The 1995 Dallas Cowboys are the proper instance of how the ultimate week of the common season may help decide the destiny of a crew. Whereas the ’95 Cowboys did win two playoff video games earlier than dispatching the Steelers in Tremendous Bowl XXX, they probably wouldn’t have received that Tremendous Bowl if not for the outcomes of three totally different video games throughout the remaining week of the common season.
Following an 8-1 begin, the Cowboys welcomed the defending Tremendous Bowl champion 49ers to city for a marquee Week 11 showdown inside Texas Stadium. Dallas had defeated San Francisco within the ’92 and ’93 NFC Championship Video games, and was seeking to regain the stability of energy within the NFC after falling to the 49ers within the 1994 NFC title recreation, 38-28.
As an alternative of tilting the scales again of their favor, the Cowboys had been blown out by the 49ers, who received the sport with ease regardless of taking part in with out beginning quarterback Steve Younger. San Francisco’s offense, with Elvis Grbac submitting in for Younger, nonetheless managed to run circles across the Cowboys’ protection by lining up Jerry Rice all around the subject. Dallas hoped to make use of man protection on Rice with Deion Sanders watching his each transfer, however was unable to execute its plan, as Rice lined up on either side of San Francisco’s offense whereas creating holes within the Cowboys’ scheme.
With Dallas’ protection scrambling to determine their assignments, Rice — who was lined up within the slot — took benefit, taking a slant go and working the remaining distance for an 81-yard landing. The rout was on, because the 49ers backed up January’s NFC title win with a convincing 38-20 Week 11 victory.
“This one was really worse than the championship recreation. We by no means even obtained shut,” mentioned Cowboys fullback Daryl “Moose” Johnston throughout an NFL Movies documentary on the ’95 Cowboys. “That San Francisco recreation was the primary time in a very long time that we felt like, ‘They’re simply higher than we’re proper now.'”
“We obtained outcoached in that recreation,” added former Cowboys cornerback Larry Brown, who was out of place on Rice’s 81-yard rating.
Talking of teaching, seemingly each Cowboys fan in America was up in arms after Dallas head coach Barry Switzer — who had changed two-time Tremendous Bowl champion coach Jimmy Johnson in Dallas two years earlier — known as consecutive working performs on fourth-and-1 deep in his personal territory that contributed to an unpleasant Week 15 loss in Philadelphia towards the Eagles. Not solely had the Cowboys misplaced three out of their final 5 video games, additionally they fell behind the 49ers within the race to safe the highest seed heading into the playoffs.
“That was a degree within the season,” recalled longtime Cowboys PR consultant Wealthy Dalrymple, “whenever you began to assume, ‘The Cowboys aren’t what the Cowboys had been, and perhaps the pendulum of energy has utterly shifted to the Bay space.'”
After beating the Giants by a degree in Week 16, the Cowboys seemed to be a crew working on fumes after they boarded a airplane on Christmas Eve to face the Cardinals in Week 17 on “Monday Night time Soccer.” Every part modified, nevertheless, when information broke of what befell earlier that day between the 49ers and Falcons.
“We knew earlier than we obtained off the airplane — and the phrase unfold by way of the rows of the airplane like wildfire — the 49ers misplaced,” recalled Dalrymple. “If we go into Arizona and we care for enterprise on Monday evening, Christmas evening towards the Arizona Cardinals, we will get home-field benefit once more.”
The Cowboys did care for enterprise, scoring the sport’s first 24 factors in an eventual 34-13 dismantling of Arizona on Christmas Day. The sport additionally had historic significance, with Emmitt Smith scoring a then-NFL-record 25 speeding touchdowns in a season on a fourth-quarter run.
“That recreation was simply so particular to us,” Brown mentioned of the victory that clinched the Cowboys’ fourth consecutive NFC East division title. “Guys had been excited, and I believe it gave us the assumption in ourselves once more that we may do it, we may make it again to the Tremendous Bowl.”
The Cowboys, unbeknownst to them, obtained one other Christmas present in Week 17. The Packers, who wanted a Week 17 win over the Steelers to win the NFC Central division title whereas additionally securing a playoff spot, pulled out a 24-19 victory after Pittsburgh wideout Yancey Thigpen dropped what would have been the profitable landing reception within the recreation’s remaining minute. Whereas the Cowboys — by advantage of profitable the highest seed — would face the bottom remaining seed within the second spherical, the 49ers must face the best remaining seed within the divisional spherical, which meant a probable matchup with league MVP Brett Favre and the third-seeded Packers.
The Cowboys began their postseason run with a convincing victory over the Eagles within the divisional spherical. The 49ers, conversely, had been surprised within the second spherical by Favre, Corridor of Fame pass-rusher Reggie White and remainder of the Packers, who would go on to beat the 49ers in three consecutive postseason conferences. This meant that the Cowboys, as a substitute of dealing with Younger, Rice, and the 49ers in a fourth consecutive NFC Championship Recreation, would as a substitute host a Packers crew that had misplaced to the Cowboys in Dallas within the earlier two postseasons.
Whereas Favre and the Packers made them work for it, Smith, Michael Irvin, Troy Aikman and the remainder of the Cowboys ultimately pulled away from Inexperienced Bay, defeating the Packers 38-27 en path to their third Tremendous Bowl look in a four-year span. And whereas Pittsburgh additionally put up a valiant effort, the Cowboys in the end prevailed in what stays the franchise’s most up-to-date Tremendous Bowl win.
One query nonetheless stays from the Cowboys’ final championship season: Would they’ve been capable of defeat the 49ers within the NFC title recreation, both in San Francisco or at house ? Due to the Falcons, the Packers, and the Cowboys’ Week 17 win in Arizona, that is a query NFL followers won’t ever know the reply to, and a query the ’95 Cowboys won’t ever have to fret about.