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Flashback: Dallas vs Atlanta – 1980

It was a cold day at Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium for this Divisional Playoff game against the Falcons. They had won the NFC West division with a 12-4 record. Coming to town was the Wildcard Cowboys with an identical 12-4 record, but lost out on the NFC East crown to the Philadelphia Eagles the last week of the season. The Cowboys had put the LA Rams away a week earlier in the Wildcard game, 34-13 at Texas Stadium.

Now they would meet up with the young and talented Atlanta Falcons. Their offense led by Steve Bartkowski at quarterback, running backs William Andrews and Lynn Cain and receivers Alfred Jenkins and Junior Miller.

Early in the first quarter Atlanta took command and seemed to drive the ball at will against the Dallas defense. Receiver Alfred Jenkins was wide open in the end zone, but dropped what would have been a sure touchdown and a 7-0 Atlanta lead. Atlanta settled for a Tim Mazzetti field goal for a 3-0 lead.

After a Dallas punt by Danny White, Atlanta took over and again started to drive on the Dallas defense. Once again Steve Bartkowski went to Alfred Jenkins who was wide open for a 66 yard touchdown pass and a 10-0 lead. Jenkins would dominate the Dallas secondary in the first half catching three passes for over 100 yards.

On the Cowboys next possession they drove down to the Atlanta 21 yard line. Danny White seemed to throw a perfect touchdown pass to receiver Butch Johnson who dropped the ball after he crossed the goal line. Officials ruled the pass incomplete. Television angles only showed Johnson from behind so it was unclear if Johnson ever had complete control of the ball in the end zone. Dallas settled for a Rafael Septien field goal to cut the Atlanta lead to 10-3.

Dallas would force an Atlanta fumble by Bartkowski that linebacker Anthony Dickerson recovered. Danny White and the offense went back to work as White connected with tight end Billy Joe Dupree and running back Ron Springs on a few passes. Mixed in between a few Tony Dorsett runs. Dallas got to the Atlanta five yard line when White passed to Dupree on the goal line and he forced himself into the end zone for the game tying touchdown.

The turnover did not seem to affect the Atlanta offense. Bartkowski continued to throw on the Dallas defense and once again found a wide open Jenkins. This time for a 50 yard gain. The Falcons drove to the Dallas one yard line where Lynn Cain ran it in and took the lead back, 17-10.

After another Dallas punt, Atlanta tried to position themselves for another score before halftime, but Dallas cornerback Steve Wilson made a diving interception of a Bartkowski pass with seven seconds left in the half to stop the drive.

Although Dallas was pretty much dominated in the first half by the Falcons, they found themselves down by only seven points at the start of the third quarter. They came out in the third with a nice pass and run from White to Preston Pearson who raced 34 yards to the Atlanta 20 yard line, but as he was being tackled Pearson fumbled the ball and Atlanta recovered.

Steve Bartkowski would need just 3:40 to drive his offense down the field. Once again hitting Alfred Jenkins for a 22 yard gain on the first play of the drive. It would be Jenkins last reception of the game. Bartkowski would make Dallas pay for the turnover by connecting with William Andrews on a 12 yard touchdown pass to increase the Atlanta lead to 24-10.

The Dallas offense seemed to wake up as the third quarter was ending. Danny White led Dallas on an 85 yard, 8 play drive that ate up 4:51 of the clock and took them into the fourth quarter. Robert Newhouse would finish the drive with a one yard touchdown run bringing the Cowboys back within seven points, 24-17.

The Dallas defense would force an Atlanta punt on their next possession, but just when you thought the Dallas offense would start rolling again a tipped pass resulted in a turnover. Danny White’s pass to Butch Johnson which was a little high tipped off Johnson’s fingers and Atlanta intercepted. Once again Atlanta took advantage of the turnover and converted it into points. Tim Mazzetti kicked another field goal with 6:37 left in the game to put the Falcons ahead 27-17.

This was only Danny White’s second playoff game as a starter after taking over for the retired Roger Staubach after the 1979 season. A lot of pressure comes with being the quarterback of the Cowboys, especially taking over for a legend like Staubach.

Danny White once again started marching the Dallas offense down the field after the Atlanta field goal. It only took White five plays covering 62 yards, which were all passes to get Dallas a score. As White scrambled around in the backfield he pointed into the end zone trying to confuse the Atlanta secondary. Atlanta would not bite on White’s pointing, but White decided to throw anyway and threw a beautiful pass in between two defenders that Drew Pearson caught for a 14 yard touchdown. Cutting the Atlanta lead to 27-24 with only 3:40 left in the game.

The Dallas defense forced Atlanta into a three and out on their next possession, but not after some wild footwork by Ed (Too Tall) Jones. On third down for Atlanta Jones jumped off-sides, but never touched an Atlanta player. Jones jumped back on side, but lost his balance and had to do a tight rope act across the rest of the Dallas defensive line as Bartkowski took the snap. Lucky enough no penalty was called and Atlanta would have to punt on their next play.

Dallas got the ball back with only 1:48 left to play on their own 29 yard line. Once again it was Danny White who took to the air with crisp passes to many different receivers. Four plays, all passes put Dallas at the Atlanta 23 yard line. On the fifth play White would throw off balance into the end zone where Mr. Clutch would be waiting. Once again it would be Drew Pearson coming down with the pass in the end zone for Dallas’ first lead of the game. With the extra point Dallas could have sealed the victory, but holder Charlie Waters fumbled the snap and was forced to throw into the end zone which fell incomplete. Dallas had the lead 30-27 with only 42 seconds left in the game.

On first down for Atlanta following the kickoff, Dallas veteran Larry Cole came around the left end and sacked Bartkowski at his own three yard line. Atlanta could only get to their own 21 yard line before a fourth down pass fell incomplete. Which allowed Dallas to run out the last few seconds and seal the victory over the Falcons 30-27.

“The best thing I can say about this bunch,” said an obviously spent Landry afterwards, “is that they won’t quit. Drew’s catches were miracles. Our guys were simply amazing. They just kept coming back.

“Danny probably felt more pressure today than he has all year and he responded. The touchdowns he threw were amazing.”

“This,” White was quick to admit, “was the biggest game I’ve played and I was really nervous going into it. But it’s comforting to look around and see the kind of help I was getting from everyone. I felt I was throwing the ball well and never really thought we were out of the game.”

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The victory put the Dallas Cowboys into the NFC Championship game where they would lose to the Eagles 20-7 in Philadelphia the following week.

The playoff game against the Falcons will always be one of my favorites. It was exciting from beginning to end. The game would also be voted one of the top ten games in Dallas Cowboys history.

You can see the box score here…

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/198101040atl.htm

Flashback: Dallas vs Kansas City – 1983

This must be one of the hardest Flashback posts of the season since Dallas and Kansas City have only played each other eight times over the years, with Dallas winning five of the eight. I try to come up with a game that I remember most for this feature and it’s not always a memorable one for most people.

So with this weeks match-up with the Chiefs getting closer we will Flashback to 1983 at Texas Stadium with the Chiefs taking on the 9-2 Cowboys. The Cowboys were just 2-2 in their last four games going into this game with the Chiefs and they were looking to get back on track after starting the 1983 season with a 7-0 record.

The Cowboys went up 7-0 early in the first quarter on their first possession with Ron Springs scoring on a 1 yard run. The touchdown came after Danny White connected with Tony Hill on a 58 yard pass on a third and two play. Hill was dragged down at the Chiefs seven yard line. A Rafael Septien field goal increased the Cowboys lead to 10-0 at the end of the first quarter.

With Dallas dominating the Chiefs as the second quarter moved on, Danny White decided to pull a trick out of his own pocket. White, who back then was also the Cowboys punter took a good look at the Chiefs defense as he prepared to punt and then stopped. White tucked the ball away and faked the punt. He gained 22 yards with a run up the middle, getting the Cowboys a first down at the Chiefs 39 yard line.

“He’s on his own.” Landry said. “I would never tell him to do crazy things.”

“I really didn’t do it for any particular reason, but we were sputtering.” White said. “I was watching the safeties, and they weren’t paying attention. They turned and ran and then it was just a matter of getting by the guy over the center.”

Two plays after the fake punt Tony Dorsett would score on a 28 yard run putting the Cowboys up 17-0. Then an interception by Cowboys cornerback Ron Fellows with 1:51 left in the first half positioned them for another Septien field goal from 41 yards out with just 15 seconds left. Dallas would go into halftime with a 20-0 lead on the Chiefs.

Dallas would continue their scoring early in the third quarter after Dallas safety Bill Bates sacked Kansas City quarterback Bill Kenney, causing a fumble which Dallas linebacker Dexter Clinkscale recovered at the Chiefs 32 yard line. Tony Dorsett would score again. This time on a 32 yard touchdown run. Putting the Cowboys up 27-0.

“That’s the type of run that takes advantage of my speed, the quick-hitting trap.” Dorsett said.

Tony Dorsett would finish the game with 108 yards rushing along with his two touchdowns. Those rushing yards also put him over 1,000 yards rushing on the season for the sixth time in seven years. Dorsett also went over 8,000 yards rushing in his career.

With the score 27-0 it seemed to be one play that woke the Kansas City offense up. A field goal attempt by the Chiefs kicker Nick Lowery in the third quarter was no good. But Dallas defensive tackle John Dutton blocked safety Michael Downs into Lowery, which gave the Chiefs a first down at the Cowboys 13 yard line. On the very next play Chiefs wide receiver Carlos Carson beat Dallas cornerback Everson Walls one-on-one for the Chiefs first touchdown of the game. The Chiefs got the ball right back after Dallas punted on their next possession and quickly went back to work. Quarterback Bill Kenney once again found Carson for a quick score. This time Carson scored from 48 yards and once again he beat Walls for the touchdown to close the Dallas lead to 27-14.

On the Chiefs next drive they moved to the Dallas 33 yard line. Looking to get within six points of the Cowboys, but the Dallas Doomsday defense stepped up. Ed (Too Tall) Jones and Randy White put pressure on Bill Kenney and flushed him from the pocket. It was then that rookie defensive end Jim Jeffcoat got his second sack of the game as he took down Kenney. They would also be Jeffcoats first two sacks of his young career. After two incompletions following the sack, Nick Lowery would miss a 51 yard field goal. Keeping the Dallas lead at 13 point, 27-14 at the end of the third quarter.

The Cowboys took advantage of the missed field goal and marched 66 yards for a score. Which included a 28 yard pass from Danny White to tight end Billy Joe DuPree and a 17 yard run by Ron Springs. Dallas scored when fullback Timmy Newsome took it in from 7 yards out, increasing the Dallas lead to 34-14.

The Dallas defense went back to work on the next Chiefs possession as they forced them to punt. Dallas punt returner Gary Allen returned the punt 68 yards for a touchdown to put Dallas up 41-14. It was the first Dallas punt return since 1975.

A late Chiefs touchdown by backup quarterback Todd Blackledge to wide receiver Stephon Paige made the final score 41-21, but it also made it clear that there was a lot of work to be done with the Dallas pass defense. The Chiefs threw for 432 yards and three touchdowns against the Cowboys. They also completed 33 passes on 59 attempts.

“I just know we are better than the yardage we are giving up,” Dennis Thurman said. “It’s really depressing. They threw a party and the only person they didn’t invite was Reagan. Fifty-nine passes. Incredible. As a cornerback, you go into this game looking forward to it because you know they are going to throw the ball. You come out regretting ever thinking about it. We wanted to show people we shouldn’t be ranked 26th in pass defense and now we will probably be 28th.”

Coach Tom Landry was also not happy with the amount of yards given up to the Chiefs passing game. A week earlier in San Diego the Dallas defense gave up 340 yards passing to Charger quarterback Ed Luther.

“Kansas City throws well, and their receivers catch as well as any I’ve seen.” Landry said. “The yardage concerns me. We’ve been giving up a lot (six) of 300-yard passing games.”

“We all realized today was very important, considering what happened last week, especially with the stretch run ahead of us,” Danny White said. “I felt going into the game this was going to be a real pivotal point in the season for us.”

The 41 points scored by Dallas against Kansas City was the most since scoring 51 in a 1980 Thanksgiving fest against the Seattle Seahawks, winning 51-7. Next up for the Cowboys would be their 1983 Thanksgiving Day game against the St. Louis Cardinals which they would only have three days to prepare for. Dallas would go on to beat the Cardinals 35-17.

You can check out the box score here…

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/198311200dal.htm

Flashback: Dallas vs Denver – 1992

It was a cold, but not too cold Sunday afternoon on December 6, 1992 at Mile High Stadium in Denver. Dallas came into the game with an 11-2 record looking to clinch a spot in the NFC playoffs for the second straight season. They were well rested after having their usual time off after the Thanksgiving Day game where they beat the NY Giants 30-3. The Denver Broncos came into the game with a 7-6 record and playing without injured John Elway.

The Cowboys would jump out to a quick 14-0 lead on the Broncos after quarterback Tommy Maddox thew interceptions on his first two passes of the game. Troy Aikman would take advantage of the two turnovers by connecting with Michael Irvin on touchdown passes of 6 and 4 yards.

The Broncos would strike back with a touchdown pass from Tommy Maddox to Vance Johnson to cut the Dallas lead to 14-7 in the first quarter. With Maddox looking to tie the game in the second quarter he would throw his second touchdown pass, this one to Mark Jackson, but the extra point failed. Making the score 14-13. Dallas would close out the first half with a Lin Elliott FG and a 17-13 lead.

The interesting thing about this game would be how Denver head coach Dan Reeves would handle his quarterback position. With John Elway not playing, Reeves decided to alternate Tommy Maddox and Shawn Moore all afternoon. They would be some what effective during the game as both would combine for 208 yards passing and four touchdowns, but it would be Maddox who threw 4 interceptions during the game.

Dallas would hold the lead after three quarters 24-20. They took a 24-13 lead when Aikman tossed his third touchdown pass of the game to Jay Novacek. Denver answered with Maddox’s third touchdown pass of his own. This time to Reggie Rivers to get within four points of Dallas going into the fourth quarter.

With 9:05 to play in the game, Dan Reeves reached into his trick plays and came up with a play that would give Denver their first lead of the game. Looking at a third and 11 from their own 19 yard line, Maddox took the snap and lofted a swing pass to free agent rookie receiver Arthur Marshall who was lined up in the backfield. Marshall quickly fired a 50 yard strike to Cedric Tillman who than ran untouched for the go ahead touchdown on an 81 yard touchdown pass. Denver took the lead 27-24.

Dan Reeves had a feeling that the Dallas defense would bit on the play and come up to stop the run. Which was the case when cornerback Kevin Smith broke towards Marshall as he caught the swing pass.

“Arthur was a quarterback in high school,” said Reeves.

“We saw from our pre-season game (at Dallas) that that pass might be possible, based on how fast they come up for the run.”

Now it would be up to the Dallas offense to get them back in the game. They were down by three, in a hostile stadium, trying to recover from a trick play and a playoff berth at stake.

Troy Aikman led the Cowboys offense on an 11 play, 77 yard drive. During the drive Aikman would connect with Jay Novacek on three straight plays that covered 50 yards which brought them to the Denver 21. With a 1st and 10 from the Denver 21, Aikman was sacked by Denver defensive lineman Simon Fletcher and fumbled the ball. Both Aikman and Fletcher’s teammate Greg Kragen had a shot to recover the fumble, but it was Aikman who was able to pull the ball into his chest. A loss fumble at that point would have most likely lost the game for the Cowboys.

“It was real close,” admitted Aikman. “He probably had as good an opportunity at it as I did.”

Two plays later Aikman completed a huge third down pass to Michael Irvin to set up Emmitt Smith. With only 2:47 left to play Emmitt Smith took the handoff from Aikman and scored to take a 31-27 lead.

Cornerback Kenny Gant (aka, The Shark), ended the game with the Cowboys fourth interception at midfield on 4th and 10.

“To be able to drive the length of the field, to score and put us back ahead, that’s a tremendous job by Troy Aikman and our offense,” said coach Jimmy Johnson, who was more excited to have escaped with a win than to have officially enrolled in the post-season.

“We expected to be in the playoffs prior to the season and during the season, so that expectation never changed,” he said.

“We were fortunate old No. 7 wasn’t playing today,” said Aikman, referring to Denver’s injured quarterback John Elway.

“This is a hell of a wakeup call for us at this point in the season,” said defensive end Charles Haley, who doubled his season total with two sacks. “One thing we learned today is that having a two-touchdown lead early doesn’t mean the game is over. You can’t believe you’re going to take the offense out of the game that quickly.”

With the victory over the Denver Broncos the Cowboys earned a spot in the NFC playoffs in 1992. The following week would be a chance to lock down the NFC East division title against the defending champion Redskins in RFK Stadium. But the Redskins would not allow that in their building as they beat the Cowboys 20-17.

You can see the box score for the game here…

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/199212060den.htm

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Flashback: Dallas Vs. Carolina – 2006

Tony Romo walked off the field against the NY Giants sorry that he threw three interceptions one of which was returned for a touchdown. And also feeling bad that he could not lead the Cowboys to a victory. He also wondered if he would be the starter for the next game against the Carolina Panthers.

You might be saying to yourself…What is he talking about? Why would Romo wonder if he was going to start against Carolina next week?

Well, the game I’m actually speaking of was the 36-22 loss to the Giants back in 2006 when Tony Romo replaced Drew Bledsoe at the start of the second half. Although he threw three interceptions it was a breath of fresh air for Cowboys fans who saw something in Romo that they had not seen in a long time. Coach Bill Parcells made the decision to make Tony Romo the Cowboys starter the next week against the Carolina Panthers.

It was Tony Romo’s first NFL start for a Cowboys team who were 3-3 on the season and struggling to find who they were. The game did not start off well for the Cowboys as they gave up a touchdown run to DeShaun Foster. Following that touchdown was Romo’s only mistake of the game when he tried to force a ball to Terrell Owens which resulted in an interception. Carolina turned that into a 14-0 first quarter lead on a 24 yard touchdown run from receiver Steve Smith.

Romo then took charge on the next Dallas drive as he led them to their first touchdown of the night. A three yard touchdown pass to Jason Witten to cut the lead to 14-7. That was followed by a Mike Vanderjagt FG to make the score 14-10 Carolina at halftime.

The teams went scoreless in the third quarter, but that would not be the case for the Cowboys in the fourth quarter. After another Mike Vanderjagt FG made the score 14-13, it was a special teams play that turned things around and allowed Dallas to dominate the Panthers. Sam Hurd recovered a fumble by Carolina on the kickoff which led to the Cowboys first lead of the game. That came courtesy of Julius Jones who scored one play later from 14 yards out to take a 21-14 lead after Romo hit Owens for the two point conversion.

Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme was intercepted by Dallas safety Roy Williams which led to a three yard touchdown run by Marion Barber and a 28-14 Dallas lead. Barber added his second touchdown of the night and final one for the Cowboys after Greg Ellis forced a fumble after sacking Delhomme. Dallas walked away with a 35-14 win over the Carolina Panthers and new life at the quarterback position. Also improving their season record to 4-3.

Romo finished the night going 24 of 36, 270 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The running game was led by Julius Jones who ran for 92 yards on 24 carries and one touchdown. Owens finished the game with 9 receptions for 107 yards.

The Dallas defense did a good job holding Pro-Bowl wide receiver Steve Smith to just 55 yards on six receptions and held Jake Delhomme to just 149 yards passing. In all the Dallas defense held the Carolina offense to only 204 yards.

“Y’all didn’t think we could do that,” Bradie James said to no one in particular before moving out of sight in the locker room after the game.

“We had a lot to gain tonight,” running back Julius Jones said. “We said our season starts now. Hopefully, it will carry over.”

“I thought he did a pretty good job,” Parcells said of Romo’s performance. “I know it was a big decision to make. It was a hard decision to make. I’m glad it worked out – temporarily anyway.”

“We haven’t been having a lot of fun,” Parcells said. “They’re having fun right now, and that’s what I enjoy the most: when I see the faces of those players. I’ve been in a lot of locker rooms like this one tonight. I’ve been fortunate.

“It’s been tough, you never know, the change that we made at quarterback,” Romo said. “You never know what you’re going to get. I was anxious, just like Bill was, to see what we were going to do.”

“I think this team has a lot of heart and a lot of resilience,” Romo said. “We showed that tonight.”

The Cowboys pulled themselves together after that Giants loss in 2006 and went out determined to play a good game and beat the Panthers. The team supported Tony Romo and even awarded him the game ball. It was said that the season just started after Dallas beat the Panthers in 2006. Let’s hope this weeks game against the Panthers is the same kind of start we are looking for after a bad loss to the Giants.

Here is the link to the games box score…

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/200610290car.htm

Flashback: Cowboys vs Giants – 1985

It was week 5 of the 1985 season. Sunday Night Football on ABC which back then was very rare. Both the Cowboys and the Giants had 3-1 records and they would battle it out at Giants Stadium for first place in the NFC East. The Cowboys had the leagues number 3 defense and the Giants had the leagues number 1 defense. But on that early October night defense would be hard to come by as both offenses took center stage.

Both offenses would combine for 896 yards and 59 points. Out of the 896 yards of offense, 774 of them would be by quarterbacks Danny White and Phil Simms through the air. Both teams would also turn the ball over a total of nine times, which would ultimately decide this classic battle.

The Cowboys dominated the first half with Danny White throwing two touchdown passes. One to Tony Hill and the other to Mike Renfro. The Giants could only manage two short field goals by kicker Jess Atkinson. There was not much excitement from either team in the first half. But as a Dallas fan I was loving the  domination over the hated division rivals. At halftime the Cowboys would lead 14-6.

It was the third quarter where things got interesting. The Giants offense which could not get anything going in the first half finally woke up and scored three unanswered touchdowns on the Cowboys defense. Simms lit up the Jersey sky with two touchdown passes to receiver Lionel Manuel from 51 and 23 yards out. The second touchdown to Manuel was actually tipped by Dallas linebacker Dexter Clinkscale at the two yard line right into Manuel’s hands for the Giants first lead of the game, 19-14. The first touchdown to Manuel would end with Atkinson missing the extra point, which would end up being the difference in the game.

The third Simms touchdown pass in the third quarter was actually a short 15 yard pass over the middle to running back George Adams who split the Dallas defense and raced 70 yards for a Giants 26-14 lead.

Dallas would shrink the Giants lead as the third quarter ended with another touchdown pass from Danny White to Mike Renfro to make the score 26-21 Giants.

The Dallas defense would once again come to life in the fourth quarter starting with a Dennis Thurman interception that resulted in a Rafael Septien field goal, cutting the Giants lead to 26-24. The Cowboys would fight their back from a 26-14 deficit and take the lead once again on another Septien field goal, 27-26. The field goal came as a result of a Simms sack at his own 24 yard line by Ed Jones and Randy White. Simms fumbled the ball and Jim Jeffcoat recovered it setting up the go ahead field goal. The Dallas defense would only give up a Giants field goal in the fourth quarter, which put the Giants back on top 29-27.

With 2:44 left in the fourth quarter and on his own 22 yard line, Phil Simms fumbled the snap from center Bart Oates and Dallas linebacker Eugene Lockhart recovered at the Giants 19 yard line. This resulted in Septien’s third field goal of the game and a 30-29 Dallas lead with only 2:19 remaining in the game.

“I just fumbled it,” Simms said. “Why I don’t know. I feel maybe I was trying to get away from the center too quick.”

The Giants received the kickoff with what they thought would be enough time to position themselves for a game winning field goal. Facing a 4th and 10 from their own 32 yard line Simms hit receiver Bobby Johnson to get them to midfield with only 1:45 to play. Three plays later Simms threw a wobbly pass that Dallas cornerback Everson Walls easily intercepted at the Dallas 37 yard line. With the Giants out of time-outs the Cowboys ran out the final 1:16 and came away with a wild 30-29 victory. The win put the Cowboys at 4-1 and on top of the NFC East, which they would go on to win with a 10-6 record in 1985. Their season would end in the playoffs visiting the LA Rams, losing 20-0.

“Both teams made a lot of turnovers,” Dallas coach Tom Landry said, “and I think that made it hard for the defenses. Both teams made a lot of mistakes.”

“We know they are always emotional here when they play against us with the crowd and everything,” Thurman said. “So it was important that we came out and showed them some emotion of our own right from the beginning. I think we did that.”

“We played well,” said Danny White, who threw for 342 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions. “I’m a little frustrated because I made a couple of bad decisions, or we would have had 45 points. I think we are a half-step away from being a great offense.”

You can find the games box score here…

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/198510060nyg.htm

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Flashback: Dallas vs Tampa Bay – 1981

As the 2009 season is about to begin I thought I would start a new feature about a popular match-up from the past against who Dallas is playing every week.

The first game this season is against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Playing against Tampa Bay brings back a memory from the 1981 playoffs. It was the divisional round and Tampa Bay was visiting Texas Stadium on a Saturday afternoon. Dallas had won the NFC East with a 12-4 record and Tampa Bay won the NFC Central with a 9-7 record.

In the days before the game there were newspaper articles about how the Tampa defense wanted the Dallas offense to pass on them because they thought they would have the advantage and take control of the game. Think again, because it was the Dallas Doomsday defense who was mad and took control early and never looked back.

Dallas beat Tampa Bay 38-0 with a suffocating defense and overpowering running game. It was the Dallas defense who sacked Tampa Bay QB Doug Williams four times and harassed him plenty of other times during the game, which included four deflected passes. They also added four interceptions on the day. Two by Dennis Thurman, one by Michael Downs and one by Ed Jones. Back in 1981 the Dallas defense was led by Randy White, Harvey Martin, Ed Jones, D.D. Lewis, Everson Walls and Dennis Thurman. They all dominated the game and held Tampa Bay to 222 yards of total offense and only 74 yards rushing. The Tampa offense wasn’t anything to ignore back in 1981. They had stars like Doug Williams, James Wilder, Kevin House and Jimmie Giles.

The Dallas offense got off to a slow start in the first quarter before putting things together early in the second quarter with a touchdown pass from Danny White to Tony Hill. Dallas led 10-0 at the half and then exploded in the third quarter with 21 points with rushing touchdowns from Ron Springs, Tony Dorsett and James Jones. They finished the scoring in the forth quarter with another rushing touchdown, this time from Timmy Newsome. Keep in mind that the Tampa Bay defense was ranked number 2 in takeaways in 1981. They had defensive players like Lee Roy Selmon, Hugh Green and David Logan, but they did not create one turnover against the Dallas offense.

The Cowboys cornerback Dennis Thurman said it was their silent defensive leader Randy White who spoke up during the week before the game.

“He said he knew we were ready physically, but he wanted to make sure we were ready mentally,” Thurman said. “Randy doesn’t talk much, so when he does you listen. It was very inspirational. We knew he had a special feeling about this game.”

“We had two weeks to get ready for this game,” White said, “and when you have that long, you get irritated and mad.”

Said coach Tom Landry about the game…

“It was a very good football game for everybody.” Landry said. “We don’t have many of those games, maybe every five or six years.”

This Dallas playoff victory has always stood out as one of my all-time favorite games. It was a great game from beginning to end and I still watch it from time to time because I have it recorded. It would be the last win for the 1981 Dallas Cowboys because a week after beating Tampa Bay they would have to visit San Francisco for the NFC Championship game in what would be one of the most famous endings in NFL history.

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You can check out the box score from the game here…

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/198201020dal.htm