In honor of the Fourth of July, I’m going to celebrate with America’s Team, the Dallas Cowboys. I’ve been doing some reminiscing lately, and I’ve collected some memories of my favorite team that stick out the most. However, unlike most celebrations, I’m not going to completely throw on lavish compliments. No, unfortunately, most of my Dallas memories haven’t been fond remembrances. I can’t cheat and call upon the old Dallas teams of the 70s, 80s, and 90s. I didn’t start watching football regularly until 2007.
Looking back, that’s quite shameful, but better late than never.
Growing optimism notwithstanding, the NFL lockout is still going strong. The writing bug has bitten me again, so I’d rather write my own article than read another about what COULD happen this season.
So I present my Top 5 Favorite Dallas Cowboy Moments and Top 5 Worst.
*Note*: I talk a lot about my trip to Dallas Stadium with my dad, but this list is solely focusing on games and specific moments, not personal. Plus, we lost that game to the Jags 35-17.
5. Cowboys vs. Eagles Monday Night (September 2008)-Dallas 41, Philadelphia 37
A controversial start to this list, as I remember watching this game while in NJ for my grandfather’s funeral. While it seems strange to focus on football during a somber time, I knew my dad and I needed a distraction, and this was one HELL of a distraction. One of the most exciting games I’ve ever seen, this was not a game for fans of defense. Dallas QB Tony Romo and Eagles QB Donovan McNabb both led their high-powered offenses in a back and forth struggle that literally could have gone either way. Thankfully, Eagles RB Brian Westbrook fumbled away a late Eagles drive that gave Dallas a chance to run out the clock to a 41-37 victory. Highlights included Felix Jones’ superhuman 98 yard kick-off return and Romo to Terrell Owens for a 72 yard TD bomb.
4. Cowboys vs. Saints Thursday Night (November 2009-Dallas 24, New Orleans Saints-17
2009 was a great year to be a Dallas fan, and this game began a 4 game run that proved the Cowboys could win in December. Now, before this game began, Dallas was 8-5, on the verge of blowing another playoff run at the end of the year, and their defensive leader Demarcus Ware had been carted off the field 5 days earlier with neck injuries. Meanwhile, the high-powered 13-0 Saints were aiming for a perfect season. The Cowboys had a fire lit under them, and they pulled out all the stops in shutting down Sean Payton’s Saints. Tony Romo only threw for 1 touchdown, but he didn’t turn the ball over and practically dissected the Saints’ secondary, while the running game found a nice balance. Meanwhile, the defense smothered Drew Brees into turning the ball over and getting a few drive-crippling sacks early on. All in all, the Cowboys built a 24-3 lead. Things got most intense in the fourth quarter, as the Saints rallied to within a touchdown, and with Dallas kicker Nick Folk blowing a 20 yard field goal, the Saints were poised for another comeback.
Enter Demarcus Ware.
The same Ware who was carted off the field on a stretcher was back in this game with 2 sacks and 2 forced fumbles, the last of the 2 fumbles coming in the final seconds of the game to clinch a huge Dallas upset.
3. Cowboys vs. Chiefs (October 2009)-Dallas 26, Kansas City-20 (OT)
After the departure of Terrell Owens, Dallas on paper didn’t have a star wide receiver, but was supposed to have something close with Roy Williams. Roy, unfortunately, didn’t fan out as a primary receiver (nor has he developed consistency even now), but he could have provided the saving grace for Dallas’ 2009 campaign. An injury in week 4 against the Broncos forced Williams out and in his place the talented but unproven receiver Miles Austin into the spotlight, and he turned into a one-man army, going for 250 yards (breaking a Dallas record) and 2 touchdowns, the last touchdown in OT, one of the greatest catch and runs I’ve ever seen. This game clearly proved Miles Austin was a primary threat, and he went on to have a terrific Pro Bowl season, over 1100 yards and at least 12 touchdowns. Austin was the spark that reignited the Dallas offense.
2. Cowboys vs. Giants (November 2010)-Dallas 33, Giants-20
Probably the best coached game the Cowboys had in an anemic, miserable season, interim head coach Jason Garrett embarrassed the rival Giants in in their own new stadium, 33-20. The offense, led, by backup QB Jon Kitna, ran over and picked apart the Giants’ defense, while the Cowboys’ own defense forced several key turnovers, most memorably Bryan McCann’s 101-yard interception and touchdown. I hate the Giants with a passion, and to shut them down after they knocked out Romo for the season and embarrassed us at home earlier in the year, it was miraculous. A forgettable season highlighted by an unforgettable upset.
1. Cowboys vs. Eagles (January 2010)-Dallas 34, Eagles -14.
Up until 2010, the Cowboys had somehow not won a playoff game since 1996. This led to an infamous reputation that the Cowboys couldn’t win in December. Things were looking promising going into this NFC Wild Card game, as the Cowboys had not only won 3 in a row, including back to back shutouts of the Redskins and Eagles, but the Cowboys had swept the Eagles so far this season. Rarely does a team get a chance to go 3-0 against another team in a season. I was a little uneasy, because my playoff experience matched the Cowboys’ own record: WINLESS. Thankfully, my fears were done in by a dominant performance by Dallas, specifically on defense. At the height of this point in the season, the Dallas pass rush was fearsome to say the least. Demarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, and Anthony Spencer were the stuff of nightmares, while the secondary, led by Pro Bowler Mike Jenkins, stuck to their respective receivers like glue. The offense did what they do best, rolling the Eagles’ defense all night long. It was a great game that they deserved to win, and it was the monkey off the back for Romo, who’s been plagued with bad post-season performances. Now, if they can go all the way to the Super Bowl, I’d be happy, but until then, this is my favorite.
5. Cowboys at Seahawks (January 2007)-Seahawks-21, Cowboys-20
An early Dallas memory for me, I just remember this one play, the play that sabotaged Tony Romo’s promising early career. Of course, I’m talking about the botched snap of the field goal that would have won the game for Dallas and ended the playoff drought. Romo fumbles the snap and is sacked a yard shy of the goal line. What makes me angriest is that as humiliating as the mistake is, instead of laying down, Romo attempts to make a play, and if the kicker had made a better block behind him, the Cowboys would have scored. Watch the replay and tell me otherwise.
4. Cowboys vs. Saints (November 2010)-Saints 30, Cowboys-27
Romo’s botched snap. Leon Lett’s blunders. Those were bad fumbles, sure. Nevertheless, for me, THIS will be THE Dallas game called “The Fumble.” Browns’ fans have their “Fumble” game, and this, in my opinion, is Dallas’ “Fumble” Game. You could argue the Seahawks game is more worthy since it was a playoff game, and this was just a Thanksgiving game, but this game had the Cowboys quickly down 20-3, and we rallied back 27-23. This one was really exciting, and the finale was nothing short of that. Late in the fourth quarter, a strike from Kitna to Roy Williams ended up becoming a 30 yard pass that signaled the end of the game. Roy was near the end zone; he’d score; and we would be up by too much for the Saints to come back. Except none of that happened. Saints’ defender Malcolm Jenkins comes from behind and strips the ball from Williams, giving the ball back to the Saints. Drew Brees immediately takes his team down the field for the game-winning score. An entertaining game, sure. But it was a more disappointing loss to a Dallas team that played well enough to rally against a high-quality opponent. Poor Roy Williams, he never catches a break in Dallas.
3. Cowboys vs. Vikings (January 2010)-Cowboys-3, Vikings-34
After the 34-14 victory over the Eagles, myself and the Cowboys were riding a wave of optimism going into the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Unfortunately, the Minnesota Vikings were NOT the Eagles. They were a far better and tougher team. Led by the loathsome Brett Favre, the Vikings shut down the Cowboys passing attack, neutralizing Romo’s blind spot protector Flozell Adams. From then on, the Dallas offense couldn’t get enough time to get a solid play off. The passing game faltered, and the run game was literally non-existent. While the defense held on as much as possible, eventually, they couldn’t keep up with the Vikings’ offense. Most infamously, Favre, with less than 2 minutes left in the game, and with the victory securely in hand, decided to keep passing instead of running out the clock, rubbing it in the faces of all Cowboys, players and fans alike for the go ahead touchdown to put the game WELL out of reach 34-3. This is the game that began my disdain for the Vikings.
2. Cowboys vs. Eagles (December 2008)-Eagles 44, Cowboys-6.
Ahh…December 2008. A month I will never forget. A month in which Dallas blew several late game leads, particularly against the Ravens and Steelers. But all they had to do was beat the Eagles and they were in the playoffs. That’s it. Who would have thought they interpreted that as LAY DOWN AND GET THE S*** KICKED OUT OF YOU. It was truly a colossal failure of a game to close out the season. The Eagles were at one point in the season 5-6-1, but had managed to come back by the end of the season, and they were clearly the more fired up team. The Eagles’ defense was too much for Romo, who was sacked, fumbled, and was intercepted. The Cowboys looked inept and out of it, and the 44-6 drubbing was the result. I’ll never understand why they didn’t put up more of a fight, other than they didn’t have enough fight in them.
- 1. Cowboys vs. Giants (January 2008)-Giants-21, Cowboys-17
This one still stings. A LOT. This is the game that started my hatred of the Giants. Back in 2007, the Cowboys had a great season, going 13-3 and looking like the team to beat in the NFC. We had already swept the Giants in the regular season, so this NFC Divisional Round game didn’t seem like a challenge. Of course, I was wrong. The Giants, possibly inspired by their heroic attempt at knocking over the undefeated Patriots a few weeks back, shut down the Cowboys all night long. With less than a minute left in the fourth quarter and down by 4, Romo attempted a comeback. I’ll never forget where I was when I was watching this. I was at FSU, in the common area, watching this game with 3 Giants fans. I silently watched, not wanting to trash talk until the Cowboys had scored. It was sure looking like it, as Romo managed to drive his team all the way into the red zone. Then, the drive stopped. Romo nearly connected with Patrick Crayton, who I’m still convinced could have caught the winning touchdown pass, but it was just barely overthrown. Then, on fourth down, Romo is intercepted in the endzone. The three Giants fans around me are yelling and cheering. I quietly walk out, boiling over in rage. My girlfriend at the time was disgusted by my temper, but I couldn’t help it. THAT team should have been a Super Bowl team, out of all the ones in recent memory. We had a killer offense, plus a strong defense with some playmakers at their peak. That’s why this memory stings the most.
Hopefully, the Dallas Cowboys will have a spectacular 2011 season, reminding everyone why they are America’s Team and allowing me to fit that elusive Super Bowl appearance in my Top 5 favorite moments. Hell, at this point, I’ll settle for an NFC Championship game.