As Super Bowl XLIII approaches networks like ESPN and the NFL Network are loading the airwaves with Super Bowl highlights from the past. Way too often these highlights include Super Bowls X and XIII. I understand why as they were both great games and they both included the Steelers, one of this year’s participants; but hey, while they’re at it, why leave off Super Bowl XXX which also included the Steelers and Cowboys?
The Cowboys’ championships don’t have much excitement, just look at the scores from their Super Bowl wins; 24-3, 27-10, 52-17, 30-13, 27-17, (this last win being the closest margin of victory). Now don’t get me wrong as I’m not complaining; I like that the fact that when the Cowboys do win a Super Bowl they decide to dominate. Unfortunately, however, for the Cowboys, the NFL’s most memorable games in which they were involved were contests that they were on the losing end of. This got me to thinking; the Cowboys really do have a lot of great football teams that were close but not quite. Here is my Top Five List of the greatest Cowboys teams to unfortunately not win a championship.
5. The 1970 Cowboys, final record, (including the post season): 12-5. This team finished the regular season 10-4 and they were the masters of winning tight contests including playoff wins over the Lions 5-0 and the 49ers 17-10. Ironically this team finally lost a close one in the biggest game of them all, when Jim O’Brien split the uprights giving the Colts a last second victory of 16-13 in the Super Bowl.
4. The 1975 Cowboys, final record, (including the post season): 12-5. This team also finished the regular season 10-4 and actually won an NFL classic for a change when Roger Staubach hit Drew Pearson on a 50-yard Hail Mary to beat the Vikings, 17-14, in the divisional round of the playoffs. Then they rolled the Rams 37-7 to take the NFC crown before losing a heart breaking Super Bowl to the Steelers, 21-17. Those images of Lyn Swann making the impossible catch with Mark Washington draped all over him will haunt Cowboys fans forever.
3. The 1981 Cowboys, final record, (including the post season): 13-5. This was Danny White’s best shot at winning a Super Bowl and this was by far the best all around team he played on. They finished the regular season 12-4 and were playing their best defense of the year down the stretch. Over the last 6 games of the season, heading into the NFC championship, they held their opponents to an average of 9.17 points game; including a 38-0 stomping of the Bucs in the divisional round of the playoffs. Unfortunately, the Cowboys lost the most heart breaking loss in the history of sports, (for me anyway); 28-27 in the classic, “The Catch” game to the 49ers. That game was more than just a loss; it signified the passing of the torch of NFC supremacy from the Cowboys to the Niners; that is until they traded it back 11 years later. :)
2. The 1978 Cowboys, final record, (including the post season): 14-5. The defending champions that year, once again saw their season end in disappointment at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers, 35-31 in Super Bowl XIII. They did a more than admirable job of defending their title by getting back to the big game and they boasted the league’s number 1 offense and number 2 defense that year. The season climaxed with 28-0 walloping of the Rams in the NFC championship game and were it not for a dropped pass in the end zone, in the Super Bowl … who knows… sigh.
1. The 1994 Cowboys, final record, (including the post season): 13-5. The Cowboys headed into this season as the two-time defending champions and dreams of becoming the first team to ever win 3 consecutive Super Bowls. There was only one team they had to worry about heading into that season; the San Francisco 49ers. These two teams would dominate their way to a 3rd straight meeting in NFC title game and it was understood, at the time, that this game and not the Super Bowl was the real championship game that year. The Cowboys headed into the contest having won 9 games by double digits, including a 35-9 thumping of Brett Farves’ Packers in the divisional round of the playoffs. Unfortunately the Cowboys got off to a disastrous start as 3 turnovers led to 3 quick touchdowns for the Niners and in the blink of an eye the score was 21-0. The Cowboys would dominate the game the rest of the way, losing by a much more respectable score of 38-28. There was a blatant pass-interference by Deon Sanders on Michael Irvin that would have been called by any other ref on any other Sunday but in this game, was not. Had it been called, the Cowboys would have had the ball 1st and goal at the one. Undoubtedly, Emmitt would have punched it into the endzone and the score would have been trimmed to 35-38 with plenty of time to play. I still believe, to this day, that if Jimmy Johnson had not left, this team would have three-peated.