Random Game Sunday- Cowboys 28 NY Giants 7- December 2nd, 1979

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 December 2, 1979 when the Cowboys took on divisional rival New York in a crucial late season contest at Texas Stadium. 


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The Set-Up

The Cowboys entered week 14 of the 1979 season in a tailspin.  After starting the year with a 7-1 record, the two time defending NFC Champions appeared to have their tickets punched for a trip to Pasadena in January to represent the conference in yet another Super Bowl.  But a 1-4 record over the five games leading up to the early December battle Dallas thinking not of lofty goals like a Super Bowl appearance, but of merely surviving in the playoff chase.

The Giants entered the game having won six of their last eight games, with one of the losses coming on a last-minute Cowboys 16-14 victory at Giants Stadium that was engineered in large measure by big plays from Dallas’ Roger Staubach, Drew Pearson and Tony Dorsett.   That trio would play a large role in a Cowboys’ victory that would get Dallas on the right track in pursuit of its fourth straight NFC East title.

A Dynamic Duo

Few quarterback/receiver combinations were as iconic as the Staubach-Pearson duo that helped the Cowboys to many a big win in their seven years together.   Pearson caught 27 regular season touchdowns from Staubach, with three of them coming in this game.

Pearson’s first score came in the second quarter on a beautifully executed seven yard slant pass that erased a 7-0 Giants’ lead.  Pearson got a great inside release against New York’s Terry Jackson, and Staubach hit him perfectly in stride with a laser of a throw to get the Cowboys on the scoreboard.

In the third quarter Pearson ran a great corner route, again against Jackson, to score from eight yards out.  Later in the period, even after being hobbled during an overzealous celebration following his second score, Pearson beat Ray Rhodes on a 44 yard post-pattern for a score with Staubach putting the ball right on the mark to expand Dallas’ lead to 21-7.

The three touchdown game was the first of Pearson’s career, a mark he would equal in 1980 in a 59-14 rout of the San Francisco 49ers.  The Staubach-Pearson scoring plays were the final ones they’d engineer together

Safety First

Young Giants’ quarterback Phil Simms got outfoxed by Cowboys’ All-Pro safety Cliff Harris in the third quarter, when Harris intercepted a throw down the middle in the third period.  Harris hung back but made a great break on the ball to record his 29th and final regular season interception for the Cowboys (he would retire following the 1979 season).

Harris’ first two interceptions as a Cowboy came on September 28, 1970, also against the Giants.  His seven career picks v.s. the New Yorkers was the most against any opponent.

Versatility is a Plus

A “glue” guy for the Cowboys of the 1970s and early 1980s was defensive back Benny Barnes, a player who played many roles in his NFL career.  Barnes’ versatility was on display in this contest.

First in the second quarter, Barnes separated New York punt returner Steve Odom from the ball resulting in a Ron Springs recovery deep in Giants’ territory.  Later in the same period, Barnes kept pace with speedy Giants’ wideout Earnest Gray to bat away a deep pass that had trouble for the home team written all over it.

“Martinized” on Both Sides of the Field

A Cowboys’ fan’s list of New York Giants’ defenders who’ve caused Dallas problems over the years certainly features Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor at the top of the list, but this game was played two years before LT joined the Big Blue.

In 1979, one of the main men (along with talented middle linebacker Harry Carson)  of the Giants’ defense was talented defensive end George Martin, and the University of Oregon product was a dominant force in the contest.  Martin registered a sack and a blocked pass in the second quarter, and was someone the Cowboys had to account for in pass protection throughout the game.

An equally dominant force on the other sideline was a player who shared a surname with his New York rival.  Dallas’ Harvey Martin made many big plays in the contest, picking up a sack and disrupting the Giants all game long.  Martin’s quick moves on several stunts allowed fellow linemen Dave Stalls, Bruce Thornton and Larry Bethea pick up sacks in a game where the Cowboys dropped Simms five times.

A Virtual Lock

Staubach’s win over the Giants was his 16th in 17 career starts against the Giants.   His only loss came in an early season 1974 contest when a disjointed Dallas team was in the midst of a four game losing streak.

The Heisman Trophy winner was great against other divisional foes during his Cowboys’ career as well, posting a 14-3 mark against the Eagles, a 13-5 record v.s. St. Louis and nine wins in 15 games against Washington.

Tony Tough

Many of Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett’s memorable runs came on plays where the speedy tailback broke into the secondary and ran for long distances without being touched.   In this contest, Dorsett gained 108 yards in 29 tough carries, with his longest run being only for 12 yards.  During the contest, Dorsett surpassed the 1,000 rushing yard mark on the year, becoming only the second player at that point in NFL history to have 1,000 or more yards in his first three years as a pro.

Going for a Long Drive

Early in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys’ defense put up a great goal-line stand that prevented the Giants from cutting into Dallas’ 21-7 lead.  Taking over the ball at its own eight following the visitor’s failed scoring effort, Dallas went 92 yards in 17 plays over a whopping 9:57 with Dorsett scoring on a two yard touchdown to salt away the win.

The drive featured heavy doses of runs by Dorsett (42 yards) and backfield mate Robert Newhouse (25 yards), with passes from Staubach to Tony Hill and Jay Saldi sprinkled in as the Cowboys’ textbook perfect drive ended the competitive part of the contest.

The Result

The Cowboys’ win kept Dallas’ hopes of a divisional title alive and setup a week 15 contest at Philadelphia against the upstart Eagles. Dallas would win that game 24-17 and take out the Redskins at home in week 16 by a 35-34 score to win the NFC East with an 11-5 record.






Versatile Laidlaw Contributed to Cowboys’ Success in Mid-Late 70’s

Image result for scott laidlaw cowboys

When asked about his team’s ability to continue to win despite suffering injuries to regular players, former Baltimore Orioles’ manager Earl Weaver cited the team’s “deep depth” as a reason for its success.

During their run of 20 consecutive winning seasons from 1966 through 1985, the Dallas Cowboys were also a team that was able to plug a replacement piece into the machine and keep rolling right along.  One key replacement player for Dallas in the mid to late 1970s was running back Scott Laidlaw, who celebrates his 65th birthday today.

The Stanford product was a member of the Cowboys’ “Dirty Dozen” draft class of 1975 and made the team as a back-up to Robert Newhouse at fullback.  Laidlaw’s versatility and pass catching ability made him a perfect fit in Tom Landry’s multiple offense, that featured perhaps the best screen pass game in NFL history.

Laidlaw contributed right away in the 1975 season, gaining 24 yards on a perfectly executed shuffle pass from Roger Staubach to help set up Dallas first score in a surprising 18-7 opening day win over the powerful Los Angeles Rams.

In 1976, the multi-talented back rushed for 104 yards in Dallas’ opening week win over the Eagles. In his post-game press conference, Coach Landry said that “Laidlaw was just tremendous. He ran with a lot of authority, and ran hard in tight situations”.  One week later, he scored his first two NFL touchdowns in Dallas’ 24-6 week two win at New Orleans.   Later in the season, Laidlaw ran for 88 yards on 15 carries and scored Dallas’ only touchdown in a 17-10 loss at Atlanta.

Arguably Laidlaw’s best stretch of play as a Cowboy came in the latter part of 1978 season. With Dallas attempting to battle back into the NFC East lead after going 6-4 over the season’s first 10 games, Laidlaw provided some top level performances in the final quarter of the year.  On Thanksgiving Day in a showdown with the rival Washington Redskins, Laidlaw ran for a career high 122 yards and scored two touchdowns as the Cowboys erased Washington 37-10.   In a week 14 match with the talented New England Patriots, he caught two passes for 48 yards and ran for 40 more in the Cowboys’ 17-10 win.  And in week 15 at Veterans’ Stadium against the Eagles, Laidlaw scored on a 44 yard screen pass from Staubach and ran for another touchdown as Dallas won 31-13.

Laidlaw’s strong play did not end when the 1978 regular season was over. He ran for 66 yards and scored two touchdowns in Dallas’ 27-20 comeback win over the Atlanta Falcons in a first round playoff contest at Texas Stadium.

The 14th round draft pick’s final year in Dallas came in 1979.   His best game that season came in a week five rout of the Cincinnati Bengals as his two short touchdown runs early in the contest helped spark Dallas to a 38-13 rout.

Dallas’ success during its America’s Team heyday was largely due to contributions of familiar names like Landry, Staubach, Dorsett, Pearson, White and Martin.  But that success can also be attributed in significant measure to the team’s ability to have players in backup roles who were ready to step in and contribute when necessary. Scott Laidlaw was one of those players.



Random Game Sunday- Dallas 17 Arizona 3- October 13, 1996

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 13, 1996 when the Cowboys took on the Arizona Cardinals at Texas Stadium. 


Both teams entered the week six divisional showdown with 2-3 records.  The Cowboys were coming off of a bye following their week four 23-19 victory over the Eagles in Philadelphia. The game marked Michael Irvin’s first game of the 1996 campaign after the Playmaker had been suspended for the first four games of Dallas’ schedule.

The Cardinals were also coming off of a bye following their 31-28 overtime win at St. Louis against the Rams. Veteran quarterback Kent Graham threw for four touchdowns in that game.


As was the case for a good deal of the 1980s and 1990s, Pat Summeral and John Madden called the contest for FOX Sports.  There was something special about having Pat and John call a Cowboys’ game.  They were easy to listen to, informative and often humorous.  For my money, the Summeral/Madden team was rivaled only by the Summeral/Brookshier duo for the best TV crew to call a Cowboys’ game.


Emmitt Smith ran for 112 yards and scored the game’s only two touchdowns.  1996 was not an easy campaign for the future Hall of Famer, as Smith had to fight through injuries and an overall slump by the Cowboys’ once dominant offense.  On this day and for most of his career, seeing the Cardinals proved to be good for what ailed Smith.   His 25 career touchdowns against Arizona were the most against any team.  Smith posted 11 100 yard plus games and the Cowboys were 19-6 in the 25 games Smith played as a Cowboy against Arizona.


Intra-divisional contests allow fans to watch some fantastic one on one battles over an extended period of time. This Cowboys-Cards game featured two that were always fun to watch.

In the interior line, Dallas’ All-World guard Larry Allen squared off against Arizona’s massive Eric Swann in a match-up of dominant forces.   Few players could hold their own against Allen, but Swann’s size and strength made him a worthy opponent for Dallas’ future Hall of Fame lineman.

On the outside, Irvin went up against Aeanas Williams.   Irvin caught five balls on the day for 51 yards as he tried to shake the rust off from his suspension.  Williams shadowed Irvin for most of the game and came away with a nifty first half interception deep in Cards’ territory when Troy Aikman tried to find Irvin on a deep pass.


When one thinks of defensive linemen in Cowboys’ history, the names Lilly, Martin, Jones, White, Haley and Ware (who despite officially being termed a linebacker was a defensive end in everything but position name) come to mind.  There have been others through the years who were underrated, such as Jethro Pugh, Larry Cole and Jim Jeffcoat to name a few.

Added to the list of underrated defenders should be rangy end Tony Tolbert, and the UTEP product had a strong game to thwart Arizona’s offensive attack.  Tolbert had two sacks in the contest, part of his career high 12 from the 1996 season, a campaign in which he was selected to his only Pro Bowl appearance in his nine year career.


Staying with the defensive line, Leon Lett was active and destructive in this early season contest with a divisional rival.   Quick off the ball, rangy and relentless, Lett looked primed to become one of the NFL’s best in his sixth year in the league. Unfortunately, his 1996 season would end prematurely with his year long suspension for a violation of NFL policies, a suspension that would take him out of the lineup when he was playing his best football.


Aikman was 23-37 for 199 yards in the game, displaying his usual pin-point accuracy on most of the short or intermediate passes he threw in the game. But in this game and the 1996 season in general, big plays were hard to come by for the Cowboys’ offense.

Dallas only 20 yard plus completion of the contest came late in the second half, when Aikman hooked up with trusty backup receiver Kelvin Martin on a 25 yard play that helped Dallas get in range for a Chris Boniol field goal that gave Dallas a 3-0 halftime lead.  After having 39 20 yard plus passing plays in 1994 and 43 in their Super Bowl winning season of 1995, Dallas had only 33 in 1996.


Arizona came into the contest hoping to establish the ground game with speedy running back Leshon Johnson.  Dallas’ run defense, with middle linebacker Fred Strickland leading the way, would not let that happen as they held Johnson to only 21 yards in 14 carries.


Madden made a point early in the contest that Arizona’s offensive game plan made it clear that they would not be challenging Cowboys’ All Pro cornerback Deion Sanders.  That proved to be true, as quarterback Graham and the Cards’ passing game stayed away from Sanders for virtually the entire afternoon. That meant a lot of action would be coming to the other side of the Cowboys’ defense, and Kevin Smith helped up well against talented Arizona receivers Rob Moore and Frank Sanders.  A beautifully executed interception by Smith in the final minute of the game ended any hopes of a Cards’ comeback.


Dallas gritty, if not particularly artistic, win was a step on the Cowboys’ path to rebounding from a 1-3 start to win the NFC East for the fifth straight season.

The Cards’ loss was their sixth straight at Texas Stadium dating back to 1990. Arizona would go 7-9 on the year, losing to the Cowboys again in a low scoring affair (10-6) in Tempe in December.


Happy Birthday to DeMarco Murray, a Third Round Pick With First Round Talent


DeMarco Murray was the Cowboys’ third round choice in the 2011 NFL Draft.  The Cowboys certainly got their money’s worth from the former Oklahoma Sooner who gave Dallas all he had during his four years wearing the Cowboys’ star.

In their history, the Dallas Cowboys have selected numerous running backs in the first round of the NFL draft who have gone on to stardom. In 1969 the Cowboys selected Calvin Hill, a multi-talented back who was the first Cowboy to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. One year later, Dallas took silky smooth Duane Thomas who helped lead Dallas to its first Super Bowl title following the 1971 season before forcing his way out of town due to dissatisfaction with his contract.  The 1977 draft brought Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett to Dallas, and all the speedy halfback from western Pennsylvania did was make it all the way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  13 years after the Dorsett pick, the Cowboys struck gold again selecting Florida’s Emmitt Smith who would pace Dallas to a record three Super Bowl wins in four years and end up enshrined in Canton along with Dorsett. And this past season, first round selection Ezekiel Elliott took the NFL by storm and seems destined for the type of stardom Dorsett and Smith achieved.

When listing the best seasons for a running back in Cowboys history, a third round choice from 2011 muscles his way into the mix alongside the backs selected in the first round.  Coming to Dallas in 2011 out of the University of Oklahoma, DeMarco Murray ended his four year stay in Dallas with a season to remember.

Murray, who turns 29 years old today, set a Cowboys’ record with 1,845 yards rushing in the 2014 campaign and became the first back in NFL history to open a season with 100 plus yards rushing in the first eight games of a season. Murray reached the century mark in a Cowboys’ record 12 of the team’s 16 games, one more than Smith had in the 1995 campaign.   In 2014, Murray and the Cowboys’ talented offensive line helped change the team’s offensive identity from a pass-first group to one that more resembled the early to mid-1990s teams that leaned heavily on Smith and “the great wall of Dallas” offensive line to control games.

According to Pro Football Reference’s Approximate Value number, Murray’s 2014 campaign ranks right behind three vintage Smith seasons as the best season for a running back in Cowboys’ history:


Approx Value          Year              Back

20                                1992              Emmitt Smith

20                                 1993              Emmitt Smith

20                                  1995              Emmitt Smith

19                                  2014               DeMarco Murray

17                                  1978                Tony Dorsett

17                                   1991                Emmitt Smith

17                                    1994               Emmitt Smith

16                                   1973                 Calvin Hill

16                                    1977                Tony Dorsett

16                                    2016                 Ezekiel Elliott


Murray’s time in Dallas was brief, as the workhorse back left the Cowboys following his special 2014 season to join division rival Philadelphia.  A combination of Murray’s departure and injuries to quarterback Tony Romo caused a dramatic falloff in the Cowboys’ production as the 12-4 division winning squad of 2014 slumped to a miserable 4-12 in a mostly forgettable 2015 campaign.  The only good thing coming out of that season was that the Cowboys’ bleak record put them in position to find a worthy successor to Murray in the talented Elliott who helped reestablish the effective style Murray and the Cowboys had demonstrated in 2014.

After a miserable season in Philadelphia in 2015, Murray rebounded to gain 1,287 yards rushing and score nine touchdowns for the Tennessee Titans last season.  The hard-working back demonstrated the style that made him a fan favorite in Dallas in 2014.   Happy 29th birthday whose Cowboys’ career was brief but certainly spectacular.

This Day in Dallas Cowboys History- The Staubach/Morton Saga


Born one year apart on February 5th, the careers of Craig Morton and Roger Staubach were linked in many ways.

On February 5, 1942, future Dallas Cowboys legend Roger Staubach was born in Cincinnati, Ohio.   Exactly one year later in Flint, Michigan, Larry Craig Morton was born in Flint, Michigan.  No one could have known at that time how the lives of the two would be intertwined.

By 1964, the Dallas Cowboys were beginning to see some progress in their growth from an inept expansion team to an NFL power.  Coach Tom Landry had building blocks in place in the form of star players Bob Lilly, Lee Roy Jordan, Don Meredith and Don Perkins, but the team needed to continue to add talent.  The 1964 NFL draft brought that to Dallas, as the Cowboys selected future Hall of Famers Mel Renfro, Bob Hayes and Heisman Trophy Award winner Roger Staubach.  Staubach’s pick was made with the future in mind, as the Navy graduate would not be able to play for the Cowboys until 1969 when he has fulfilled his military obligation (Hayes’ selection was also made with the future in mind, but Dallas only had to wait one year to see Bullet Bob burst onto the NFL scene in 1965).

A year later in the 1965 NFL draft, Dallas selected strong-armed quarterback Craig Morton with the fifth pick in the first round.   The 6’4″, 214 pound University of California star looked the part of a budding NFL star, and the Cowboys had a young understudy to Meredith who could step in and do the job if something happened to Dandy Don.

Following the 1968 season, Meredith retired at the age of 31 leaving the Cowboys’ quarterbacking duties in the capable hands of Morton. In his two seasons at the helm, Morton led Dallas to 11-2-1 and 10-4 records with the team reaching its first Super Bowl in the 1970 season.  Dallas lost to Baltimore in the big game with Morton making a few key mistakes in the game’s final quarter and it looked as though Staubach, who had joined the Cowboys in 1969, would have a chance to at least compete for the starting job in 1971.

The saga of the 1971 Cowboys’ quarterback debate is well chronicled. After seven games with no clear starter at the position established, Coach Landry decided to select Staubach for the job and Roger the Dodger did not disappoint him.  Staubach led Dallas to seven consecutive wins to end the regular season, beat Minnesota and San Francisco to get Dallas back to the Super Bowl and threw two scoring passes and won the game’s MVP award as the Cowboys beat Miami 24-3 to become World Champions.

An exhibition season injury to Staubach put Morton back in the driver’s seat in 1972, and he led Dallas to a 10-4 record and a NFC wildcard playoff spot.  The pendulum swung back in Staubach’s direction on December 23rd of that year in a first round playoff game at San Francisco , when he brought Dallas back from a 15 point fourth quarter deficit to shock the 49ers 30-28 (it is interesting to note that the winning score on the day came on a Staubach pass to Ron Sellers, who was also born on February 5th!).

Staubach returned to the top spot in 1973 and led Dallas to a NFC East title with a 10-4 record. Dallas beat the Rams in a first round playoff game with Staubach throwing two touchdown passes, but lost to Minnesota in the NFC title game.

By 1974, it was becoming evident that Morton’s future was not in Dallas.  The Cowb0ys eventually dealt Morton to the New York Giants for a 1975 first round draft pack that the team shrewdly turned into future Hall of Famer Randy White.

Morton was battered and bruised during his time in New York, with several brutal beatings coming at the hands of his former teammates in Dallas. Meanwhile, Staubach led Dallas to a surprising NFC championship in 1975 and was firmly established as one of the NFL’s best at the quarterback position.

1977 saw Morton end up in Denver, and the veteran signal caller found new life in the Rocky Mountains. Morton and the Broncos had a magical year, winning the AFC Championship and earning a berth in Super Bowl 12.  Unfortunately for the star-crossed passer, awaiting him in New Orleans for the big game were the Cowboys.  The Doomsday Defense made life miserable for Morton and the Broncos, forcing turnover after turnover as Dallas won its second World Championship by a 27-10 score.

Staubach’s NFL journey ended in Canton where he took his place among the all-time greats in the league.  Few players were more respected than Staubach, whose never say die attitude made him probably the best quarterback in NFL history in bringing his team back from late deficits.  Morton fought through numerous injuries to have a good NFL career, but never reached the heights achieved by his one time teammate in Dallas.



This Day in Dallas Cowboys History- Routing a Rival On the Way to a Title


Backup tight end Derek Tennell grabs a one yard scoring pass from Troy Aikman to start the Cowboys on their way to a 34-10 stomping of the Philadelphia Eagles in an NFC Divisional Playoff game at Texas Stadium on January 10, 1993.


From the time the Dallas Cowboys came of age in the 1966 season through Tom Landry’s final NFL East champion team in 1985, the Cowboys’ match-ups with divisional foe generally ended in Dallas’ favor.  Dallas won 31 of the 39 regular season games between the teams during that time period, enraging the Philadelphia fan base.

The tide turned from 1986 through 1991, with the Eagles winning nine of the 12 games between the teams. But in 1991 there were signs that the Cowboys were getting some of their mojo back, and Dallas’ 25-13 win at Veterans Stadium in Week 15 of the season clinched a playoff berth for the Cowboys.

Dallas’ 1992 regular season included a Week Four 31-7 thrashing at the hands of the Eagles at the Vet, but the young and hungry Cowboys bounced back to take a 20-10 decision over the Eagles at Texas Stadium in early November to establish themselves as the NFC East’s top dog.

By the time the 1992 NFL playoffs rolled around, Dallas was surging with the Eagles trying vainly to keep pace.  Philadelphia earned a visit to Dallas with a wildcard round win at New Orleans, setting up a rubber match between the divisional rivals with the winner advancing to the NFC Championship game.

After the Eagles drove for a field goal on their first drive, it soon became apparent that the Cowboys would be the team advancing to the next round.  Dallas’ response to the Eagles’ early score was a 10 play drive that ended with a Troy Aikman scoring toss to seldom used Derek Tennell that put the Cowboys up 7-3.

Late in the second quarter, Dallas blitzed the Eagles for 10 quick points. First, an Aikman 41 yard connection to Alvin Harper set up Jay Novacek’s six yard scoring pass with under a minute to play that put Dallas on top 14-3.  On the ensuing kickoff, talented rookie Darren Woodson caused a fumble that veteran Thomas Everett recovered to set up a short Lin Elliott field goal that gave Dallas a 17-3 lead and a 10 gallon hat sized amount of momentum as the teams went to the dressing room at halftime.

Dallas’ dominance extended to the second half, with Emmitt Smith scoring on a beautiful 23 yard run to give Dallas a three score lead in the third quarter.  Another Elliott field goal and a fourth quarter one yard plunge by Derrick Gainer gave Dallas 34 points on the day, and only a late scoring toss by Randall Cunningham to Calvin Williams allowed the Eagles to score in double digits.

Jimmy Johnson’s soon to be Super Bowl Champion team dominated the Eagles in all aspects of the game. Dallas had 160 yards rushing (114 by Smith) against the Eagles’ 63. Dallas sacked Cunningham five times, including two each by Tony Tolbert and Russell Maryland, while Aikman was only dropped twice.  Dallas gained 346 yards, 168 more than the visitors with Aikman throwing for 200 in 15 completions.

The Cowboys’ 34-10 victory was Dallas’ first post-season win at Texas Stadium since 1982, and the win sent Dallas to the NFC Championship game for the first time since that same year.  Unlike 1982 when the Cowboys would fall short in the conference championship game, Dallas would ride its 13-3 regular season record and its rout of a good Eagles team to an upset victory over the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park that would send Dallas to Super Bowl 27.

This Day in Dallas Cowboys History- Three in One and a 13 Year Drought is Over


Cowboys’ quarterback Tony Romo celebrates during Dallas 34-14 NFC Wildcard Playoff win over the Philadelphia Eagles on January 9, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.

How many times have we heard commentators indicate that it is next to impossible for an NFL football team to beat another team three times in one season?  Seven years ago today, the Dallas Cowboys became the exception to that rule with their 34-14 NFC Wildcard Playoff win over divisional foe Philadelphia.

In the 2009 regular season, Dallas edged Philadelphia 20-16 at Lincoln Financial Field behind 307 passing yards from Tony Romo.  In the season’s final week, Dallas blanked Philadelphia 24-0 to win the NFC East and to give Dallas the home field advantage in their wildcard contest against the Eagles.

Before an enthusiastic sellout crowd at Cowboys Stadium, the Cowboys scored a franchise playoff record 27 points in the second quarter to take control of a game Dallas would win 34-14.  The victory was the first Cowboys’ playoff win since a 40-15 victory over Minnesota at Texas Stadium in 1966.

The Cowboys’ first scoring drive of the game began at Dallas’ 45 yard line with 1:25 left in the first quarter.  After Romo connected with Miles Austin for 12 yards and a first down on a crucial third and eight play, Philadelphia’s Sheldon Brown interfered with Austin on a deep pass. The penalty put the ball at the Eagles one yard line, and Dallas quickly cashed in on a touchdown pass from Romo to backup tight end John Phillips.

After Philadelphia evened the score at 7-7 on a 73 yard touchdown strike from Michael Vick to Jeremy Maclin, Dallas took control of the game.  Dallas drove 85 yards for the go ahead score on a drive that featured a 12 yard run by Cowboys’ halfback Felix Jones, a 15 yard face masking penalty on Philadelphia and crucial Romo completions to Patrick Crayton, Roy Williams and Jason Witten.  Tashard Choice put the ball in the end zone on a one yard run to give Dallas a 14-7 lead.

Dallas’ next drive featured Romo completions of 36 yards to Austin and 17 yards to Williams that set up Shaun Suisham’s 25 yard field goal that put the home team ahead 17-7.

Two plays into the Eagles’ next drive, disaster struck for Philadelphia when Vick’s fumble was recovered by Dallas’ Bobby Carpenter at the Eagles’ 18 yard line.  Three plays later, Romo found Austin for a six yard scoring pass and Dallas had surged to a 24-7 lead.

Dallas’ final possession of the half ended with a 48 yard field goal by Suisham, and the teams went to their locker rooms with the Cowboys holding a commanding 20 point lead.

Any doubt about the outcome of the game was put to rest with 5:44 left in the third quarter when Jones sped 73 yards for a touchdown run that gave Dallas a 34-7 lead.  Jones’ scoring run is the longest post-season rushing touchdown in Cowboys’ history, and is one of only nine rushing scores of that distance or more since the NFL merger in 1970.

Dallas out gained the Eagles by 420 yards to 340 yards, and the final score of 34-14 would likely have been even more in Dallas’ favor if not for 14 penalties on the home team.   The Cowboys rushed for 198 yards, with second year man Jones gaining 148 on only 16 carries. Romo threw for 244 yards, two scores and did not throw an interception.  Austin led Dallas’ receivers with seven catches for 82 yards and a score.

The Cowboys forced four Eagles’ turnovers, sacked Philadelphia quarterbacks four times and held the Eagles to only 56 yards rushing in what was probably Wade Phillips’ finest moment as Cowboys’ head coach.

The win sent Dallas to Minnesota, where the team’s hopes of advancing were rudely put to rest in a 34-3 Vikings’ win.  That loss was a disappointing way to end the year, but the team’s 11-5 record, its first playoff win ever at Cowboys Stadium and a clean three game sweep of bitter rival Philadelphia were enough to take away some of the sting of the loss.