Tag: Craig Morton

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-Big Plays Made Richards Valuable to Cowboys in Mid-70s


Receiver Golden Richards’ most famous catch for the Cowboys came in Super Bowl 12 when he snagged a 29 yard scoring pass from fullback Robert Newhouse to seal the Cowboys’ 27-10 victory over the Denver Broncos.

Great football teams are generally blessed to have great football players.   During their glory years in the 1970s, the Cowboys were fortunate to have many stars. One look at the roster of the NFL Hall of Fame or at the Ring of Honor in Texas Stadium will reveal that fact.

Very successful teams also have players who may not be stars but are able to do their part to keep the machine running successfully.  Former Cowboy wide receiver Golden Richards, who turns 66 today, was one of those players.

Richards came to the Cowboys in the 1973 NFL Draft, the same draft that saw Billy Joe DuPree and Harvey Martin selected by Dallas.  The Hawaii and BYU product’s game featured breakaway speed, and he was groomed to eventually take Bob Hayes’ spot as the Cowboys’ big play receiver.  Richards caught only six balls in his rookie season, one of them a 53 yard scoring pass from Craig Morton in a Cowboys’ rout of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Richards joined 1973 free agent pickup Drew Pearson as receivers in the Cowboys’ starting lineup in the 1974 season.  He caught three passes for 84 yards, including a 52 yard touchdown, in Dallas’ opening day 24-0 win at Atlanta.  Later in the year, Richards caught a pair of long touchdown passes (from 41 and 35 yards) and gained a career high 92 yards on his three receptions in Dallas’ 41-17 victory over Cleveland.

The 1975 Cowboys’ team shocked the NFL by winning the NFC Championship, and Richards played his part in the team’s success.  Richards averaged 21.5 yards per catch and had four scoring catches, including a 57 yard catch and run for a score in Dallas’ 31-10 smashing of the Redskins in week 13 that clinched a playoff spot for the Cowboys.  He also returned a punt for a score on the year.   In the post-season, Richards caught a four yard touchdown pass from Roger Staubach in Dallas’ 37-7 thrashing of the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC title game.

The speedy receiver posted a career best 21.8 yards per catch mark in 1976.  His best game of the year came in a week three thriller in which he scored two touchdowns (one on a 31 yard pass from Staubach and another on a 39 yard toss from fellow receiver Pearson) in Dallas’ 30-27 win.

Richards shared the split end spot in Dallas’ lineup with second year man Butch Johnson in the Cowboys’ Super Bowl Championship year of 1977, but was able to make some big plays to help the Cowboys to a title.  His acrobatic 17 yard fourth quarter touchdown catch from Staubach provided the winning points in Dallas’ 30-24 win in week four at St. Louis, and he scored on a 50 yard bomb from Staubach in the following game as Dallas drubbed Washington 34-16.   He also came up big in the post-season, catching touchdown passes in both the NFC Championship win over Minnesota and in Super Bowl 12 against Denver.

The emergence of Johnson and the selection of Tony Hill in the 1977 draft made Richards expendable, and he was traded to the Chicago Bears.  Richards caught one touchdown pass in his two seasons in Chicago, and fittingly it was from long range on a 57 yard strike from Vince Evans in the Bears 24-20 loss to the Cowboys at Texas Stadium in week three of the 1979 season.

Richards 18.3 yards per catch mark is fifth in Cowboys’ history for receivers with at least 100 catches. He is the only Cowboy to score a touchdown on a punt return in the post-season in team history, going all the way on a 63 yard return in Dallas’ 27-10 loss to Minnesota in the 1973 NFC Championship game.

The blonde haired wideout brought style and flash to the Cowboys in his time with the team, and made enough big plays to have earned a solid spot in Cowboys’ lore.



This Day in Dallas Cowboys’ History- Dominance in December


Tony Romo threw for four touchdowns and completed all but two of his pass attempts on the day in Dallas’ 42-7 rout of the Indianapolis Colts on December 21, 2014.

All of us have days when everything seems to go perfectly.  For the Dallas Cowboys in December of 2014, there were a few of such days.  Probably the best example of that came two years ago today when the Cowboys demolished the Indianapolis Colts 42-7 to clinch a NFC East title and help silence the critics who seemed almost gleeful to question the Cowboys’ mettle in the season’s final month.

Dallas entered the game with two impressive December road wins already behind them, having beaten Chicago 41-28 on Thursday December 4th and having handled the Eagles at Philadelphia 38-27 ten days later.  With the team’s offense on a roll and with the Colts’ somewhat defensively challenged, conditions were ripe for a Cowboys’ clinching party and the home team did not disappoint the 91,899 in attendance.

Dallas dominated the game from the start, taking the opening kickoff and driving 80 yards in 15 plays over eight minutes and twenty four seconds to take a 7-0 lead on Tony Romo’s nine yard pass to Terrence Williams who was as wide open as an NFL receiver could possibly be.   A failed pass out of punt formation by the Colts set Dallas up on Indianapolis’ 19 yard line for its next possession, and Dallas struck quickly as Romo and Dez Bryant connected on a 19 yard toss to give Dallas a 14-0 lead.

The 2014 Cowboys, like this year’s squad, were built to grind out long possessions that were designed to break the will of opponents and to keep the Cowboys’ own defense fresh. Dallas’ next two drives, which went 75 and 67 yards, ended with a Romo scoring toss to Cole Beasley and a touchdown run by Demarco Murray to give the Cowboys a 28-0 lead at the half.

The second half was more of the same.  On its seventh possession of the game, Dallas went 75 yards in 10 plays over 6:17 to take a 35-0 lead on Romo’s 25 yard scoring pass to Jason Witten.   A fourth quarter scoring pass from backup quarterback Brandon Weedon to Williams gave Dallas a 42-0 lead, before the Colts put up a consolation score in the game’s final minutes to end the scoring.   The 35 point margin of victory remains the highest ever for the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium.

Some other notes coming out of the dominant win include the following:

Romo’s 90% completion percentage is the highest ever for a Cowboys’ quarterback in a game where he’s thrown at least 11 passes.  Dak Prescott’s 88.9 completion percentage in this past Sunday’s win over Tampa Bay is the second best mark, with Romo’s 88.5 mark in a 2011 win over Buffalo in third place.

Romo’s 151.7 QBR rating was the 14th highest in Cowboys’ history for passers with at least 11 attempts in a game. Craig Morton’s 158.3 rating in a 1969 win over Philadelphia is Dallas’ best ever (Morton went 14 for 18 with 261 yards, three touchdown passes and no interceptions in the game), with Troy Aikman’s 158.2 rating on November 7, 1993 (Aikman was 11 for 13 for 162 yards and two touchdowns before leaving the game with a leg injury) next in line.  There’ve been 18 150+ QBR rating games in Cowboys’ history and no player has more than Hall of Famer Roger Staubach, who had six in his magnificent career.

December 2014 was a month to remember for Romo, who led Dallas to a 4-0 record with some of the best performances of his career:

DT        OPP      Score      Comp     Att      Yrds    TD   Int    QBR

12/4      @Chi    41-28        21          26       205       3       0      138.0

12/14     @Phl    38-27        22          31        265      3       0      129.1

12/21       Ind       42-7          18          20       218      4       0      151.7

12/28      @Was   44-17       22          34       299      2       1       100.0

Cowboys’ quarterbacks have had at least four touchdown passes in a game 31 times. Romo’s effort against the Colts was his tenth such game, the most among all Cowboys’ passers. Danny White is next with eight such games, with Don Meredith in third with six.  Other quarterbacks with at least four touchdown passes in a game for Dallas include Aikman (three times), Morton (twice), Eddie LeBaron (once) and Staubach (once).

The 2014 Cowboys had a time of possession advantage in 11 of their 16 games.  So far in 2016, the Cowboys have done so in nine of their 14 contests.   The Cowboys have won 18 of the 20 games.

Dallas scored at least seven points in each quarter of the 42-7, marking the 62nd time in team history and the fourth time in 2014 that the team had achieved that feat.  Like the 2014 squad, the 1967 and 1983 Cowboys had four games where they scored at least seven points in every quarter. The franchise record for most such games is six, set by the explosive 1980 Cowboys’ squad.

The defense did its part in the division clinching win, intercepting Andrew Luck twice and holding the Colts to a single yard rushing in 10 attempts.  Since the merger, only two teams have held an opponent who ran the ball 10 or more times to fewer yards. On October 2, 1988 the Bears held Buffalo to zero yards rushing in 10 tries.  18 years and almost two months later, Detroit had minus three yards on the ground in 10 tries against Minnesota.



This Day in Dallas Cowboys’ History- Bullet Bob’s Breathtaking Birthday


46 years ago today on his 28th birthday, Hall of Fame Cowboy Bob Hayes scored four touchdowns to help the Cowboys rout intrastate rival Houston 52-10 to clinch the NFC East.

To celebrate our birthdays most of us go to a ballgame or a movie, eat out at a favorite restaurant or attend a family party.  46 years today Cowboys’ receiver Bob Hayes celebrated his 28th day in the rarest of ways, catching four touchdown passes to spark Dallas’ 52-10 romp over the Houston Oilers to give the Cowboys a 10-4 record and a NFC East title.

Since the Cowboys have been in existence, there have been 120 instances where a player has scored four or more touchdowns.  Former Cowboys’ speedster Hayes is the only player to have done so on his birthday.

Dallas entered the week 14 showdown at the Cotton Bowl knowing it had to win its fifth straight game to give the team a shot at winning the division title.  After Houston’s Roy Gerela and Dallas’ Mike Clark traded early field goals, Dallas’ Craig Morton and his talented receivers began an unrelenting assault against the visitors’ secondary.  First Morton connected with Reggie Rucker for a 52 yard score to put Dallas up 10-3, and Morton’s first connection with Hayes (from 38 yards out) padded the Dallas lead to 17-3.

Another Morton to Hayes 38 yard score provided the only points of the second quarter, and Dallas took a 24-3 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Hayes’ speed was on full display in the third stanza, as he scored on passes from Morton of 15 and 59 yards to put Dallas on top 38-3.  An Oilers’ fumble return for a score gave the visitors their only touchdown of the game in the fourth quarter, but that six pointer was matched and raised by the Cowboys who got rushing scores from Calvin Hill and Claxton Welch to make the final score 52-10.

Dallas would go on to beat Detroit and San Francisco in the NFC playoffs before falling to the Baltimore Colts 16-13 in Super Bowl 5.

On the day, Hayes had six catches for 187 yards and four scores.  The 187 receiving yards was the third highest total in a  game in Hayes’ career. In his second year in the NFL in 1966,  the former Olympic sprint champion gained 195 yards on six catches in a 52-7 Dallas win over the Giants on September 8th and followed that up almost two months later with 246 receiving yards on nine catches in Dallas 31-30 win at RFK Stadium over the Washington Redskins.’

In his career, Hayes had 15 games where he had two touchdown passes and two games with three to go along with his four touchdown day against the Oilers.

Bullet Bob’s four touchdown performance against Houston is one of seven times a Cowboys’ player reached the end zone four times in a game.  Dan Reeves had four scores in Dallas 37-7 win over Atlanta on September 5, 1967.   In 1971, both Calvin Hill (on September 19th at Buffalo) and Duane Thomas (on December 18th at Texas Stadium against St. Louis) had four touchdowns in Cowboys’ victories during their first Super Bowl championship year.

Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith is the only Cowboys’ player who has scored four touchdowns in a game on two occasions.  In his rookie year of 1990, Smith reached paydirt four times in Dallas’ 41-1o demolition of the Phoenix Cardinals at Texas Stadium. On opening night 1995 at the Meadowlands against the Giants, Smith had four scores as Dallas drubbed New York 35-0.

The most recent four touchdown game in Cowboys’ history came on November 18, 2007 when Terrell Owens and Tony Romo hooked up for four touchdown passes as Dallas defeated the Redskins at home by a 28-23 score.