This story originally appeared in Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine. For subscription information, please click here
When the word “rivalry” is used around the Cowboys, a few teams instantly come to mind.
It’s the Redskins and Eagles, with the Giants also right there, all of whom reside in the same NFC East. And from a historical standpoint, the Steelers and Cowboys have had some classic moments, especially considering they played three times in the Super Bowl.
Dallas and San Francisco had quite a rivalry in the 1980s, and then again early in the 1990s. And even the Rams, going back to their Los Angeles days in the 1970s, have actually faced Dallas more in the playoffs than any other team.
But what about the Packers? While some will remember the Cowboys’ epic battles against Green Bay in the 1960s – who could forget the iconic Ice Bowl? – the two actually renewed a rivalry of sorts nearly three decades later, as Dallas faced the Packers 10 times through the 1990s, with seven of those games occurring in a span of just 30 months. The Cowboys owned the Packers in that era, winning nine of the 10 contests, one of which came during Green Bay’s 1996 Super Bowl-winning season.
In fact, over that 10-year period, there was perhaps no bigger rivalry in the NFL than that of Cowboys-Packers. From the frequency of the meetings to the star power of the quarterbacks to the dominating defenses to the dramatic finishes, the teams played some of the most memorable games of the decade.
As the two prepare to meet again for the first time in three seasons, we take a look back at what made those battles in the 1990s between the two legendary teams so exciting.
Oct. 6, 1991 – Cowboys 20, Packers 17
Playing at Milwaukee County Stadium, where both clubs were placed on the same sideline, the Cowboys survived a late Packers rally to preserve the win and improve to 4-2 on the season.
Safety Ray Horton intercepted a pass and returned it 65 yards for an early touchdown with Jay Novacek enjoying a career game by hauling in a personal-best 11 catches, including Troy Aikman’s only scoring pass of the day that put the Cowboys ahead, 14-0.
The Packers returned the opening kickoff of the second half for a touchdown and added another by Shannon Sharpe in the fourth, but it wasn’t enough to overtake the Cowboys. Emmitt Smith had 39 touches, posting 32 carries for 122 yards and seven catches for 21 more.
Oct. 3, 1993 – Cowboys 36, Packers 14
This game was probably the least heralded of the series meetings, although it marked the first time the Cowboys faced quarterback Brett Favre, who led the Packers to a quick touchdown drive early in the game. But from there, Dallas dominated, cruising to an easy win to improve its record to 2-2.
Smith, who sat out the first two games on the schedule because of a contract dispute, started his first contest of the season and rushed for 71 yards, including a nifty 22-yard scamper into the end zone.
Veteran kicker Eddie Murray, after recently replacing Lin Elliott, booted five field goals.
Jan. 16, 1994 – Cowboys 27, Packers 17
Meeting at Texas Stadium in the NFC Divisional round, the Cowboys and Packers had a closer game than their earlier regular-season matchup. But Dallas still had its way with Green Bay, scoring 24 unanswered points after the Packers grabbed a 3-0 lead.
Aikman hit Novacek, Alvin Harper and Michael Irvin on touchdown passes in the second and third quarters as Irvin finished the game with nine catches for 126 yards. Smith, having returned from the shoulder injury he sustained against the Giants in the regular-season finale, rushed for 60 yards.
The win set up a showdown with the 49ers for the NFC Championship at Texas Stadium, which was followed by the Cowboys going on to win Super Bowl XXVIII.
Nov. 24, 1994 – Cowboys 42, Packers 31
Jason Garrett. That’s the only player people tend to remember when referencing this game.
In one of the more memorable Thanksgiving Day affairs ever played, Garrett was forced into starting duty when both Aikman and backup quarterback Rodney Peete were injured.
Squaring off against Favre, Garrett found himself trailing 17-6 at the half and 24-13 midway through the third quarter. But that’s when he ignited an offensive explosion, leading the Cowboys to 26 points on four straight touchdown drives.
Garrett finished the day with 311 passing yards and two touchdown tosses, while Smith racked up a combined 228 all-purpose yards with two scores.
Favre tried to keep his Packers close, tossing four touchdown passes, but he couldn’t keep pace with the Cowboys’ second-half explosion, engineered by the man who would later become the first player in franchise history to also be named head coach of the Cowboys.
Jan 8, 1995 – Cowboys 35, Packers 9
Aikman was back in the lineup for this NFC Divisional round rematch, which the Packers found out almost immediately. The Cowboys jumped out to a 21-3 lead, thanks to a 94-yard touchdown pass from Aikman to Harper – a completion that still stands as the longest play from scrimmage in Dallas postseason history.
Smith found paydirt once, but his backup, Blair Thomas, added 70 yards and two touchdowns of his own. Aikman was masterful in a 23-of-30 performance, totaling 337 yards, two scores and one interception. He spread the ball around nicely as Irvin (111), Harper (108) and Novacek (104) all reached the century mark in receiving yards.
Oct. 8, 1995 – Cowboys 34, Packers 24
The Cowboys continued their decade of dominance over the Packers with another game that they controlled from the outset. Dallas led 17-3 at halftime and extended its advantage to 24-3 before the Packers made a second-half surge.
Green Bay trimmed the margin to 31-24 after a 21-yard touchdown run by Favre. However, the Cowboys were too strong, marching down for a clinching field goal by Chris Boniol that pushed the lead back to 10.
Aikman was again stellar, earning 316 yards on 24-of-31 passing with two scores, while Irvin also had a huge day, grabbing eight catches for 150 yards. Smith held up his end of the “Triplets,” racking up 106 yards and two touchdowns as well.
Jan 14, 1996 – Cowboys 38, Packers 27
Championship games are supposed to be like this one – back and forth with plenty of twists and turns. And the surprises started a week earlier when Green Bay knocked off the 49ers on the road, setting up a Packers-Cowboys showdown at Texas Stadium to determine who would go to the Super Bowl.
It was the Cowboys’ fourth straight appearance in the title game and from the start, Dallas used that experience to its advantage. The Cowboys jumped out to an early 14-3 lead thanks to a pair of Aikman-to-Irvin touchdown connections.
But the Packers, who had lost five games to their nemesis in less than 24 months, rallied this time with Favre throwing a scores to Robert Brooks and Keith Jackson to leap in front. Fortunately, though, the Cowboys answered with 10 points before the half, including a 99-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Smith.
Green Bay stormed back in the second half and regained the lead, 27-24, after Favre tossed his third touchdown pass of the game. But trailing 31-27 heading into the fourth quarter, the Cowboys showed why they were the team of the 1990s, as they muscled past the Packers with long scoring drives that both ended on touchdown runs by Smith.
Larry Brown then picked off Favre late in the game, a sign of things to come, as he would go on to record two interceptions in the Cowboys’ Super Bowl XXX victory to earn the game’s MVP honors.
Nov. 18, 1996 – Cowboys 21, Packers 6
The tide was turning in 1996 – the Packers were now one of the NFL’s top teams. They entered this Monday night matchup in Dallas with an 8-2 record, while the Cowboys were struggling somewhat as defending champions, going 6-4 through their first 10 games.
And while Green Bay managed to hold Dallas without a touchdown, it wasn’t enough to get the win or end the Packers’ losing streak against the Cowboys. Incredibly, Boniol was good on seven field goals, which not only resulted in all of Dallas’ points, but also set an NFL record.
Although the Packers added a fourth-quarter touchdown, their offense sputtered most of the night. Green Bay finished with just 254 total yards of offense, while the Cowboys weren’t much more efficient, totaling only 317.
The most memorable moment of the game occurred after Boniol’s last field goal in the final minutes. Green Bay’s Reggie White was heated and tried to charge toward the Cowboys’ sideline, ranting about Dallas adding late points to run up the score.
Green Bay would have the last laugh that season, though, winning Super Bowl XXXI over the Patriots.
Nov. 23, 1997 – Packers 45, Cowboys 17
With a Super Bowl title under their belt, the Packers finally ended their losing streak to the Cowboys as well. For the first time in six years, Green Bay hosted the Cowboys at Lambeau Field, and this time were able to pull away in the end.
The Cowboys were up 10-3 after Deion Sanders returned an interception 50 yards for a score, but the Packers took a 24-17 lead heading into the fourth quarter. And that’s when the bottom fell out for Dallas, the team surrendering 21 straight points as Green Bay won in a route, 45-17.
The win snapped the Cowboys’ eight-game winning streak over the Packers, who went on to play in Super Bowl XXXII, losing to Denver.
Nov. 14, 1999 – Cowboys 27, Packers 13
For the first time in 11 seasons, the Cowboys were playing a game without any of the Triplets. Aikman, Smith and Irvin were all sidelined for this matchup at Texas Stadium.
Garrett got another start for Dallas, the team also using a running back combination of Chris Warren and unheralded Robert Chancey to pound the ball. The Cowboys outgained Green Bay 149-40 on the ground to build a 20-3 lead in the fourth quarter.
That’s when Favre rallied and led the Packers to 10 unanswered points, and trailing 20-13 in the final minutes, the Green Bay quarterback had his team knocking on the door again. But his pass toward the goal line was picked off by former Packer George Teague, who promptly raced down the sideline for a 95-yard touchdown to seal the win.
The game closed out the Cowboys-Packers rivalry in the 1990s, giving Dallas a 9-1 advantage, including three playoff victories.