This time last year, when we found ourselves mired in the midst of a lockout and persistent squabbling over a new CBA, which offered little more than an uncertain future for the sport we all love so much, I decided to take a look back, at a glorious past, which provided a much better view. I began a series on the best Cowboys games of all time. These lists are typically filled with the franchise's numerous playoff and Super Bowl wins, such that regular season games get nary a mention. Given that there have been so many memorable regular season contests in Dallas' storied history, I sought to rectify that, by offering a look at the top ten regular season games in Dallas Cowboys history.
The problem is that, just as we were hitting our stride, the CBA was suddenly signed, the lockout lifted and mere hours later, we found ourselves in the midst of a simultaneous training camp and free agent frenzy, and the top ten series had to take a back seat. With training camp just about a month away, and with little NFL news to speak of, I thought the month of July would present a superb opportunity to resume the countdown, which ended abruptly at number 5. Just in case you haven't committed the list to memory, let's begin with a review of the games that were covered last year, with a brief excerpt from each game summary to pique your interest:
In the final assessment, this game offered further proof that, in Danny White, the Cowboys had a worthy successor to Roger Staubach, who was deservedly known as "Captain Comeback." Recall that, in the previous year, White had calmly led his team to a similarly stirring fourth-quarter comeback in a playoff game at Atlanta. And there would be more in future...
Five more doozies after the jump...
On fourth down, the Eagles tried a "Stanford Band" play involving a series of laterals—Jackson to Hank Baskett to Westbrook—to no avail. Dallas ran out the clock with a couple of kneel-downs. As this happened, I sat on my couch, stupefied; for some reason, this one left me more emotionally drained than any other regular-season Cowboys game I have ever watched. Just recollecting it makes me weak!
Number 8: a handful of great contests from the 60s and early 70s (guest column by Longball)
Roger then hit Lance Alworth from 21 yards out to take the lead in the 3rd quarter, but Gabriel drove the Rams back down and hit Pat Curran from 2 yards out. Thank goodness for Chuck Howley – he always seemed to come up with a big play, intercepting Gabriel and returning it 12 yards, allowing Duane Thomas to score from 5 yards out and win the game.
Number 7: week 12, 2003: surprising Cowboys win battle for NFC supremacy, beating Carolina 24-20
With the win, the Cowboys remained in a tie with Philadelphia for the NFC East lead and moves into a four-way tie with the Eagles, Panthers and St. Louis Rams for the best record in the conference. During the post-game presser, the normally taciturn Parcells was very emotional. He tearfully proclaimed that the Cowboys couldn’t be called losers anymore and admitted, "we've got a real shot to do something here."
Number 6: two Thursday showdowns against the Packers: 42-31 (1994) and 37-27 (2007)
"Probably more than anything else, it was a great reminder of the importance of team," Garrett said recently when asked about that game. If there’s any doubt, check out the reaction on the sideline when Larry Brown breaks up a 4th-and-4 Favre pass with under 4 minutes left to seal the victory. After the game, a reporter asked Nate Newton if he had thought the Cowboys could win with Jason Garrett at quarterback. Newton looked him dead in the eye and said, "man, we could win with you at quarterback." That was a tightly-knit and confident bunch.
Number 5: two season openers at Washington: 31-30 (1983) and 41-35 (1999)
The first of these was one of Danny White’s finest hours. The other offered a reminder of how fevered was the triplets’ will to win. Both offered huge comebacks (or, monumental collapses, if you will) from seemingly impossible deficits. That both happened in Washington, and left a stadium full of fans morose and silent, made the wins all that much sweeter.
Next Friday, we'll resume the countdown with game #4. Since I know you can't hardly wait, I'd suggest indulging in a delicious walk down memory lane by hitting the links above. For me, revisiting these games often brings back the tension, anxiety and churning stomach that I felt when watching them live - followed, of course, by the elation and incredible relief a hard-fought, close victory provides (since these are all victories, natch). Hopefully, it will offer you the same. Enjoy!