The 1984 season will not go down in Cowboys history as one they want to remember. Actually it’s one of those seasons that should be forgotten. The Cowboys finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs. It was also the season that coach Tom Landry made the preseason decision to make Gary Hogeboom the starting quarterback over veteran Danny White.
The Cowboys went into the game against the Saints with a 4-3 record. They started strong with their first drive of the game as Hogeboom drove them to the Saints 20 yard line before the drive stalled on a Hogeboom sack by Saints linebacker Rickey Jackson. Rafael Septien kicked a field goal and the Cowboys took a short lived 3-0 lead.
Early in the second quarter the Saints punted and pinned the Cowboys on their own one yard line. The Cowboys were forced to punt after three plays and no yards gained. Danny White could only manage a 36 yard punt and the Saints took over on the Cowboys 39 yard line. Two plays later the Saints took the lead on a Richard Todd (Yes, the same Richard Todd who played for the Jets in the late 70s and early 80’s) to Tyrone Young 36 yard touchdown pass as Young streaked across the middle beating Everson Walls and Ron Fellows. The Saints went ahead 7-3.
The Cowboys could only manage another Septien field goal before the Saints went back to work. The Saints alternated running backs in 1984. Their first back was Earl Campbell (67 yds rushing in the game) and they also had George Rodgers (52 yds rushing in the game). But it was fullback Hokie Gajan who took center stage in this game as he ran for 78 yards and a touchdown. His score came after Ed Jones got a hold of him in the backfield, but Gajan managed to break free and went untouched from that point and scored from 62 yards out. This gave the Saints a 14-6 lead with 2:54 left before halftime.
Saints kicker Morten Anderson added a field goal at the end of the first half increasing the Saints lead to 17-6. Things would only get worse for the Cowboys in the third quarter.
Morten Anderson kicked his second field goal of the game early in the third quarter. With the Saints leading 20-6 things went from bad to worse for the Cowboys as Hogeboom was intercepted by Dirt Winston who then returned it 43 yards for a Saints touchdown. The Saints now led 27-6.
On the interception Hogeboom hit his wrist on a Saints helmet and forced him to the bench for the rest of the game. With the injury, it forced Danny White into the game. The entrance of White seemed to wake the Cowboys up.
Early in the fourth quarter Cowboys special teams player Chuck McSwain blocked a Saints punt and the Cowboys recovered on the Saints three yard line. From there Tony Dorsett ran it in and got the Cowboys closer at 27-13.
Late in the fourth quarter with only 3:59 to play Danny White threw a 12 yard touchdown pass to receiver Mike Renfro. This closed the Saints lead to 27-20.
With 2:53 left in the game and veteran Kenny Stabler in at quarterback for the Saints because of Richard Todd’s injury early in the fourth quarter, the Dallas defense made a stand. Stabler attempted to pass from his own nine yard line as Randy White came crashing through the line and sacked Stabler forcing a fumble. The ball rolled into the end zone where Jim Jeffcoat fought through a wild scramble of players and recovered the fumble for the touchdown. With the extra point the Cowboys tied the game at 27-27.
The Cowboys actually got the ball back two more times in the final 1:20 of the game on two Stabler interceptions, but could not move the ball into scoring position. The game would go into overtime.
The Cowboys won the coin toss in overtime. From their own 29 yard line Danny White attempted a pass to Tony Hill who was interfered with, which resulted in a 24 yard penalty. Then White completed a 15 yard pass to Renfro to set up Septien for the winning field. Septein kicked a 41 yard field goal to complete the comeback and the Cowboys won the game 30-27. The comeback was the Cowboys biggest in team history.
“I always feel we can come back and win it,” coach Tom Landry said. “Our guys found out how hard you have to work to win a football game.”
“I feel good about our team now, said Landry. Better than I felt all year. We just haven’t played with the tough emotion we played with in the fourth quarter. It may be the difference the rest of the season. I’ve been saying all along we have to play hard to win.”
“I thought all along I should start. But I don’t think because of the way Gary played I should start,” White said. “I’d love to start to be back in there, where I should have been all along. But that’s up to coach Landry. It meant a lot for my confidence.”
You can view the box score here…