Top Ten Plays In Dallas Cowboys' History

Gene StrotherCorrespondent IIIAugust 6, 2009

1979:  Quarterback Roger Staubach #12 of the Dallas Cowboys rolls out of the pocket during a Cowboys game in the 1979 season.   Mandatory Credit: Allsport/ALLSPORT

In this third installment of the SilverandBlueBlood Top Ten Top Ten, I turn my attention to the top ten plays in team history. In selecting the plays, I considered several factors:

  1. How memorable was it?
  2. What impact did it have on a game, a championship, or a career?
  3. Was it extraordinary?

As you might imagine, a franchise of this caliber, with nearly fifty years of history, has provided more than its share of memorable plays and water-shed moments. I have dutifully sorted through every play in team history (anyone who believes that stand on your head) to compile my list of top ten plays in Dallas Cowboys’ history.


Number 10: Greatest four-yard run in Team History. On September 30, 2007, Tony Romo chases down a snap that sails way over his head versus the Rams. He scoops up the ball, avoids chasing defenders, and gains four yards and a first down on what should have been a 30-yard loss.

Number 9: Larry Allen, the sprinter? On Monday Night Football versus the New Orleans Saints in 1994, Aikman throws a pass that is tipped into the arms of Saints’ linebacker Darion Conner. Conner streaks down the sideline on what appears inevitably to become a seventy-one yard touchdown interception return. Instead the 315-pound offensive lineman caught him at the sixteen yard line, and a legend was born.

Number 8: Emmitt gets the record. By 2002, the glory was fading. The team of the 90’s was floundering. Smith, however, had one more milestone – the biggest of his career – to pass. On October 27th, in a 17-14 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Smith broke through in the fourth quarter with an eleven-yard gain. With that run, he surpassed Walter Payton, becoming the NFL’s all-time leading rusher.

Number 7: Butch Johnson’s circus catch in Super Bowl XII. Dallas dominated Denver and it was the defense that shined that day. But the number three receiver on the roster, Butch Johnson laid out in the end zone to haul in a spectacular 50-yard touchdown pass from Staubach.

Number 6: Meredith to Hayes. Cowboys 31, Redskins 30. November 13th, 1966, Don Meredith hooked up with the receiver who at one time had been recognized as the fastest man in the world, Bob Hayes, for a 95-yard touchdown pass. Hayes had 246 receiving yards that day, a Cowboys record that has yet to be seriously threatened.

Number 5: Aikman to Harper: A Dynasty is Born. With a tenuous four-point lead in the 1992 NFC championship game and just 4:14 left in the game, everyone expected Jimmy Johnson to give the Niners a heavy dose of Emmitt. What he gave them was a 15-yard Alvin Harper slant that went for seventy-one yards, putting the Cowboy on the opponent’s nine-yard line and setting up the game-sealing score.

Number 4: Clint Longley, the Mad Bomber. On Thanksgiving Day, 1974, rookie QB Clint Longley came off the bench to replace an injured Staubach. He rallied the Cowboys from a 23-3 third-quarter deficit to a 24-23 victory. His 50-yard TD pass to Drew Pearson in the final seconds remains one of the most memorable plays in Cowboys lore. Offensive Guard Blaine Nye called Longley’s unbelievable performance “the triumph of an uncluttered mind.”

Number 3: Bob Lilly’s Super Sack. In Super Bowl VI, the incredibly tenacious and gifted defensive tackle known as Mr. Cowboy chased the weaving and bobbing Miami quarterback, Bob Griese, finally corralling him for a 29-yard loss. It was the signature moment in the Cowboys’ breakthrough game. For the first time in team history, they were Super Bowl champions…and no longer the bridesmaid.

Number 2: Tony Dorsett 99-yard scamper. On January 3rd, 1983, before a Monday Night Football national audience, Tony Dorsett broke off a 99-1/2 yard run from scrimmage. It remains the longest run from scrimmage in NFL history, and is a record that may someday be tied, but can never be broken. “Dandy” Don Meredith’s commentary during the run is classic. To further the legend, due to a sideline mixup, the Cowboys only had ten men on the field for the play.

Number 1: The Hail Mary. Oddly enough, the top two plays in team history came against the same team. No play in team history is more famous than the Hail Mary pass from Roger Staubach to Drew Pearson with just 24 seconds left in the 1975 wild card playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings. On the verge of losing the game, Staubach heaved a last-second bomb, which Pearson caught by trapping it with one hand on his hip. He danced into the end zone to seal the 17-14 victory.

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