The Dallas Cowboys are 28-16-1 SU when playing football on Thanksgiving Day, and while they’ve always been a competitive bunch, it’s been 18 years since they won a Super Bowl. In fact, since 1996, they’ve won just two playoff games. Even though they win more often than they lose during these games, there have been many moments that Dallas Cowboys fans would prefer to forget. These are five game spanning 50 years which serve as hallmarks for the frustrations of America’s Team.
1972 – Remembering Skip Vanderbundt
Since the merger, the Niners and Cowboys have only played once on Thanksgiving Day, which seems like an injustice considering the lengthy history between the two franchises. This game could be considered the very beginning of this league altering rivalry.
Dallas was 7-3 SU entering the game, but turnovers would doom them from the start. San Francisco’s Skip Vanderbundt would score off a fumble and then return a pick-six to drive the nail in to the coffin for the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day in 1972. That loss all but ended Dallas’s hopes of catching the division leading Redskins, while simultaneously giving the Niners plenty of momentum down the stretch.
A couple months later, however, the Cowboys and Niners would meet again in the divisional round of the playoffs and Roger Staubach would notch the first, monumental comeback of his career in a 30-28 victory. Sadly, Dallas would lose in the Conference Championship to the Redskins who would later go on to lose the Super Bowl.
Final Score – San Francisco 31, Dallas 10
1987 – The End of an Era
Danny White replaced Roger Staubach at quarterback years before, and those are certainly cavernous shoes to fill no matter how good you are. White did a more than admirable job over the course of his career, bullying the Cowboys to back-to-back-to-back Conference Championship losses that were as vomit inducing as you’d imagine. In the mid-eighties, White was one of the best quarterbacks in the game but often loomed in the shadows of other 80’s legends like Joe Montana.
On this fateful Thanksgiving Day game, the Cowboys had struggled to 5-5 SU but were on the verge of breaking in to the playoffs. White threw four touchdowns passes against Minnesota, but it was his untimely interception during extra minutes that cost the Cowboys the win. White would be benched for the remainder of the season. One season later, the legendary Tom Landry would hang up his hat as well after 28 years as the team’s head coach.
Final Score – Minnesota 44, Dallas 38
1998 – Welcome To Texas, Randy Moss
The Aikman-Smith-Irvin trio is the best offensive set that the Cowboys have ever had. They won three Super Bowls together, but after 1995 the wheels started to slowly come off the bus. In 1998, America’s Team was 8-3 SU but they would host the rampaging Vikings, who were 10-1 SU heading in to this game.
There were hopes that Aikman and Irvin could rekindle the greatness they had achieved through the earlier part of the decade, but Randy Moss had something else in mind. Moss caught just three passes but totaled 163 yards and found the endzone every time. Dallas would end the year at 10-6 SU, but that loss crammed them in to the wild card bracket, where they were stunned by the Arizona Cardinals.
Final Score – Minnesota 46, Dallas 36
2005 – The Ron Dayne Run
Most teams that are 7-3 SU should have a reasonable shot at the playoffs but the 2005 season was one of the most competitive years ever. Dallas was led by Drew Bledsoe, and was in a fist fight against the New York Giants on Thanksgiving Day, pushing the game in to overtime. Ron Dayne would bust up the gut for a 55 yard run that in perhaps the greatest, single moment of his underachieving career to set up the game winning field goal for the rival Giants.
This loss completely devastated the Cowboys. They would go 2-4 SU the rest of the way, miss out on the playoffs and finish 9-7 SU as the third place team in the NFC East. This was Drew Bledsoe’s final year as a true starter in the league.
Final Score – Denver 24, Dallas, 21
2012 – Romo vs. RG3
This game has epitomized the struggles of the Dallas Cowboys with Tony Romo at the helm. Romo threw for a mind boggling 441 yards, 3 scores and 2 interceptions in an outright barn burner and still managed to lose. Of course, it didn’t help that Robert Griffin III had one of the best games of his rookie season. RG3 threw for 304 yards and 4 touchdowns as he seized this game by the throat in the second quarter where the Redskins scored 28 unanswered points.
Romo and the Cowboys responded in the second half through miraculous circumstances that included Dez Bryant’s 85-yard touchdown pass at the end of the third quarter. Romo and RG3 would trade haymakers through the fourth quarter, and after Dez notched his second touchdown of the game with just over 8 minutes left, Cowboys fans could feel the tide turning in their favor. They were down 35-28 with plenty of time left.
Those minutes vanished as Griffin calmly led the Redskins down the field on the ensuing drive, eating up five minutes as they pushed the game out of reach with three minutes left thanks to a Kai Forbath field goal. This was just the fourth win all year for Washington, who wouldn’t lose another game until the first round of the playoffs where they were mauled by the Seahawks.
The Dallas defense has been the most consistent culprit for this team’s struggles, but everyone always points the finger at Tony Romo because he’s the lowest hanging fruit on Jerry Jones’ tree. It’s both a fair and unfair assessment of Romo’s career, and it doesn’t help that his team never wins games like this. As hope for Romo dwindles in Dallas, watching one of your division rivals find their quarterback of the future was yet another stomach punch in a long list of Thanksgiving Day gut wrenchers for America’s beloved team.
Final Score – Washington 38, Dallas 31