This Sunday’s Dallas Cowboys game at home against the Philadelphia Eagles under the bright lights of NBC’s Sunday Night Football is a huge game for the ‘Boys. We’ve seen this game before, though. We’ve all experienced many different Dallas Cowboys games that, for one reason or another, felt bigger than others.
Some of those resulted in epic wins, and others ended in painful losses. While we don’t yet know what this Sunday night will be, let’s try to find its mirror across Cowboys history.
Here are some of the more memorable “big” games of the last decade:
Week 13, 2006, at New York Giants
Back in the glory days, the Cowboys used to take on Eli Manning and Co. at Giants Stadium, not this new-fangled Metlife Stadium garbage.
Dallas entered the day 7-4, New York a game behind at 6-5, but it was Philadelphia who the Cowboys were trying to separate themselves from in the division. The Cowboys were coming off of the classic post-Thanksgiving mini bye, with a new kicker in Martin Gramatica ready to exorcise the demons of Mike Vanderjagt.
Tony Romo was in the middle of his first flight season, and he commanded the Cowboys through a trudge of a game that Gramatica won on a last-second field goal, 23-20. What a thriller.
Week 13, 2007, Green Bay Packers
The Cowboys and Packers stormed into Texas Stadium on the Thursday after Thanksgiving each bringing a 10-1 record with them. The top seed in the NFC hung in the balance, making it a “Texas-sized showdown” as is the idiom.
Plenty of Cowboys fans remember this as the game that Terrell Owens famously threw popcorn in his helmet, but Packers fans remember this game as the birth of Aaron Rodgers.
Brett Favre was playing incredibly during his final season as a Packer, looking for his first-ever win at Texas Stadium. He never got it, and Aaron Rodgers didn’t that night, but Aaron would go on to win Super Bowl XLV in Cowboys Stadium for whatever that’s worth.
Cowboys won 37-27, and it was a good ride into Christmas.
Week 15, 2008, New York Giants
This was way before Carrie Underwood sang the Sunday Night Football song, in fact even before Faith Hill did it. Pink serenaded us before the Cowboys beat the Giants 20-8.
While that score looks large, if you remember the game you know that it wasn’t. It was a weird one, so weird in fact that fullback Deon Anderson caught a Tony Romo touchdown pass.
Dallas was hanging on by a thread in the NFC East, which looked to be the Eagles. A loss would all but guarantee their elimination from playoff contention. This would ultimately prove to be the last win ever at Texas Stadium, as the Cowboys would lose the final game it hosted the following week to the Baltimore Ravens.
Week 15, 2009, at New Orleans Saints
It would have been easy to go with the regular season finale against the Eagles here, but that was a must-win of higher degree than this Sunday’s game against the same team. We’re shooting for balance here.
The 8-5 Dallas Cowboys found themselves in the Superdome on a special Saturday night edition of Thursday Night Football, against the 13-0 Saints. Gulp.
Dallas, trying to keep up with Philly in the division race, battled their way through it all, and even overcame Nick Folk’s ineptitude in his final game with a Star on his helmet. DeMarcus Ware was a hero, and all was good in the world as the Cowboys gave the eventual world champions their first loss on the year.
Week 14, 2011, New York Giants
The Jason Pierre-Paul Game.
Heck, the Miles Austin lost it in the lights game.
Dallas, who could have essentially won the division with a win on this night, began the final quarter of the season with a 7-5 record at their back. A week earlier they’d lost in Arizona in overtime after Jason Garrett iced Dan Bailey.
This game had the feel of the NFC East crown being on the line, it ultimately would be three weeks later in the season finale, and Dallas lost both times. The Giants came up big when it mattered most, and their Super Bowl rings from that season prove it.
Week 14, 2012, at Cincinnati Bengals
This was an emotional game for the Dallas Cowboys.
Linebacker Jerry Brown had just tragically died in a car accident, a vehicle that was operated by his Cowboys teammate Josh Brent. Understandably, emotions were high.
In terms of the football at stake, the Cowboys were at .500, drastically needing to pull themselves back in contention with the Washington Redskins that had beat them a few weeks earlier on Thanksgiving.
Dallas got a win, in one of the more memorable coaching jobs done by Jason Garrett.
Week 16, 2013, at Washington Redskins
This was literally a must-win. A loss on the road would render a Week 17 game moot, and Tony Romo had never played a game where he was mathematically eliminated from playoff contention (which is still true to this day).
The Cowboys fought in some gross weather conditions, and then-rookie Terrance Williams showed us some of his big-play ability on a last-second drive. The aforementioned Tony Romo, with a painful back injury, threw the game-winning touchdown to DeMarco Murray, his final heroic act of the season.
Week 15, 2014, at Philadelphia Eagles
Dallas and Philadelphia, both 8-3 at the time and looking to take a lead of the pack, squared off on Thanksgiving Day, and Mark Sanchez put quite a beating on the Cowboys. That one still stings.
Just 17 days later though, the Cowboys marched into Lincoln Financial Field, knowing that a win over the Eagles would set them up for the ability to win the NFC East for the first time in five years, a feat that had never been accomplished with Jason Garrett as the head coach.
Dez Bryant roasted cornerback Nolan Carroll (which we were all reminded of last offseason and somewhat this season), as he hauled in three Tony Romo touchdown throws. The Cowboys won, and a week later they celebrated another win with NFC East Champions merchandise.
Week 9, 2015, Philadelphia Eagles
Look, I know this game didn’t feel as epic or have the same quality of stars as the ones we’ve listed, but the reality is it fits the bill here.
The Matt Cassel-led Cowboys (it still hurts) welcomed the Sam Bradford-led Eagles into AT&T Stadium in DeMarco Murray’s return. The Cowboys may have been 2-5, but the state of the NFC East was so poor that they still stood a legitimate shot at winning it, this game serving as their somewhat last real opportunity to stay somewhat in contention.
All the Cowboys had to do was buy Tony Romo some time to come back and save them, but they couldn’t. They did take the Eagles to overtime, but Sam Bradford connected with Jordan Matthews who ran right past JJ Wilcox for the game-winning score.
This was only two seasons ago. Time flies.
You’ll notice that there weren’t games from the 2010 or 2016 seasons listed, and there’s a reason why.
In 2010 the Cowboys got off to such a poor start out the gate, and then Tony Romo was injured, that they never really had enough credit for anything to be “big” or “must-win.” It was just pure agony the whole ride.
A season ago, yes the Cowboys had some epic games, but were there ever really any big, got-to-have-it type games? When you reel off 11 in a row with a rookie quarterback and running back in such epic fashion, it’s hard to find one.
You could talk me into saying that last season’s Eagles game at AT&T Stadium somewhat fit this bill, but we’ve already given the Eagles enough credit and they don’t deserve anymore in my humble opinion.
Let’s focus on beating them this week, in a game that is unquestionably one of this magnitude. The question now is BTB, which one does it remind you of?