It was week 5 of the 1985 season. Sunday Night Football on ABC which back then was very rare. Both the Cowboys and the Giants had 3-1 records and they would battle it out at Giants Stadium for first place in the NFC East. The Cowboys had the leagues number 3 defense and the Giants had the leagues number 1 defense. But on that early October night defense would be hard to come by as both offenses took center stage.
Both offenses would combine for 896 yards and 59 points. Out of the 896 yards of offense, 774 of them would be by quarterbacks Danny White and Phil Simms through the air. Both teams would also turn the ball over a total of nine times, which would ultimately decide this classic battle.
The Cowboys dominated the first half with Danny White throwing two touchdown passes. One to Tony Hill and the other to Mike Renfro. The Giants could only manage two short field goals by kicker Jess Atkinson. There was not much excitement from either team in the first half. But as a Dallas fan I was loving the domination over the hated division rivals. At halftime the Cowboys would lead 14-6.
It was the third quarter where things got interesting. The Giants offense which could not get anything going in the first half finally woke up and scored three unanswered touchdowns on the Cowboys defense. Simms lit up the Jersey sky with two touchdown passes to receiver Lionel Manuel from 51 and 23 yards out. The second touchdown to Manuel was actually tipped by Dallas linebacker Dexter Clinkscale at the two yard line right into Manuel’s hands for the Giants first lead of the game, 19-14. The first touchdown to Manuel would end with Atkinson missing the extra point, which would end up being the difference in the game.
The third Simms touchdown pass in the third quarter was actually a short 15 yard pass over the middle to running back George Adams who split the Dallas defense and raced 70 yards for a Giants 26-14 lead.
Dallas would shrink the Giants lead as the third quarter ended with another touchdown pass from Danny White to Mike Renfro to make the score 26-21 Giants.
The Dallas defense would once again come to life in the fourth quarter starting with a Dennis Thurman interception that resulted in a Rafael Septien field goal, cutting the Giants lead to 26-24. The Cowboys would fight their back from a 26-14 deficit and take the lead once again on another Septien field goal, 27-26. The field goal came as a result of a Simms sack at his own 24 yard line by Ed Jones and Randy White. Simms fumbled the ball and Jim Jeffcoat recovered it setting up the go ahead field goal. The Dallas defense would only give up a Giants field goal in the fourth quarter, which put the Giants back on top 29-27.
With 2:44 left in the fourth quarter and on his own 22 yard line, Phil Simms fumbled the snap from center Bart Oates and Dallas linebacker Eugene Lockhart recovered at the Giants 19 yard line. This resulted in Septien’s third field goal of the game and a 30-29 Dallas lead with only 2:19 remaining in the game.
“I just fumbled it,” Simms said. “Why I don’t know. I feel maybe I was trying to get away from the center too quick.”
The Giants received the kickoff with what they thought would be enough time to position themselves for a game winning field goal. Facing a 4th and 10 from their own 32 yard line Simms hit receiver Bobby Johnson to get them to midfield with only 1:45 to play. Three plays later Simms threw a wobbly pass that Dallas cornerback Everson Walls easily intercepted at the Dallas 37 yard line. With the Giants out of time-outs the Cowboys ran out the final 1:16 and came away with a wild 30-29 victory. The win put the Cowboys at 4-1 and on top of the NFC East, which they would go on to win with a 10-6 record in 1985. Their season would end in the playoffs visiting the LA Rams, losing 20-0.
“Both teams made a lot of turnovers,” Dallas coach Tom Landry said, “and I think that made it hard for the defenses. Both teams made a lot of mistakes.”
“We know they are always emotional here when they play against us with the crowd and everything,” Thurman said. “So it was important that we came out and showed them some emotion of our own right from the beginning. I think we did that.”
“We played well,” said Danny White, who threw for 342 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions. “I’m a little frustrated because I made a couple of bad decisions, or we would have had 45 points. I think we are a half-step away from being a great offense.”
You can find the games box score here…