Looking back on my memories between the Cowboys and the Packers a few games come to mind. One being a second round playoff game from the strike shortened 1982 season where the Cowboys beat the Packers 37-26 at Texas Stadium. But then I started to think more and decided to write about one of the greatest NFC Championship games I have ever seen. The game was the 1995 Championship game at Texas Stadium with the winner earning a trip to Super Bowl XXX in Arizona.
When I think about Green Bay I always think about the cold weather. As the game was about to begin, up on the screen showed the temperature in Green Bay which was 25 degrees with a wind chill of minus 1 degree. In Dallas at the same time was 72 degrees and of course no wind chill. So I was very happy that the Cowboys were home for this game.
The game did not start off well for Dallas. On their first drive Reggie White beat right tackle Eric Williams and sacked Troy Aikman which forced a Dallas punt. The punt from Dallas punter John Jett was blocked by the Packers deep in Dallas territory. Brett Favre actually threw a touchdown pass to take a 7-0 lead, but a delay of the game penalty on Green Bay took the touchdown off the board and they had to settle for a field goal and only a 3-0 lead on the Cowboys.
On the Cowboys second drive of the game Deion Sanders got involved in the offense by running a double reverse for a short gain. Then he caught a short pass from Aikman at the Packers 40 yard line and turned on the speed before being pushed out of bounds at the Packers 10 yard line. A few plays later Aikman connected with Michael Irvin from 6 yards out for the touchdown and a 7-3 lead.
Brett Favre and the Packers offense could not get anything going on their first two drives as they did not gain one yard on the Dallas defense. On their third drive things only got worse. Favre dropped back and attempted a screen pass that Leon Lett jumped up for and came down with the interception at the Packers 12 yard line. Dallas took advantage of the turnover and once again Aikman found Irvin for their second touchdown connection of the quarter from 4 yards out. Dallas took a commanding 14-3 lead, or so they thought.
On the first play of the Packers next drive after the kickoff, the Packers found their spark. Favre found his speedy receiver Robert Brooks as he blew past Dallas cornerback Larry Brown and scored on a 73 yard touchdown pass pulling the Packers closer at 14-10 as the first quarter ended.
The Packers finally forced a Dallas punt on their next possession and once again the Packers found a spark. This time it was their other speedy receiver Antonio Freeman who fielded the punt and raced towards midfield. Dallas punter John Jett was the only one left between Freeman and the Dallas end zone. Jett pulled down Freeman and at the same time grabbed his facemask and received a 15 yard penalty. This gave the packers great field position at the Dallas 35 yard line.
Green Bay took advantage of the punt return and the penalty as Favre tossed his second touchdown pass of the first half. This time he found tight end Keith Jackson on a 24 yard touchdown pass. This gave the Packers their first lead of the game at 17-14.
The Dallas offense was able to gather themselves and put together a nice drive that stalled at the Green Bay 17 yard line. From there they settled for a Chris Boniol 34 yard field goal to tie the game at 17-17.
The Dallas defense forced a Packers punt, but as the punt rolled towards the end zone for what Dallas thought would be a touchback. The ball took a strange bounce on the Texas Stadium turf and rolled out at their own 1 yard line. The Packers end zone was 99 yards away. Dallas started the drive with who else? Emmitt Smith. Smith found a huge hole created by his great offensive line and he went for a 25 yard gain. With a mix of passing and running by offensive coordinator Norv Turner the Cowboys drove 98 yards to the Packers 1 yard line. The final yard of the 99 yard 11 play drive was by Emmitt Smith who started the drive. Smith scored and Dallas was back on top 24-17 as the first half ended.
The first half leaned to Dallas in almost every way.
Time of possession, Dallas 23:00 – Green Bay 7:00
Offensive plays, Dallas 49 – Green Bay 21
First Downs, Dallas 16 – Green Bay 4
Rushing yards, Emmitt Smith 86 – Green Bay 16
Green Bay would control the third quarter for the most part. Their first drive would result in another field goal that pulled them closer to the Cowboys, 24-20. On their second drive of the quarter Favre threw his third touchdown pass of the game. Sitting on the 1 yard line of the Cowboys, the Packers caught Dallas in their goal line defense and substituted Robert Brooks late. Fave then tossed a 1 yard touchdown pass to Brooks and took the lead again, 27-24. The Packers would outscore the Cowboys 10-0 in the third quarter.
The Cowboys started a drive as the third quarter ended and continued on with that drive at the start of the fourth quarter. Once again it was a mix of running by Emmitt Smith and passing from Aikman to tight end Jay Novacek. From the Packers 5 yard line Smith followed big Nate Newton and Daryl Johnston and scored his second touchdown of the game. Dallas took the lead back, this time for good 31-27.
Brett Favre made is second mistake of the game as the Dallas defense flushed him from the pocket and forced him to the sideline. Instead of just throwing the ball away, Favre tried to force it to receiver Mark Ingram. Larry Brown stepped in front of Ingram at the Dallas 21 yard line and came up with the Cowboys second interception of the game with 10:00 remaining in the game.
On the first play of the drive for Dallas after the interception, Aikman found Irvin down the left sideline. Irvin actually managed to tip the pass to himself while being covered by a Packers cornerback. Not only did Irvin come down with the pass at the Packers 25, but he was able to keep his balance before going out of bounds at the 16. The Packers were called for pass interference which Dallas declined. On the second play Emmitt Smith found the end zone for the third time in the game. Scoring from 16 yard out Emmitt gave Dallas a 38-27 lead in the NFC Championship game.
It would be Emmitt Smith who put Dallas on his back in the fourth quarter as he gained 50 yards and scored twice. For the game Smith carried 35 times for 150 yards and three touchdowns. Dallas would actually drive once again into Packers territory late in the fourth quarter, but kicker Chris Boniol missed a field goal with 2:35 left.
The Dallas defense turned it up a notch on the Packers last drive as they recorded three of their four sacks of Favre in the fourth quarter. The defense would also hold the Packers running game to only 48 yards in the game.
After a failed fourth down by the Packers, the Cowboys would take over and run out the final 1:12 of of the game. Dallas earned a third trip to the Super Bowl in four years as they beat the Green Bay Packers 38-27 in the 1995 NFC Championship game. Super Bowl XXX would be the Cowboys fifth Championship in eight tries as they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, earning them the team of the 90′s.
“We’re going to the Super Bowl,” said Irvin, who had seven receptions for 100 yards. “We let someone else borrow our house last year. We’re going home. That’s where we belong”.
“I think with our offensive line and the way we stayed committed to running the football, that kind of continual pounding would wear teams down,” Aikman said.
“To their credit, we jumped up 14-3 on them and they never backed down,” Aikman said. “They were never completely out of the ballgame.”
“This football team has been in this situation before,” Aikman said. “We get the ball late in the fourth quarter and you have to take time off the clock to put them away, and we were able to do that”.
You can see the box score from the game here…