We lost 3 very close games and one blowout in 1981 to go 12-4 and win another NFC East title. Our offense was clicking as we ran a very balanced attack.
Danny White was playing very well, Dorsett was in his prime, our trio of WRs: Tony Hill, Drew Pearson, and Butch Johnson were as good as any in the league. We had solid TEs in DuPree, Doug Cosbie, and Jay Saldi, a reliable kicker in Raphael Septien (before he became a scumbag), and a couple of good FBs in Ron Springs, Robert Newhouse, and Timmy Newsome, and a pretty decent O-Line to run behind.
On defense we had a lot of talent with Too Tall, Harvey Martin, Randy White, Bob Breunig, and an interesting group of young DBs to play alongside veteran Charlie Waters. Dennis Thurman was joined by Michael Downs and Everson Walls, two rookie FAs who somehow made the team and turned out to be excellent players for us. Another rookie DB, Ron Fellows (7th round) would also play well for us but he didn't see much playing time this year.
The starting 4 DBs (Waters, Thurman, Downs, & Walls) would account for 30 INTs between them as we picked off 37 passes that season plus another 7 in 2 playoff games! We also forced 43 fumbles, recovering 16 of them (although we coughed up 45 fumbles and lost 20 of them. DOH!). Undrafted rookie FA Everson Walls led the league with 11 INTs (one of his 3 times he would lead the league in INTs), while Thurman snagged 9 and Downs got 7.
We played well against the pass but had a tough time stopping the run consistently.
The only game we really lost all season was to the 49ERs who blew us out (pun intended) at Candlestick 45-14. It wa the only time anyone scored more than 27 on us and only the 5th time all year that anyone scored more than 17.
In the playoffs we completely demolished the Bucs 38-0 and it could have been even worse but we spent the 4th quarter running out the clock (still scored a TD though). The defense picked off Doug Williams 4 times while our runners ate up the clock and ground out 212 yards rushing. 4 different RBs scored TDs for us that day (Spings, Dorsett, James Jones, and Newsome).
It looked like we would cruise to the SB and face the Chargers who I had picked again to meet us. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be for either team.
In the AFC the Chargers would play the Dolphins in Miami in 90+ degree heat with the humidity pushing the heat index well over 100 degrees. It would be one of the greatest (if not THE greatest) games ever played as both teams went on scoring streaks in a back and forth battle that saw Kellen Winslow make his mark with an incredible performance that nearly killed him from heat exhaustion. Winslow gained 168 yards on 13 receptions and scored a TD but he also blocked a couple of key FGs.
The Chargers would pull out the OT victory 41-38 and move on the face the Bengals in Cincinnati in a -59 degree wind chill. They were spent after the Dolphins game and had nothing left to face both the Bengals and the weather and fell 27-7.
We, on the other hand, would go to San Francisco to face the 13-3 49ERs who had beaten the Giants in the first round 38-24.
It would be the first time since 1972 that the 49ERs and Cowboys would face off in the playoffs and the Niners were looking to get a little revenge for us knocking them out of the playoffs 3 straight times from 1970-72. They had crushed us in the regular season and had a lot of confidence facing us again at home but this was the Dallas Cowboys we are talking about and they had been there every year but one since 1966 so confidence wasn't a problem for them either.
The game went back and forth but we had a 27-21 lead with just under 5 minutes to play and the Niners on their own 10 yard line. Montana brought them down the field with short passes and some unexpected runs mixed in. At the Dallas 6 yard line with a 3rd down facing them... well, we all know what happened next
After that play, we were down by one point and just needed to get into FG range to win the game. Danny White hit a streaking Drew Pearson on a slant pass that looked like he would take to the house but one of the Niners' DBs (Hicks or Williamson?) snagged the collar of Pearson's jersey with a couple of fingers and dragged him down from behind. Needing only about 15 more yards to get into FG range, Danny White was hit and fumbled, the Niners recovered and our season ended.
I had been so elated when Pearson caught that pass and looked like he could... go... all... the... way, only to be snagged by a couple of fingers and pulled down. Like the Ice Bowl where I always see Bart Starr slip on the ice and fall down short of the goalline, I have replayed that a million times in my head and see him breaking free and running for a TD to win the game. Such a let down after a great season.
I tell you folks, sometimes it is painful to be a Cowboys fan. But then again, we have had the most success of any team in NFL history so it evens out and makes it that much sweeter when we win it all again, as we know we will.
Captain Nathan Brittles: "Only the man who commands can be blamed. It rests on me... mission failure!"
"Jerry Jones is a billionaire fan who bought his own team for the express purpose of buying his way into the game. He wants to hang out with the players, stand in front of the cameras, be the face of the team (yech), make personnel moves as if this were a video game, and more than anything else, be seen as the guy who made it all happen."