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Throwback Thursday

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When the Cowboys boarded the plane for Arizona on Sunday afternoon at the end of the 1995 season, the optimism wasn’t too high for the upcoming playoffs. Read

The Cowboys had already lost to the 49ers badly at home and expected that a return trip to the Super Bowl would run through San Francisco again. But as they flew to face the Cardinals on Monday Night, word spread around the plane the 49ers had lost to the Falcons in their Week 17 game, opening the door for the Cowboys to obtain the No. 1 seed in the NFC and home-field advantage throughout he playoffs. Read

The only obstacle in their way was the Cardinals. And that didn’t prove to be much of a fight as the Cowboys trounced Arizona with a combined attack of Emmitt Smith and Kevin Williams, and even got some defensive help as well. Read

Smith set an NFL record for most rushing touchdowns in a season with his 25th score, while Williams had a career night, catching nine passes for 203 yards and two scores from Troy Aikman, who had 350 yards. Read

Brock Marion had an interception return for a touchdown as the Cowboys built up a 24-0 first-half lead. Read

The win propelled the Cowboys to a 12-4 record and the top spot in the NFC, where they handled the Eagles and Packers in the playoffs before beating the Steelers in Super Bowl XXX for their third title in a four-year span.  Read

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It’s been 25 seasons since the Cowboys won a regular-season game in Denver. And on a brisk, December afternoon at the old Mile-High Stadium, the upstart Cowboys needed every minute of the clock to stage a late-game comeback for the 31-27 win. Read

It was yet another exciting victory for a Cowboys team that eventually marched its way to Super Bowl XXVII, the first in a four-year span. Read

But they needed clutch victories like this one, which saw the Cowboys lose a second-half lead, only to mount a drive for the ages. Read

The Broncos, playing without regular starter John Elway because of injury, actually rotated quarterbacks on alternate plays into the third quarter. Tommy Maddox and Shawn Moore each had exactly 104 passing yards, although Maddox had three TD passes and four interceptions. However, it was a wide receiver pass from Arthur Marshall in the fourth quarter that resulted in an 81-yard go-ahead touchdown for the Broncos, who led 24-21. Read

That’s when Troy Aikman and Jay Novacek went to work. The tight end had 87 yards for the day, including 50 receiving yards on that last drive alone but it was Michael Irvin’s clutch 14-yard reception to the Denver 11 that extended the drive on third-and-long. From there, it was another third-down conversion that proved to be the difference as the Cowboys surprised Denver with a draw-play from the 4. Emmitt Smith slid his way past defenders into the end zone as the Cowboys led 31-27. Read

While the Broncos neared midfield, Charles Haley put the game away with a sack and constant pressure that led to Kenneth Gant’s game-clinching interception. Read

The win pushed the Cowboys’ record to 11-2 as they would finish 13-3 en route to their first Super Bowl title in 15 years, which ironically occurred at the Broncos in Super Bowl XII. Read

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Coming off a 12-win season that ended with a disappointing and controversial playoff loss in Green Bay, the Cowboys didn’t have a fast start against the Giants to start the 2015 season. Read

The national audience of Sunday Night Football saw a New York defense stifle Tony Romo and the offense, which suffered a major blow when Dez Bryant left the game with a broken foot that sidelined him for nearly half of the season. Read

Still, the Cowboys defense kept themselves in the game by holding the Giants to field goals on a couple of possession, especially in the final minutes. The Giants had to settle for a field goal to keep the Cowboys within six, giving Romo one more attempt to win the game. Read

Like a master chef, Romo carved up the Giants’ defense, even without Dez. He used Cole Beasley and Lance Dunbar, who had 10 catches, on short underneath routes while Terrance Williams and Jason Witten worked the middle. Read

On third-and-2 from the Giants’ 11, Romo handled a low shotgun snap to find Witten in the end zone for the game-tying touchdown with just seven seconds left to cap off a 72-yard drive in just six plays. Dan Bailey finished off the Giants with the go-ahead extra point, giving the Cowboys the 27-26 win. Read

As it turned out, it was one of only two games Romo would play start to finish in 2015. He suffered a broken collarbone in Week 2 against the Eagles and returned in mid-November to play against the Dolphins before re-injuring the collarbone on Thanksgiving Day in a loss to Carolina. The Cowboys won just four games, but it would always be hard to top Romo’s heroics to open the 2015 season vs. the Giants.  Read

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Having to travel on a short week is tough for any team. Buy early on in the 2006 Thanksgiving Day game, the Buccaneers looked like worthy opponents for the Cowboys, driving for an early touchdown and a 7-0 lead. Read

But that would be the only advantage Tampa would have all day. Tony Romo made sure of that. Read

In his fifth start since taking over as the No. 1 quarterback, Romo put on a show in front of the national audience, tossing a career-best five touchdown passes. Read

Terry Glenn caught the first two, giving the Cowboys a first-quarter lead. Marion Barber caught two more and even Terrell Owens got in on the scoring fun, catching a seven-yard pass in the third quarter. Read

When it was all over, the Cowboys cruised to a 38-10 win over the Bucs, improving their all-time series record over Tampa Bay to 9-3, but it snapped a three-game losing streak to the Buccaneers. Read

Romo improved to 4-1 as a starter as the Cowboys, once 3-3, were now 8-5 and closing in on a playoff spot. The Cowboys eventually finished 10-6 and earned a Wild Card berth. Read

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In 2006, Tony Romo’s first season as the starting quarterback, the Cowboys’ franchise had been rejuvenated with a shot at making the playoffs finally at stake. Read

But the Giants stood in the way in an early-December meeting up in the Meadowlands. The Cowboys held a one-game lead on the Giants, who were both chasing the Eagles in the NFC East standings. Read

The Cowboys were rolling on offense and defense but special teams was an issue as the club had to waive struggling kicker Mike Vanderjagt. Veteran Martin Gramatica was signed but the Cowboys never realized he would be called upon to be the hero in his first game. Read

A back-and-forth struggle took place at Giants Stadium but Marion Barber powered the Cowboys into the lead with a 7-yard touchdown run with 3:33 to play for his second score of the game. The Cowboys led 20-13 but saw Eli Manning march his offense down the field for a game-tying touchdown when he connected with Plaxico Burress with 1:07 remaining. Read

But that was still plenty of time for Romo, who found his trusted tight end Jason Witten for a 42-yard gain down the middle of the field to get the Cowboys in position to win the game. All Gramatica had to do was hit the field goal from 42 yards out.  Read

At this point, nothing was a sure thing for the Cowboys, who had thought they were erasing their kicking problems by signing Vanderjagt before the season started, considering he was once the NFL’s most accurate kicker of all time. But he had already missed five field goals, including two in a game against the Colts, his former team. That prompted Bill Parcells to make the switch to Gramatica, who had the entire Cowboys Nation on his side as he attempted to win the game in his Cowboys debut. Read

He had already made two of three attempts in the game, but this 46-yard attempt sailed right through the uprights with one second remaining, giving the Cowboys a much-needed victory to improve to 8-4 on the season. They would finish 10-6 and earn their first playoff berth since 2003. Read

The Cowboys haven’t won a regular-season game in Minnesota since the 1995 season, which just happens to be the last year this franchise won a Super Bowl. In between, there have also been a couple of playoff defeats at the Metrodome. Read

But the Cowboys are certainly hoping a change of scenery will help as they play their first game in the brand-new U.S. Bank Stadium. Read

But that last road victory against the Vikings definitely had some fireworks at the end. After giving up a last-minute touchdown pass to Cris Carter to the game and force overtime, the Cowboys came up with the ultimate response. Read

After winning the coin toss and getting the ball first, the Cowboys needed just five plays to find the end zone. Troy Aikman hit Michael Irvin for 22 yards on the first play of overtime, and later found Cory Fleming for 16 yards. Fleming was in a slump earlier in the season because he was having trouble with dropped passes, but he came through with a big catch in overtime. On the ensuing play, Emmitt Smith finished off the Vikings with a 31-yard run to the end zone to win the game. Read

Smith’s score marks the last time the Cowboys have won an overtime game with a rushing touchdown and just the third time in franchise history. Read

Smith finished the game with 150 yards, but the Cowboys’ defense also had three sacks on veteran Warren Moon, including two from Charles Haley. Read

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The Ravens were the odd choice by the NFL to close out Texas Stadium in 2008, but the AFC opponent made sure to crash the party. Read

The final game at the Cowboys’ home stadium since 1971 didn’t turn out the way the home fans would’ve preferred. Baltimore used a pair of long fourth-quarter touchdown runs by Willis McGahee and Le’Ron McClain to keep the Cowboys from closing out the stadium in style. Read

A rookie quarterback named Joe Flacco was steady in leading the Ravens to the win, countering every move by Tony Romo, who was just in his second season as a full-time starter.

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While the Ravens won the game 33-24, the Cowboys still held quite a celebration afterwards, as many former players returned for an on-field sendoff. Roger Staubach, Randy White, Mel Renfro and Emmitt Smith were among the greats in attendance. Read

Overall, the Cowboys dropped to 0-4 all-time against the Baltimore Ravens franchise. Read

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The two-time defending Super Bowl champions began the 1994 campaign with a new head coach as Barry Switzer took over for the departed Jimmy Johnson. Read

The biggest difference in the Week 1 game against the Pittsburgh wasn’t on the sidelines, but rather on the defensive side of the ball. Read

The Cowboys absolutely harassed the Steelers’ offense from start to finish, recording nine sacks, including four from future Hall of Famer Charles Haley. Veteran Jim Jeffcoat didn’t start the game but still managed to collect three sacks. Read

The offense, led by the trio of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin, got some help from other player as Daryl “Moose” Johnston made a diving touchdown catch in the end zone – one of his best plays of his entire career. Smith did have 171 rushing yards, the fifth-highest single-game rushing total of his career. Read

The Cowboys didn’t always find the end zone but rookie kicker Chris Boniol had a nice NFL debut, hitting four field goals en route to a rather easy 26-9 win over Pittsburgh at Three Rivers Stadium. Read

Overall, the Cowboys outgained Pittsburgh 442-126 in total yards from scrimmage Read

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The 2008 season began with high expectations following a 13-3 record the year before, but the first game was far from a familiar setting. Read

The Cowboys played their first game in Cleveland in 17 years, when they opened the season against the Browns on the road. Read

But the 2008 season kicked off behind Tony Romo, who was making just his second Week 1 start of his career. But the running backs stole the show, led by veteran Marion Barber, who was coming off a Pro Bowl season. Barber scored twice to go along with 80 yards rushing. He got some help from a pair of rookies, including first-round pick Felix Jones, who scored a touchdown on his first-ever NFL career. Jones finished with 62 rushing yards, while fourth-round pick Tashard Choice added 26 yards on a handful of carries.

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Romo, meanwhile, was rather effective himself. He passed for 320 yards with one touchdown to Terrell Owens, who had some fun with his end-zone celebration. All throughout training camp, Owens talked about his speed, comparing it to Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt, who had just won three gold medals in the previous Olympic Games. Read

After his TD, Owens got into his sprinter’s stance and took off to mock a race. What made it even more intriguing was the way he “finished the race” the next week against the Eagles. Read

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The 2009 season was already deemed historic as the Cowboys opened their new home in Arlington which is now named AT&T Stadium. Read

But the team itself put together quite a ride in the final month, and needed one more win to claim the NFC East title. To do that, the Cowboys would have to defeat the Eagles at home. And if that happened, it would set up a rematch of the two teams one week later. Read

First things first, the Cowboys had no problems getting past Donovan McNabb and the Eagles. After a 17-0 shutout win the week before in Washington, the Cowboys posted a consecutive shutout, whipping Philly 24-0. Read

It was the team’s second division title in a three-year span under head coach Wade Phillips.

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But the win set up another game with the Eagles, prompting many critics to wonder how plausible it would be to defeat a good team twice in one week. Read

The Cowboys made it a non-issue from the start. Tony Romo lit up the Eagles’ secondary and second-year back Felix Jones had a 73-yard touchdown run, which still stands as the longest run from scrimmage in Cowboys postseason history. Read

The defense didn’t post another shutout, but did limit the Eagles to just two touchdowns, giving the Cowboys a rather easy 34-14 win. The victory ended a 13-season playoff drought for the Cowboys, who hadn’t won a playoff game since the 1996. Read

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Tony Romo took a shot to the midsection early in the game that eventually resulted in a punctured lung. But that couldn’t keep him out of the game entirely as the veteran quarterback came out of the locker room to engineer a game-tying drive to force overtime. Read

From there, Romo hooked up with Jesse Holley on a 77-yard pass play to the 49ers’ 1, which set up Dan Bailey’s game-winning field goal for a 27-24 win. Read

The Cowboys rallied from 10 points down in the fourth quarter just to tie the game, including a clutch 47-yard field goal by Bailey at the end of regulation. That kick, which was into a stiff wind, was redemption for Bailey, who had missed a 21-yard field goal earlier in the game. Bailey, a rookie who made the team after beating out four other kickers in the preseason, admitted he wasn’t sure if he was playing his final game with the Cowboys after missing a short kick. But getting the chance to redeem himself with a game-tying kick, and then a game-winner, kept him around long enough to now become not only a Pro Bowler, but the NFL’s most accurate kicker of all-time.  Read

Not to be forgotten, Miles Austin had nine catches for 143 yards and three touchdowns before suffering a hamstring injury that opened the door for Holley’s heroics. Read

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On Thanksgiving Day in 2004, the Cowboys hosted a Chicago Bears team hoping to take advantage of a pair of rookies in the Dallas backfield. Read

While they handled one of them rather well, the other torched them for a career game. Read

Quarterback Drew Henson made his first career start and threw an interception returned for a touchdown. He was pulled at halftime for veteran quarterback Vinny Testaverde who guided the Cowboys to a 21-7 victory. Read

But the real star of the show was Julius Jones, who had yet to have a breakout performance in his rookie season. Playing opposite of his brother Thomas, the Bears’ starting tailback, Julius Jones went off for 150 yards and two touchdowns. Read

Technically, Henson got the victory for the Cowboys, marking the last rookie quarterback in franchise history to get a win since Dak Prescott did it on Sunday against the Redskins. Read

Prescott is also joined by a rookie running back, who also wears No. 21, who is waiting to have a breakout game as well. Perhaps, Ezekiel Elliott can have his first big night against the Bears, just like Julius Jones did 12 years earlier. Read

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Just to make the team in 2011, Dan Bailey had to beat out four other kickers at training camp and nearly didn’t keep the job long as he missed a chip shot kick in Week 2 of his rookie year. Read

But Bailey was able to redeem himself in that game in San Francisco with two clutch kicks, which opened the door for even more dramatic moments along the way of that 2011 season. Read

Against the Redskins in mid-November, Bailey made the first of two more game-winning field goals in a span of five days. His 39-yard field goal in overtime lifted the Cowboys to a 27-24 victory over Washington. Read

In that game, both teams traded big plays back and forth as Tony Romo connected on touchdown passes to his three favorite receivers that season. Dez Bryant caught a 22-yard touchdown strike in the first quarter. Later in the fourth, Romo found Laurent Robinson for one of his 11 TD receptions in 2011. That score tied the game and then Jason Witten broke the tie with a 59-yard touchdown, which still stands as the longest scoring play of his career. Read

But the Redskins would force overtime, where Romo again found Dez for a clutch first-down catch. Bailey would finish the job with the game-winning kick, something he would duplicate a few days later on Thanksgiving Day when he kicked the Cowboys to a comeback win over Miami. Read

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In 2007, the Cowboys hired Wade Phillips to bring a defensive mindset to the team that already had several offensive weapons. Read

While that eventually happened, it was so evident in his first game as the new head coach. Read

In the season opener against the Giants on national television, the Cowboys found themselves in an old-fashioned Texas shootout, led by their new gunslinger quarterback in Tony Romo, who was making his first Week 1 start. Read

Romo and running back Marion Barber provided several highlights in this back-and-forth affair at the old Texas Stadium. Romo’s 47-yard touchdown pass to Terrell Owens gave the Cowboys what seemed to be a comfortable 38-22 lead early in the fourth. Read

But a pair of touchdowns by the Giants trimmed the lead to three points. That’s when Romo struck again, this time finding Sam Hurd for a 51-yard game-clinching touchdown with just three minutes left in the game. Read

Romo finished the night 15 of 24 for 354 yards and four touchdown passes, along with a 9-yard TD run. The Cowboys would reel off six straight wins to open the 2007 season, which finished with a 13-3 record and the NFC East title for the first time in nine years.  Read

After the game, Phillips quipped with the media, beginning his press conference with, “How bout that defense, huh?” after watching his team nearly score 50 points in the win. Read