Tag: Dennis Thurman

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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This Day in Dallas Cowboys History- Running to Win and Winning Big

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Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett rushed for a career high 1,646 yards during the 1981 regular season, and he added 86 more in Dallas’ first round playoff game 38-0 trouncing of Tampa Bay on January 2, 1982.

A staple of the Tom Landry-led Dallas Cowboys teams was a commitment to the running game.  With a history of great runners like Don Perkins, Calvin Hill, Duane Thomas, Robert Newhouse and Tony Dorsett plus deep and talented offensive line units, the Cowboys generally moved the ball effectively on the ground.

The 1981 Cowboys certainly fit that mold. Dallas rushed for 2,711 yards during the regular season, the second highest total in the NFL, with star back Tony Dorsett gaining a career high 1,646 to finish second in rushing in the league behind New Orleans’ George Rogers.

In large part due to its sterling running game, Dallas was among the NFL’s elite in 1981. The Cowboys started fast, going 4-0 to start the year. After a pair of losses, Dallas ran off another four game winning streak with three of the four wins coming against teams that would win 10 or more games on the year.  An upset loss at Detroit made Dallas 8-3 on the year, but the Cowboys ripped off another four game winning streak and clinched the NFC East title in Week 15 with a 21-10 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Cowboys’ opponent at Texas Stadium in the first round of the NFC playoffs was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, led by quarterback Doug Williams and a ball-hawking defensive backfield that finished second in the NFL with 32 interceptions.   After 60 minutes of dominant play by the Cowboys, it was clear that the Bucs were not in the same class as a Dallas team that would be heading to its 11th NFC Championship game.

Dallas ran for 212 yards in the game, the sixth highest total in Cowboys’ playoff history.  Dorsett led the way for Dallas with 86 yards, with Ron Springs (70), James Jones (32) and Newhouse (23) contributing to the impressive effort.  Dallas also became only the second team in Pro Football since 1960 to have four players score rushing touchdowns in a post-season game as Dorsett, Springs, Jones and second year man Timmy Newsome all reached the end zone on running plays (the other team was the AFL’s San Diego Chargers, who got rushing scores from Paul Lowe, Keith Lincoln, Tobin Rote and John Hadl in a 51-10 playoff victory over the Boston Patriots in the 1964 post-season).

The Cowboys’ success on the ground was due not only to its talented stable of backs, but also to a top-notch effort by its offensive line. The middle of the line, anchored by center Tom Rafferty and guards Herbert Scott and Kurt Petersen, carved out several ridiculously large holes on goal line plays that made the Cowboys’ backs’ task much easier.  Tackles Jim Cooper and Pat Donovan, along with tight ends Billy Joe DuPree and Doug Cosbie, also did their part to allow Dallas’ running game to control the contest.

The Cowboys’ defense was also outstanding on the day, featuring a relentless pass rush that led to four sacks and four interceptions.   Dallas’ dynamic duo of Harvey Martin and Randy White both had a sack on the day.  Left end Ed Jones did not pick up a sack, but he hurried Williams numerous times and had a rare interception.  Next to Charlie Waters no Dallas defensive back had more interceptions in the post-season than cagey Dennis Thurman, and the Southern Cal product had two off of Williams.  Rookie Michael Downs also got in on the fun with an interception of his own.

Dallas shutout was one of only 20 shutouts registered in post-season play since the NFL merger in 1970.  No team in the NFL has more than Dallas’ three during that period (the Cowboys also shut out Detroit in the 1970 playoffs and the Los Angeles Rams in the 1978 NFC Championship Game).

The Cowboys’ 1981 season would have a bitter ending eight days later.  At Candlestick Park in San Francisco, Joe Montana led the 49ers to a 28-27 comeback victory over Dallas to send the Niners to the Super Bowl and the Cowboys back to Dallas to wonder what might have been.

 

Rare Three Interception Game Helps Cowboys Top Bucs 26-20

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Jeff Heath returns his fourth quarter interception off of Tampa’s Jameis Winston in Dallas’ 26-20 victory over Tampa Bay last night.

Last night for the first time since October of 2013, the Dallas Cowboys’ defense intercepted at least three passes in a game.  The interceptions by Byron Jones, Jeff Heath and Orlando Scandrick helped the Cowboys bounce back from last weekend’s loss in New York to the Giants with a 26-20 victory that moved the team a step closer to winning the NFC East and capturing the top seed in the upcoming NFC playoffs.

Dallas last three interception effort came on October 20, 2013 at Lincoln Financial Field against Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles.  Brandon Carr, Barry Church and Sean Lee each had a pick against Foles in Dallas’ 17-3 victory.  Since that date 29 of the 31 other teams in the NFL have had at least one game with three or more interceptions, with many having multiple such contests:

MOST THREE OR MORE INTERCEPTION GAMES SINCE 10/20/13

Cincinnati Bengals      8

Tampa Bay Bucs           7

Buffalo Bills                   6

NY Giants                       6

Seattle Seahawks         6

The two teams with longer droughts than the Cowboys are the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Oakland Raiders.  Oakland’s last three interception game came on October 6, 2013 against San Diego.  For Jacksonville, you have to go all the way back to December of 2011 when the Jags had three picks against Tampa Bay.

Other interception related notes coming out of last night’s win:

Cowboys’ backup safety Jeff Heath has four career interceptions, with three of them coming against Winston and Tampa Bay. Last year at Tampa in a heart-breaking loss to the Bucs, Heath had two interceptions off of the then rookie quarterback.

Scandrick’s last interception prior to last night was in December of 2014 against Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears in a 41-28 Dallas victory.

The Cowboys’ record for most three plus interception games in a single season is seven, set in 1961 and matched in 1981 and 1985.  The Cowboys are 109-14 in games where they’ve had at least three interceptions.

The most interceptions in a game in Cowboys’ history came in week two of Dallas’ first Super Bowl Championship winning years in 1971.  In a 42-7 rout of the Eagles in Philadelphia, Dallas intercepted seven passes with veteran cornerback Herb Adderly setting a team record (which was later tied by Lee Roy Jordan, Dennis Thurman and Terence Newman) with three of his own. Cornell Green, Chuck Howley, Mel Renfro and Charlie Waters also had interceptions in the easy win.

OTHER NOTES

Dallas’ 12 victory marked the 12th time in team history that the Cowboys have won at least that many games.  The 2016 squad has a chance to beat or tie the franchise record of 13 wins in a season, set by the 1992 Super Bowl Championship team and tied in 2007.  Four of the Cowboys’ five Super Bowl winning teams had at least 12 wins in a year, with the only exception being the 1971 squad that won 11 in a 14 game regular season.

The Cowboys’ 449 yards of total offense was the team’s second highest total of the year (Dallas gained 460 against Philadelphia on October 30th in its 29-23 overtime win), and the team record setting ninth of the season.  The 2009 and 2012 Cowboys’ teams had eight 400 yard plus games.

Cowboys-Packers: Iconic Franchises That Have Battled Fiercely

The Dallas Cowboys invade Lambeau Field to take on the Green Bay Packers tomorrow looking to keep the momentum of a 4-1 record forged in large part by the contributions of raw rookies.  Maybe those young stars are just what Dallas needs to reverse a trend that has seen it drop nine of ten games the Cowboys have played at the Packers’ storied stadium.

The Cowboys-Packers rivalry has, over the years, been largely one-sided toward the home team. While the Packers are 9-1 at Lambeau Field against their Lone Star state rivals, the Cowboys dominated the Pack at Texas Stadium by an 11-2 mark which included three playoff losses for Green Bay.  Here’s a look at some of the interesting games and accomplishments between two teams who don’t play often but almost always produce excitement when they do.

THE CHAMPION HOLDS OFF THE CHALLENGER

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In 1966, the upstart Dallas Cowboys became a force in the NFL after six years of struggles.  Dallas finished with a 10-3-1 record and earned its first NFL Divisional title.  The Cowboys’ sterling record earned them a spot in the NFL Championship Game where’d they’d be matched up against reigning NFL champion Green Bay.

In the match-up at the Cotton Bowl, the Cowboys and Packers played a game that has been forgotten over the years due to their rematch in the Ice Bowl in Green Bay one year later but was one of the more exciting playoff contests in NFL history in its own right.

The first quarter of the game provided a year’s worth of ups and downs in 1967’s first day, as Green Bay jumped out to a 14-0 lead only to see the Cowboys rally to tie the game at 14-14.  The game remained close until the fourth quarter, when two scores by the veteran Packers seemed to put the Cowboys in a hole they’d not be able to get out of as Dallas trailed 34-20.

Soon Dallas and quarterback Don Meredith proved that they were not done yet, as Dandy Don teamed up with Frank Clarke for a 68 yard touchdown pass that pulled Dallas within seven points of Green Bay, shocked the Packers’ defense and sent the partisan Cowboys’ crowd into a frenzy.  The tension only increased moments later, when Dallas got the ball back and drove deep into Green Bay territory. However a series of mishaps by the young Cowboys at the end of the game led to a Green Bay win, and it would be the Packers instead of the Cowboys who would be representing the NFL in Super Bowl I.

A TALE OF TWO HOLIDAYS

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The Cowboys and Packers have squared off twice in the annual Thanksgiving Day game in Dallas and while both games were entertaining, they were as different as turkey and cranberry sauce.

On Thanksgiving Day 1970, the Cowboys were in the midst of a run that would take the team from a 5-4 early November record to five straight wins, a NFL East title and their first Super Bowl berth. The Packers were a shell of their championship teams from the mid-60’s, and the Doomsday Defense made sure Dallas would have its first ever victory against the Packers.  Holding the Packers to a paltry 129 yards of offense, Dallas won 16-3 behind three Mike Clark field goals and a fourth quarter 13 yard touchdown run on a reverse by speedy Cowboys’ received Bob Hayes.

24 years later the teams squared off again on Thanksgiving Day, this time at Texas Stadium, in a game that is remembered among Cowboys’ fans as the “Jason Garrett Game”.  Standing in for injured first stringer Troy Aikman and his back-up Rodney Peete, Garrett led the Cowboys to a thrilling come-behind 42-31 victory that saw the Cowboys offense dominate the contest in the second half. Garrett threw for 311 yards and touchdowns to Alvin Harper and Michael Irvin, which helped offset Sterling Sharpe’s four touchdown catches for the Packers.

A PAIR OF ACES

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The 1978 Dallas Cowboys did not win the Super Bowl title as the 1977 Dallas team did, but they came close and only ended up in the loss column in the NFL title game due to a sterling performance against them by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The lack of a Super Bowl ring was a tough pill to swallow for the Cowboys, but it did not take away the fact that the 1978 Cowboys were one of the most talented teams in league history. Their abilities were on display in a big way on November 12th of the year as Dallas rolled over the Packers 42-14 at County Stadium in Milwaukee.

The highlight of the game for the Cowboys was the fact that two of their running backs, Tony Dorsett and Robert Newhouse, ended up with over 100 yards rushing with each scoring two touchdowns.  Dorsett’s 149 yards and his partner Newhouse’s 101 marked only the second time in Cowboys’ history to that point where they’d had a pair of 100 yard rushers in a game.  There’s been only one other such game since then (the first duo with 100 yards plus rushing each was Calvin Hill and Walt Garrison against Washington in 1972, and Emmitt Smith and Chris Warren joined the exclusive group in a 1998 game..also against Washington).

AS EASY AS ONE, TWO, THREE

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Any NFL defensive back would likely consider an interception in a post-season game to be a highlight moment.  In a 1982 NFC Divisional Playoff game at Texas Stadium, Cowboys cornerback Dennis Thurman tripled his fun as his three picks off of Green Bay’s Lynn Dickey led Dallas to a 37-26 win.

Thurman’s thievery included a 39 interception return for a score that put Dallas up 20-7 going into the half.  The three interception effort is one of two such games in Cowboys’ post-season history.  In 1977 Charlie Waters had three interceptions in a playoff game, not against Green Bay but v.s. the Packs’ bitter rivals the Chicago Bears.

LUCKY SEVEN

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When an NFL team fails to score a touchdown in a game, chances are that team will be ending up in the loss column.  On November 18, 1996 at Texas Stadium the defending champion Cowboys did not reach the end zone but still beat the Green Bay Packers for the fifth straight time at home largely due to the efforts of the smallest man on the roster.

Chris Boniol set a Cowboys record and tied an NFL mark with seven field goals to lead Dallas to a 21-6 victory that wasn’t as close as the score indicated.  The accurate and reliable Boniol connected from 45, 37, 42, 45, 35, 39 and 28 yards to help offset the Cowboys’ inability to reach the end zone against a team that would go on to win its first Super Bowl crown in 29 years.  Boniol’s Cowboys’ record of seven field goals in a game would later be equaled by Billy Cundiff in a 2003 contest against the Giants.

THURSDAY NIGHT LIGHTS

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On November 29, 2007 at Texas Stadium, a national television audience witnessed a match-up of 10-1 teams that was billed as the battle for NFC supremacy.  Both Dallas and Green Bay played well on offense but at the end of the day, the quarterback wearing the Cowboys’ star on his helmet was QB1.

Tony Romo threw for 309 yards and four scores, two to Patrick Crayton, as the Cowboys rolled to a 37-27 win.  Young Aaron Rogers replaced starter Brett Favre and was impressive with 201 yards passing and a touchdown pass in his first extended action behind center.  At the end of the year, both Dallas and Green Bay would be left on the outside looking in as each team suffered a home playoff game loss to the eventual Super Bowl Champion New York Giants.