Tag: Michael Irvin

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.






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.

Cowboys Notes- December 4, 2016


Rookie quarterback Dak Prescott’s 2016 season so far compares favorably with some of the best quarterbacks in football.

It’s the second straight Sunday for us with no Cowboys’ football, but consecutive Thursday victories (first on Thanksgiving against the Redskins and this past Thursday at Minnesota) have the Cowboys on the verge of clinching a playoff spot today.  Losses by either Tampa Bay, who plays at San Diego, or Washington, who visits Arizona, will put Dallas in the playoffs for the 31st time in team history.

While we wait to see what happens in San Diego and Arizona, and probably more importantly in Pittsburgh where the Steelers face off against Dallas’ chief challenger in the NFC East (the New York Giants), let’s look at some interesting notes coming out of one of the most successful regular seasons (at least to date) in team history.


Cowboys rookie Dak Prescott’s play so far has been perhaps THE story of the NFL season. While many thought the Cowboys’ fortunes were sunk when veteran Tony Romo went down with a pre-season injury,  Prescott has taken the reins of a talented Cowboys’ offense that has shown to be one of the best in the league.

Prescott’s ability to keep from throwing the ball to the opponent has separated him from most quarterbacks in the NFL.   So far, Prescott has thrown 358 passes and has been intercepted only twice (a .6 interception percentage).   Since 1970, the best interception percentage mark in a full season for a quarterback with at least 3,000 yards passing was Robert Griffin III’s 1.27 figure set in 2012.

The Cowboys’ rookie is also on pace to set a Cowboys’ record for fewest interceptions thrown by a quarterback with at least 358 pass attempts in a year. Troy Aikman’s 1993 season, in which he had only six passes intercepted in 392 attempts, is currently the best for the Cowboys, with Aikman’s 1995 campaign (432 attempts, seven interceptions) and Roger Staubach’s 1977 season (361 attempts, nine interceptions) next in line.


The Cowboys’ 11 wins so far in 2016 give Dallas 28 seasons with a double digit win total since the team’s inception in 1960. Dallas’ record is far and away the top mark in the NFL during that time period.  San Francisco, Pittsburgh, New England and Indianapolis (including the Colts’ time in Baltimore) are behind Dallas with 23 double digit win seasons since 1960, with Philadelphia and Green Bay next with 22 such seasons each.

“X” TIMES 65

Dez Bryant’s touchdown catch on Thursday at Minnesota gave the wideout his 65th career touchdown reception, tying him with Hall of Famer Michael Irvin for the second highest total in Cowboys’ history.  Bryant and Irvin trail another Hall of Famer, Bob Hayes who caught 71 scoring passes in his Cowboys’ career.

Here are some fun facts about the scoring catches for three of the four best wide receivers (I am including Drew Pearson in this list) in Cowboys’ history:

BRYANT-  Has scored 50 of his 65 on passes from Tony Romo.  Nine of Bryant’s scoring passes have been from 50 yards or greater, while Bryant has used his NBA-like body and toughness to score 26 touchdowns on passes of 10 yards or less.

HAYES-  Connected with Don Meredith for 36 scores, Craig Morton for 21 and Roger Staubach for 11. Is the only member of the trio to have caught touchdown passes thrown by non-quarterbacks (Hayes was on the receiving end of scoring tosses by halfback Calvin Hill and fellow received Lance Rentzel during his career).  19 of Bullet Bob’s touchdown catches came on plays of 50 yards or more.

IRVIN- Teamed up with fellow Hall of Famer Troy Aikman for 49 touchdown passes.  23 of his touchdowns came on plays of 10 yards of less, and another ten came on plays of 50 yards or more.  Irvin also has caught a Cowboys’ record eight touchdown passes in post-season play (Hayes had two playoff touchdown catches and Bryant has not yet had one).


In 2016, the Dallas Cowboys have had 24 drives that ended up in touchdowns when the team started out no further than its own 25 yard line.  Since 1999 when Pro Football Reference started tracking this information, the Cowboys’ only year with more 75 yard plus touchdown drives was in 2014 when the 12-4 NFC East champion team had 28.  The only other squad to even equal the 2016 team’s performance so far was the 2012 team that had 24 75 yard plus drives in route to its 8-8 mark.


While many were shocked by Prescott’s emergence in 2016, few have been over fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott’s dominant play so far on the year. The multi-talented rookie scored his 13th touchdown of the year against Minnesota three days ago, putting him one behind Herschel Walker’s 14 in 1986 for the most touchdowns scored by a rookie in Cowboys’ history.  Since the merger in 1970, Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson has the most touchdowns in a year by a rookie with 20 in 1983.  With four games to go, Elliott has an outside shot of equaling or exceeding that mark.

Cowboys v. Steelers- A Rivaly That Has Lasted for Decades


The last time the Cowboys and Steelers played was in December 2012.  Dan Bailey’s overtime 21 yard field goal won the game for Dallas by a 27-24 score.

The Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers do not play each other often but when they do, chances are that something memorable will happen. Today at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, the rivals meet for the 32nd time (including three Super Bowl contests) with the Cowboys having won 16 of the 31 previous contests.  Dallas makes its second visit to the most recent home of the Steelers, having lost the previous time in 2008 after blowing a ten point fourth quarter lead.

Here’s a look at some of the highlights from the teams’ 31 previous contests.



The Dallas Cowboys’ first season in 1960 ended in a 0-11-1 record.  Quarterback Eddie LeBaron and his Dallas teammates made sure right off the bat that the 1961 Cowboys would have a goose egg in the column.

On September 17, 1961 at the Cotton Bowl, LeBaron rallied the Cowboys to a thrilling 27-24 win to give the franchise its first victory. LeBaron’s fourth quarter touchdown pass to Dick Bielski tied the score, and a key LeBaron completion to Billy Howton with seconds to play set up Allen Green for a 27 yard chip shot field goal that put Dallas in the win column.

13 months later, this time at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, LeBaron tormented the Steelers again.  The tiny quarterback threw five touchdown passes, including three to Frank Clarke, to lead Dallas to a 42-27 victory.


Calvin Hill made his name in the NFL running with the ball.  In six years with the Cowboys, Hill rushed for over 5,000 yards and made four Pro Bowls.  Running with the ball, however, wasn’t the only thing the first round choice out of Yale did for Tom Landry and the Cowboys’ offense.

Hill was a good receiver (he had 139 catches, six for touchdowns during his time in Dallas), and could also throw the ball.

The tall halfback threw three touchdown passes in his career, the last coming in October 1972 to give the Cowboys a 17-13 comeback win over Pittsburgh at Texas Stadium. With Dallas trailing 13-10 in the third quarter, Hill connected with receiver Ron Sellers on a 55 yard scoring play that gave Dallas the points it needed for the win.


Terry Bradshaw was often battered and bruised by the Dallas Cowboys’ Doomsday defense, but the Louisiana native generally had the last laugh when going up against Dallas.

Following a 1972 loss at Dallas to the Cowboys, Bradshaw led Pittsburgh to five consecutive wins over the Cowboys (including wins in Super Bowls X and XIII). The last victory over Dallas that Bradshaw orchestrated ended an amazing streak for the Cowboys.

Entering the 1982 season, the Cowboys had won 16 consecutive opening day games.  Starting out a season 1-0 was as much a part of the Cowboys as the hole in the roof at Texas Stadium and Tom Landry’s fedora hat.

The streak ended at the hands of Bradshaw and the Steelers, as three Bradshaw touchdown passes and 103 yards rushing from Franco Harris led Pittsburgh to a 36-28 victory. The Cowboys didn’t go down without a fight as Danny White threw for four scores of his own, but costly Cowboys’ turnovers and an inability to stop the Steelers’ offense when it counted led to the end of Dallas’ impressive streak.


Barry Switzer had his ups and downs in his four years as coach of the Cowboys. Against the Pittsburgh Steelers however, it was all high fives and back slaps for the genial Switzer.

In his first game in 1994, Switzer’s Cowboys rode 171 yards rushing by Emmitt Smith, 139 receiving yards by Michael Irvin and a ferocious pass rush led by Charles Haley to trounce the Steelers 26-9 at Three Rivers Stadium.

The next time Switzer faced Pittsburgh, the stakes were higher but the result was the same. Dallas defeated Pittsburgh 27-17 in Super Bowl 30 to give the Cowboys their fifth NFL title.

In 1997, again on opening day, Switzer and the Cowboys once again made life miserable for the denizens of the Steel City as Dallas won 37-7. Troy Aikman sliced and diced the Steel Curtain on the hot late August day, throwing for four touchdowns (two to Irvin) and posting a 135.4 QBR (the best ever for a Cowboys’ quarterback against Pittsburgh).


In the mid to late 1970s, running back Preston Pearson was a vital cog of the Cowboys’ high-powered offense.  With defenses preoccupied with covering talented Cowboys receivers such as Drew Pearson, Tony Hill and Billy Joe DuPree, Pearson often was left in single coverage and more often than not, he made opponents pay for that strategy.

Pearson was picked up on waivers right before the start of the 1975 season after being released by Chuck Noll and the Steelers.   On a squad where he was the only player who had not played his entire career as a Cowboy, the versatile halfback helped Dallas surprise the NFL world by going 10-4, winning two playoff games and earning a spot in Super Bowl X against the Steelers.

Many NFL historians believe that Pearson was the first true third down specialist among NFL running backs.  Running screen plays and seam passes with precision, Pearson caught 189 passes (11 for touchdowns) in his time in Dallas.