Tag: Emmitt Smith

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

Emmitt Smith

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.


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.


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.


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 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.


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.


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).


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.






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- 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-Fearless Cowboys Dominate Green Bay to Advance to 1994 NFC Title Game


Cowboys’ receiver Alvin Harper speeds toward the end zone on a NFL playoff record setting 94 yard touchdown reception in the Cowboys’ 35-9 NFC Divisional round victory over the Green Bay Packers at Texas Stadium on January 8, 1995.

Trying to select a single adjective to describe the Dallas Cowboys of the early to mid 1990s is not an easy task.  They could be called confident, talented, controversial, unique and dominant.  Thinking back to 22 years ago today when the Cowboys  routed the Green Bay Packers 35-9 in a NFC Divisional round playoff game, the descriptive word that seems to best fit the Cowboys from 1991 through 1996 is “fearless”.

The Cowboys played to win, not to prevent losing.  Think back to the 1992 NFC Championship game when Dallas put the ball in the air to seal its first Super Bowl berth since 1978 or to the Thanksgiving Day game of 1994 when Dallas went toe to toe and eventually wore down Green Bay despite having its third string quarterback at the helm.  The Cowboys’ coaches and players of that special era knew that the team had the ability to rise above the norm, and that fearlessness was on display 22 years ago with the Cowboys’ in the shadow of their own end zone.

At Texas Stadium to face the Cowboys in the first round playoff game were the Green Bay Packers, a talented squad led by quarterback Brett Favre and receiver Sterling Sharpe.  The Packers came into the game having dropped three straight contests to Dallas at Texas Stadium, including a playoff loss in 1993, and it looked like it might be more of the same for the visitors when Emmitt Smith capped off the opening drive of the game with a five yard scoring run to give Dallas a 7-0 lead.

The Packers bounced back on their first possession, using a few Favre passes and a 20 yard run by receiver Robert Brooks to set up a 50 yard field goal by Chris Jacke to make the score 7-3.  Dallas was held to only one first down on its next possession, but the Cowboys’ defense did that one better forcing a three and out despite the Packers starting the drive in Dallas territory.   Craig Hentrich’s punt pinned Dallas back at its own six yard line, and the Packers’ defense came on the field with a golden opportunity in place to turn the tables against a Cowboys’ offense that had averaged 35 points scored in its three most recent games against Green Bay.  Dallas responded to that potentially disastrous situation with the fearlessness and execution that made the Cowboys the NFL’s team of the 1990s.

Instead of going the safe route and allowing All-Pro halfback Emmitt Smith to move the ball away from the Cowboys’ own goal line, Dallas went for the Packers’ jugular vein.  Troy Aikman took the snap and faked a hand-off to Smith, a move that kept the Packers’ safeties from getting too deep.  The unmatched Cowboys’ offensive line (with help from tough as nails fullback Daryl Johnston) kept the Packers’ line at bay, allowing Aikman to launch a beautiful post pattern that landed in long striding receiver Alvin Harper’s waiting arms near the 50 yard line. Harper raced down the sideline, did some fancing stepping to avoid Green Bay’s Terrell Buckley and George Teague near the Green Bay 10 and exploded into the end zone with a then NFL record 94 yard scoring pass that shocked the Packers and put Dallas ahead 14-3.

By halftime, the Cowboys had an insurmountable 28-9 lead and Green Bay’s story of futility at Texas Stadium would be adding another chapter.  Two time defending Super Bowl Champion Dallas won 35-9, and would be heading to the NFC title game to take on San Francisco.

In the lopsided contest, Michael Irvin (111), Harper (108) and Jay Novacek (104) would all exceed 100 yards receiving.  That game remains the only game in Cowboys’ playoff history where the team has had multiple receivers with 100 or more yards receiving.


This Day in Dallas Cowboys History- Eight Year Drought Broken as Cowboys Beat Bears


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.

This Day in Dallas Cowboys History- Smith Sets a Record

Redskins v Cowboys  X

On Sunday night December 27, 1998, almost 64,000 fans at Texas Stadium and countless more watching on national television saw Emmitt Smith cross the goal line twice against Washington to become the NFL’s all-time leader in rushing touchdowns.

The 2016 Dallas Cowboys had nothing to play for last evening in terms of playoff positioning, but the Cowboys still put their best foot forward with a dominant second half that led to the team’s 13th win of the year in a 42-21 dismantling of the Detroit Lions.

Back in 1998, the situation was somewhat similar for the Cowboys. A week 15 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles had won the NFC East for Dallas, and the Cowboys week 16 contest against Washington was basically a tune up for Dallas’ upcoming first round playoff game.

There was a buzz in the crowd on the night however, as Cowboys’ star Emmitt Smith was primed to pass Marcus Allen for the most rushing touchdowns in NFL history. Smith entered the game tied with Allen with 123 career running TDs, and he, his teammates and Cowboys’ fans would like nothing more than for Smith to break the record against arch-rival Washington.

Dallas and Smith would get rolling in the second quarter.  A Washington touchdown on the final play from scrimmage in the first quarter put the visitors up 7-3.  Dallas started its next possession on the Washington 35, and took little time getting Smith in position to pass Allen.  A 51 yard connection from Troy Aikman to Michael Irvin got the ball to the Washington 14 and from there Smith took over.  The Florida native ran for nine yards and then four more, before beating Allen’s mark with a one yard touchdown run that put Dallas ahead 10-7.

The next time Dallas had the ball, Smith put some icing on the cake.  Two Aikman to Billy Davis passes and a pass interference penalty on Washington got the ball to the Redskins’ 31 yard line.  Smith ran for five yards on his first carry of the drive, and then finished the possession off with a marvelous 26 yard run for a score that featured some of the moves, vision and acceleration that made him the NFL’s all-time leading rusher.

Dallas would win the game 23-7 and finish the season with a perfect 8-0 record in divisional games.  Unfortunately the team’s success against divisional foes would not translate into the post-season, as fellow NFC East dweller Arizona would come to Texas Stadium and shock the Cowboys in the first round of the playoffs.

Smith’s remarkable career in Dallas would feature 153 rushing touchdowns, with #22 leading the NFL in that category in 1992 with 18, 1994 with 21 and 1995 with a then NFL record 25.   Smith added 11 rushing scores to his resume in his two years as an Arizona Cardinal, leaving him with an NFL best 164.

This Day in Dallas Cowboys’ History- A First for the NFL’s First Franchise


Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith became the first Dallas Cowboy to lead the NFL in rushing by gaining 160 yards against the Atlanta Falcons in the Cowboys’ week 16 31-27 victory on December 22, 1991.

Few NFL teams can match the Dallas Cowboys’ pedigree when looking at the running back position.  Don Perkins was Dallas’ main backfield man in the 1960s, and his exceptional quickness and ability to find the hole earned him a spot in the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor. In back to back seasons multi-talented Calvin Hill (1969) and smooth as silk Duane Thomas (1970) were running backs picked by Dallas in the first round of the NFL Draft, and each had very productive seasons for the Cowboys.  Walt Garrison and Robert Newhouse were hard running Cowboys’ fullbacks who gained yards by dishing out as much punishment as they took.  Spectacular Tony Dorsett was the Cowboys’ first round choice in 1977, and his superb speed and vision helped lead the Cowboys to a Super Bowl 12 title and send Dorsett to Canton.

On this day in 1991, Cowboy all-time great Emmitt Smith did something that none of the great backs in Cowboys’ history ahead of him had done. Smith gained 160 yards on 32 carries and scored two touchdowns in Dallas 31-27 victory over Atlanta at Texas Stadium, allowing the Florida native to beat out fellow superstar Barry Sanders of Detroit for the NFL rushing title by 15 yards (Smith had 1,563 on the year).

Smith was the AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1990, and he started the 1991 season in a way that made it clear he was looking to do bigger and better things in the year to come.  The Cowboys’ back gained 112 yards in each of his first two games, and exploded for 182 against Phoenix in week four to show the NFL that he would be a force to be reckoned with.  A week six 122 yard effort at Green Bay gave him four 100 yard plus efforts in the first six weeks of the year, and he closed the season by exceeding the century mark in rushing yards in four of the last five Cowboys’ contests. For good measure Smith also gained 105 yards in Dallas’ 17-13 playoff win at Chicago, Dallas first post-season win since the 1982 playoffs.

The 1991 rushing title was the first of four for the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, as Smith was the pacesetter for yards gained on the ground in the Cowboys’ Super Bowl championship seasons of 1992, 1993 and 1995.  Smith would gain over 1,000 yards in 11 consecutive seasons from 1991 through 2001, and finished with an NFL best 164 rushing touchdowns in his magnificent career.

Perhaps Smith’s backfield mate for the glory years in Dallas put it best when describing the impact #22 had on the Cowboys and the NFL:

“I speak for all the guys who have blocked for Emmitt Smith. We did it because of what kind of person he was, not just what kind of football player he was. You talk about great players making everyone around them better. That couldn’t be more true of anybody than Emmitt Smith.” — former fullback Daryl Johnston, now a TV color analyst.