While the focus remains on the start of training camp, everyone loves history and the lists that go with it.
We've just wrapped up the Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine Top 25 plays in team history, authored by Jeff Sullivan, which wasn't an easy job at all. Finding the best plays from 52 years of football is quite a challenge, especially considering how limited TV footage we've got from the 1960s and 1970s.
So I don't envy what Jeff had to do, but still, I thought maybe he left off a few worthy plays.
Again, everyone has their own opinion, but here are five plays that I think are worthy of mentioning in Top 25:
No. 5 – The Cowboys were trying to get in the playoffs for the first time in six years and needed to knock off the Eagles on the road to do so. Philly had been a pain in the Cowboys' side for years but on this day, December 15, 1991, Dallas finally got over the hump. Kelvin Martin's 85-yard punt return sealed the win and put the Cowboys back on the map.
No. 4 – And here's a two-for-one, but the irony is incredible. On December 15, 1985 at Texas Stadium, the Cowboys and Giants are playing a winner-take-all game for the NFC East. Ed "Too Tall" Jones swats a Phil Simms pass into the arms of Jim Jeffcoat, who races to the end zone. The Cowboys win the game and win the division. Fast-forward two years later to another home game against New York on Nov. 2, 1987. It's "Too Tall" batting down a Simms pass with Jeffcoat catching it and scoring again. Same two players, same stadium, same quarterback and same result.
No. 3 – One of my all-time favorite moments actually occurred in 1989, if you can believe that. Back then, it wasn't guaranteed that Troy Aikman would be the starting quarterback, especially with Steve Walsh in the picture. But even with Aikman out a few weeks with a finger injury and Walsh leading the Cowboys to their first (and only) win of the season, the Cowboys made a bold move to start Aikman against Phoenix the next week, November 12. Aikman responded with a career game, passing for 379 yards, a rookie record at the time. His 75-yard touchdown pass to James Dixon was a thing of beauty, especially considering he was blasted on the play and suffered a concussion. It appeared the Cowboys would win that game, but like many other times that year, the defense couldn't hold up. Still, it was a play that showed Aikman's courageousness and toughness.
No. 2 – Simply put, it's the Larry Allen play, December 19, 1994 at New Orleans. Lining up at right tackle and still relatively unknown, Allen watches Saints linebacker Darion Connor intercept a pass and race down the sidelines. Allen, hesitating for a moment, recognizes what's going on and takes off. His 325-pound frame then fetches the smaller and supposedly speedier linebacker to prevent a touchdown. It's one of the more remarkable plays in Cowboys history.
No. 1 – It's not often that a first-quarter play can affect a game, much less an entire season, and arguably a decade, but in 1995, the Cowboys entered the schedule with doubts. Could they win with Barry Switzer? Did the previous NFC Championship loss to the 49ers affect them in a major way? And was Emmitt Smith already on the downward slope of his career? Well, with one handoff, Smith changed it all. He wasn't known for many long runs, but on September 4 in New York, he busted the gut for a 60-yard touchdown on his first carry of the season. He even waved to the Giants defender as he crossed the goal line. It was the start of a great night with Emmitt rushing for four touchdowns as Dallas sent a message to the NFL, crushing the Giants 35-0 for all the world to see. The Cowboys went on to win the Super Bowl and Emmitt had the greatest season of his career with 25 touchdowns. Plus, it allowed the Cowboys to win three Super Bowls in four years, something that had never been done before, and allowed them to rightfully stake a claim as the Team of the '90s.