Tag: Troy Aikman

This Day in Dallas Cowboys History- Routing a Rival On the Way to a Title

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Backup tight end Derek Tennell grabs a one yard scoring pass from Troy Aikman to start the Cowboys on their way to a 34-10 stomping of the Philadelphia Eagles in an NFC Divisional Playoff game at Texas Stadium on January 10, 1993.

 

From the time the Dallas Cowboys came of age in the 1966 season through Tom Landry’s final NFL East champion team in 1985, the Cowboys’ match-ups with divisional foe generally ended in Dallas’ favor.  Dallas won 31 of the 39 regular season games between the teams during that time period, enraging the Philadelphia fan base.

The tide turned from 1986 through 1991, with the Eagles winning nine of the 12 games between the teams. But in 1991 there were signs that the Cowboys were getting some of their mojo back, and Dallas’ 25-13 win at Veterans Stadium in Week 15 of the season clinched a playoff berth for the Cowboys.

Dallas’ 1992 regular season included a Week Four 31-7 thrashing at the hands of the Eagles at the Vet, but the young and hungry Cowboys bounced back to take a 20-10 decision over the Eagles at Texas Stadium in early November to establish themselves as the NFC East’s top dog.

By the time the 1992 NFL playoffs rolled around, Dallas was surging with the Eagles trying vainly to keep pace.  Philadelphia earned a visit to Dallas with a wildcard round win at New Orleans, setting up a rubber match between the divisional rivals with the winner advancing to the NFC Championship game.

After the Eagles drove for a field goal on their first drive, it soon became apparent that the Cowboys would be the team advancing to the next round.  Dallas’ response to the Eagles’ early score was a 10 play drive that ended with a Troy Aikman scoring toss to seldom used Derek Tennell that put the Cowboys up 7-3.

Late in the second quarter, Dallas blitzed the Eagles for 10 quick points. First, an Aikman 41 yard connection to Alvin Harper set up Jay Novacek’s six yard scoring pass with under a minute to play that put Dallas on top 14-3.  On the ensuing kickoff, talented rookie Darren Woodson caused a fumble that veteran Thomas Everett recovered to set up a short Lin Elliott field goal that gave Dallas a 17-3 lead and a 10 gallon hat sized amount of momentum as the teams went to the dressing room at halftime.

Dallas’ dominance extended to the second half, with Emmitt Smith scoring on a beautiful 23 yard run to give Dallas a three score lead in the third quarter.  Another Elliott field goal and a fourth quarter one yard plunge by Derrick Gainer gave Dallas 34 points on the day, and only a late scoring toss by Randall Cunningham to Calvin Williams allowed the Eagles to score in double digits.

Jimmy Johnson’s soon to be Super Bowl Champion team dominated the Eagles in all aspects of the game. Dallas had 160 yards rushing (114 by Smith) against the Eagles’ 63. Dallas sacked Cunningham five times, including two each by Tony Tolbert and Russell Maryland, while Aikman was only dropped twice.  Dallas gained 346 yards, 168 more than the visitors with Aikman throwing for 200 in 15 completions.

The Cowboys’ 34-10 victory was Dallas’ first post-season win at Texas Stadium since 1982, and the win sent Dallas to the NFC Championship game for the first time since that same year.  Unlike 1982 when the Cowboys would fall short in the conference championship game, Dallas would ride its 13-3 regular season record and its rout of a good Eagles team to an upset victory over the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park that would send Dallas to Super Bowl 27.

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This Day in Dallas Cowboys History-Fearless Cowboys Dominate Green Bay to Advance to 1994 NFC Title Game

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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- Smith Sets a Record

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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.

This Day in Dallas Cowboys’ History- Dominance in December

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Tony Romo threw for four touchdowns and completed all but two of his pass attempts on the day in Dallas’ 42-7 rout of the Indianapolis Colts on December 21, 2014.

All of us have days when everything seems to go perfectly.  For the Dallas Cowboys in December of 2014, there were a few of such days.  Probably the best example of that came two years ago today when the Cowboys demolished the Indianapolis Colts 42-7 to clinch a NFC East title and help silence the critics who seemed almost gleeful to question the Cowboys’ mettle in the season’s final month.

Dallas entered the game with two impressive December road wins already behind them, having beaten Chicago 41-28 on Thursday December 4th and having handled the Eagles at Philadelphia 38-27 ten days later.  With the team’s offense on a roll and with the Colts’ somewhat defensively challenged, conditions were ripe for a Cowboys’ clinching party and the home team did not disappoint the 91,899 in attendance.

Dallas dominated the game from the start, taking the opening kickoff and driving 80 yards in 15 plays over eight minutes and twenty four seconds to take a 7-0 lead on Tony Romo’s nine yard pass to Terrence Williams who was as wide open as an NFL receiver could possibly be.   A failed pass out of punt formation by the Colts set Dallas up on Indianapolis’ 19 yard line for its next possession, and Dallas struck quickly as Romo and Dez Bryant connected on a 19 yard toss to give Dallas a 14-0 lead.

The 2014 Cowboys, like this year’s squad, were built to grind out long possessions that were designed to break the will of opponents and to keep the Cowboys’ own defense fresh. Dallas’ next two drives, which went 75 and 67 yards, ended with a Romo scoring toss to Cole Beasley and a touchdown run by Demarco Murray to give the Cowboys a 28-0 lead at the half.

The second half was more of the same.  On its seventh possession of the game, Dallas went 75 yards in 10 plays over 6:17 to take a 35-0 lead on Romo’s 25 yard scoring pass to Jason Witten.   A fourth quarter scoring pass from backup quarterback Brandon Weedon to Williams gave Dallas a 42-0 lead, before the Colts put up a consolation score in the game’s final minutes to end the scoring.   The 35 point margin of victory remains the highest ever for the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium.

Some other notes coming out of the dominant win include the following:

Romo’s 90% completion percentage is the highest ever for a Cowboys’ quarterback in a game where he’s thrown at least 11 passes.  Dak Prescott’s 88.9 completion percentage in this past Sunday’s win over Tampa Bay is the second best mark, with Romo’s 88.5 mark in a 2011 win over Buffalo in third place.

Romo’s 151.7 QBR rating was the 14th highest in Cowboys’ history for passers with at least 11 attempts in a game. Craig Morton’s 158.3 rating in a 1969 win over Philadelphia is Dallas’ best ever (Morton went 14 for 18 with 261 yards, three touchdown passes and no interceptions in the game), with Troy Aikman’s 158.2 rating on November 7, 1993 (Aikman was 11 for 13 for 162 yards and two touchdowns before leaving the game with a leg injury) next in line.  There’ve been 18 150+ QBR rating games in Cowboys’ history and no player has more than Hall of Famer Roger Staubach, who had six in his magnificent career.

December 2014 was a month to remember for Romo, who led Dallas to a 4-0 record with some of the best performances of his career:

DT        OPP      Score      Comp     Att      Yrds    TD   Int    QBR

12/4      @Chi    41-28        21          26       205       3       0      138.0

12/14     @Phl    38-27        22          31        265      3       0      129.1

12/21       Ind       42-7          18          20       218      4       0      151.7

12/28      @Was   44-17       22          34       299      2       1       100.0

Cowboys’ quarterbacks have had at least four touchdown passes in a game 31 times. Romo’s effort against the Colts was his tenth such game, the most among all Cowboys’ passers. Danny White is next with eight such games, with Don Meredith in third with six.  Other quarterbacks with at least four touchdown passes in a game for Dallas include Aikman (three times), Morton (twice), Eddie LeBaron (once) and Staubach (once).

The 2014 Cowboys had a time of possession advantage in 11 of their 16 games.  So far in 2016, the Cowboys have done so in nine of their 14 contests.   The Cowboys have won 18 of the 20 games.

Dallas scored at least seven points in each quarter of the 42-7, marking the 62nd time in team history and the fourth time in 2014 that the team had achieved that feat.  Like the 2014 squad, the 1967 and 1983 Cowboys had four games where they scored at least seven points in every quarter. The franchise record for most such games is six, set by the explosive 1980 Cowboys’ squad.

The defense did its part in the division clinching win, intercepting Andrew Luck twice and holding the Colts to a single yard rushing in 10 attempts.  Since the merger, only two teams have held an opponent who ran the ball 10 or more times to fewer yards. On October 2, 1988 the Bears held Buffalo to zero yards rushing in 10 tries.  18 years and almost two months later, Detroit had minus three yards on the ground in 10 tries against Minnesota.

 

 

Cowboys Notes- December 4, 2016

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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.

PRECOCIOUS PRESCOTT 

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.

LEADING THE WAY

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).

LONG DRIVES TO PAYDIRT

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.

ALMOST THERE

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. Bengals: Infrequent Opponents Who Have Experienced Some Rare Moments Against Each Other

2016-cowboys-vs-bengalsWhen the Dallas Cowboys and the Cincinnati Bengals square off at AT&T Stadium on Sunday, the teams will be meeting for only the 12th time. The Cowboys will be looking to improve upon their 7-4 lifetime record against the reigning AFC North champions, while the Bengals will be trying to win for only the second time in seven trips at Dallas.

The teams rarely play each other, but their eleven games so far have produced some interesting moments, great performances and unlikely heroes.  Here’s a look at some of the highlights of the Cowboys-Bengals match-ups.

JORDAN RULES

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Middle linebacker Lee Roy Jordan anchored the Dallas Doomsday Defense from 1963 through 1976 and during his time in the NFL, no linebacker intercepted more passes than the Excel, Alabama native’s 32.

On November 4, 1973 at Texas Stadium, Jordan had a career high three picks in Dallas’ 38-10 rout of Ken Anderson and the Bengals.  Jordan returned one interception 31 yards for a score for the third and final touchdown of his sterling career.

Jordan, who many believe belongs in Canton, trails only defensive backs Mel Renfro (52), Everson Walls (44), Charlie Waters (41), Dennis Thurman (36), Michael Downs (34) and Cornell Green (34) on the Cowboys’ all-time interception list.

HOMETOWN HERO 

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Few athletes, or celebrities in general for that matter, are more associated with the city of Dallas, Texas than Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach. But before Roger the Dodger made it big deep in the heart of Texas, he was a high school hero in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Staubach only faced his hometown Bengals twice in his career, but led Dallas to easy victories both times.  The Cowboys’ signal caller was particularly sharp in his first game ever against the Bengals.

In the same game where Jordan had his three interceptions, Staubach was 14 for 18 for 209 yards and three touchdowns to lead Dallas to victory. Staubach’s quarterback rating on the day was 154.6, the highest rating he’d have in a Dallas home game.  Staubach’s other highest QBR games also came in 1973, a season where he’d lead the NFL in passing.  On December 2, 1973 at Mile High Stadium, Staubach posted a 155.8 rating in the Cowboys’ 22-10 over Denver. Two weeks later, Staubach led Dallas to a 30-3 win over the Cardinals in St. Louis while putting up a 155.2 QBR.

LOWERING THE BOOM(ER) 

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On December 8, 1985 at chilly Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, the eventual NFC East Champion Cowboys ran into a buzz saw against a talented Bengals team that featured a high-powered offense.

The Bengals, led by quarteback Boomer Esiason’s three touchdown passes and James Brooks’ 109 yards rushing and two scores, routed Dallas 50-24 and put up an amazing 570 total yards in the process.  The 50 points allowed was the third highest total ever allowed by a Cowboys’ defense, and the 570 total yards surrendered was the fourth most in Cowboys’ history.

A 60 MINUTE ROLLER COASTER RIDE

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The amusement park Six Flags Over Texas is not too much more than a Troy Aikman bomb’s distance from the Cowboys new home at AT&T Stadium. When the Cowboys and Bengals squared off at Texas Stadium in Irving on October 13, 1991 they were not in close proximity to any theme parks, but the events of that game provided all the thrills of any roller coaster.

In 1991 the Cowboys under Jimmy Johnson were emerging as a force to be reckoned with in the NFC, and the Bengals were a talented team that could score from anywhere on the field.  The Bengals showed their quick strike ability by putting up the game’s first 10 points, but Dallas rallied for three touchdowns in the second quarter to take a 21-10 lead. The visitors would score the game’s next 13 points to take a 23-21 advantage, but Dallas had the last laugh in the contest’s final period.   An Emmitt Smith touchdown run and rookie linebacker Dixon Edwards’ 36 yard interception return for a score sealed the deal for Dallas in the Cowboys’ 35-23 victory.

TOUCHDOWN TIM

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When you think Dallas Cowboys’ touchdowns,  the names Smith, Dorsett, Irvin, Hayes, Pearson and Bryant come to mind.   On November 12, 2000 at Texas Stadium, an unlikely player joined the ranks of Cowboys who’d reached the end zone in Dallas 23-6 victory over the Bengals.

With the Cowboys holding a slim 10-6 lead midway through the third period, defensive end Ebeneezer Ekuban sacked Bengals’ quarterback Akili Smith and forced a fumble that he recovered putting the Cowboys in position to pad their lead.  Six plays later, Dallas found itself facing a fourth and goal from the Bengals’ two.  In came rookie kicker Tim Seder, apparently to attempt a chip shot field goal that would put Dallas up by seven points.

But the Cowboys shocked both the Bengals and the crowd at Texas Stadium, as holder Micah Knorr handed the ball to Seder who ran in for the first touchdown ever scored by a Cowboys’ kicker.  Seder would reach the endzone again in 2001, scoring another touchdown on a fake field goal in a 28-21 loss to the Raiders at Oakland.

T.O. MEANS K.O FOR CINCINNATI 

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Cincinnati Bengals’ Leon Hall tries to stop Dallas Cowboys’ Terrell Owens as he heads to the end zone to score a fourth quarter touchdown. The Cowboys defeated the Bengals 31-22, at Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas, Sunday, October 5, 2008. (Sharon M. Steinman/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT)

 

After losing in the first round of the 2007 playoffs after posting an NFL best 13-3 record, the 2008 Dallas Cowboys looked to make amends behind an offense that featured talented players at virtually every position.

On October 5th of that season, Dallas’ weapons were on display in a 31-22 victory over the Bengals.  Quarterback Tony Romo threw for three touchdowns, running backs Felix Jones and Marion Barber combined for 180 rushing yards and Terrell Owens electrified the crowd with a fourth quarter 57 yard touchdown catch and to spark Dallas’ effort.

The win moved Dallas to a 4-1 record on the year, but trouble was on the horizon for the Cowboys in the form of an injury to Romo.  Their quarterback’s injury led to Dallas losing three of its next four games, and a solid November streak of three impressive wins in a row couldn’t offset a December collapse (1-3 mark) that had Dallas on the outside looking in for the 2008 post-season.

HANGING TOGETHER 

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On December 9, 2012, the Cowboys took on the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium only a few days after teammate Jerry Brown was killed in a motor vehicle accident that was the fault of fellow Cowboy Josh Brent. With the team reeling over the loss of one of its own, the Cowboys and Jason Garrett faced a tough task against a Bengals team that would finish 10-6 and earn an AFC wildcard playoff spot.

Dallas played valiantly throughout most of the game but with a nine point deficit as the fourth quarter began, it appeared as though the Cowboys were destined to lose the game. That was, of course, before Tony Romo and the Dallas’ offense went to work.

Taking over at their own 32 yard line with a little less than 10 minutes left in the game, Romo led Dallas on a scoring drive that ended with 27 yard touchdown pass to Dez Bryant that pulled the Cowboys within two at 19-17.  A key sack of Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton by Anthony Spencer got the ball back for Dallas, and the took possession at their own 28 yard line with 3.44 left in the game.

While the Cowboys’ touchdown drive earlier in the quarter featured big plays (Romo hit Kevin Ogletree for 23 yards and Miles Austin for 15 in addition to his 27 yard scoring pass to Bryant), their final drive chewed up yardage in small chunks.  Heavily featured in the drive was running back Demarco Murray, who gained 32 yards combined and helped set up Dan Bailey for the winning 40 yard field goal as time expired.