Saturday, May 22, 2010

Oh Yeah, Texas Stadium is no more

In early April, Texas Stadium in Irving, near DFW International Airport, was demolished. Home to the Dallas Cowboys for 38 years, the stadium opened in 1971(the year I was born) about a month into the regular season. It was a 44-21 trouncing of the New England(might have been still called Boston) Patriots. And the last game ever played there turned out to be the next to last game of the 2008 regular season when the Cowboys fell to the Baltimore Ravens 33-24. That loss didn't eliminate the Cowboys from the postseason but it guarenteed that had they made the playoffs that year, there wouldn't have been any playoff games played at Texas Stadium. And then the following summer after that, their new sparkling dome opened in nearby Arlington. I thought that I would try and conjure up my favorite memories of watching my beloved Dallas Cowboys in Texas Stadium, for I once upon a time, that they'd always call it home at least in my lifetime. And suprisingly enough, with Dallas being considered a warmer city in the winter, there never was a Super Bowl played there either. This next February, there will be the Super Bowl in the new Cowboys' digs.

If I had a top 12list of games that I ever saw(this being me who first started tuning in as a 10 year old in 1981)

12- Jan. 2, 1982- my first taste of the NFL Playoffs. The Cowboys hosted the Tampa Bay Bucs in a divisional playoff game and their front four mutilated and humiliated the Bucs in a 38-0 massacre. The Cowboys would lose by a point in the legendary "Catch" NFC Championship game to the Montana led 49ers the following week.

11- Sept. 9, 1985- Happy Birthday to Joe Theismann. The Redskins had gotten the better of Dallas the previous couple of years, and this was the Monday Night opener of 1985. My family and I had just moved back to Maryland from a couple of years spent in Germany. So this was also the first regular season Cowboys' game that I'd seen live in that time. And Joe Theismann turned 36 that night, but must've felt 42 by the end of the game. The Cowboys secondary blitzed, and harrassed the Redskin QB into FIVE interceptions in a 44-14 win. In the closing minutes, the Dallas faithful was sarcastically singing "Happy Birthday" to Theismann. I remember going to school the next day and seeing a bunch of shell shocked Redskin fans(afterall, I was in Redskin territory)

10-Thanksgiving Day Nov. 1990- Another Cowboys-Redskins clash. The Redskins were still a playoff team under Joe Gibbs. In fact they would win the Super Bowl the next year, the final of 3 Super Bowls under Gibbs. This was Jimmy Johnson's second year as head coach of the Cowboys. They got off to a slow start that year before going on a late season run and almost making the playoffs. On this day, Troy Aikman finished the game going 9-10 for over 100 yards in the 4th quarter alone. WR Michael Irvin was finally healthy after some setbacks, and rookie Emmitt Smith clinched the game with a long TD run in which he ran over Pro-Bowl defensive back Darrell Green, capping the 27-17 win. The Cowboys would narrowly miss out on a wildcard berth that year, but they certainly had served a bit of notice that they were on the way back. Ofcourse I don't think that ANYONE knew how dominate that they would become by 1992.

9- Thanksgiving Day 1991- Dallas 20 Pittsburgh 10. The Cowboys were on their way to their first playoff appearance since 1985 and this year, Steve Beurlein's signing as Aikman's backup QB paid off in spades, as he rallied the team to five consecutive wins including a playoff win over the Bears. This game was his first start(Aikman had gotten injured for the year the previous wk in a win over the Redskins at RFK) and the TD throw to Michael Irvin in the 4th quarter broke open a tight game. Irvin caught the ball over the middle with only Steeler Pro-Bowl safety Rod Woodson to beat. Woodson tried to bring him down and Irvin ran through him on this particular play like he was tinfoil.

8- Thanksgiving Day 1992- Dallas 30, NY Giants 3. The Cowboys were on their way back to their first division Title in 7 years and ultimately their first Super Bowl in 14. On this day, the score was only 9-3 for Dallas at the half against a struggling Giants team who'd fallen quite far from their Super Bowl win of two years before. In the second half, the Cowboys pulled away for the 30-3 win. Several Giants got pissed off at Jimmy Johnson and the Cowboys for supposedly rubbing it in and blitzing late when the outcome had long since been decided. Jimmy Johnson said afterwards" they were throwing at the end, and I didn't want them to score. Had they not thrown it, we would 've called off the dogs. If they don't like it, screw them. We'll play them next again next year"

7-November 19, 2006- Dallas 21, Indianapolis 14. Making only his fourth career start, Tony Romo outdueled Peyton Manning and the Colts, who came in unbeaten. Looking more like a fourth or fifth year starter rather than it being his fourth career START, Romo guided the Cowboys down for the go ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. Then the defense thwarted a drive by the Colts. The Cowboys offense got the ball back and were able to keep possession of it for the remainder of the game. The Colts would go on to wind up winning the Super Bowl that year but that game was a key in at least helping the Cowboys make the playoffs.

6-November 29, 2007. Dallas 37 Green Bay 27. In a battle of 10-1 teams, the two best in the NFC clashed on this Thursday nighter. Dallas knocked the now 38 year old Favre out of the game in the 2nd quarter with an elbow injury. Favre would return the next week for his team but he didn't return on this night. Aaron Rodgers came in and did suprisingly well, keeping the game competitive. Romo through 4 touchdowns in his first game against his boyhood idol Favre. Holding a 34-27 lead, the Cowboys would put together a lengthy drive for a game-clinching field goal at around the two minute mark. On this night, at halftime, the 1977 championship Cowboys (30 year anniversary) and the 1992 Champs(15 years) were both honored.

5-January 23, 1994- WE WILL WIN THE BALL GAME! In the NFC Championship Game this year, the Cowboys backed up Jimmy Johnson's guarantee. The Cowboys ransacked the 49ers in a game that was not even as close as the score (38-21) might indicate. Aikman was almost perfect in the first half. Bernie Kosier came on in relief in the 2nd half( Aikman suffered a concussion when accidentally getting kneed in the head by a 49er defender) Aikman would return the following week as the Cowboys repeated as Super Bowl Champs, downing the Buffalo Bills.

4-September 7, 1986- Dallas 31 NY Giants 28 Herschel Walker made his NFL Debut with the Cowboys and wound up being the feature back when Tony Dorsett was lost in the second quarter to a knee injury. In a back and forth game, in a duel between Phil Simms and Danny White, the winning score came with under 2 minutes to go from the Giants 10 yard line on a draw play to Walker. He took the handoff and rumbled up the middle almost untouched for the winning score. Unfortunately, the Cowboys would lose Danny White with a broken wrist at midseason that year against these same Giants. They would suffer a rash of other key injuries as they slid to 7-9 season, their first losing yr since 1965. And the beginning of the end of the Landry regime. The Giants would go on to win their first Super Bowl that year.

3-January 10, 1993- Dallas 34, Philadelphia 10 The Cowboys thrashed the brash and confident Eagles in the first Playoff game in Texas Stadium in 9 years. The end to end stomping was almost complete except for one thing and one thing only. I wish that Buddy Ryan had still been the Eagles coach. Other than that, it was a perfect game. The Cowboys would go on to win in the mud at Candlestick over the 49ers the next week and then thrash Buffalo in the Super Bowl in the Pasedena Rose Bowl.

2-Jan. 14, 1996. Dallas 38 Green Bay 27 . The NFC Championship Game didn't feature the 49ers-Cowboys for the 4th consecutive year as everyone was expecting. Instead, the new emerging power, Green Bay, had gone into San Francisco and sort of taken away their manhood in a divisional playoff game. The Cowboys, who had beaten Brett Favre and Green Bay 5 times in the space of just over 24 months, including the previous two years in the playoffs, were hosting the Packers yet again in Dallas on a hot afternoon(80 degrees) The Packers came in feeling more confident than the previous several times that they'd travelled down to Big D. Favre had been voted the regular season league MVP for the first time and he was zinging the ball around a lot since the Packers didn't have a formidable running game like Dallas did. The Cowboys won a seasaw battle in which the fourth quarter was when the Packers defense wilted. Favre also wound up going to the well too often as he threw a key fourth quarter pick that allowed Dallas to get enough distance between them and the Packers to stamp their third Super Bowl ticket in 4 years. I recorded this game recently(DVR) on NFL Network and it is one of my favorite games of all time.

1-If I had a number one game at Texas Stadium I might just have to go with the 1994 Thanksgiving Day Game versus the Packers. The Packer were an upstart team while the Cowboys were the two-time defending Super Bowl Champions who were not at full strength. Troy Aikman had a knee injury that would sideline him for this game while his backup Rodney Peete had gotten injured in the SAME game(this game was 4 days earlier in a blowout win over the Redskins) So they were down to the third stringer, a Redhead Princeton Grad by the name of Jason Garrett(now the offensive coordinator for the Cowboys) The Cowboys were also without the services of massive Offensive Lineman Erik Williams, who had quickly developed a reputation of stonewalling the opposing team's best defensive stalwarts. On this day, Reggie White of the Packers would not have to deal with Erik Williams, He was lined up opposite of a rookie by the name of Larry Allen. Allen would get better and better in the years to come but he had his hands full with White on this day. The Cowboys were down 17-6 and it looked like they excuse of being shorthanded was the order of the day. But in the second half, Dallas came back with unrivaled intensity. They scored 36 points and Emmitt Smith had a big day as well. Garrett threw 3 TDs and Emmitt would rush and receive for about 200 combined yards. The 42-31 win for the Cowboys definitely had the Packers thinking at that point that it didn't matter who suited up in Cowboys gear.

I have a couple of honorable mention games that I left out only because I thought of these 12 games on the fly. The opener of the 2007 season when Tony Romo outdueled Eli Manning in a shootout on Sunday Night in a 45-35 Cowboys win. Another game that I fondly remember was in week 2 of 2008. That was a Monday Night shootout win over the Philadelphia Eagles, a 41-37 wacky affair where this time Rom outdueled Donavan McNabb.

I could probably easily spout off 25 of the best that I've seen in the now defunct Texas Stadiium. It was stange to see the implosion taking place. It only took seconds from start to finish. I didn't know until recently that they were going to blow up Texas Stadium. I mean the Houson Astrodome is still up and being used for stuff. I figured that Texas Stadium could be kept around for rodeos and High School Friday Night Lights or something. But it is History. And time to move on.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Still a ways away but looking forward to the upcoming season

Well, first off, my favorite NBA team, the Utah Jazz, got knocked out in the 2nd round by the Lakers(AGAIN) so now I'm officially starting the countdown to the 2010 NFL season. The Cowboys are overdue at this point to break through. For starters, they should be almost the unanimous pick to win the NFC East. I believe that their stiffest challenge in the division will be from the retooled Washington Redskins, with Donavon McNabb coming over via trade from Philly and new head coach Mike Shanahan. The Eagles are going to regret shipping out McNabb and to a divisional rival at that. I think that Kevin Kolb in Philly will experience something similiar to what Aaron Rodgers did in 2008 with the Packers. Growing pains. And I think that the Giants had a nice run there from 2004-08. But they crashed in '09 after a 5-0 start, to finish 8-8 and miss the playoffs altogether. And not an abberation. Their offense is potentially lethal but so are the opposing teams' because the Giant's defense is a mess (they surrendered over 400 points on the year) The Cowboys, I expect, are going to be out in front in the division. And barring two upset losses to the Giants, way out in front. Somehow the Cowboys stumbled against the Giants last year, both times, should've won at least the week 2 game at home, while the Giants couldn't beat Philly. And Dallas did Philly THREE times. Philly hasn't done anything to improve their chances against Dallas this year. So all in all , I expect Dallas to win the NFC East rather handily, with the Redskins offering the stiffest challenge of the other divisional rivals. Then there's the NFC big picture. The Cowboys, had they not blown a couple of games to the Giants or that one that got away against San Diego, or the Denver game that also got away, would've had the NFC's number one seed and hosted the Vikings or Saints. Their goal this year? How about to stay home for the playoffs. No I don't mean, blow themselves up like they did at the end of 08, I mean finish with the NFC's number one seed, and be home throughout INCLUDING the Super Bowl. Super Bowl 45 is in Cowboy's Stadium. Hunger, Motivation, Experience, Talent. The Cowboys should have all of these characteristics and more. No NFL team in league history has ever hosted the Super Bowl. Now why can't the Cowboys be the first? There is no reason why not. This team is already an elite team, and just got even better via the draft. It cracks me up when I hear talk show hosts ask NFL insider people the question "Can Dallas become an elite team?" Well, three of the past four regular seasons, the Cowboys have knocked off the eventual Super Bowl Winner. In 2006, the Cowboys defeated the Colts who won it all two months later. In 2007(lest we Cowboy's Nation forget) we knocked off the hated Giants TWICE (and should've made it a hat trick in the divisional playoff mtg) Ofcourse, the Giants went on to upset Green Bay and New England to become the most unlikely Super Bowl representative(except for maybe Arizona the next yr) let alone winner. In the 2008 regular season, the Cowboys had both eventual Super Bowl representatives(Pittsburgh and Arizona) beat (and both on the r0ad) and let them both off the hook. In 2009, ofcourse, the Cowboys did the then 13-0 Saints in the Superdome. The Saints would then stumble the following wk, losing to lowly Tampa Bay and then losing their third in a row to Carolina(in the meaningless regular season finale-they rested Brees and others) Then New Orleans, still with the NFC's nunber one seed, regrouped to beat Arizona and Minnesota at home and then shockingly beating the Colts in the Super Bowl. Were the Saints the best team in the NFL? Probably not. The luckiest? Perhaps. Was it their time though? Yeah, that's the best explanation that I can make of it. Will they repeat? NO WAY. They won't have an easy schedule like they did in 09. Yeah they played New England and Dallas but both were at home and they lost to Dallas. They won't sneak up on anyone. They won't get lucky in a few like they did either. The Cowboys, meanwhile, are a seasoned group, who figured out how to play as a team. Romo is an the undisputed leader. He finally has A playoff win at least. And they figured out that Wade Phillips is their coach FOR NOW at least. They have talent on both sides. If the defense doesn't take a few wks to get in a groove like it took them last year, look the hell out. And the Super Bowl is in their house. Hunger, Motivation with experience and talent to go along with it. Well, it's only May. We have about 17 weeks to go before the regular season kicks off. That's how long a regular season lasts(with every team's bye wk factored in)