Life mantra: Live in the present, not the past.
That's exactly what the Dallas Cowboys did in their season opener when they defeated the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants 24-17. People should bear in mind this is only Week 1 and it still remains to be seen what this win actually means for America's Team.
Nevertheless, after a win like that, Cowboy fanatics have the right to be excited about their season.
In the past, the Cowboys franchise has had numerous season-opening wins that have foreshadowed success. In fact, from 1970-1981, the Cowboys didn't lose a single season opener. Out of that era came two Super Bowl championships and numerous playoff appearances. The Cowboys have had five Super Bowl champion seasons and four started with a win. Two of those wins were against division rivals.
There is a long season ahead and speculation can be brutal but I give Cowboy fans this top 10 list for one reason and one reason only: Hope.
This season, when things aren't going Tony Romo's way, you can look back at this list and reminisce to Week 1 when things were great. For it's hope that will allow you to persevere through the emotional roller coaster that is the Dallas Cowboys.
Preface: With so many outstanding seasons and great season opening wins, one might wonder what the criteria is for my top 10. Obviously, Super Bowl wins trump all but I also considered historical shifts in the Cowboys franchise along with wins against division rivals.
13 Sept. 2009 vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
In 2008, Cowboy nation was sick. In 2009, they barely had a heartbeat.
The last two years had been playoff hell. Tony Romo's botched snap in the Wild Card game against the Seahawks followed by a heart-wrenching loss to the division rival Giants had knocked them out of playoff contention.
It had been 12 years without a playoff win and this was the year, like it is every year, things were going to change.
In Romo's third full year as a starting quarterback, he led the Cowboys into Tampa with redemption on his mind.
The game got off to a slow start for the Cowboys with two Nick Folk field goals. In the second quarter, Cadillac Williams scored, putting the Buccs up 7-6. Just before the end of the first half, Romo found Miles Austin for a 42-yard touchdown pass. From there, the Cowboys never relinquished the lead and won 34-21.
Romo finished the season 11-5 and the Cowboys took their NFC East crown into the playoffs where they beat the Eagles for the second week in a row 34-14. The next week, they lost to Brett Favre's Minnesota Vikings but Romo was able to finally get that playoff win he'd been so desperately seeking.
8 Sept. 1980 vs Washington Redskins
This game ushered in a new era of Cowboys football. The great Roger Staubach retired after the 1979 season with two Super Bowl championships (VI, XII). Danny White had sat on the bench for four years and it was finally his time.
In his first full season as a starting quarterback, White went 10-of-18 for 107 yards and two interceptions. Not a great beginning but, thankfully for the Cowboys, they had their running game. James Jones, Ron Springs, and Tony Dorsett led a fierce running attack against the Redskins that accumulated 177 rushing yards for the game. The Cowboys' defense also got in the mix. They were able to hold the Redskins to 3 points along with only 58 rushing yards for the game. Springs and Dorsett led the Cowboys to a 17-3 performance.
After that game, White settled in nicely and led his team to a 12-4 regular season record. He leaned mostly on his running game throughout the season.
In 1980, Tom Landry’s boys were able to win the NFC East finsihing with a 12-4 record but lost in the NFC Championship game to the Philadelphia Eagles. A win against a division rival to start the season will always make it in my top 10.
21 Sept. 1975 vs Los Angeles Rams
Tom Landry deserves a lot of the credit for building the America's Team brand. Going into the 1975 season, the Cowboys had two Super Bowl appearances and one championship.
Unfortunately, this year would be just another appearance. What makes sports great is that it's black and white. For every winner there's a loser. You can't win every time and, while it could be better, a Super Bowl appearance is still an admirable feat.
In 1974, the Cowboys missed the playoffs for the first time since the AFL and NFL merged in 1970. They were looking to get back on track when they visited the L.A. Rams. Field goal kicker Toni Fritsch scored the first points of the '75 season for the Cowboys. The defense held the Rams scoreless while running back Doug Dennison and Fritsch provided the scoring for the Cowboys. Fritsch finished 4-for-4 but missed an extra point after Dennison's late second quarter touchdown. The Rams added a late fourth quarter touchdown but it was too late. Cowboys won 18-7.
Dallas would go on to win the NFC championship but lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 21-17 in Super Bowl X in Landry's third Super Bowl appearance.
4 Sept. 1978 vs Baltimore Colts
The Cowboys picked Tony Dorsett 2nd overall in the 1977 NFL draft. They had won a Super Bowl in 1976 and were looking for Dorsett to lead them to another. The 1978 season couldn't have started any better.
In their first game against the Baltimore Colts, Dorsett had over 100 yards receiving and rushing. Roger Staubach had connected with Dorsett early in the first quarter with a 91-yard pass for a touchdown, giving the Cowboys the lead 14-0. Staubach ended the day with 280 yards and four touchdowns while the Cowboys defense came up big shutting out the Colts offense.
The Cowboys won easily 38-0.
Sometimes the journey is what's most important, especially when the final destination is a Super Bowl loss. That year, the Cowboys would be NFC champs but they would lose the Super Bowl XIII to their decade rival the Pittsburgh Steelers in Tom Landry's fifth and final Super Bowl appearance.
The great Roger Staubach
20 Sept. 1970 vs Philadelphia Eagles
In the National Football League's inaugural season, the Cowboys traveled to Philadelphia to play the Eagles. The Eagles took the lead in the first quarter when quarterback Norm Snead connected with wide receiver Ben Hawkins for a 10-yard touchdown. In the second quarter, the Cowboys responded with a Walt Garrison 1-yard touchdown to tie the game 7-7.
In the second half, the Cowboys' defense shut out the Eagles while Roger Staubach went to work. In the third quarter. Staubach found Lance Rentzel for a 31-yard touchdown pass and the Cowboys took the lead 14-7. Cowboys field goal kicker Mike Clark put the game out of reach for the Eagles adding a 13-yard field goal in the fourth quarter and the Cowboys went on to win their first NFL game 17-7.
In 1970, the AFL and NFL merged to create what some would call the greatest sporting spectacle on the planet—the Super Bowl.
The sports world was going through a major change and Major League Baseball's days of being the most popular sport in America were numbered. Fame and fortune came to those who won this game and if things would have been different the Craig Morton Golden Arm Award could have been given to the nation's outstanding fourth year collegiate quarterback—instead, it's Johnny Unitas' award.
The dawn of a new age began in 1970 and the only reason it's ranked low on my list is because the Cowboys followed this season opening win with a Super Bowl loss.
1 Sept. 1991 vs Cleveland Browns
On 25 Feb. 1989, Jerry Jones bought the Dallas Cowboys. That same year, Jones hired University of Miami head coach Jimmy Johnson to usher in a new era of Dallas football.
The Cowboys then drafted former Oklahoma and UCLA quarterback Troy Aikman first overall in the 1989 NFL Draft. All three were able to get their first season opening win in 1991 when the Cowboys defeated the Browns 26-14. In Aikman’s third season as the Cowboys' quarterback, he started off the year 24-of-37 for 274 yards and two touchdowns including one to Jay Novacek and Michael Irvin.
Later that year, Aikman went down with an injury against the undefeated Washington Redskins. Steve Beuerlein was able to end the season with four straight wins earning a wild card berth in the playoffs. The Cowboys hadn’t won a playoff game since 1983 but Beuerlein and the Cowboys went into Chicago and defeated the Bears 17-14 breaking the streak.
They would go on to lose in the divisional game against Detroit but 1991 was the beginning of the Cowboys dynasty in the '90s.
18 Sept. 1977 vs Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings were able to score first on an 18-yard touchdown pass from Fran Tarkenton to Chuck Foreman. The Cowboys could only muster an Efren Herrera field goal until early in the fourth quarter when Roger Staubach and Preston Pearson hooked up for a 7-yard touchdown putting the Cowboys up 10-7.
The Vikings marched right back and were able to tie it with a 35-yard Fred Cox field goal sending the game into overtime. Then Staubach was able to produce some old school NFL magic with a four yard touchdown run giving the Cowboys the sudden death win over the Vikings 16-10.
This goes down as one of the greatest season-opening wins for the Cowboys for the very fact that it sparked Tom Landry's second and last successful Super Bowl run. Dallas went on to win Super Bowl XII against the Denver Broncos beating them 27-10.
4 Sept. 1995 vs New York Giants
In the "Triplets" (Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin) final Super Bowl-winning season, they put it all on the table for the first game of the 1995 season. They destroyed the Giants 35-0. Smith ended up with four touchdowns, Irvin had 7 receptions for 109 yards and Troy Aikman threw for 228 yards and a touchdown.
The offensive performance foreshadowed another year of dominance but the defense deserved a lot of credit for this game. They held the Giants to only 65 yards rushing and 229 total yards.
The Cowboys ended the 1995 season with a Super Bowl championship. It was an end of an era for Big-D. The "Triplets" had given the Cowboys their nickname "America's Team" along with three Lombardi trophies and a decade worth of memories.
7 Sept. 1992 vs Washington Redskins
The Cowboys special teams kicked things off for tthe 1992 season with a punt block for a safety, putting the Cowboys up 2-0 early in the first quarter against the Redskins.
Emmitt Smith followed with a touchdown of his own. The Redskins made it close when Mark Rypien found Gary Clark for a 30-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. Troy Aikman responded with an Alvin Harper touchdown pass putting the Cowboys up 16-7. The special teams made another scoring appearance when Kelvin Martin returned a punt 79 yards for a touchdown to put the Cowboys up 23-7. There was little left in the tank for Washington and the Cowboys went on to win 23-10.
The '90s belonged to the Cowboys. Jerry Jones had recently made an investment and was looking for it to turn dividends. He was finally able to get the right coach and quarterback to lead his team and it paid off for him. The Cowboys went on to win Super Bowl XXVII 52-17 against the Buffalo Bills.
19 Sept. 1971 vs Buffalo Bills
Early in the first quarter, the Cowboys were able to score on Calvin Hill rushing touchdown giving them an early lead against the Bills. Buffalo struck back with two scoring drives of their own. The first was a 73-yard pass from Dennis Shaw to Haven Moses and then a 6-yard rushing touchdown from O.J. Simpson.
In the second quarter, the Cowboys responded with two consecutive scoring drives of their own. A 76-yard touchdown pass from Craig Morton to Bob Hayes and a Walt Garrison rushing touchdown gave the Cowboys a 21-14 lead. That lead would not last long. Buffalo's defense forced the Cowboys to punt the ball while their offense added a field goal and a 75-yard touchdown pass from Dennis Shaw to Marlin Briscoe to put the Bills up 24-21.
Shaw and Briscoe would hook up again early in the second half but that would be the only touchdown the Bills" offense would have for a while. The Cowboys went on a 21-0 run into the fourth quarter to take a commanding 49-30 lead. The Bills added a touchdown late in the fourth quarter but the damage had already been done and the Cowboys won 49-37. Hill ended the game with 84 yards receiving, 43 yards rushing and four touchdowns.
The Cowboys were coming off a hard loss in Super Bowl I to the Green Bay Packers. The world had never experienced a Super Bowl before the 1970 season and the Cowboys were aching to get back. In the second Super Bowl ever, the Cowboys defeated the Miami Dolphins 24-3 marking the beginning of the star studded spectacle that is the Dallas Cowboys franchise.