With the Cowboys playing on Christmas night this season, I thought I would flashback 15 years ago when the Cowboys also played on Christmas night. It was the final game of the 1995 season and the Cowboys were traveling to Arizona. They were looking to lock up home field advantage in the playoffs as well as trying to raise their game to the level they knew they should be at. In the weeks leading up to the Cardinals game the Cowboys had lost back to back games to the Redskins and the Eagles, which was followed by a narrow 21-20 victory over the Giants.
The Cowboys came out in the first quarter and quickly went up 17-0 on the Cardinals. The first score came when Troy Aikman connected with Kevin Williams on a 25 yard touchdown pass. Williams had done an average job in 1995 as he became the starting wide receiver opposite Michael Irvin due to the departure of Alvin Harper to Tampa Bay.
Cardinals quarterback Dave Krieg was then intercepted by Cowboys safety Brock Marion who returned it 32 yards for the score. The Cowboys went ahead 14-0 early in the first quarter. Cowboy’s kicker Chris Boniol added a 39 yard field goal as the first quarter ended giving the Cowboys a 17-0 lead.
Then Kevin Williams got back into the Cowboys offense in the second quarter. Aikman found Williams open for a 48 yard touchdown pass that increased the Cowboys lead to 24-0. The Cowboys were looking like the team they knew they were capable of being. They were dominating the Cardinals, but then like in many other games in 1995 the Cowboys started to make mistakes and looked average.
Derek Kennard, who was playing center for the Cowboys,had some trouble with snapping the ball to Aikman late in the second quarter as they missed on two exchanges. One of those missed exchanges would cost the Cowboys the chance at more points as they fumbled the ball to the Cardinals. The Cardinals turned that into a field goal as the first half ended. The Cowboys went into the locker room with a 24-3 lead.
Things continued to get bad for the Cowboys as the third quarter started. Troy Aikman tried to connect with Michael Irvin, but Cardinals cornerback Aeneas Williams had other ideas. Williams jumped in front of Irvin for the interception and raced 52 yards for the score, which got the Cardinals to within 24-10 of the Cowboys.
On the ensuing kickoff Kevin Williams fumbled and the Cardinals recovered. The fumble resulted in another Cardinals field goal and a 24-13 Cowboys lead.
The Cowboys did manage to increase their lead to 27-13 before the third quarter ended with Chris Boniol’s second field goal of the game.
The fourth quarter was record setting for Emmitt Smith. With his fourth NFL rushing title in the last five seasons already wrapped up Smith was looking for another record. John Riggins from the Redskins had held the regular season record of 24 rushing touchdowns since the 1983 season. Smith had entered the game against the Cardinals tied with Riggins.
The Cardinals had controlled Emmitt Smith for most of the game. When the Cowboys reached the Cardinals three yard line late in the fourth quarter they knew they had to give the ball to Smith. Smith scored and finished the season with a record 25 rushing touchdowns. It also put the game out of reach as the Cowboys went ahead 34-13.
Chris Boniol added his third field goal of the game and the Cowboys won 37-13. They also earned home field advantage in the playoffs as they finished the season with a 12-4 record.
Troy Aikman led the Cowboys offense with 350 yards passing and two touchdowns. Emmitt Smith only managed 68 yards rushing, but with a fourth NFL rushing title and record setting 25th rushing touchdown, it made the 68 yards a little easier to deal with. Kevin Williams had a record game for himself with 9 receptions for 203 yards to go along with his two touchdowns.
The Cowboys defense held the Cardinals offense to 285 yards and also recorded three sacks and collected three turnovers.
“We made a statement to the NFL and to ourselves,” Cowboys safety Darren Woodson said. “We needed to play a good game.”
“I’ve always thought you wait until the end of the season and then add it up to see where you are,” Dallas coach Barry Switzer said. “We’re 12-4, and we’re going to be home for the whole thing. I don’t think many people thought we would be here a week ago.”
“We had a job to do, and we just went out and did it,” offensive lineman Nate Newton said.
A month after beating the Cardinals the Cowboys would return to Sun Devil Stadium in Arizona where they would beat the Steelers 27-17 in Super Bowl XXX. The Super Bowl victory would be the Cowboys third in four years and earn them the title of Team of the 90’s.
The box score can be seen here.