Random Game Sunday- Dallas 21 Philadelphia 10, December 13, 1981

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Cowboys’ quarterback Danny White walks off of the field at Texas Stadium on December 13, 1981 following Dallas’ clinching the NFC East title with a 21-10 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

This week’s “Random Game Sunday” contest looks back at a Week 15 showdown at Texas Stadium between division rivals Philadelphia and Dallas. After finishing second to the Eagles in the NFC East in 1980, the Cowboys looked to reestablish their dominance in the division in 1981.

THE SET-UP

The Cowboys entered the game with an 11-3 record and could win the division crown with a win in one of their final two games.  Dallas desperately wanted to win the crown at home against bitter rival Philadelphia, a team the Cowboys had defeated on November 1, 1981 by a 17-14 score in a hard-fought battle at Veterans Stadium.

For the Eagles, things were heading south as they moved toward the end of the campaign.   The defending NFC Champions started the season 9-2, but had lost three games in a row heading into their showdown with Dallas.  The Eagles had an outside shot at winning the NFC East, and needed at least one win in their final two games to secure a playoff spot.

LATE SEASON SHOWDOWNS

The Cowboys were accustomed to coming up big in late season against long-time rivals with divisional titles or playoff spots on the line.

In 1973, Dallas dominated Washington 27-7 in Week 13 to position itself to win the NFC East the following week in St. Louis.  Two years later with a NFC Wild Card playoff spot on the line, Dallas trounced the Redskins 31-10 and ended up not only in the playoffs but as the NFC Champion.   In 1978, a Thanksgiving Day 37-10 rout of Washington and a 31-13 win at Philadelphia in Week 15 positioned were key in Dallas’ capturing the division title.   And in December 1979, consecutive wins over the Giants, Eagles and Redskins (the latter coming in a thrilling 35-34 win at home) gave the Cowboys’ their fourth consecutive NFC East crown.

STARTING SLOWLY

Dallas’ first two possessions of the game ended in disappointment, as Rafael Septien missed field goal tries of 47 and 43 yards. The misses were unusual for the reliable Septien, who made 27 of the 35 field goal attempts he tried in 1981.   His 77.1 percentage success rate was the third highest mark of his career

Philadelphia got a 50 yard field goal from Toni Franklin to take a 3-0 lead at the end of the first quarter, and used a beautiful 42 yard pass down the left sideline from Ron Jaworski to Ron Smith to set up a one yard touchdown run by fullback Booker Russell to put the visitors on top 10-0 with 10:08 left in the second quarter.

THE BIG BREAK

Facing a 4th and 1 at the Philadelphia 45 yard line with the score still 10-0 in favor of the visitors with 1:37 left in the half, Cowboys’ coach Tom Landry faced a dilemma.  The Eagles’ defense had done a nice job holding the Dallas’ running game down in the half, and a failed attempt at picking up the first down would put the Eagles in position to expand their lead before halftime.

Landry decided to punt, and the decision worked out splendidly when the Eagles’ John Sciarra fumbled at the Dallas 20 with Anthony Dickerson of the Cowboys’ pouncing on the ball.  Three plays later, Danny White and Tony Hill connected on a beautifully executed fade pattern to the right corner of the Eagles’ end zone and Dallas had cut the Eagles’ lead to 10-7.

TAKING CONTROL

The Eagles outplayed Dallas for most of the first half, but the tables would be turned in the final two quarters.

Dallas took the opening kick of the third quarter and drove 80 yards for the go-ahead score behind some key passes by White.   The Cowboys’ quarterback first hit Hill for a 25 yard gain on a third and 15 play from their own 15 yard line to keep the drive alive.  A 16 yard toss to Hill and a 18 yard connection with Jay Saldi, the latter made possible by great protection by the Cowboys’ offensive line, moved Dallas to the Eagles’ 36 yard line.  Facing a third and ten situation from that spot, White and Butch Johnson split the safeties in the Eagles’ defense on a post pattern for a pretty touchdown pass that gave Dallas a 14-10 lead.

GETTING IT BACK

In 1981, the Cowboys’ defense surrendered fewer than 20 points in 11 of Dallas’ 16 regular season games.  A big part of the Cowboys’ defensive success was due to its ability to create turnovers.  Dallas’ dominating front line of Ed Jones, John Dutton, Hall of Famer Randy White and Harvey Martin did its part to put opposing quarterbacks in distress, and the Cowboys’ back seven often finished the deal as Dallas led the NFL with 37 interceptions.

In their battle with the Eagles, Dallas intercepted Jaworski four times. Three of those interceptions were by Dennis Thurman in an effort that tied a Cowboys’ club record (set in 1971 by Herb Adderly and equaled by Ring of Honor member Lee Roy Jordan in 1973).

Thurman’s first pick came in the second quarter on a tipped pass deep in Cowboys’ territory and prevented the Eagles from expanding their 10-0 lead.  In the third quarter, Thurman played a long pass attempt to Ron Smith beautifully, beating the receiver to the spot to grab his second interception of the game. And in the final minutes of the game, the USC product benefited from tremendous pressure on Jaworski by Randy White to make an interception that all but sealed the win for Dallas.

Thurman would end the 1981 season with nine interceptions, the most in his nine year NFL career.

EARNING A CHAMPIONSHIP

Midway through the fourth quarter on a pass that was impacted greatly by a strong rush by White, Everson Walls made his 11th interception of the season to not only break a Cowboys’ team record but give Dallas the ball with a chance to put the game away.

The White-Johnson connection kept the team moving in the right direction, as a 47 yard completion moved Dallas into Eagles’ territory and sent the Texas Stadium crowd into a frenzy.  From there, the Cowboys’ ground game took over the contest.  Dallas was held to only 50 yards rushing in the first half, but nearly doubled that total in the game’s final two quarters.

Primarily using two tight end formations, Dallas ran to victory behind excellent execution against a game but tiring Eagles’ front seven.  Ron Springs and Tony Dorsett each had eight yard gains to give the Cowboys a first down at the Eagles 22.  A five yard run by Springs (44 yards rushing in the game, all in the second half) and a four yard pickup by Dorsett put Dallas in a third and one situation at the Philadelphia 13. White’s one yard gain on a sneak gave the Cowboys the first down, and then Springs ran for 12 yards and a touchdown behind a perfectly performed double team block by Dallas’ Tom Rafferty and Herbert Scott.

Later after Thurman’s third interception, Dallas ran out the final 4:11 of the contest by moving the ball on the ground. Dorsett would finish with 101 yards in the game, breaking the Cowboys’ all-time rushing record in the process.

VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE

Watching Dallas’ teams from the 1970s and early 1980s made it clear that the Cowboys’ front office did a great job infusing the team’s roster with talent.

In 1981 the Cowboys’ offense had a variety of ways, featuring a variety of individuals, to attack a defense.  On the ground Dorsett, who gained a career high 1,646 yards on the year, was the bell cow but Springs, veteran Robert Newhouse and youngsters James Jones and Timmy Newsome also could make plays.

In the air, White had talented Hill and Drew Pearson as his starting wideouts with Johnson playing a key role as Dallas’ slot receiver.  Speedy rookie Doug Donley was on the sidelines in case of injury to the team’s top three receivers, and Dallas’ deep tight end roster of Billy Joe DuPree, Jay Saldi and Doug Cosbie gave White more reliable targets to seek out in the passing game.

In the 21-10 win over the Eagles, White connected with eight different receivers as he completed 17 of 30 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns.

HANGING TOUGH

The Eagles’ defense was the team’s strongest unit in the second half of the 1981 season, and that strength was evident (particularly in the first half) in the week 15 battle.

Defensive end Carl Hairston and nose tackle Charles Johnson caused problems for the Cowboys’ running game, and linebacker Jerry Robinson (seven tackles, three assists, one forced fumble) was all over the field making plays.

THE AFTERMATH

The Cowboys would start the 1981 playoffs at home with a 38-0 whitewashing of Tampa Bay.   That win earned them a trip to San Francisco to face the upstart 49ers in the NFC Title game, a contest that would go down to the wire before the 49ers pulled out a 28-27 victory.

Philadelphia routed the St. Louis Cardinals 38-0 in the season’s final week to earn a playoff spot, but fell in bitter fashion at home to division rival New York 27-21 to end its reign as NFC title holder.

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Random Game Sunday- Dallas 34 Washington 16, October 16, 1977

Embed from Getty Images

This week, we go back to the Cowboys’ championship season of 1977 to review an early season matchup with arch-rival Washington at Texas Stadium.   Like most Cowboys-Redskins games played at Texas Stadium, the home team came out on top in the end.

THE SET-UP

The Cowboys’ 1977 squad was arguably the best collection of talent in team history.  They entered the week five showdown with George Allen’s Redskins with a perfect 4-0 record, and the team had the look of a serious Super Bowl contender.

Hopes were high in Washington as well as after an opening week loss to the New York Giants,  the Redskins had won three games in a row and came to Dallas with hopes of joining the Cowboys at the top of the NFC East standings.

DOMINANT DOOMSDAY

The Dallas Cowboys’ Doomsday Defense controlled the contest, allowing the Redskins only three field goals and a touchdown that was set up by a blocked punt that put the ball at the Dallas one yard line.

Allowing one or fewer touchdowns in a game was a fairly common occurrence for the Super Bowl 12 champion Cowboys in 1977.   The Cowboys did the trick in eight of their 14 regular season games, and in all three of their post-season victories.

Dallas’ defense allowed only one net passing yard in the game, the third lowest total net passing yards allowed in team history.    On October 24, 1965 in a 13-3 loss at Green Bay, the Packers had a minus 10 net passing yardage total.  Ten years later in a  Cowboys 31-21 victory over the New York Jets at Shea Stadium, the home team had a minus one yard total.    The 1977 Cowboys would stifle an opponents’ passing game three weeks after their big win over Washington.  On November 6th, Dallas defeated Detroit 37-0 and allowed only two net passing yards.

LEADING THE WAY

Cowboys’ quarterback Roger Staubach completed 15 of 28 passes for 250 yards in the game, compiling a 107.7 QBR that was the highest of his career against arch-rival Washington.   In six games played at Texas Stadium in which Staubach started and finished the game, Dallas was 5-1 with four of the five wins coming in routs (Dallas won by an average of 21.5 points in those games).

A FULL DAY FOR A FULLBACK

Dallas’ short but powerful fullback Robert Newhouse was  big part of the Cowboys’ win. Whether it was running the ball, blocking for fellow back Tony Dorsett or helping out in pass protection for Staubach, the veteran was a major presence in Dallas’ fine offensive effort.

Newhouse rushed for 71 yards in 17 carries on the day, scoring two touchdowns.  For the season, the Houston product would gain 771 yards which was the second highest yardage total of his career (Newhouse’s 930 yards led the 1975 NFC Champion Cowboys).

SACK ATTACK

Washington quarterbacks Billy Kilmer and Joe Theismann probably needed heavy doses of pain medication on their team’s trip back to DC following a game where they spent a good deal of time on the tartan turf at Texas Stadium.

Dallas had eight sacks on the day, including three by eventual NFL Defensive Player of the Year Harvey Martin.   Martin’s running mate Randy White chipped in with two sacks, Ed Jones and Larry Cole had one each, and Bill Gregory and Thomas Henderson had 1/2 sack each in the dominant effort by Dallas’ front seven.

One sequence at the end of the game showed the awesome power of the Cowboys’ front line when an opponent was in a passing situation.  On second and 10 from its own 40 yard line with 31 seconds to play, Jones trapped Theismann for an eight yard loss.  The plucky Theismann called timeout to set up a play for Washington, only to have Martin shoot through the left side of the Redskins’ line to trap the Redskins’ quarterback for an eleven yard loss.  Instead of letting the clock run out, Theismann and the Redskins gave it one more try on a fourth and 29 situation and the payoff was another sack by Martin, this one for a loss of 11 yards.

BIG PLAY RECEIVERS

It was a rough day for Washington’s secondary, particularly for backup cornerback Gerard Williams who was pressed into action when starter Pat Fischer couldn’t answer the bell due to injury.

Willams was beaten for big scores by both Drew Pearson and Golden Richards in a game where Dallas had numerous explosive plays in the passing game.

Pearson’s long touchdown, a regular season career high 59 yard scoring play, came in the fourth quarter when Washington gambled that a full blitz could stop Staubach and the Cowboys.  The defensive tactic left the embattled Williams one on one with Dallas’ best receiver, and thee results were not good for the Redskins.  Pearson caught six passes for 159 yards in the game, the third highest yardage total of his Ring of Honor level career.

The speedy Richards burned Williams for a 50 yard touchdown on an out and up play in the second quarter that gave the Cowboys a lead they’d never lose.  Of Richards’ 18 career regular season catches for a touchdown,  14 of them were from 31 yards or longer.

LEARNING ON THE JOB

Dallas’ heralded rookie Tony Dorsett was obviously a target of the hard hitting Washington defense, who treated the speedy halfback with disdain every time he touched the ball.   Dorsett showed flashes of his other worldly speed in the game, but finished with only 51 yards in 19 carries on the game.

The first year Cowboy’s biggest play in the game came on a Tom Landry offense staple, a halfback pass.  In the second quarter on a first and ten play from Dallas’ 30 yard line, Dorsett took a pitch from Staubach, rolled to his left and threw a strike to Pearson for a 34 yard gain along the sideline that barely missed being a touchdown when Pearson couldn’t avoid stepping out of bounds at the Washington 36.  The play helped set up Newhouse’s first rushing score of the game, a touchdown that expanded Dallas’ lead to 14-6.

THE AFTERMATH

The Cowboys would start the season with eight straight wins, drop consecutive November games to St. Louis and Pittsburgh, and then finish off their second Super Bowl winning season with seven consecutive wins in one of Dallas’ most dominant stretches in team history.

George Allen would never lick his thumbs or tug on his ball cap again at Texas Stadium, as the 1977 season was his final one as Redskins’ head coach.  Washington would win five of its last six games in route to a respectable 9-5 record, but a tough 14-7 loss to the Cowboys at RFK Stadium on the Sunday after Thanksgiving helped keep Allen’s team from earning a wild card playoff bid.

 

 

 

 

Cosbie Show a Hit in Big D From 1979 through 1988

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Cowboys tight end Doug Cosbie runs for yardage after catching a pass from Danny White in a 1984 Cowboys-Redskins game at Texas Stadium.

 

At 6’6″ and 236 pounds with the power to block linemen and linebackers and the speed to threaten defensive backs, former Cowboy tight end Doug Cosbie seemed to be straight out of central casting when he joined the team in 1979.  The California native, who turns 62 today, had a strong 10 year career that made him one of the best at his position in Cowboys’ history.

Looking to develop a potential successor to veteran star Billy Joe DuPree, Dallas made Cosbie the 76th pick in the 1979 NFL draft.  Cosbie played behind DuPree and veteran Jay Saldi in his rookie year, but earned the praise of head coach Tom Landry heading into his second season.  In the 1980 Official Dallas Cowboys Bluebook, Landry was quoted as saying, “Cosbie is an excellent prospect.  He has the same dimensions as Billy Joe DuPree. He has excellent blocking techniques, he catches the ball well and he is smart”.

Cosbie began becoming a target of Dallas quarterback Danny White in the 1981 season. He caught five regular season touchdowns, including crucial touchdowns in key mid-season wins over Miami, Philadelphia and Buffalo that helped Dallas regain the NFC East title they had lost to the Eagles in 1980. He also caught a fourth quarter 21 yard touchdown pass from White in the 1981 NFC title game that seemed to have Dallas in route to a NFC championship before the 49ers rallied to win in the game’s final minutes.

By 1982, Cosbie had supplanted DuPree as Dallas’ top tight end.  He caught 30 passes for a career high 14. 7 yard per catch and four touchdowns that year before starting a three year span from 1983 through 1985 when the Santa Clara product made the Pro Bowl each season.

Cosbie’s best season from a statistical standpoint was in 1985, when caught 64 passes and scored six touchdowns to help Dallas to an NFC East title.  In week two of that season, the lanky receiver set career highs in receptions (11) and yards gained (159) in a 26-21 loss at Detroit.  On Thanksgiving Day of that year in a 35-17 route of St. Louis, Cosbie caught five passes for 122 yards and a touchdown to help Dallas earn a crucial divisional win.

Among full-time tight ends, Cosbie’s 30 career touchdown catches ranks behind only Jason Witten’s 68 and DuPree’s 41 in team history.   His final scoring play came in a week 15 victory at Los Angeles over the Rams on a 27 pass from Steve Pelluer.

Like many Cowboys’ players before him, Cosbie came into a successful Dallas program as a backup, worked his way into more and more playing time by honing his craft and eventually became a star.   He never experienced the ultimate goal of winning a Super Bowl crown, but he was part of six playoff teams in his decade in Dallas.  When the roll is called of Cowboys’ greats at the tight end position, it doesn’t take long before Cosbie’s name is mentioned.

 

Random Game Sunday- Dallas 38 Arizona 10, September 6, 1998

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Emmitt Smith, who rushed for a game high 129 yards, runs the ball in Dallas’ 38-10 opening week victory over the Arizona Cardinals at Texas Stadium on September 6, 1998 (photo- Getty Images).

With the 2018 NFL season still months away, we’re looking back at Cowboys’ game from the past in our weekly review of some of the contests from season’s past.  In this week’s edition, we look at game one of the short-lived Chan Gailey era as the Cowboys took on divisional rival Arizona in the first game of the 1998 campaign.

THE SETUP

After being among the NFL’s most dominant teams from 1991 through 1996, the Cowboys took a major step backward in 1997 going 6-10 and missing the playoffs for the first time in seven years.  The slide cost coach Barry Switzer his job, leading to the hiring of former Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Chan Gailey as the fourth head coach in Cowboys’ history.  With a veteran and talented roster and Gailey’s offensive scheme, which included some concepts from the halcyon days of Tom Landry’s Cowboys, there was optimism in Dallas that the team’s absence from the playoffs would be temporary.

Only occasionally contending,  the Arizona Cardinals were truly the red-headed step-child of the often rugged NFC East.   In 1998 however, the Giants, Eagles and Redskins all struggled, leaving the Cards as the primary challenge for Dallas for divisional bragging rights.  Led by playmaking quarterback Jake Plummer and featuring talented players like Eric Swann , Rob Moore and Larry Centers, the Cardinals entered the season hoping to make their mark.

MEN OF TROY

The 1998 Cowboys had stability at the game’s most important position, as future Hall of Famer Troy Aikman was back for his 10th season in a Cowboys’ uniform.  Although there were some early game growing pains as Dallas and Aikman tried to put Gailey’s offense into high gear, the star quarterback ended up having a memorable opening day.

Aikman threw for 256 yards and two scores, and ran for 43 yards and two touchdowns as the Cowboys offense opened the season with a bang.  Aikman joined Don Meredith (12/8/1963 in a 24-19 loss to Pittsburgh) and Roger Staubach (11/10/75 in a Cowboys’ loss to Kansas City) as the only quarterbacks in team history with multiple rushing touchdowns in a game.

SAME AS IT EVER WAS

Virtually every season, it was the same old song for the Cardinals when they visited Texas Stadium.   For most members of the Cards, success at the Cowboys’ facility was a once in a lifetime proposition as they more often than not found themselves wondering what went wrong.

On this steamy early September day in the Lone Star State, the Cowboys won for the seventh straight time (and 21st time in 25 games) when playing the Cards at home.   Unfortunately for the Cowboys, the visitors would eventually get revenge on a cold January day with a surprising 20-7 win over the Cowboys in the 1998 NFC Wid Card Playoffs.

CHAN THE MAN

Chan Gailey’s tenure in Dallas lasted only two year as,  but his teams certainly put up some good results when playing at home.   The Cowboys’ rout of Arizona was one of 13 Dallas would earn in 16 regular season games at Texas Stadiumn under Gailey.  Most of the victories at home were not particularly close, as the Cowboys prevailed by 10 or more points in nine of the 13 wins.

The new coach’s team also did something unique in the 1998 season, winning all eight of its regular season contests against NFC East foes.

ERN-ING HIS KEEP

Veteran wide receiver Ernie Mills was the only Cowboy who had played in a Gailey offense prior to 1998, and he showed in the opening game that familiarity can breed success at times.

Mills helped jump start the Cowboys’ offense in the second quarter of the, catching a key pass for a first down on the Cowboys’ first touchdown drive and then scoring on a 30 yard strike from Aikman later in the period to give Dallas a 14-0 lead.

The crafty Mills finished with four catches for 78 yards and a  score in the game in route to 28 catches, four touchdowns and a sparkling 17.1 yards per catch in 1998  before his season was cut short by a horrific injury in game 11 against Seattle.   In the 11 games in which Mills suited up for the Cowboys, they were 8-3.   In the five other contests, Dallas won only two of them.

BOUNCING BACK

Emmitt Smith’s 129 yards rushing got his 1998 season off on the right foot, and the Cowboys’ commitment to the running game proved to be a positive in the NFC East winning season.   The Florida product had seven 100 yard plus games on the year, and nine more the following season in Gailey’s offense.  All this was after he posted a career low of two games in which he rushed for 100 plus yards (Smith would also have two 100 plus games in his final season with Dallas in 2002).

NEW BLOOD

Dallas sacked Plummer only twice on the game, but put fairly consistent pressure on the Cardinal’s signal caller.   With its sack leaders from 1996 (Shante Carver with six and Tony Tolbert with five) no longer on the squad, it was up to other Cowboys to pressure the quarterback.  Kavika Pittman and back-up Hurvin McCormack would trap Plummer in the game.   Pittman’s six sacks would lead Dallas in 1998, with McCormack’s five being the second highest total.

AT ANOTHER LEVEL

Perhaps the most exciting play in the game came late in the first quarter when Cardinals’ punter Scott Player drilled a long punt that Deion Sanders turned into a must-watch moment.

Making the rest of the players on the field look like they were running in quicksand, the explosive Sanders dashed up the left-sideline for a 43 yard return that electrified the crowd.   On the year, Sanders’ 15.63 yards per punt return would lead the NFL.

Sanders’ mark trails only Dwayne Harris’ 16.09 per return average from 2012 in Cowboys’ history (minimum 20 punt returns on the year).

OPEN MIKE

Game color analysts Bill Maas and Ronnie Lott both emphasized how in pre-game discussions, Cowboys’ wide receiver Michael Irvin reported how he had focused on coming into 1998 in the best shape of his life.  Even though he was covered on virtually every play by excellent Cards’ cornerback Aeneas Williams, the noticeably slimmer Irvin was open all game.  The Playmaker caught nine passes for 119 yards on the contest, the most catches in a game against Arizona in his career.

NEW SPOT, SAME RESULTS

Cowboys’ all-world offensive lineman Larry Allen was moved to left tackle by Gailey prior to the start of the 1998 season, and the Sonoma State product excelled at that spot in the contest.  Showing both power and speed, Allen was equally effective blocking on power runs or getting out in front of receivers on screen or short pass plays.

THE AFTERMATH

Dallas’ big opening day win injected the Cowboys and their fans with optimism that took away the bitter taste of a six game losing streak that ended the disappointing 1997 season.  The Cowboys would win 10 games to capture the division title.

Arizona bounced back from the big defeat, and from a bitter 35-28 loss to Dallas at home later in the year, to win nine games and earn a wildcard playoff spot.  Their playoff win over the Cowboys on the road would avenge their two losses during the regular season, and give the Cards hope that the Cowboys’ dominance of them was coming to an end.

 

 

 

 

Random Game Sunday- Dallas 30 New Orleans 27 (OT), October 21, 1984

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Rafael Septien celebrates his game winning 41 yard field goal in overtime in Dallas 30-27 win over New Orleans at Texas Stadium on October 21, 1984.

With the Cowboys over half a year away from taking the field for the 2018 season, we are going to go back in time to check out a random game from the team’s past and make some observations after watching that game.  Most of my collection of over 125 Cowboys’ games is from the relatively recent past, but I have collected some older games over the years and You Tube also allows for the viewing of some games I do not have in my collection.  Today’s game is from October 21, 1984 as the Cowboys hosted New Orleans in a Sunday Night Football game at Texas Stadium. 

THE SET-UP

The Cowboys started the 1984 season winning four of their first five games but stumbled badly in weeks six and seven, losing to division rivals St. Louis and Washington.   Heading into the Sunday Night game with New Orleans, the Cowboys were in a major slump and also were experiencing an old Texas tradition, namely a quarterback controversy.  With the team’s fortunes on the decline, 1984 starter Gary Hogeboom was experiencing the wrath of an impatient fan base.

New Orleans entered the game at 3-4, and also sported a two game losing streak.  The Saints and Bum Phillips were a respectable 3-2 following New Orleans’ victory over Phillips’ old Houston team, but consecutive losses to Chicago and the Los Angeles Rams had the Saints in the all too familiar position of being a sub .500 team.

COMPARE AND CONTRAST

Early in the game, the broadcast team of Frank Gifford, Don Meredith and O.J. Simpson commented on the start differences between the performances of the two franchises over the previous two decades. It was pointed out that the Cowboys entered 1984 sporting 18 consecutive winning seasons, while the Saints started the season with 17 straight non-winning campaigns.  At the end of the four quarters plus of football on this long evening, some of the reasons for the teams’ contrasting fortunes would be evident.

OFFENSIVE NUMBERS

The Cowboys had long been known as having one of the NFL’s most entertaining and successful offensive units.  In 1984, the team took a major step backward.

With former stars Drew Pearson, Robert Newhouse and  Billy Joe DuPree retired,  and with valuable backup receiver Butch Johnson having been traded to Denver, the Cowboys’ offense lacked the pizzazz it had shown in previous seasons.   Throw in less less than solid play at the quarterback position and injuries to key members of the line, and the stage was set for a mediocre season on offense.

A look some figures from the 1983 and 1984 seasons shows how things had taken a step backward in Dallas:

1983                              1984

Pts scored                              479 (2nd in NFL)          308 (18th)

Passing TDS                            31                                    19

Yards per Pass Attempt        6.5                                   5.5

Yards per Rush Attempt       4.1                                   3.7

 

GROWING PAINS

No one ever disputed that new starter Hogeboom had an NFL-quality arm, but 1984 called into question whether he had the complete package to be a successful signal caller,

The good and bad of the fifth year pro were both on display in the contest.  In the first half, Hogeboom rifled a beautful pass to Tony Hill on an out pattern for a first down.  In the second period, the tall passer’s perfectly placed laser of a throw connected with Doug Cosbie despite the tight end’s being sandwiched by two Saint defenders.

Hogeboom’s other side was shown in the third quarter, when he tried to force a pass under pressure to running back James Jones only to have New Orleans’ Dirt Winston intercept the toss and return it for a score to give the Saints a 27-6 lead.

The Central Michigan product’s career never took off in Dallas.  Among Cowboys’ passers with at least 400 career pass attempts, Hogeboom was dead last in quarterback rating with a 65.4 mark.  He finished 6-6 in the 12 games he started for Dallas, sometimes showing flashes of brilliance but also (not always solely due to his fault) experiencing periods of less than solid play.

THE EARL OF IRVING

On Thanksgiving Day 1979 at Texas Stadium while playing for the Oilers, battering ram running back Earl Campbell ran nearly 200 yards to help the Oilers defeat Dallas 30-24.  On this evening in 1984, Campbell was in Saints’ colors and displayed some of the skills he showed nearly five years earlier.

Several superb runs by Campbell, along with a surprising 62 yard touchdown burst by unheralded Saints’ back Hokie Gajan, helped the visitors post an overpowering 191 rushing yards in the first half of the game.  Adjustments by Dallas would limit the Saints to only 45 rushing yards in the second half of the game.

STARTING THE COMEBACK

The Cowboys entered the fourth quarter of the game trailing 27-6, and the prospects of a patented Cowboys’ comeback looked bleak,  Just when it appeared a 4-4 record was all but a certainty for Dallas, rookie Chuck McSwain made a special teams’ play that jump started a Dallas rally.

McSwain stormed in from the right side of the Dallas line to block Brian Hanson’s punt.  The ball rolled all the way to the New Orleans three and when Tony Dorsett ran for a touchdown on the next play, the Cowboys were within striking distance with most of the final period left to play.

Veteran Dallas cornerback Everson Walls said after the contest that he “thought the blocked punt was the turning point (of the game).  McSwain shot through and made the play”.

A LONG DRIVE

The game began at the unusually late time of 8:45p Central Time due to a presidential election debate between President Ronald Reagan and Democratic candidate Walter Mondale.   It took the Dallas offense close to the midnight hour to show signs of life on this unusual evening.

Trailing by 14 points with roughly six minutes left in the game, substitute quarterback Danny White took the Cowboys on a long drive that featured many big passing plays.  First, White connected with Mike Renfro on an 18 yard completion to move the ball to the Saints’ 33.  Three plays later on a third down and 10 situation, White threw to Hill for 15 yards and a first down.  Another third down conversion, this one on an 11 yard pass to Ron Springs, moved the ball to the Saints’ 37, and Renfro’s second big catch of the possession took the ball inside the Saints’ 20.

The payoff on the drive was  a perfectly executed 12 yard touchdown pass on a slant from White to Renfro.  The score brought Dallas to within seven points of the reeling Saints, sent what was left of the Texas Stadium crowd into a frenzy.

RATTLED SNAKE

Although he was most ineffective for the time he was in the game,  New Orleans’ starting quarterback Richard Todd left the game with New Orleans up by two scores.  An injury to Todd forced the Saints to go to veteran backup Kenny Stabler, and the results were less than positive.

Around 13 months earlier, Stabler was the Saints’ starting signal caller and managed New Orleans to a 20-19 lead late in the fourth quarter.  With roughly two minutes to go in the game, the fearless former Raider star gambled that he could make a big play in the passing game despite being within the shadow of his own goal line.  That gamble proved to be a bad one, as Dallas linebacker Anthony Dickerson sacked Stabler for a safety that gave Dallas a surprising difficult 21-20 win.

In this game it was deja vu all over again for Stabler, except this time the Cowboys scored seven points instead of two.  Facing a third down and long play from inside his own 10 yard line, Stabler dropped back to throw but was sacked by hard charging Cowboys tackle Randy White. The hit by White forced a fumble that teammate Jim Jeffcoat recovered in the end zone, and the Cowboys had come all the way back to tie the game at 24-34.

Jeffcoat’s score was one of four he would have as a Cowboys, tying him with Mr. Cowboy Bob Lilly and Redskins’ killer Larry Cole for the most career touchdowns for a Dallas defensive lineman.

UNSUNG HEROES

Cowboys defensive end Ed Jones and New Orleans linebacker Ricky Jackson may not have been in the headlines following the game, but both showed why they were among the NFLs best at their positions.

Jones was a major factor in helping the Cowboys shore up their run defense in the second half, often getting penetration into the Saints’ backfield to thwart running attempts.

Jackson was a major thorn in Dallas’ side, picking up one and a half sacks, registering seven tackles and even being credited with a pass defenses.

TURN OUT THE LIGHTS

Overtime ended quickly as Dallas, thanks to a pass interference penalty, drove into Saints’ territory where Rafael Septien kicked a 41 yard field goal to win the game.

During Tom Landry’s time as Cowboys’ head coach, Dallas was 3-1 in overtime contests at Texas Stadium and 6-3 overall.

THE AFTERMATH

1984 would end up being an unusual non-playoff season for Dallas, but the comeback win helped the Cowboys stay in the thick of playoff contention all the way to the final week of the season.

New Orleans would go 3-1  in the weeks immediately following the game, but would lost three of their last four games to end the season with a 7-9 mark.

 

 

 

 

Random Game Sunday- Dallas 17 Kansas City 10, October 18, 1992

With the Cowboys over half a year away from taking the field for the 2018 season, we are going to go back in time to check out a random game from the team’s past and make some observations after watching that game.  Most of my collection of over 125 Cowboys’ games is from the relatively recent past, but I have collected some older games over the years and You Tube also allows for the viewing of some games I do not have in my collection.  Today’s game is from October 18, 1992 at Texas Stadium when the up and coming Cowboys took on Marty Schottenheimer’s Kansas City Chiefs.

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Dallas’ Alvin Harper and Kansas City rookie Dale Carter battle for a deep pass thrown by Troy Aikman in Dallas’ 17-10 win over the Chiefs on October 18, 1992.  Carter would tip the ball away to prevent a Cowboys’ touchdown.

THERE’s NO PLACE LIKE HOME

There was electricity in the crowd at Texas Stadium on this fine October day in 1992, an electricity that was in large part caused by a run of success at home that the Cowboys had not seen in over a decade.

The victory over Kansas City was the Cowboys’ 10th in a row at home, giving Dallas the second longest run of consecutive wins at Texas Stadium in team history.  Dallas would run the streak to eleven several weeks later with a 20-10 win over division rival Philadelphia before seeing the string end in an upset loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

The eleven consecutive wins remains the second longest regular season home win streak in team history, trailing only the remarkable 18 straight victories at home the Cowboys put up from late 1979 through 1981.  After picking up late season victories over the New York Giants and Washington Redskins in 1979, the Cowboys were a perfect 8-0 at Texas Stadium in both 1980 and 1981.

KEEPING CONTROL

One of the characteristics of the 1992 Super Bowl Champion Cowboys’ team was an ability to control the clock by grinding out long possessions made possible by the running of Emmitt Smith behind Dallas’ unmatched offensive line.  The victory over the Chiefs was an outlier in the season as Dallas won the game despite holding the ball roughly a minute and half less than the visiting Chiefs.

The Cowboys had a time of possession advantage in 13 of their 16 regular season contests in 1992, winning 12 of those games.  Dallas went 1-2 in games where its opponent held the ball longer, with the two losses coming in October at Philadelphia and in December at RFK Stadium against the Redskins.

The victory over the Chiefs was also one of three games on the year where the Cowboys scored three or fewer points in the second half of contest.  Lin Elliott’s field goal in the third quarter gave the Cowboys their 17-10 lead over Kansas City and marked the only points Dallas would score in the game’s final two quarters.   In week four,  the Cowboys were shut out in the second half by the Eagles.  The same thing would happen in Dallas’ week 14 loss to the Redskins.

ANYTHING YOU CAN DO I CAN DO BETTER

The physical Chiefs took the opening kickoff and held the ball for 8:30 minutes before settling for a Nick Lowrey field goal and a 3-0 lead.

As often was the case in 1992, the Cowboys had an immediate answer. On their first possession, the Cowboys drove 78 yards in eight plays to cash in for six points on a Troy Aikman to Daryl Johnston two yard scoring pass.  The big chunk of yardage in the drive was a 28 yard pass interference penalty against game but inexperienced Chiefs’ corner Dale Carter, who was playing because Kansas City’s all-pro cornerback Albert Lewis missed the game due to injury.

ONE MAN SHOW

While the 1992 Cowboys may have been known more for their dominating running game, Troy Aikman and the team’s receivers gave Dallas one of the league’s best passing attacks as well.

The victory over the Chiefs featured an oddity in the championship season, namely a game where only one Cowboys’ wide receiver registered a catch.  Cowboys’ leading receiver Michael Irvin caught six balls for 84 yards in the game, but no other Dallas wiedout caught a pass against the tough Chiefs’ defense.  It would be the final week of the 1993 season, some 26 regular season games later, for that occurrence to happen again.  In the Cowboys’ 16-13 division clinching win at New York against the Giants, Irvin would be the only Cowboys wide receiver with a reception (he had three for 50 yards).

CLASH OF THE TITANS

The Chiefs’ grind it out offense featured two larger than normal running backs.  6’2″, 242 pound Barry Word was the Chiefs’ leading rusher in the game, gaining 46 yards on 13 carries and scoring the Chiefs’ only touchdown behind an excellent block by Kansas City right tackle Rich Baldinger.

The solidly built Word, amazing, was not the largest tailback on Kansas City’s roster. That distinction went to 253 pound Christian Okoye, a back who had terrorized the Cowboys for 170 yards and two touchdowns in a 1989 Cowboys’ loss at Kansas City.

On this day, however, there were no nightmares for the Cowboys. Dallas held Okoye to a mere 17 yards on five carries. One play that showed the Cowboys’ resolve to stop the large back came on a second and five play from the Cowboys 41 in the second quarter.  Emerging star Leon Lett shed a block from Kansas City’s talented center Tim Grunhard, met Okoye one yard beyond the line of scrimmage and took him down a powerful tackle that could probably have been heard all the way to Fort Worth.

LEADER OF THE PACK

The Cowboys sacked Kansas City’s Dave Krieg three times, with Lett, Russell Maryland and Jimmie Jones all registering quarterback traps.

While he did not pick up a sack and had only one tackle on the game, the Cowboys’ best player on defense may have been Hall of Famer Charles Haley who caused all sorts of havoc from his right end position.

Haley was able to apply consistent pressure on Krieg, with his teammates often being the beneficiaries.  On the game’s pivotal play (a fourth quarter interception by Ray Horton deep in Cowboys’ territory),  Haley’s pressure forced Krieg to throw the ball a split second before he wanted and caused the turnover that preserved a Dallas win.  The play was typical of a season where Haley took what was a good Dallas defense in 1991 and made it a truly special group in 1992.

GAME OVER

In baseball, seeing a dominating closer emerge from the bullpen with his team ahead often causes an opponent to all but pack up its gear and focus on looking forward to the next day for a potential win.  Following Horton’s interception, one wonders whether the Chiefs felt the same way.

Behind a key 19 yard slant from Aikman to Irvin and 20 yards of tough running by Smith, Dallas held the ball for the game’s final 3:42 to quash any hopes of a late Chiefs’ comeback.  The slant pass, perfectly thrown by the impeccably accurate Aikman, helped Dallas dig out of a second and 10 hole to keep its drive going.

YOUTH WILL BE SERVED

In the early years of Jimmy Johnson’s tenure as Cowboys’ coach, the team’s secondary featured veteran players who were signed to help provide stability to a young squad.   By the time Dallas and Kansas City faced off in 1992, it was clear that some of the younger Cowboys’ defense backs were on the fast track to a key role in the team’s fortunes.

After veteran corner Isaac Holt was beaten for a few first down catches, rookie Kevin Smith started to see more time and brought energy and speed to the Cowboys’ defensive backfield.  Hard hitting Darren Woodson was becoming a force as a slot defensive back for the Cowboys, and newly acquired rock solid safety Thomas Everett was also emerging as a safety who opposing wide receivers probably saw in their nightmares before facing Dallas.  Teamed up with intellegent and rangy veteran James Washington and second year pro Larry Brown, Smith, Woodson and Everett helped turn a one-time problem into a Cowboys’ strength.

A TOUGH TASK

With starting left tackle Mark Tuinei out with an injury, backup Alan Veingrad was given the unenviable task of trying to block Kansas City’s all-world pass rusher Derrick Thomas for most of the game.  While Thomas certainly had his moments, including a second quarter sack of Aikman, Veingrad held up fairly well throughout the game.  Veingrad’s effort was typical of a Cowboys’ season where contributions to the team’s success came from many different sources.

A-TEAM

Broadcasts of inter-conference Cowboys’ home games allow fans to experience listening to broadcasters they may not get to hear on a regular basis. These days, such games bring Jim Nantz and Tony Romo to Dallas.  Back in 1992 the AFC’s games were broadcast on NBC, which meant Dick Enberg and Bob Trumpy had the call.

Listening to Enberg’s brilliant call of the game reinforced to me what a treasure he was as a broadcaster.

DuPree’s Skills Helped Cowboys’ Offense Score Big from 1973 through 1983

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Billy Joe DuPree, who turns 68 years old today, was a versatile and talented tight end who could do it all for the Dallas Cowboys.  Whether it was catching a deep ball down the seam, blocking on the edge for another big gain by Tony Dorsett or even turning the occasional tight end reverse into a first down or even a touchdown, DuPree’s skills were a perfect fit for Tom Landry’s explosive and varied offense.

The Michigan State product came to Dallas in the 1973 draft as a first round pick and it didn’t take long for DuPree to make an impact.  In a game three 45-10 rout of the St. Louis Cardinals, DuPree caught three touchdown passes.  DuPree’s first 100 yard receiving game came two years later in a 1975 week two contest, again against St. Louis.  The tall tight end caught six passes for 100 yards in the game, including a three yard touchdown pass from Roger Staubach in overtime to give Dallas a 37-31 victory.

DuPree’s best season was probably Dallas’ 1978 NFC Championship season when he caught 34 passes for an average of 15.0 yards per catch and scored a career high nine touchdowns.  Down the stretch of that season, DuPree had big scoring catches in crucial victories at Green Bay and at home against tough New England to help keep Dallas’ late season winning streak alive.

The talented tight end finished his career his career with 41 touchdown catches,  trailing only Jason Witten’s 68 among Cowboys’ tight ends.  He also scored four post-season touchdowns, including a seven yard scoring pass from Staubach in  Super Bowl XIII against the Steelers.

DuPree’s 11 year career in Dallas ended following the 1983 season. During his time in Dallas, the team made the playoffs 10 times, won three NFC Championships and one World Championship.  DuPree’s skills were a big part of the team’s success, and most observers have him behind only future Hall of Famer Witten in the listing of the Cowboys’ all-time best tight ends.