In my mind, I think it was the most compelling season-opener in the Cowboys' 53-year history. Other great season starters include:
1961: 27-24 against Pittsburgh. The first official victory of the Dallas Cowboys. Eddie LeBaron threw a 42 yard bomb to Frank Clarke to set up the game-winning FG with one second on the clock. The season ended with Dallas at 4-9-1, but what a way to win that first ever game!
1966: 52-7 against the Giants. Don Meredith threw for five TD's on just fourteen completions, with Bob Hayes grabbing two of them and an unknown second-year free ageent RB named Dan Reeves catching three more. The Original Doomsday Defense sacked Giant QBs five times and the Cowboys were off and running to their first ever playoff berth, culminating in the classic (but disappointing) NFL Championship Game loss against Vince Lombardi's Packers.
1975: 18-7 against the Rams. After missing the playoffs in 1974 and losing greats such as Bob Lilly, Cornell Green, Bob Hayes and Walt Garrison in the off-season, expectations for the 1975 season were muted. But Staubach and the "Dirty Dozen" soundly beat the NFC pre-season favorites for the Super Bowl, starting a run for the Super Bowl of their own.
1983: 31-30 at Washington. The Redskins had manhandled Dallas in the 1982 NFC Champsionship game, and raced out to a 23-3 lead in the Monday Night opener. But Danny White opened the second half with two beautiful TD bombs to Tony Hill, and the Cowboys outscored Washington 28-7 in the last 30 minutes to eke out a one-point win. Unfortunately, after a 12-2 start, the wheels would come off with three straight losses at the end of the season.
1986: 31-28 against the Giants. The ageing Cowboys had gotten a shot of youth with the addition of Herschel Walker and Mike Sherrard, and a new play caller in former 49er coach Paul Hackett. Although Dallas had barely won the NFC East the year before, everybody considered the Giants THE up-and-coming team in the division. The game was a classic, as Dallas won in the final seconds on a 10-yard TD draw by Walker. But once again, the fast and exciting start (6-2) was overshadowed by a stumble down the stretch, as the Cowboys finished with a losing record for the first time in 23 years.
1992: 23-10 against Washington. This one was almost as fantastic as last night's game, except for two things. First, the Cowboys had a crazy home-field advantage. Second, the Cowboys had actually played the Redskins very well in recent years, even when Dallas was awful. But it was still a pleasure to watch the Monday Night season opener with a blocked punt for a safety, a punt return touchdown by Kelvin Martin, Emmitt rushing for 140 yards, and the defense killing 1991 NFL MVP Mark Rypien. Of course, the Cowboys finished that season as Super Bowl champions.
1999: 41-35 at Washington. I may be biased becuase I was there, but this game is one of my all-time favorites, season opener or not. I remember expectations for the Redskins were high, especially with new QB Brad Johnson, and it was Danny Snyder's first game as Redskins owner (!!). The Cowboys fell behind 35-14 in the 4th quarter, somehow managed to tie it up, the Redskins muffed a last-second FG attempt on the last play of regulation, and then...a beautiful play action fake and 76-yard TD to Rocket Ismail to win in overtime. Aikman threw for a career high 5 TDs and the offense had over 500 yards of offense. However, Chan Gailey's Cowboys would finish with a lackluster 8-8 record and get bounced out of the first round of the playoffs, proving that it's not always how you start - but how you finish.
There have been other exciting and impactful season openers - intercepting Joe Theisman 5 times on his birthday MNF in 1985 and outlasting the Giants behind Romo's 4 TD passes and a TD run in 2007 come immediately to mind, but all things considered, at this point and time, last night's 24-17 win at the Giants was the Greatest Season Opener in Dallas Cowboys History. We can only hope that it is the start of something truly memorable.