It was a cold Sunday afternoon, late in the 1985 season when the NY Giants came to town. The Cowboys and the Giants had matching 9-5 records. The winner would capture the NFC East Division title.
The game did not get off to a good start in the first quarter as Danny White was forced to leave the game with an injury, which meant Gary Hogeboom had to take over. Hogeboom quickly went to work as he connected with Mike Renfro on a 58 yard touchdown pass. The Cowboys took the lead 7-0.
The second quarter would be a four touchdown explosion. The Giants tied the game 7-7 when wide receiver Bobby Johnson scored on a Phil Simms touchdown pass. The Giants then took the lead after Danny White came back into the game and threw an interception to Elvis Patterson at the Cowboys 33 yard line. He returned it 27 yards to the Cowboys six yard line. From there Simms threw is second touchdown pass of the second quarter, this time to running back Tony Galbreath. Giants now led 14-7 and had all the momentum.
As the second quarter continued the Giants continued to dominate. They drove to the Cowboys 22 yard line looking to increase their 14 point lead with two minutes remaining. But it was the Cowboys defense that made a stand as Ed “Too Tall” Jones took an outside rush and beat his man. Jones did what he has done so many times in his career. He swatted a Simms pass high in the air. Jim Jeffcoat who was behind Simms saw the ball coming down and caught it on the run. Jeffcoat raced 65 yards untouched and scored to tie the game 14-14.
“I drove my man back six or seven yards trying to get to him,” Jones said.
“Phil Simms was in his throwing motion. I came over and the ball happened to come my way,” Jeffcoat said. “I think I have good hands. I haven’t dropped a pass yet. We practice tipping the ball to each other in a hot potato drill. But not like this.”
The momentum seemed to change in favor of the Cowboys with Jeffcoat’s interception return. And 46 seconds later the Cowboys scored again. As Giants punter Sean Landeta prepared to punt from his own two yard line Everson Walls applied pressure. Landeta stopped his punt and shoveled the ball forward. The ruling was an incomplete pass and the Cowboys took over on the 12 yard line.
One play after the Giants failed punt attempt the Cowboys took the lead. Danny White managed to come back into the game and connected with Mike Renfro, who scored his second touchdown of the game and gave the Cowboys a 21-14 halftime lead. The bad news for the Cowboys was that on White’s touchdown pass he was knocked out of the game for good with a bruised left shoulder, bruised ribs and a bruised right hand from a hit by the Giants George Martin.
With the Cowboys and the Giants scoring two touchdowns each in the second quarter, they would end up going scoreless in the third quarter. On the first play of the fourth quarter Gary Hogeboom, who was back in for the injured Danny White, was knocked out of the game with a concussion by the Giants defense. The Cowboys then had to turn to third string quarterback Steve Pelluer who had not taken a regular season snap in his two years with the Cowboys.
The Cowboys offense had only managed seven yards when Steve Pelluer took over. On his second possession he drove the Cowboys 72 yards deep into Giants territory. A key play in the drive was a third and 15 from the Cowboys 48 yard line. Pelluer connected with rookie wide receiver Karl Powe on a Giants blitz for 28 yards to the Giants 24 yard line. Five plays later Cowboys running back Timmy Newsome scored from the one yard line giving the Cowboys what they thought was a commanding 28-14 lead.
The Giants were not about to give up the division title that easy. Phil Simms once again drove the Giants into Cowboys territory. With 2:09 left in the game Giants running back Joe Morris scored from the one yard line and pulled the Giants closer at 28-21.
The Giants defense forced the Cowboys to punt on their next possession. They got the ball back at their own 39 yard line with 1:37 left and two timeouts remaining.
The Giants were able to drive to the Cowboys 16 yard line with just 59 seconds left. Facing a third down it was Randy White who took an outside rush and flattened Phil Simms for the sack. On fourth down Simms attempted a pass to wide receiver Byron Williams that was intercepted by Cowboys cornerback Victor Scott at the nine yard line.
Steve Pelluer and the Cowboys offense ran out the rest of the clock and the NFC Eastern Division title was there’s. It was the Cowboys first Eastern title since 1981. There was not much celebrating after the game except for Everson Walls who had a couple of cans of Diet Coke and sprayed it on everyone. Everyone except for Coach Tom Landry that is.
“Sprayed it on everybody,” Walls said, “except for (coach) Tom (Landry). He had his hat on and was wearing a nice overcoat. I wanted to, but couldn’t.”
Tom Landry would eventually give Dennis Thurman a high five in celebration.
“He came over to shake my hand and I said, “Coach Landry, how about a high-5?’ I put his hand up, and we slapped,” Thurman said. “I don’t think he knew what it was, but he gave it to me.”
“You can’t believe the feeling,” Thurman said. “It’s exhilarating. It has been a long and tough struggle to get back to the top. We took our knocks along the way. It’s good to get the monkey off our back.”
“This feels great,” Landry said. “Winning the East was our outstanding goal this year. Nobody thought we could do it. But this is an amazing team. We can play so good, and we can play so bad. It’s kind of unusual.”
“It can’t match anything like a Super Bowl win,” Landry said. “But to win this after the disappointments of the last few years, it’s a big one. You have to win one like this before you think you can do it. Now that this team has done it, we will benefit in the future.”
“I still can’t believe I even got the opportunity to play, let alone help the team win the championship,” Pelluer said. “It’s a real thrill. Once I got the call, I knew I had to do it. There was nobody else.”
The following week which was the final week of the season the Cowboys lost to the San Francisco 49ers 31-16. They finished the 1985 season with a 10-6 record and had to travel to Los Angeles to play the Rams in the playoffs. They would end up losing to the Rams 20-0 as Eric Dickerson ran wild for 248 yards and two touchdowns.
You can see the box score of the win against the Giants here.