Even the Greatest Cowboys' Seasons Have Rotten Eggs

Leon Lett, just before sliding into the ball against the Dolphins on Thanksgiving Day 1993.
Leon Lett, just before sliding into the ball against the Dolphins on Thanksgiving Day 1993.
Normando Delgado via Youtube

Watching the Cowboys' desultory performance against the Giants on Sunday, that feeling recognizable to any lifelong Cowboys fan began to seep in. No matter how good the Cowboys are, there is a game in every great Cowboys season that just doesn't fit in. The Cowboys always lay an egg. This is true even in the seasons when they end up winning the Super Bowl.

We aren't talking just garden-variety losses either, every Cowboys championship team has suffered through at least one ugly, inexplicable defeat.

So take heart Cowboys fans, losing to an 8-4 Giants club in New Jersey, no matter how pedestrian Dak Prescott looked and no matter how bad Odell Beckham Jr. burned the Cowboys' secondary, isn't the end of the world. It could very well just be a bump in the road, just like it was for each of the Cowboys five Super Bowl winning teams.

1. 1971 Cowboys spit the bit against a bad New Orleans Saints team. — Coming off a loss to the Colts in Super Bowl V, the 1971 Cowboys were primed to win the team's first ever NFL championship. For the most part, they made quick work of the league, losing only three games in route to a 24-3 Super Bowl VI win over the Dolphins at Tulane Stadium.

Earlier in the same season, however, the Cowboys melted down on the same Tulane Stadium artificial turf. Saints quarterback Archie Manning ran for two touchdowns and threw another as the Saints marched to a 17-0 halftime lead on the way to a 24-14 victory. The Saints finished the season 4-8-2, but they beat the world champs. I don't think the '71 Cowboys mind.

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2. 1977 Cowboys throw it away on a Monday night against the Cardinals. — Prior to the 2016 Cowboys making 11 wins in a row, the 1977 Cowboys held the club record for consecutive wins in a single season. The team started the year with eight wins in a row and were riding high heading into a Nov. 14 Monday night match up with the 5-3 St. Louis Cardinals.

Despite trailing 14-3 at halftime, the Cardinals left Texas Stadium with a 24-17 victory after outscoring the Cowboys 21-3 in the second half. Roger Staubach threw two interceptions and the Cowboys never really found the offensive rhythm that paced them through the rest of what ended up being a 15-2 run to the Super Bowl.

3. 1992 Cowboys have weird day against the Rams. — The 1992 Cowboys lost three games. Two of those losses happened in divisional road games, which are always the toughest to win. The third came to the Los Angeles Rams on Nov. 15.

Heading into the game against the Rams, the Cowboys were 8-1. The Rams were 3-6. The Cowboys were 14.5 point favorites, an enormous spread for an NFL game. Unheralded Rams running back Cleveland Gary had 154 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns, Tony Zendejas scored the only points of the fourth quarter with a couple of field goals and the Rams won 27-23. The Cowboys won eight of their remaining nine games on the way to defeating the Bills 52-17 in Super Bowl XXVII.

4. Leon Lett snatches defeat from the jaws of victory in the sleet. — The 1993 Cowboys actually had a couple of really ugly losses. The Redskins beat them 35-16 on opening night and a bad Falcons team beat them 27-14 in November. Those losses came with built-in excuses, though. Emmitt Smith missed the first two games of the year while holding out for a better contract and Troy Aikman missed the Falcons game due to injury.

There is no excuse for what happened on Thanksgiving day, however. Leading 14-13 with less than a minute to play, the Cowboys blocked a would be game-winning field goal attempt by Dolphins kicker Pete Stoyanovich. To win the game, all the Cowboys had to do was walk off the field. Defensive tackle Leon Lett couldn't help himself, however, and slid through the ball on Texas Stadium's sleet-covered turf. The Dolphins recovered, giving Stoyanovich another chance. He made the 19-yard kick and the Dolphins, 10 point underdogs, won 16-14. The Cowboys won out, beating the Bills again in Super Bowl XXVIII.

5. Elvis Grbac whips the Cowboys in Irving. — The 1995 Cowboys could not have asked for a better spot to take on the 49ers, who'd beaten the Cowboys twice in 1994 on the way to the Super Bowl. The Cowboys were 8-1. The 49ers were 5-4, and coming off a couple of ugly losses at home to the New Orleans Saints and the Carolina Panthers, who were playing their first season as an expansion team. Steve Young, the 49ers All-Pro quarterback, was hurt.

Even with all that going for them, however, the Cowboys got smoked, 38-20. The 49ers jumped out to a 31-7 halftime lead, knocked out Aikman in the second half and never looked back. Current Cowboys head coach, then the team's third-string quarterback, threw a touchdown in garbage time to make the game look closer than it should've been. The Cowboys got the last laugh however, when the Packers knocked off the 49ers in the NFC Divisional playoffs, preventing a rematch in the NFC Championship game. Dallas beat the Packers, and the Steelers in Super Bowl XXX.


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