Tag: Randy White

This Day in Dallas Cowboys History- The Staubach/Morton Saga

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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- 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.

 

This Day in Dallas Cowboys’ History- Waters Washes Chicago Away

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On December 26, 1977, Cowboys’ safety Charlie Waters set an NFL record for most interceptions in a post-season game with three as Dallas routed Chicago 37-7 in a first round NFC playoff contest.

On a cold mid-December early evening at Texas Stadium in 1976, veteran safety Charlie Waters had done everything he could to help the Dallas Cowboys try to defeat the Los Angeles Rams in the teams’ first round NFC playoff game. Waters had blocked two punts, including one that gave Dallas a chance deep in Rams’ territory in the final minutes, and had intercepted a pass but his sterling efforts could not stop the Rams from posting a 14-12 upset win that ended the season for the reigning NFC Champion Cowboys.

53 weeks later on the day after Christmas in 1977, Waters and a fortified group of teammates looked to erase the memory of that loss when they took on the Chicago Bears in the first round of the post-season. Dallas had dominated in the regular season, going 12-2 and showing star power in all aspects of the game.  Unlike at the end of 1976, quarterback Roger Staubach was fully healthy and was passing with his usual superb ability.  Rookie Tony Dorsett had added an element that the 1976 Cowboys’ backfield lacked, breakaway speed.   And on defense, Waters and his teammates (particularly the dynamic defensive line that featured pass rushing force Harvey Martin and all-around star defensive tackle Randy White) had made Doomsday II a force to be reckoned with.  This playoff game would be vastly different than the one that saw the Rams shock the football world one year earlier.

Waters set an NFL record with three interceptions and the Cowboys’ defense forced seven turnovers as Dallas cruised pass the Bears 37-7.   The Cowboys forced seven Bears turnovers on the day, with linebacker D.D. Lewis joining Waters in the interception column  on the stat sheet.  Dallas’ pass rush contributed to Chicago quarterback Bob Avellini’s bad day, sacking the former University of Maryland signal caller three times and knocking him to the turf numerous other times.

On offense, the Cowboys’ ground attack kept the Bears defense reeling.  Dallas rushed for 233 yards, the fourth highest rushing yards total in the post-season in franchise history, with rookie Dorsett gaining 85 yards on 17 carries and scoring two touchdowns.  Dorsett’s effort included a beautiful 23 yard touchdown run in the third quarter that expanded Dallas’ lead to 24-0, and left several Bear defenders grasping for air when he cut through the hole and accelerated into the end zone.

Staubach threw for one touchdown (a 28 toss to Billy Joe DuPree) and ran for 25 yards of his own as Dallas scored the first 37 points of the game to take all of the drama out of the Bears’ first post-season game in 14 years.

Waters had nine interceptions in the post-season in his Cowboys’ career, a mark that is Dallas’ all-time high (Thurman is next with seven and Waters’ running partner in the Cowboys’ defensive backfield in the 1970s Cliff Harris is third with six).