Anytime a team wins a Super Bowl it’s special no matter how they get there. The last two Super Bowl Champions didn’t make it into the playoffs until the final game of the season. The Packers got in back in 2010 as the 6th seed and won it all and the Giants got in last season as the 4th seed and won it all. I’m sure the fans of those teams loved every second of the postseason as their teams got hot at the right time. The Giants were 6-6 in 2011 at one point and were left for dead by most experts as well as their fans. The Packers back in 2010 needed to win in the last week of the season along with some help to back into the playoffs. All of the bad things from the regular season were forgotten once these teams won the Super Bowl. It’s rare to have one of those magical seasons from beginning to end, but when it does happen it’s the greatest ride ever.
I realized the other day that it has been 20 years since the Cowboys had one of those magical seasons and went on to win the Super Bowl. Back in 1992 the Cowboys were on a mission from the first game of the season right through the Super Bowl. It seems like just yesterday as I can remember every game they played and how they became more dominant as the season went on. It was Jimmy Johnson’s fourth season as head coach and the Cowboys had ended the 1991 season with a horrible playoff loss to the Lions, 38-6. Some thought the Cowboys were probably still a year or two away from seriously competing for a championship. The Cowboys thought differently.
The Cowboys fielded the youngest team in the NFL in 1992. They also had the top ranked defense in the league, but when it came time for Pro Bowl selections not one player from the Cowboys defense was selected. The defense did not really have house hold names other than Charles Haley, who the Cowboys traded for before the start of the season. Haley was looked at as the final piece the Cowboys needed for their Super Bowl run. Some of the others joining Haley on that top ranked defense were Russell Maryland, Tony Casillas, Jim Jeffcoat, Tony Tolbert, Leon Lett, Ken Norton Jr., Vinson Smith, Robert Jones, Larry Brown, Thomas Everett, Kevin Smith, James Washington and Darren Woodson.
On offense it seemed as though the Cowboys were unstoppable most of the time. It started up front with Erik Williams, John Gesek, Mark Stepnoski, Nate Newton and Mark Tuinei. From there defenses had to deal with Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, Alvin Harper, Kelvin Martin, Jay Novacek and Daryl Johnston. With Norv Turner running the offense the Cowboys developed a balanced attack that opposing teams had a hard time defending them at times.
The Cowboys finished 1992 with a 13-3 record. There best record since going 12-2 back in 1977 when they went on to win Super Bowl XII. They were 7-1 at Texas Stadium in 1992. Their only loss was to the LA Rams 27-23. On the road they went 6-2 with losses to the Eagles 31-7 and the Redskins 20-17. They beat out the Eagles for the NFC Eastern Division Championship, but came up short for home field advantage to the 49ers.
Here are a few games that will always stand out from that magical 1992 season.
Week 1: The Cowboys opened the season in Texas Stadium against the Redskins who were defending Champions. Issiac Holt Blocked a punt that went out of the end zone to give the Cowboys an early 2-0 lead and they never looked back. Emmitt Smith rushed for 140 yards and a touchdown and Kelvin Martin added a 79 yard punt return in the third quarter. The Cowboys went on to win 23-10.
Week 2: The Cowboys traveled to New Jersey to take on the Giants. It seemed to be no contest as the Cowboys jumped out to a 34-0 third quarter lead. The Giants scored twice before the end of the third quarter to make the score 34-14. What I remember most is that the scoreboard operator changed the score to show that the Giants had won the game 35-34 during the fourth quarter. The Giants did make it interesting, but the Cowboys held on for a 34-28 victory.
Week 9: Just a few weeks earlier the Cowboys were crushed by the Eagles 31-7 in Philadelphia. In the rematch the Cowboys defense took a stand and dominated as they only allowed 190 yards to the Eagles offense. Emmitt Smith rushed for 163 yards as the Cowboys won 20-10 and improved to 7-1.
Week 10: The Cowboys ended the 1991 season with a 38-6 loss in the playoffs to the Lions. In 1992 the Cowboys made a return trip to Detroit, but this time it would end much different. Emmitt Smith scored three touchdowns and Michael Irvin had 114 yards receiving and a touchdown. The Cowboys defense only allowed 201 yards to the Lions offense as they cruised to a 37-3 victory.
Week 13: It was Thanksgiving at Texas Stadium and the Giants were coming for a visit. Unlike the first match-up with the Giants this time it would not be close. The Cowboys defense once again dominated as they collected four sacks and only allowed 207 yards to the Giants offense. Emmitt Smith rushed for 120 yards and scored twice, which included a 68 yard score in the third quarter. The Cowboys improved to 10-2 with a 30-3 victory.
Week 16: The Cowboys traveled to Atlanta for a Monday Night game looking to lock up the NFC East title. The game included one of the most incredible runs in Emmitt Smith’s career. He seemed to get stopped by a wall of Falcon defenders, but then he bounced away and broke free down the right sideline as he beat Deion Sanders to the end zone for a 29 yard touchdown run. Smith added another 29 yard score and rushed for 174 yards. Troy Aikman completed 18 of 21 passes and threw three touchdown passes. The Cowboys won their first NFC East title since 1985 as they beat the Falcons 41-17.
Divisional Playoffs: For the third time in 1992 the Cowboys would be playing the Eagles and for the second time at Texas Stadium. It was also the first playoff game at Texas Stadium since 1983. Once again the Cowboys dominated the Eagles and won 34-10. The Cowboys defense only allowed 178 yards to the Eagles offense and sacked Randall Cunningham five times. Emmitt Smith added 114 yards and a score.
NFC Championship: Leading up to this game there seemed to be two stories. One was the last time the Cowboys played in San Francisco for the NFC Championship back in 1981, which ended with “The Catch” by Dwight Clark. The other was the muddy field conditions after a week of soaking rains. None of that mattered to this Cowboys team as they showed no fear against the 14-2 49ers led by Steve Young and Jerry Rice. What always comes to mind was early in the game Kevin Smith left the field for a play with a shoulder injury. On the next play Young connected with Rice on a long touchdown as he beat Issiac Holt who replaced Smith. But the 49ers were called for holding and the touchdown was called back. It seemed as though from that point on the Cowboys had the upper hand. The Cowboys defense controlled the 49ers offense and the Cowboys offense was able to move the ball and control the clock as they built a 24-13 fourth quarter lead. Young was able to bring the 49ers to within 24-20 late in the fourth quarter and most thought that Jimmy Johnson would try to get a few first downs and run out the clock. On the first play after the ensuing kickoff Troy Aikman connected with Alvin Harper across the middle as the defender fell down. Harper broke free and was finally taken down at the 49ers ten yard line after a 70 yard gain. From there Aikman sealed the game with a short touchdown pass to Kelvin Martin. The Cowboys beat the 49ers 30-20 to advance to Super Bowl XXVII. It was the first Super Bowl for the Cowboys since 1978. It was also the game that will be known for Jimmy Johnson yelling in the locker room “How bout them Cowboys!!”
Super Bowl XXVII: My first ever Cowboys game was Super Bowl XII against the Broncos back in 1977. I can’t really say I knew what was happening, but I remembered the star on the helmet. Now 15 years later I was enjoying every second of the Super Bowl including all the pregame leading up to it. I couldn’t wait to see the Cowboys name in the end zone as well as watching the player introductions. I took it all in and remember it like it was yesterday. I also remember the Cowboys being down 7-0 to the Bills after getting a punt blocked, which led to a Thurman Thomas touchdown. From that point on it was all Cowboys as they outscored the Bills 52-10. The Cowboys defense recovered five fumbles and collected four interceptions for a record nine turnovers in the game. The defense also scored two touchdowns by Jimmie Jones and Ken Norton Jr. It could have been three touchdowns and a Super Bowl record 59 points, but we all know what happened when Leon Lett celebrated too soon on his fumble return. Troy Aikman earned the game’s MVP as he competed 22 of 30 passes for 273 yards and four touchdowns. Emmitt Smith added 114 yards and a touchdown and Michael Irvin added two touchdowns. All the great numbers aside, what really meant the most was the incredible journey from that 1992 season and then seeing the team holding the Lombardi Trophy and celebrating. It was a feeling unlike any feeling I have ever felt as fan.
It’s just so hard to believe that it has been 20 years since that magical season of 1992. The players have long been gone, but will never be forgotten. Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin have all entered the Hall of Fame. Watching Jimmy Johnson every Sunday on Fox always brings back great memories. Charles Haley has been helping out the Cowboys defensive linemen recently as well as waiting for his own name to be called for the Hall of Fame. We also remember Mark Tuinei who passed away too soon back in 1999.
The 1992 Cowboys will always be remembered as one of the great Cowboys teams of all time as well as one of the great NFL teams of all time. Their magical season will never be forgotten.
“How bout them Cowboys!!”