What can I add to Thumper's post? Just let me say that the 1985 team holds a special place in my personal sports history memory bank because it was the last hurrah of the old-time Cowboys. So many of the older guys, the ones drafted in the 1970s, the ones who won Super Bowl 12, the ones who played with Staubach; this was their last moment in the sun. As well as Tom Landry's last real taste of winning a big game.
What? A big game do you say? Yes. 1985 was redemption in several ways from 1983 and 1984, when the Cowboys lost big games late in the year. This time, Dallas faced a rival with the division crown on the line late in the year and actually won the game. Won it in dramatic fashion too.
Let's recap 1985 in brief. There were several highlight games, including the opener against the Redskins. Dallas started out on Monday Night Football for the fifth year out of the last six. Dallas had a slow first quarter, but then steamrolled the Redskins. Near the end, it was interception central as the Cowboy DB's picked off pass after desperation pass. It was Joe Thiesmann's birthday oddly enough, and the Texas Stadium crowd seranaded him with the "happy birthday" song at the end of the game. Another great season opener for Dallas, 44-14.
The QB drama was long over. Danny White was the starting QB for the year, although Hogeboom would see significant playing time due to injury. Hogeboom relieved White in game 2 versus Detroit and Dallas rolled up 554 yards of offense in a 26-21 loss that really wasn't as close as the final score.
White caught a TD pass from James Jones (who is a story unto himself, coming back from a serious 1981 knee injury to contribute in 1984 and 1985) in the next game versus Cleveland. The defense racked up a dozen sacks against Houston in a last minute win. Dallas pulled it out against the Giants thanks to a late Simms fumble in a shootout game on Sunday night. Dorsett had a great game against the Steelers in a victory. Hogeboom started in a close loss to the Eagles, highlighted by a tipped pass TD from Jaworski to Kenny Jackson. Dallas rebounded to solidly defeat the Falcons aided by a 60-yard Dorsett TD.
Sitting at 6-2 and playing well, Dallas went to St. Louis on a Monday Night for a division showdown. This was a weird game from the start. Dallas took a 10-0 lead at halftime and the announcers were saying it was a blowout in the making. But they changed their tune as the Cardinals dominated the second half, sending Dallas to 6-3 for the year.
The next week Dallas faced the Redskins in RFK. The Skins were fighting for their playoff lives. Joe Theismann was having a sub-par season and this game was a defensive battle. Dorsett scored on a long pass to give Dallas the lead in the second half, then it was up to the Cowboy D. Jim Jeffcoat, going against rookie Dan McQuaid subbing for an injured Joe Jacoby, had five sacks. Joey T was desperately flinging passes as the game wound down, but Dallas held on for a 13-7 win. It was the first time since 1981 that Dallas had a 2-0 record in the regular season versus Washington and it was sweet revenge for the previous years when the Skins had beaten Dallas in big games.
The Chicago Bears were the big NFL story of 1985 and they rolled into Dallas and destroyed the Cowboys. It was a terrible shellacking. Personally, I saw the first few plays then I had to go to a funeral of a beloved relative. When I returned the blowout was well under way. It was a bad day all around.
But the thing about this veteran Cowboy team, they bounced back from this blowout to win two division games in impressive fashion while avenging two losses from earlier in the year. They beat both the Eagles and the Cardinals with strong offensive performances.
Those two wins brought Dallas back into the thick of the NFC East race at 9-4. The Bengals blew Dallas out the next week but that game didn't affect the division race very much. The NFC East would come down to the next game, a showdown against the Giants.
It was Bill Parcell's third year and he had taken his team to the playoffs the season before. They, like Dallas, stood at 9-5. But unlike Dallas, NFL commentators believed them to be an up-and-coming league power with a ferocious defense led by Lawrence Taylor. It remained to be seen how the Cowboys would respond to the Bengals loss. Did they have the mental toughness to rebound again? Also, Dallas had not won a big game since 1982.
The game started out with the Giants taking control. They led 14-7 late in the second quarter, missing some chances to extend their lead and punishing Dallas QB's White and Hogeboom, knocking them both out of the game at various points. The Giants were driving again and were at the Cowboy 22 yard line when Phil Simms dropped back to pass, Too Tall Jones tipped the ball right into the hands of Jim Jeffcoat who ran it all the way back for a touchdown to tie the game at 14. The Giants were stunned and their next possession began deep in their own territory. The Cowboy defense forced a punt and Sean Landeta mishandled the snap, giving Dallas great field position. White threw a short TD pass and Dallas led at the half 21-14. The Giants went to the locker room amazed at the turnaround in events.
The second half, the Giants defense turned their game up a notch, as did the Dallas defense. Both teams battered the opposing offenses, Dallas even had to bring in second year QB Steve Pelluer because both White and Hogeboom could not continue. The fourth quarter came and the score was still 21-14 Dallas. Pelluer could not move the ball and the Giants defense was especially aggressive with the youngster in the game. Peuller faced a third down with fifteen yards to go. New York called for a blitz. Pelluer dropped back, read the blitz and fired the pass. WR Karl Powe, himself a rookie seventh-round pick seeing his first extended playing time, also read the blitz and ran a hot route. Powe caught the pass and took off, gaining the first down and more. 28 yards in all. This play engergized the Dallas crowd and the offense. Landry called a mixture of runs and safe passes on this drive. Dorsett converted a huge third-down short yardage play by accelerating to the corner and barely escaping the Giants linebacker. Dallas moved down the field and Timmy Newsome took a handoff, ran to the left, and scored with a little over four minutes to go to give Dallas a 28-14 lead. Tom Landry pumped his fist on the sideline and Terry Bradshaw in the booth joked that they should send that piece of film to Canton.
Now the Cowboys dropped into a prevent defense. The Giants moved down quickly and scored to make it 28-21 Dallas. Pelluer could not move against the fired up Giant defense and Dallas punted. Now under two minuted remained and it was all up to the Cowboy defense. Simms ran the two-minute drill. Randy White came up with a big sack and finally, on fourth down, Victor Scott intercepted Simms to seal the win.
It was a crazy game with unexpected heroes and unexpected twists and turns. But Dallas had won the big game.
The rest of the season was forgettable. Dallas went into SF with little to play for and lost. In the playoffs, the Rams running game dominated Dallas and the season was over. While the season ended poorly, it held one last triumph for the old time Cowboys and I will never forget it.