Backup quarterback Steve Beuerlein played well for the Cowboys down the stretch of the 1991 season. The veteran lead the team to wins in each of the four regular season games he started in place of the injured Troy Aikman and guided Dallas to its first playoff win in eight seasons on December 29th at Soldier Field against the Chicago Bears.
From 1967 through 1982, post-season victories were a common occurrence for the Dallas Cowboys. Dallas won an NFL high 20 playoff games during that span, including two Super Bowl games and five NFC Championship contests.
By 1991 however, the Cowboys’ drought for winning in the post-season had reached eight seasons. Tom Landry’s Cowboys had lost their last two playoff contests, one in 1983 and the other in 1985. Jimmy Johnson’s Dallas team improved from 1-15 in 1989 to 7-9 in 1990, and then made a big leap to an 11-5 mark in 1991 that secured Dallas a wildcard playoff spot.
In the way of Dallas on a 34 day in the Windy City were the Mike Dikta-led Chicago Bears, who looked to show the upstart Cowboys that their time in the post-season had not yet come. Thanks to Emmitt Smith’s running, a strong defense effort and steady play at quarterback by backup Steve Beuerlein, the Cowboys would show the Bears and the football world that they were coming of age earlier than expected.
Smith ran for 105 yards and scored a touchdown in the first of seven 100 yard plus games he would have in his magnificent career. His one yard touchdown run in the first quarter gave Dallas a 10-0 lead, and it was clear the Bears were in for a fight against the young and hungry Cowboys.
The story of the day for the Bears were lost opportunities and turnovers. Larry Brown and Bill Bates had interceptions for Dallas, and Bates also caused a fumble on Chicago’s first drive when the Bears appeared to be heading for a score. Dallas also stopped Chicago on a crucial drive in the red zone in the first half when star back Neal Anderson couldn’t penetrate the rugged Cowboys’ defense.
Russell Maryland, Jimmie Jones and veteran Jim Jeffcoat, who had endured the post-season losses in 1983 and 1985, each had a sack of Bears’ quarterback Jim Harbaugh to help keep Dallas on top despite being outgained by the home team by 372 to 288 yards.
Beuerlein was 9 for 18 on the day, throwing a three yard touchdown pass to Jay Novacek in the third quarter and connecting with rookie Alvin Harper three times for 88 yards. Harper’s running mate at receiver, future Hall of Famer Michael Irvin, had four catches for 83 yards.
The final significant play of the game was Bates’ interception of Harbaugh with a little more than a minute to play that sealed the Cowboys’ 21st post-season victory. Dallas’ run in the post-season would end convincingly in Detroit on the next weekend, but the success of the 1991 team was harbinger of things to come in Dallas. In 1992 and 1993, the final two seasons of Johnson’s tenure as Cowboys’ coach, the team would win back to back Super Bowl titles.
The Doomsday Defense, featuring a bevy of talented players like Jethro Pugh (#75), tormented Bob Avellini and the Chicago Bears defense all day long on December 26, 1977 as the Cowboys routed the visiting Bears 37-7 at Texas Stadium in the first round of the NFL playoffs. The Cowboys would go on to win Super Bowl XII.
The Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears do not play each other often enough to be considered big rivals, but they have fought some interesting battles over the year including two post-season games. Dallas is 12-11 in the regular season and 2-0 in the post-season against the Bears, but they’re 0-2 against Chicago at AT&T Stadium.
Here are 10 memories that come to mind for me when I think of the Cowboys-Bears contests over the years.
#10- An Afternoon to Forget
The 1985 Dallas Cowboys were a division winning team, but the Chicago Bears of that season were a cut above not only the Cowboys but over the rest of the NFL as well. On November 17th of that season, the Bears embarrassed the Cowboys at Texas Stadium by a 44-0 score that was one of the worst losses in Cowboys’ history. Dallas has had some excellent defensive teams over the years and they’ve faced some top level squads over the years, but I don’t think one would get too many arguments by claiming that the 1985 Bears team featured the best defensive team the Cowboys have ever gone up against.
#9- Ending a Drought
By December of 1991, the Jimmy Johnson-led Dallas Cowboys were coming into their own as a legitimate NFL contender. At Soldier Field on December 29th, the Cowboys won their first playoff game since 1982 in a 17-13 victory over the Bears. Fittingly, the gritty Cowboys’ win was secured when long-time Cowboys favorite Bill Bates intercepted a Jim Harbaugh pass.
#8- The Replacements
In their glory days, the Tom Landry-era Dallas Cowboys were known for having excellent depth at most positions. That depth was tested twice in six years in Cowboys-Bears games at Texas Stadium at perhaps the most crucial position on the field.
On October 24, 1976, first year Cowboy Danny White replaced an injured Roger Staubach in the second half and threw two touchdowns to Preston Pearson to help Dallas to a 31-21 victory.
On Thanksgiving Day 1981, it was White’s turn to go out with an injury. White was replaced by third year Cowboy Glenn Carano, who led a fourth quarter drive that allowed Dallas to escape with a 10-9 win over the Bears.
#7- A Tale of Two Games
The Dallas Cowboys traveled to cold Chicago in December in both the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Both games were played at night and both featured lots of scoring, but the results could not have been different.
On December 9, 2013, Bears’ backup Josh McCown carved the Cowboys’ defense up like it was a Christmas turkey, throwing for 348 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-28 win that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated.
Almost one year later on December 4, 2014, it was the Cowboys’ turn to flex their offensive muscles as Dallas surged to a 35- 7 lead after four quarters and won 41-28. The Cowboys’ attack was led by Tony Romo (21-26, 205 yards, three TDs) and Demarco Murray (32 carries, 179 yards, one TD) in a game that effectively ended the Bears’ chances for a playoff spot in the 2014 season.
#6- Tuna on Turkey Day
Thanksgiving Day 2004 saw the Bears visit Texas Stadium to take on Bill Parcells and the Cowboys. And while the 2004 edition of the Cowboys didn’t achieve a playoff berth like the team did in Parcells’ first season in Big D in 2003, the late November holiday game had a happy ending for the home team. Rookie Julius Jones was the grand marshal of the Cowboys’ holiday parade, gaining 150 yards rushing and scoring two touchdown in a 21-7 Dallas win.
#5- A Clean Cut by the Barber
The 2007 Dallas Cowboys came to Solider Field on Sunday night September 23rd sporting a 2-0 record and looking very much like a team that would be a force to be reckoned with in the NFC. As a game progressed, it was clear that the Bears weren’t the ones who were going to stop the Cowboys’ rush toward a 13-3 record and a division title.
Marion Barber was the driving force in Dallas’ win, gaining 102 yards rushing and scoring two touchdowns as the visitors out-gained the Bears by almost 200 yards. Romo also starred in the nationally televised contest, throwing for 329 yards and two touchdowns.
#4- It is Always Darkest Before the Dawn
An October 1971 visit by the reigning NFC Champion Cowboys to Soldier Field ended in a shocking 23-19 loss to a seemingly inferior Bears team, with an added wrinkle being that the defeat came with Dallas alternating quarterbacks Craig Morton and Roger Staubach on every play. Dallas moved the ball well but was hurt by penalties and turnovers, in a game that convinced Coach Tom Landry that he needed to select one of the quarterbacks to lead the team going forward.
Landry ultimately made the right choice, as he selected Staubach to quarterback a team that would not lose over the rest of the year in route to a 24-3 victory over Miami in Super Bowl VI.
#3- Prime Time Returns
There are fewer more exciting plays in a football game than a punt return for a touchdown. Two of the more exciting Cowboys’ punt returns for scores have come in home games against the Bears.
In September 1997 at Texas Stadium, Deion Sanders electrified the sellout crowd with an 83 yard punt return touchdown that salted away a 27-3 Cowboys’ victory. In September 13 years later, rookie Dez Bryant scored the first touchdown of his career on a 62 yard punt return that staked Dallas to an early lead. Unfortunately for Bryant and the Cowboys, the Bears would win that game 27-20.
#2- Aye, Aye Roger
One of the more exciting games in Texas Stadium history came in a week three Cowboys-Bears matchup that saw Roger Staubach lead Dallas to a 24-20 comeback win over a game Chicago team that got 134 yards rushing from Hall of Famer Walter Payton and scored on two long Vince Evans passes (one to former Cowboy Golden Richards) to keep Cowboys’ fans on the edge of their seats all game long.
Fortunately for Dallas, Staubach was at his best on this day throwing for 222 yards and three touchdowns including a 22 yarder to Tony Hill with less than two minutes to go that allowed Dallas to escape with a thrilling win.
#1- Charlie In Charge
The 1977 Dallas Cowboys were arguably the best team in the storied franchise’s history. On the day after Christmas in the first round of that season’s playoffs, the Cowboys proved their power to the Bears in a 37-7 rout that was a mismatch in every sense. Perhaps the biggest star for Dallas on that day was Charlie Waters, a player who gave his heart, soul and body to the team. Waters intercepted three Bob Avellini passes on the day, as the Cowboys’ defense controlled the game from the start.