Giants 33, Dallas 31)

Week 3: Dallas 31, Carolina 21
(actual: Dallas 21, Carolina 7)

Week 4: Dallas 24, Denver 14
(actual: Denver 17, Dallas 10)

Week 5: Dallas 31, Kansas City
14 (actual: Dallas 26, Kansas City 20)

Week 7: Atlanta 28, Dallas 17
(actual: Dallas 37, Atlanta 21)

Week 8: Dallas 31, Seattle 17
(actual Dallas 38, Seattle 17)

Week 9: Dallas 23, Philadelphia
17 (actual: Dallas 20, Philadelphia 16)

Week 10: Dallas 31, Green Bay 20
(actual: Green Bay 17, Dallas 7)


As for this week, I think Dallas
will control the clock by using shorter passes and the running game. Romo may
have a couple of big plays to Miles Austin to help set up scores, but the real
story in this game will be the defense’s role in smothering the Redskins and the
offense’s role in grinding out yards and keeping the ball out of Washington’s
hands. Result:



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Dallas 20, Washington 6

50 Seasons Series: "No! No! No, Danny, No!"

Part of the 50 Seasons Series.

The 1983 Cowboys entered into their week 15 matchup with the Washington Redskins with a 12-2 record. One win and the Cowboys would set a club record for wins in a season. One win and the Cowboys would wrap up the NFC East. One win and perhaps Danny White would get another shot at making the Super Bowl.

Dallas trailed 14-10 in the third quarter and faced a 4th-and-1 from midfield. Dallas lined up, obviously trying to pull the Redskins offsides. At some point during the snap count, though, Danny White decided to audible into a running play. He handed the ball off to Ron Springs, who ran left. Washington defensive end Charles Mann crashed the right side of the line, and guard Herbert Scott could not block him. Springs lost two yards, and the Cowboys lost momentum they had gained since coming back from an early 14-0 deficit.

The video clearly shows an angry Tom Landry screaming, “No! No! No, Danny, No!”

Though the Redskins did not score immediately, the tide had turned. Later in the third quarter, Joe Theismann hit Art Monk on a 47-yard touchdown pass, and the game turned into a blowout. The Cowboys could not even stop the Redskins from performing the “fun bunch” celebration after the Monk score.

Dallas managed only 33 rushing yards, setting a team mark for futility on the ground. Although the Cowboys could still win the NFC East the following week by hoping for a New York win over Washington coupled with a Dallas win over San Francisco, the prospects for a Super Bowl run looked bleak.

Redskins Beat Up Cowboys, 31-10

Box Score

50 Seasons Series: Cowboys Stun Redskins to Open 1983 Season

This post is part of the 50 Seasons Series.

The Cowboys may have struggled to find ultimate playoff success during the 1980s, but they were still one of the stronger teams in the league for the first half of the decade. To open the 1983 season, they had to return to RFK Stadium in Washington to face the defending Super Bowl Champion Redskins.

Washington raced out to a 23-3 halftime lead. The most memorable moment in the first half was a 77-yard run by Tony Dorsett, but even that play was overshadowed by rookie Darrell Green running Dorsett down from behind.

By 1983, Tony Hill had become the team’s best receiver, and when Danny White went deep to Hill in the second half, good things happened. White connected with Hill on touchdown passes of 75 and 51 yards to cut the Washington lead to 23-17. A White touchdown run followed by a TD pass to Doug Cosbie gave the Cowboys the lead for good. Washington scored late to close the gap to 31-30, but Dallas was able to run out the clock.

Here is a great video on YouTube by a user named rowisdan showing the highlights from this Monday Night Football game.

More references:

Cowboys Rally by Redskins, 31-30 (DMN)

Box Score

50 Seasons Series: Landry-Era Dynasty Ends in 1982

This post is part of the 50 Seasons in 50 Weeks Series.

Between 1966 and 1982, the Cowboys appeared in 12 conference (or, prior to 1970, NFL) title games and five Super Bowls. During that time, the Cowboys never had a losing season and missed the playoffs just once. In 16 trips to the playoffs, the Cowboys won at least one playoff game 12 times.

Having defeated the Buccaneers and Packers in the 1982 playoffs, Dallas traveled to Washington to face the Redskins for the NFC championship. The Cowboys fell behind 14-3 in the first half, thanks in part to dominant performances by the Washington offensive line and defense. More problematic, though, was the poor performance of the Dallas special teams units, which gave up a fumble on a punt and allowed a 76-yard kickoff return. Before halftime, Dexter Manley knocked quarterback Danny White out of the game, leaving the Cowboys to rely on backup Gary Hogeboom to attempt a comeback.

Hogeboom threw touchdown passes to Drew Pearson and Butch Johnson to close the gap to 21-17 in the third quarter. However, Hogeboom threw two costly interceptions that led to the final 10 points for the Redskins. The Cowboys failed to score for the remainder of the game, and the Redskins were on their way to Super Bowl XVII.

For Dallas, the Cowboys would return to the playoffs two more times, but the team never won another playoff game during the Tom Landry Era. Sports Illustrated referred to the Washington game as the end of the Landry-Era dynasty. It was.

More references…

Box Score

Redskins Super-ior to Cowboys (DMN)