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.