Tag: Tom Landry

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- Eight Year Drought Broken as Cowboys Beat Bears

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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- Cowboys Advance on a Wing and a Prayer

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The iconic Roger Staubach to Drew Pearson “Hail Mary” touchdown pass to beat Minnesota in the NFC playoffs was probably the highlight moment of the entertaining and unexpectedly successful 1975 season for the Dallas Cowboys.

Loyal fans of all NFL teams can recall plays or games that make their blood boil or cause them to be overcome with nausea.   As a Cowboys fan, I still cannot watch a replay of “The Catch” without muttering about how lucky the 49ers were to be advancing to the Super Bowl that should have rightfully involved Tom Landry and his 1981 Cowboys’ team.  When one is around Redskins’ fans, particularly in late November, it is advisable not to mention the name “Clint Longley”.   For fans of the Oakland Raiders, the term “tuck rule” usually is uttered with the use of a preceding adjective that sounds somewhat like “tuck”.

41 years ago today, events unfolded at old Bloomington Stadium in Minnesota that haunt fans of the purple and gold to this day.  With a playoff victory over NFC rival Dallas all but locked up, the Viking and their fans saw Roger Staubach and Drew Pearson take the victory away from them in the most unlikely of circumstances.

The 1975 season was a memorable one in Cowboys’ history. Coming off of a 8-6 mark in 1974 that left Dallas out of the playoffs for the first time since 1965, the Cowboys shocked the NFL world by rebounding to make the playoffs with a 10-4 record.  In Dallas’ way for the first round of the playoffs was an experienced and talented Vikings’ squad that was eager to make it back to the Super Bowl to avenge defeats in three previous appearances in the NFL’s ultimate game.

The Cowboys-Vikings game was a rough affair, with defenses dominating for most of the day.  A Chuck Foreman touchdown run in the second quarter gave the home team a 7-0 lead at the half, but the Dallas offense drove to a score of its own (coming on a four yard scoring run by Doug Dennison) to even the score at 7-7 heading into the final period.

The upstart Cowboys scored next, as Toni Fritsch’s short field goal gave the visitors a 10-7 lead. Fran Tarkenton and the Vikes were not done however, and Minnesota reclaimed the lead on a one yard run by Brent McClanahan that put the Vikes on top 14-10.

The game’s crucial drive started with a little more than two minutes to go and the Cowboys deep in their own territory.  To that point, Dallas’ star receiver Drew Pearson had not caught a pass on the game and Dallas’ chances of success against Minnesota’s imposing defense appeared bleak.  Shortly, however, bleak would be the word used to describe the Vikings’ situation as Staubach and Pearson went to work.

The first big connection between the longtime teammates came on a fourth and 16 play from the Cowboys’ 25 yard line.  Staubach found Pearson on a deep out on the right side of the field for 25 yards to keep Dallas’ hopes alive with less than a minute left to play.

After Preston Pearson fortuitously could not catch a short pass from Staubach, Dallas faced a second and ten from midfield.   Operating out of the shotgun formation, Staubach faked to his left to draw cagey Minnesota free safety Paul Krause’s attention away from Pearson, and threw a deep pass down the right side of the field toward trusty #88. The pass was under thrown somewhat, a fact that worked to Dallas’ advantage when Pearson was able to adjust to the ball and Minnesota’s Nate Wright was not.  Pearson caught the ball against his hip and stepped into the end zone with the game winning score.  The touchdown sent the Vikings home for the winter and propelled Dallas to its fifth NFC Championship game appearance in six years.  After the game, Staubach famously indicated that he said a Hail Mary as he threw the pass.

The controversy over the play continues to this day. Loyal Minnesota fans insist that Pearson pushed off on Wright to get an advantage that he exploited to make the grab. Cowboy fans disagree, saying that the play was just another example of how the resourceful Staubach-Pearson combination came through in the clutch.

After the game Landry told reporters, “This has to rank as our second-best win ever. Our Super Bowl victory, of course, is still the all-time most rewarding, but this will be another we’ll never forget”.   The Hall of Fame coach was right, the game will never be forgotten by Cowboys fans…..or by those from Minnesota.

This Day in Cowboys’ History- Cowboys Crush Californians’ Holiday Dreams in Consecutive Seasons

cowboyscelebrateThe defending Super Bowl Champion Dallas Cowboys celebrate Roger Staubach’s last minute touchdown pass to Ron Sellers that gave the Cowboys a 30-28 comeback victory over the San Francisco 49ers in a NFC Divisional Playoff game on December 23, 1972 at Candlestick Park.

Instead of sugar plums and candy, two California-based teams found their stockings filled with coal courtesy of the Dallas Cowboys in consecutive years on December 23rd in Cowboys’ history.  A thrilling 30-28 win at San Francisco on this day in 1972 gave the Cowboys their third consecutive post-season victory over the Niners, and a 27-16 dispatching of the Los Angeles Rams one year later sent the southern Californians to the same fate their neighbors to the north had experienced one year earlier.

Here’s a look at some of the highlights from the two playoff wins against franchises the Cowboys have faced seven times each in the post-season.

1972 

The defending Super Bowl Champion Cowboys lost star quarterback Roger Staubach to injury in the pre-season, but veteran Craig Morton stepped in to lead Dallas to a 10-4 record and a NFC wildcard spot.  In the season’s final games Staubach was healthy enough to play, but Coach Tom Landry stuck with Morton to start in the Cowboys’ first round playoff game at Candlestick Park against the 49ers.

Having lost to Dallas in the NFC Championship games following the 1970 and 1971 seasons, the Niners were primed to exact some revenge against a team that had kept it from appearing in the franchises first Super Bowl.  When speedy Vic Washington returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a score to put the Niners up 7-0 seconds into the game, it appeared that the home team might get its wish after two years of disappointment.

San Francisco rode the momentum of Washington’s fine play to dominate the first three quarters of play, building a 28-13 lead when Larry Schreiber scored the third of his one yard touchdown runs in the game. Sloppy play by Dallas, which included three fumbles lost, two interceptions and several key dropped passes, made it appear as the Cowboys’ defense of their crown would end with a whimper instead of a bang.

To the rescue came Captain America, Roger Staubach, who shook off the rust of a season of little activity to inject some life into Dallas’ offense.  Staubach led Dallas to a short Toni Fritsch field goal to cut the lead to 28-16, but the real fireworks ensued in Dallas’ final two possessions.

First Staubach found received Billy Parks for two key passes, the last one a 21 yard touchdown on a beautifully executed deep in to draw the visitors within five points of the lead with about two minutes left to play.   On a day when the Immaculate Reception boosted the Pittsburgh Steelers to a shocking win over the Oakland Raiders in the eastern half of the country, a similarly bizarre play helped Dallas get into position to make December 23, 1972 a truly memorable day in NFL history. Cowboys’ placekicker Fritsch, a former Austrian soccer star, used his soccer skills to execute an onside kick with his off-leg that Mel Renfro recovered to keep the ball in Dallas’ hands.

From there, Staubach used his arms and legs to get the ball to the Niners’ 10 yard line from where he connected with Ron Sellers for a scoring pass that silenced the boisterous crowd of 49er faithful.  Coach Landry later remarked that the comeback was the best one the team had experienced up to that point.  With Staubach at quarterback, there’d be more to come in later years.

1973

The Cowboys’ win over the Los Angeles Rams in the 1973 NFC Divisional Playoffs was not as exciting as their win over San Francisco one year earlier, but it was still a game that Cowboys’ fans (at least those of a sufficiently old age like me!) remember fondly.

Dallas built an early 14-0 lead, using Staubach’s passing and a strong running game to take control.  However the feisty Rams, who had beaten Dallas 37-31 at the LA Coliseum in the regular season, refused to stay down and battled back to within one point of Dallas at 17-16 on a fourth quarter touchdown run by Tony Baker.

With their lead slipping away and facing a third and long situation at their own 13 yard line, Staubach called on precocious rookie Drew Pearson to make a play that shocked the Rams and helped Dallas to victory. Staubach threw a deep in to Pearson that the lithe receiver caught between two Ram defenders.  While the defenders collided going for the ball, Pearson emerged  and sped to an 83 yard touchdown that gave Dallas a 24-16 lead.  The Cowboys would finish Los Angeles off with a Fritsch field goal later in the quarter as the team improved its post-season record at Texas Stadium to 2-0.

The Staubach-Pearson combination would prove to be among the best in NFL history, and the two clutch performers would combine for an even more memorable playoff touchdown two years later.

Cowboys v. Bears- My Top Ten Memories

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The Doomsday Defense, featuring a bevy of talented players like Jethro Pugh (#75), tormented Bob Avellini and the Chicago Bears defense all day long on December 26, 1977 as the Cowboys routed the visiting Bears 37-7 at Texas Stadium in the first round of the NFL playoffs. The Cowboys would go on to win Super Bowl XII.

The Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears do not play each other often enough to be considered big rivals, but they have fought some interesting battles over the year including two post-season games. Dallas is 12-11 in the regular season and 2-0 in the post-season against the Bears, but they’re 0-2 against Chicago at AT&T Stadium.

Here are 10 memories that come to mind for me when I think of the Cowboys-Bears contests over the years.

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#10- An Afternoon to Forget

The 1985 Dallas Cowboys were a division winning team, but the Chicago Bears of that season were a cut above not only the Cowboys but over the rest of the NFL as well. On November 17th of that season, the Bears embarrassed the Cowboys at Texas Stadium by a 44-0 score that was one of the worst losses in Cowboys’ history.  Dallas has had some excellent defensive teams over the years and they’ve faced some top level squads over the years, but I don’t think one would get too many arguments by claiming that the 1985 Bears team featured the best defensive team the Cowboys have ever gone up against.

 

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#9- Ending a Drought

By December of 1991, the Jimmy Johnson-led Dallas Cowboys were coming into their own as a legitimate NFL contender.  At Soldier Field on December 29th, the Cowboys won their first playoff game since 1982 in a 17-13 victory over the Bears.  Fittingly, the gritty Cowboys’ win was secured when long-time Cowboys favorite Bill Bates intercepted a Jim Harbaugh pass.

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#8- The Replacements

In their glory days, the Tom Landry-era Dallas Cowboys were known for having excellent depth at most positions. That depth was tested twice in six years in Cowboys-Bears games at Texas Stadium at perhaps the most crucial position on the field.

On October 24, 1976, first year Cowboy Danny White replaced an injured Roger Staubach in the second half and threw two touchdowns to Preston Pearson to help Dallas to a 31-21 victory.

On Thanksgiving Day 1981, it was White’s turn to go out with an injury.  White was replaced by third year Cowboy Glenn Carano, who led a fourth quarter drive that allowed Dallas to escape with a 10-9 win over the Bears.

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#7-  A Tale of Two Games

The Dallas Cowboys traveled to cold Chicago in December in both the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Both games were played at night and both featured lots of scoring, but the results could not have been different.

On December 9, 2013, Bears’ backup Josh McCown carved the Cowboys’ defense up like it was a Christmas turkey, throwing for 348 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-28 win that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated.

Almost one year later on December 4, 2014, it was the Cowboys’ turn to flex their offensive muscles as Dallas surged to a 35- 7 lead after four quarters and won 41-28.  The Cowboys’ attack was led by Tony Romo (21-26, 205 yards, three TDs) and Demarco Murray (32 carries, 179 yards, one TD) in a game that effectively ended the Bears’ chances for a playoff spot in the 2014 season.

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#6- Tuna on Turkey Day

Thanksgiving Day 2004 saw the Bears visit Texas Stadium to take on Bill Parcells and the Cowboys. And while the 2004 edition of the Cowboys didn’t achieve a playoff berth like the team did in Parcells’ first season in Big D in 2003, the late November holiday game had a happy ending for the home team.  Rookie Julius Jones was the grand marshal of the Cowboys’ holiday parade, gaining 150 yards rushing and scoring two touchdown in a 21-7 Dallas win.

 

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#5-  A Clean Cut by the Barber

The 2007 Dallas Cowboys came to Solider Field on Sunday night September 23rd sporting a 2-0 record and looking very much like a team that would be a force to be reckoned with in the NFC.   As a game progressed, it was clear that the Bears weren’t the ones who were going to stop the Cowboys’ rush toward a 13-3 record and a division title.

Marion Barber was the driving force in Dallas’ win, gaining 102 yards rushing and scoring two touchdowns as the visitors out-gained the Bears by almost 200 yards. Romo also starred in the nationally televised contest, throwing for 329 yards and two touchdowns.

 

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#4-  It is Always Darkest Before the Dawn

An October 1971 visit by the reigning NFC Champion Cowboys to Soldier Field ended in a shocking 23-19 loss to a seemingly inferior Bears team, with an added wrinkle being that the defeat came with Dallas alternating quarterbacks Craig Morton and Roger Staubach on every play.  Dallas moved the ball well but was hurt by penalties and turnovers, in a game that convinced Coach Tom Landry that he needed to select one of the quarterbacks to lead the team going forward.

Landry ultimately made the right choice, as he selected Staubach to quarterback a team that would not lose over the rest of the year in route to a 24-3 victory over Miami in Super Bowl VI.

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 Cornerback Deion Sanders #21 of the Dallas Cowboys in action  Mandatory Credit: Stephen Dunn /Allsport

#3-  Prime Time Returns

There are fewer more exciting plays in a football game than a punt return for a touchdown. Two of the more exciting Cowboys’ punt returns for scores have come in home games against the Bears.

In September 1997 at Texas Stadium, Deion Sanders electrified the sellout crowd with an 83 yard punt return touchdown that salted away a 27-3 Cowboys’ victory.  In September 13 years later, rookie Dez Bryant scored the first touchdown of his career on a 62 yard punt return that staked Dallas to an early lead.  Unfortunately for Bryant and the Cowboys, the Bears would win that game 27-20.

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#2-  Aye, Aye Roger

One of the more exciting games in Texas Stadium history came in a week three Cowboys-Bears matchup that saw Roger Staubach lead Dallas to a 24-20 comeback win over a game Chicago team that got 134 yards rushing from Hall of Famer Walter Payton and scored on two long Vince Evans passes (one to former Cowboy Golden Richards) to keep Cowboys’ fans on the edge of their seats all game long.

Fortunately for Dallas, Staubach was at his best on this day throwing for 222 yards and three touchdowns including a 22 yarder to Tony Hill with less than two minutes to go that allowed Dallas to escape with a thrilling win.

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#1- Charlie In Charge

The 1977 Dallas Cowboys were arguably the best team in the storied franchise’s history. On the day after Christmas in the first round of that season’s playoffs, the Cowboys proved their power to the Bears in a 37-7 rout that was a mismatch in every sense. Perhaps the biggest star for Dallas on that day was Charlie Waters, a player who gave his heart, soul and body to the team. Waters intercepted three Bob Avellini passes on the day, as the Cowboys’ defense controlled the game from the start.