The 1978 Dallas Cowboys: Better Than the 2007 New England Patriots

John BaranowskiCorrespondent IJanuary 31, 2011

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach and running back Tony Dorsett watch halftime ceremonies  during a Monday Night Football game September 19, 2005 in Irving, Texas.  The  Washington  Skins defeated the Cowboys 14 - 13.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Why I believe the 1978 Dallas Cowboys were better than the 2007 New England Patriots, you’re skeptical I’m sure, but if you ask any old-timers who saw the 1978 Dallas Cowboys play, they may agree that the Cowboys were better than the 2007 New England Patriots.  

Let’s start by comparing their Super Bowl opponents: The Dallas Cowboys lost 35-31 to the 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers, the team many experts believe was the greatest football team of all-time. The Steelers were 14-2 in 1978 and it was the Steelers third Super Bowl win in five years and they would go on to win the Super Bowl again the following year (SB XIV) against the Los Angeles Rams to win an unprecedented fourth Super Bowl in six years.

The New England Patriots lost 17-14 to the 2007 New York Giants which might have been the worst team ever to win a Super Bowl. The Giants tied for the worst regular season ever for a team to win a Super Bowl at 10-6. The Giants scored 373 points on the season their offense ranked 14th in points scored. New York surrendered 351 points on defense ranking their defense as 17th in the league in points allowed. Their point per game differential was a minuscule 1.4 points per game.   

In fact, the Giants only had one player named to the Pro Bowl and that was defensive end Osi Umenyiora. The ’78 Steelers on the other hand had 10 Pro Bowlers.  

I don’t think anyone will rightfully dispute the fact that the ’78 Pittsburgh Steelers were a far better team than the ’07 New York Giants. So as you can see the ’78 Dallas Cowboys faced a far superior opponent in their Super Bowl than the ’07 New England Patriots.  

Now let’s compare the 1978 Dallas Cowboys to the team that beat the 2007 New England Patriots, the 2007 New York Giants.

The Cowboys were defending Super Bowl champions and were appearing in their third Super Bowl in four years. The Giants the year before went 8-8 and their last appearance in the Super Bowl was in 1991.  

The ’78 Cowboys had a better defense than the ’07 Giants. The most points the Cowboys gave up in a game during their regular season was 27. The ’07 Giants gave up 30 points or more a game five times during their regular season.

The Giants strength and the key to beating the Patriots was their defensive line and the pass rush they got on New England quarterback Tom Brady. The Giants defensive line consisted of Osi Umenyiora, Fred Robbins, Barry Colfield and Michael Strahan. The Cowboys had Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Jethro Pugh, Randy White and Harvey Martin.  The Giants defensive line was very good, the Cowboys even better.   

The ’78 Cowboys had a better offense than the ’07 Giants. In comparing positions on offense—at quarterback Hall-of-Famer Roger Staubach vs. Eli Manning, edge—Cowboys. In comparing each team’s featured running back Hall-of-Famer Tony Dorsett vs. Brandon Jacobs. Dorsett rushed for 1,325 yards vs. Jacobs who rushed for 1,006 yards, edge—Cowboys. 

At tight end All-Pro Billy Joe Dupree vs. Jeremy Shockey.  Shockey had a good year but he wasn’t an All-Pro like Dupree, edge Cowboys.  At wide receiver the Cowboys had Tony Hill and Drew Pearson. The Giants had Plexico Burress and Amani Toomer.  Let’s call that one even.  

The New York Giants offensive line was: David Diehl, Rich Seubert, Shaun O’Hara, Chris Snee and Kareem McKenzie. The Dallas Cowboys offensive line consisted of Pat Donovan, Herbert Scott, John Fitzgerald, Tom Rafferty and Rayfield Wright. That’s an edge to the Cowboys. 

One would also have to give the coaching edge to Dallas and Tom Landry over Tom Coughlin. 

So now you see the 1978 Dallas Cowboys were better than the 2007 New York Giants. 

And finally, let’s look at the 2007 New England Patriots vs. the 1978 Dallas Cowboys, head-to-head. 

In comparing the head coaches Tom Landry vs. Bill Belichick, that’s a very interesting match-up and can call that one even. Landry won multiple Super Bowls without stealing another team’s defensive signals, Belichick none. Say what you will, that fact remains true. 

In comparing quarterbacks, Hall-of-Famer Roger Staubach vs. future Hall-of-Famer Tom Brady, both great quarterbacks but let's give a slight edge to the Patriots on that one. 

In the passing game, we'll give an edge to the Patriots with Moss and Welker at wide receiver even though the Cowboys’ Tony Hill and Drew Pearson were very good. The Cowboys’ DuPree would rate an edge over Ben Watson at tight end for New England.   

In comparing the running game, Robert Newhouse and Preston Pearson combined for 1,326 yards rushing and receiving to compliment the great Dorsett. New England relied on Laurence Maroney who gained 835 yards and Sammy Morris and Kevin Faulk who combined for 1,067 yards rushing and receiving. Give a big edge in the running game to the Cowboys. 

n defense, the edge goes to the Cowboys. The most points the Cowboys gave up in a game in 1978 was 27. The Patriots gave up 27 or more points in a game four times during the 2007 season. 

The Patriots defensive line of Richard Seymour, Vince Wilfork and Ty Warren was good, but it wasn’t the equal of the Cowboys White, Martin, Jones and Pugh. 

The linebackers were comparable as Dallas had Tom “Hollywood” Henderson, Bob Bruenig and D.D. Lewis while the Patriots had Tedy Bruschi, Adalius Thomas and Mike Vrabel.  Henderson would earn Pro Bowl honors as would Vrabel. 

The secondary of Rodney Harrison, Ellis Hobbs, Brandon Meriweather and Asante Samuel is comparable as well to the Cowboys secondary of Benny Barnes, Aaron Kyle, Charlie Waters and Cliff Harris. Samuel would earn Pro Bowl honors for the Patriots, Waters and Harris would do the same for the Cowboys. 

I believe the Cowboys superior offensive and defensive lines would do an even better job of controlling the line of scrimmage and pressuring Brady than the Giants did. The Patriots could only rush for 45 yards against the middle NFL-ranked Giants defense. What would they do against the Cowboys defense which was the best in football at stopping the run?  

The Cowboys defensive line would also put as much if not more pressure on Brady than the Giants did, and the Giants pass rush kept Brady from having time to find Randy Moss and held him to only five catches for 62 yards. The Cowboys defensive line led the NFL in sacks in 1978.  

The Cowboys running attack with Dorsett would be able to move the ball on the Patriots and control the clock keeping the Patriots offense off the field as much as possible. The Cowboys passing attack would also prevent New England from overplaying the run and stopping Dorsett. It would all add up to a Cowboys win over New England.


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