Tag: Tony Dorsett

Random Game Sunday- Dallas 21 Philadelphia 10, December 13, 1981

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Cowboys’ quarterback Danny White walks off of the field at Texas Stadium on December 13, 1981 following Dallas’ clinching the NFC East title with a 21-10 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

This week’s “Random Game Sunday” contest looks back at a Week 15 showdown at Texas Stadium between division rivals Philadelphia and Dallas. After finishing second to the Eagles in the NFC East in 1980, the Cowboys looked to reestablish their dominance in the division in 1981.

THE SET-UP

The Cowboys entered the game with an 11-3 record and could win the division crown with a win in one of their final two games.  Dallas desperately wanted to win the crown at home against bitter rival Philadelphia, a team the Cowboys had defeated on November 1, 1981 by a 17-14 score in a hard-fought battle at Veterans Stadium.

For the Eagles, things were heading south as they moved toward the end of the campaign.   The defending NFC Champions started the season 9-2, but had lost three games in a row heading into their showdown with Dallas.  The Eagles had an outside shot at winning the NFC East, and needed at least one win in their final two games to secure a playoff spot.

LATE SEASON SHOWDOWNS

The Cowboys were accustomed to coming up big in late season against long-time rivals with divisional titles or playoff spots on the line.

In 1973, Dallas dominated Washington 27-7 in Week 13 to position itself to win the NFC East the following week in St. Louis.  Two years later with a NFC Wild Card playoff spot on the line, Dallas trounced the Redskins 31-10 and ended up not only in the playoffs but as the NFC Champion.   In 1978, a Thanksgiving Day 37-10 rout of Washington and a 31-13 win at Philadelphia in Week 15 positioned were key in Dallas’ capturing the division title.   And in December 1979, consecutive wins over the Giants, Eagles and Redskins (the latter coming in a thrilling 35-34 win at home) gave the Cowboys’ their fourth consecutive NFC East crown.

STARTING SLOWLY

Dallas’ first two possessions of the game ended in disappointment, as Rafael Septien missed field goal tries of 47 and 43 yards. The misses were unusual for the reliable Septien, who made 27 of the 35 field goal attempts he tried in 1981.   His 77.1 percentage success rate was the third highest mark of his career

Philadelphia got a 50 yard field goal from Toni Franklin to take a 3-0 lead at the end of the first quarter, and used a beautiful 42 yard pass down the left sideline from Ron Jaworski to Ron Smith to set up a one yard touchdown run by fullback Booker Russell to put the visitors on top 10-0 with 10:08 left in the second quarter.

THE BIG BREAK

Facing a 4th and 1 at the Philadelphia 45 yard line with the score still 10-0 in favor of the visitors with 1:37 left in the half, Cowboys’ coach Tom Landry faced a dilemma.  The Eagles’ defense had done a nice job holding the Dallas’ running game down in the half, and a failed attempt at picking up the first down would put the Eagles in position to expand their lead before halftime.

Landry decided to punt, and the decision worked out splendidly when the Eagles’ John Sciarra fumbled at the Dallas 20 with Anthony Dickerson of the Cowboys’ pouncing on the ball.  Three plays later, Danny White and Tony Hill connected on a beautifully executed fade pattern to the right corner of the Eagles’ end zone and Dallas had cut the Eagles’ lead to 10-7.

TAKING CONTROL

The Eagles outplayed Dallas for most of the first half, but the tables would be turned in the final two quarters.

Dallas took the opening kick of the third quarter and drove 80 yards for the go-ahead score behind some key passes by White.   The Cowboys’ quarterback first hit Hill for a 25 yard gain on a third and 15 play from their own 15 yard line to keep the drive alive.  A 16 yard toss to Hill and a 18 yard connection with Jay Saldi, the latter made possible by great protection by the Cowboys’ offensive line, moved Dallas to the Eagles’ 36 yard line.  Facing a third and ten situation from that spot, White and Butch Johnson split the safeties in the Eagles’ defense on a post pattern for a pretty touchdown pass that gave Dallas a 14-10 lead.

GETTING IT BACK

In 1981, the Cowboys’ defense surrendered fewer than 20 points in 11 of Dallas’ 16 regular season games.  A big part of the Cowboys’ defensive success was due to its ability to create turnovers.  Dallas’ dominating front line of Ed Jones, John Dutton, Hall of Famer Randy White and Harvey Martin did its part to put opposing quarterbacks in distress, and the Cowboys’ back seven often finished the deal as Dallas led the NFL with 37 interceptions.

In their battle with the Eagles, Dallas intercepted Jaworski four times. Three of those interceptions were by Dennis Thurman in an effort that tied a Cowboys’ club record (set in 1971 by Herb Adderly and equaled by Ring of Honor member Lee Roy Jordan in 1973).

Thurman’s first pick came in the second quarter on a tipped pass deep in Cowboys’ territory and prevented the Eagles from expanding their 10-0 lead.  In the third quarter, Thurman played a long pass attempt to Ron Smith beautifully, beating the receiver to the spot to grab his second interception of the game. And in the final minutes of the game, the USC product benefited from tremendous pressure on Jaworski by Randy White to make an interception that all but sealed the win for Dallas.

Thurman would end the 1981 season with nine interceptions, the most in his nine year NFL career.

EARNING A CHAMPIONSHIP

Midway through the fourth quarter on a pass that was impacted greatly by a strong rush by White, Everson Walls made his 11th interception of the season to not only break a Cowboys’ team record but give Dallas the ball with a chance to put the game away.

The White-Johnson connection kept the team moving in the right direction, as a 47 yard completion moved Dallas into Eagles’ territory and sent the Texas Stadium crowd into a frenzy.  From there, the Cowboys’ ground game took over the contest.  Dallas was held to only 50 yards rushing in the first half, but nearly doubled that total in the game’s final two quarters.

Primarily using two tight end formations, Dallas ran to victory behind excellent execution against a game but tiring Eagles’ front seven.  Ron Springs and Tony Dorsett each had eight yard gains to give the Cowboys a first down at the Eagles 22.  A five yard run by Springs (44 yards rushing in the game, all in the second half) and a four yard pickup by Dorsett put Dallas in a third and one situation at the Philadelphia 13. White’s one yard gain on a sneak gave the Cowboys the first down, and then Springs ran for 12 yards and a touchdown behind a perfectly performed double team block by Dallas’ Tom Rafferty and Herbert Scott.

Later after Thurman’s third interception, Dallas ran out the final 4:11 of the contest by moving the ball on the ground. Dorsett would finish with 101 yards in the game, breaking the Cowboys’ all-time rushing record in the process.

VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE

Watching Dallas’ teams from the 1970s and early 1980s made it clear that the Cowboys’ front office did a great job infusing the team’s roster with talent.

In 1981 the Cowboys’ offense had a variety of ways, featuring a variety of individuals, to attack a defense.  On the ground Dorsett, who gained a career high 1,646 yards on the year, was the bell cow but Springs, veteran Robert Newhouse and youngsters James Jones and Timmy Newsome also could make plays.

In the air, White had talented Hill and Drew Pearson as his starting wideouts with Johnson playing a key role as Dallas’ slot receiver.  Speedy rookie Doug Donley was on the sidelines in case of injury to the team’s top three receivers, and Dallas’ deep tight end roster of Billy Joe DuPree, Jay Saldi and Doug Cosbie gave White more reliable targets to seek out in the passing game.

In the 21-10 win over the Eagles, White connected with eight different receivers as he completed 17 of 30 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns.

HANGING TOUGH

The Eagles’ defense was the team’s strongest unit in the second half of the 1981 season, and that strength was evident (particularly in the first half) in the week 15 battle.

Defensive end Carl Hairston and nose tackle Charles Johnson caused problems for the Cowboys’ running game, and linebacker Jerry Robinson (seven tackles, three assists, one forced fumble) was all over the field making plays.

THE AFTERMATH

The Cowboys would start the 1981 playoffs at home with a 38-0 whitewashing of Tampa Bay.   That win earned them a trip to San Francisco to face the upstart 49ers in the NFC Title game, a contest that would go down to the wire before the 49ers pulled out a 28-27 victory.

Philadelphia routed the St. Louis Cardinals 38-0 in the season’s final week to earn a playoff spot, but fell in bitter fashion at home to division rival New York 27-21 to end its reign as NFC title holder.

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Random Game Sunday- Dallas 34 Washington 16, October 16, 1977

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This week, we go back to the Cowboys’ championship season of 1977 to review an early season matchup with arch-rival Washington at Texas Stadium.   Like most Cowboys-Redskins games played at Texas Stadium, the home team came out on top in the end.

THE SET-UP

The Cowboys’ 1977 squad was arguably the best collection of talent in team history.  They entered the week five showdown with George Allen’s Redskins with a perfect 4-0 record, and the team had the look of a serious Super Bowl contender.

Hopes were high in Washington as well as after an opening week loss to the New York Giants,  the Redskins had won three games in a row and came to Dallas with hopes of joining the Cowboys at the top of the NFC East standings.

DOMINANT DOOMSDAY

The Dallas Cowboys’ Doomsday Defense controlled the contest, allowing the Redskins only three field goals and a touchdown that was set up by a blocked punt that put the ball at the Dallas one yard line.

Allowing one or fewer touchdowns in a game was a fairly common occurrence for the Super Bowl 12 champion Cowboys in 1977.   The Cowboys did the trick in eight of their 14 regular season games, and in all three of their post-season victories.

Dallas’ defense allowed only one net passing yard in the game, the third lowest total net passing yards allowed in team history.    On October 24, 1965 in a 13-3 loss at Green Bay, the Packers had a minus 10 net passing yardage total.  Ten years later in a  Cowboys 31-21 victory over the New York Jets at Shea Stadium, the home team had a minus one yard total.    The 1977 Cowboys would stifle an opponents’ passing game three weeks after their big win over Washington.  On November 6th, Dallas defeated Detroit 37-0 and allowed only two net passing yards.

LEADING THE WAY

Cowboys’ quarterback Roger Staubach completed 15 of 28 passes for 250 yards in the game, compiling a 107.7 QBR that was the highest of his career against arch-rival Washington.   In six games played at Texas Stadium in which Staubach started and finished the game, Dallas was 5-1 with four of the five wins coming in routs (Dallas won by an average of 21.5 points in those games).

A FULL DAY FOR A FULLBACK

Dallas’ short but powerful fullback Robert Newhouse was  big part of the Cowboys’ win. Whether it was running the ball, blocking for fellow back Tony Dorsett or helping out in pass protection for Staubach, the veteran was a major presence in Dallas’ fine offensive effort.

Newhouse rushed for 71 yards in 17 carries on the day, scoring two touchdowns.  For the season, the Houston product would gain 771 yards which was the second highest yardage total of his career (Newhouse’s 930 yards led the 1975 NFC Champion Cowboys).

SACK ATTACK

Washington quarterbacks Billy Kilmer and Joe Theismann probably needed heavy doses of pain medication on their team’s trip back to DC following a game where they spent a good deal of time on the tartan turf at Texas Stadium.

Dallas had eight sacks on the day, including three by eventual NFL Defensive Player of the Year Harvey Martin.   Martin’s running mate Randy White chipped in with two sacks, Ed Jones and Larry Cole had one each, and Bill Gregory and Thomas Henderson had 1/2 sack each in the dominant effort by Dallas’ front seven.

One sequence at the end of the game showed the awesome power of the Cowboys’ front line when an opponent was in a passing situation.  On second and 10 from its own 40 yard line with 31 seconds to play, Jones trapped Theismann for an eight yard loss.  The plucky Theismann called timeout to set up a play for Washington, only to have Martin shoot through the left side of the Redskins’ line to trap the Redskins’ quarterback for an eleven yard loss.  Instead of letting the clock run out, Theismann and the Redskins gave it one more try on a fourth and 29 situation and the payoff was another sack by Martin, this one for a loss of 11 yards.

BIG PLAY RECEIVERS

It was a rough day for Washington’s secondary, particularly for backup cornerback Gerard Williams who was pressed into action when starter Pat Fischer couldn’t answer the bell due to injury.

Willams was beaten for big scores by both Drew Pearson and Golden Richards in a game where Dallas had numerous explosive plays in the passing game.

Pearson’s long touchdown, a regular season career high 59 yard scoring play, came in the fourth quarter when Washington gambled that a full blitz could stop Staubach and the Cowboys.  The defensive tactic left the embattled Williams one on one with Dallas’ best receiver, and thee results were not good for the Redskins.  Pearson caught six passes for 159 yards in the game, the third highest yardage total of his Ring of Honor level career.

The speedy Richards burned Williams for a 50 yard touchdown on an out and up play in the second quarter that gave the Cowboys a lead they’d never lose.  Of Richards’ 18 career regular season catches for a touchdown,  14 of them were from 31 yards or longer.

LEARNING ON THE JOB

Dallas’ heralded rookie Tony Dorsett was obviously a target of the hard hitting Washington defense, who treated the speedy halfback with disdain every time he touched the ball.   Dorsett showed flashes of his other worldly speed in the game, but finished with only 51 yards in 19 carries on the game.

The first year Cowboy’s biggest play in the game came on a Tom Landry offense staple, a halfback pass.  In the second quarter on a first and ten play from Dallas’ 30 yard line, Dorsett took a pitch from Staubach, rolled to his left and threw a strike to Pearson for a 34 yard gain along the sideline that barely missed being a touchdown when Pearson couldn’t avoid stepping out of bounds at the Washington 36.  The play helped set up Newhouse’s first rushing score of the game, a touchdown that expanded Dallas’ lead to 14-6.

THE AFTERMATH

The Cowboys would start the season with eight straight wins, drop consecutive November games to St. Louis and Pittsburgh, and then finish off their second Super Bowl winning season with seven consecutive wins in one of Dallas’ most dominant stretches in team history.

George Allen would never lick his thumbs or tug on his ball cap again at Texas Stadium, as the 1977 season was his final one as Redskins’ head coach.  Washington would win five of its last six games in route to a respectable 9-5 record, but a tough 14-7 loss to the Cowboys at RFK Stadium on the Sunday after Thanksgiving helped keep Allen’s team from earning a wild card playoff bid.

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday to DeMarco Murray, a Third Round Pick With First Round Talent

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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:

BEST SEASONS IN COWBOYS’ HISTORY- RUNNING BACK

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- 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-Picking Up Where They Left Off

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Harvey Martin recovers a first quarter Minnesota fumble in Vikings’ territory to set up Dallas’ first score in the Cowboys’ 23-6 NFC Championship Game victory on January 1, 1978.

The Dallas Cowboys were the NFL’s most dominant team during the 1977 regular season.  Dallas started out winning its first eight games, many by substantial margins.  After a two week slump in which they lost to St. Louis at home and the Steelers at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, the Cowboys rattled off four straight victories to end the season to finish at 12-2.  A first round playoff rout of the Chicago Bears sent Dallas into the NFC title game, where they’d face a Minnesota Vikings team Dallas had beaten 16-10 at Minnesota in the first week of the season.

The first day of 1978 was  cold one in Dallas, with wind chill readings below the freezing mark. However the cold weather didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd of almost 62,000 at Texas Stadium, a group that believed its team was on a direct path to represent the NFC in Super Bowl 12.  After 60 minutes of football, it was clear that they were right.

Dallas jumped on the visitors right from the start.   An early first quarter Minnesota fumble was recovered by Harvey Martin at the Vikings 39 yard line to put the Cowboys in scoring position right off the bat.  A first down run by Robert Newhouse netted seven yards, and Dallas cashed in on the next play due to a tremendous play design.  The Cowboys lined up with flanker Drew Pearson wide to the right. Before the snap, Pearson came in motion all the way across the field.  On the snap, quarterback Roger Staubach faked a hand off to rookie sensation Tony Dorsett and then gave the impression that he was throwing a wide receiver screen to Pearson. The Vikings, undoubtedly aware that Pearson was the Cowboys’ number one threat at receiver, bit on the fake and Pearson’s partner Golden Richards escaped behind the Vikings’ defense. Staubach’s pass to Richards was slightly overthrown, but the fourth year receiver cradled it as he fell into the end zone and Dallas was ahead 6-0 after usually reliable kicker Efren Herrera missed the extra point.

The Cowboys struck again in the second quarter, aided by a 14 yard run for a first down on a fake punt by Danny White.  Newhouse’s five yard touchdown run and Herrera’s extra point put Dallas up 13-0.    Minnesota got two Fred Cox field goals in the second quarter to draw within a touchdown at 13-6, but Herrera’s short field goal near the end of the quarter expanded Dallas’ lead to 10 points at the half.

Dallas’ defense, led by Ed Jones who had eight solo tackles, dominated in the second half, and some help from the special teams and the offense sealed the victory for the Cowboys.  Thomas Henderson (who had an interception in the game) was a dominant force at outside linebacker for Dallas in his third NFL season, and he also excelled on special teams. His brutal hit on Minnesota punt returner Manfred Moore in the fourth quarter caused Moore to fumble, with Dallas’ Jay Saldi recovering in Minnesota territory. Dallas then drove for the score that put the game away, with the final points coming on a beautiful Dorsett touchdown scamper around right end on which the Pitt product displayed his trademark acceleration.

On the day, Dallas caused four Minnesota turnovers, sacked Vikings’ quarterback Bob Lee twice and outgained the visitors by 114 yards.  A potent Dallas’ rushing attack  gained 170 yards on the day, with Newhouse posting a game high 81 and Dorsett chipping in with 71 more.

With team that had numerous stars on both offense and defense, a special teams group that could make big plays and a head coach whose innovation and game planning were second to none, the Cowboys made short work of the NFC in 1977.   Two weeks after their championship game win over Minnesota, the Cowboys would prove that they were the NFL’s best with a convincing victory over Denver in Super Bowl 12.

 

 

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).

 

 

 

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

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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.