Best Win Carolina, Dec. 24, 2005
At the halfway point, it was hard to imagine the Cowboys claiming a better victory than the Oct. 9 one over the Eagles at Texas Stadium, dominating them, 33-10, from start to finish. But seeing how the Eagles simply weren't as good this year, limping to a 5-11 finish, the win became less impressive. So, with their backs firmly against the wall in Carolina, needing a win to keep their playoff hopes alive, the Cowboys responded with a dramatic 24-20 road win on Christmas Eve. Despite Julius Jones' 194-yard rushing day and DeMarcus Ware recording three sacks, the Cowboys still needed a little luck in the end to sneak out with the win.
Worst Loss Washington, Washington
Take your pick: Either Washington game. Was it the first meeting in which the Cowboys completely dominated the Redskins for 56 minutes, only to give up two long touchdown passes to Santana Moss and lose, 14-13 on Monday Night Football? Or was it the rematch, with the Cowboys needing a win to not only stay in the NFC playoff race, but avoid a sweep to the Redskins, only to play their worst game of the season, getting embarrassed, 35-7, at FedEx Field?
Most Pivotal Play Santana Moss' first TD catch
Sure, it's hard to think the second game of the season would still come back to haunt a team. But just how might things have been different if the Cowboys stopped the Redskins on fourth-and-15 from their own 39 with just 3:55 to play? Instead, Santana Moss splits two defenders at the goal line to haul in a touchdown pass from Mark Brunell. That score got the Redskins back in the game, and on the next possession, Washington took the lead when Brunell hit Moss on a 70-yard score that not only silenced a raucous Texas Stadium crowd, but spoiled a night that was supposed to be remembered for Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin being inducted into the Ring of Honor. The Redskins basically stole this one from the Cowboys.
Offensive MVP Drew Bledsoe
Since the Cowboys missed the playoffs, this is almost winner by default. There are other candidates such as Terry Glenn, maybe Keyshawn Johnson, or even Flozell Adams, whose value was evident after his knee injury forced him to miss the last 10 games. But without Bledsoe, it's hard to think the Cowboys could have done much of anything on offense. He did pass for 3,639 yards, the second-highest single-season total in club history. His 23 touchdowns were the most by a Cowboys quarterback since Troy Aikman had 23 in 1992. And, despite a few bad plays, Bledsoe was responsible for several key throws down the stretch, helping the team pull out a those two last-second victories.
Defensive MVP Terence Newman
At the halfway point of the season, it appeared as if the other cornerback would grab MVP honors. But after right cornerback Anthony Henry suffered a strained groin and abdominal muscle, both of which nagged him the entire second half of the season, it is easy to see just how important Newman was to the defense. Teams rarely threw his direction, yet he still managed to intercept three passes. Newman was also third on the team with 70 tackles, and even turned into an iron-man at the end of the season, occasionally returning punts and lining up some wide receiver, too. Quietly, Newman put together a solid season that should have elevated him into his first Pro Bowl selection.
Special Teams MVP Keith Davis
While he started the season playing predominately free safety, and ended up starting 15 games, the Cowboys couldn't even get through one regular season game without having to put Davis back on special teams. Despite playing less on the coverage units, Davis still led the team with 16 special teams tackles and had one forced fumble. He not only brought an attitude to the kicking game the Cowboys needed, but drew quite a bit of attention, often getting double- and triple-teamed while covering kickoffs and punts.
Best Rookie DeMarcus Ware
The Cowboys had several contributing rookies, but none were more consistent than linebacker DeMarcus Ware, their first draft choice. The 11th overall pick who was immediately compared to former Giants Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor, didn't exactly take the NFL by storm. He spent most of the season still making the transition from a 4-3 defensive end to a 3-4 outside linebacker. But he finished the season with eight sacks, including four in the last two games, tying him for the team lead with Greg Ellis. Ware will always be compared to San Diego's Shawne Merriman, who was high on the Cowboys draft boards and ended up going to the Chargers one pick later. Although Merriman finished with 10 sacks and was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, Ware proved at the end of the season he was indeed making progress and should have a bright future.
(*Tuesday: Part Two of season-ending awards, featuring: *
Most Significant Injury
Best Individual Play
Worst Individual Play
Best Off-Season Move
Worst Off-Season Move
Best Breakthrough Season
Best Comeback Award