What a strange season this was, full of such highs for most of the year and ending with such a monumental collapse.
It began with a seven game winning streak highlighed by some great games. The opening comeback against the Redskins was one of the all-time Dallas games. Dallas was behind 23-3 and it looked bad. Dorsett was even caught from behind by Darrell Green on a long run. It was all going Washington's way in the first half.
In the second half, it was all Dallas. White started it off with a long bomb to Tony Hill and the Dallas D stuffed the Skins. The Cowboys were so unstoppable that Howard Cosell called it "inexorable" that Dallas would score the go-ahead TD. It was 31-23 before the Skins scored a late to produce the final score. What a way to start the year! Especially after the previous years playoff game.
Dallas reeled off a string of wins. The one against the Saints was memorable because Dallas was behind 20-19 late in the game with the Saints having the ball near their own goal. In a remarkable play, Dallas linebacker Anthony Dickerson sacked Kenny Stabler for a safety. Those two points put Dallas ahead and won the game 21-20.
It looked bad for Dallas against the Bucs on the day Roger Staubach entered the Ring of Honor. Dallas was behind by seven late. But Timmy Newsome scored on a long run after a pass. He actually stepped out of bounds but the refs missed the call. Dallas won in OT.
Dallas was the last undefeated team in the NFL at 7-0 before losing to the Raiders on a Sunday night game. The game was a shootout and featured Danny White scoring on a trick pass.
Dallas kept rolling. Winning games with a high-scoring offense. The only loss was a one-point setback to the Chargers. White, Dorsett, Hill, Pearson, Springs, Newsome, and the rest of the offense were clicking and racking up the yards and points.
In the big picture, the NFC race was coming down to another showdown between the Skins and Cowboys. This time, both teams were 12-2. Dallas had the tiebreaker already and their two losses had come by a combined three points. How amazing is that? Pretty amazing until you consider the Redskins's two losses had been by a combined TWO points.
So the showdown came. That morning the Virginian Pilot had a drawing of Texas Stadium on fire and stuck with arrows as if it were under seige from wild Indians. Guess what became kindling that morning for the family woodstove at my house? Unfortunately, the drawing was pretty much an accurate depiction of what actually occurred. It was a very one-sided game. Dallas could not move the ball and could not stop Washington. It was one of the most crushing defeats I have ever experienced as a Dallas fan, mostly because of the high expectations coming in.
That loss relegated 12-3 Dallas to a wild card team. The next week, on MNF against the 49ers, was meaningless to Dallas. And they played like it. The Niners blew them out. This just added to the bad feeling about the team. The hangover continued into the next week.
The team was in a funk heading in to the playoffs against the Rams. Landry started Bill Bates at safety in an attempt to bring some spirit to the squad, but it did not work. The Cowboys came out of the tunnel jumping around and high-fiving each other. John Madden commented, "Look at the emotion! They really want it today!" The emotion didn't last too long after the kickoff however. On a cold day in Dallas, the Cowboys could not recapture the magic of the first 14 games. A dull loss sent them home in the first round.
The tremendous disappointment of the 1983 season cast a gloom over the team and fans. The last few games seemingly banished all the good things Dallas did for most of the year. Even the NFL films Dallas highlight reel for 1983 did not even show any of the 1983 games, instead it featured a history of the franchise. Despite the stellar record (the third straight 12-4 season), and outstanding stats (a team record for passing yardage by White), it became a tough season to swallow for Dallas fans.
Note: 1983 was the final season for old hands Drew Pearson, Robert Newhouse, and Harvey Martin. It was the first for Jim Jeffcoat, Bill Bates, and Mark Tuinei.