Countdown | Play 100: Tony Pollard Kickoff Return
The 2022 season is getting closer and closer. For the next 100 days, we will count down to the Sept. 11 opener with a daily tribute to each number. Today, let's focus on everything 100.
Countdown: 100 Plays to Kickoff 2022 Season
We've counted down 100 days to the start of the season, and it's finally here!
Countdown | Emmitt Smith's Super Bowl Touchdown
The Play: Looking to put the Bills away for the second consecutive year in the Super Bowl, the Cowboys held a narrow 20-13 lead in the fourth quarter in Super Bowl XXVIII. After working their way all the way to the Buffalo 6-yard line, Dallas faced a 4th and 1 on the 1-yard line after Emmitt Smith tried to punch it in the three previous downs. So, why not try it once more? That is what Smith and the Cowboys did as the Hall of Famer nabbed the 1-yard touchdown as the final exclamation point to their back-to-back Super Bowl runs.
Countdown | Play 2: Marion Barber Stiff Arms Pats
The Play: Yeah, that play. The late Marion Barber probably demonstrated the toughest and most wild 2-yard run you could think of in 2007 against the Patriots. After being met in the backfield by Rodney Harrison, Barber stumbled all the way back into his own endzone to avoid multiple New England defenders. Eventually he would work his way to his right to avoid the safety, only to cut up field for the minor 2-yard gain before bouncing out of bounds.
Countdown | Play 4: Tony Romo Crazy Scramble
The Play: Arguably the longest that any player has ever run for a 4-yard gain, Tony Romo ran back about 35 yards backwards after a shotgun snap went over his head in a 2007 game with the Rams. After he finally picked up the ball, Romo went up the field and raced nearly 40 yards to pick up a first down in what the stats will show as a 4-yard run, but it will always go down as one of the most memorable plays for Romo, who was never one to give up on a play.
Countdown | Play 6: Troy Aikman to Kelvin Martin
The Play: Vying for a chance to return to the Super Bowl for the first time in over a decade, the Cowboys had one team standing in their way. Enter the team of the 1980s, the 49ers in the NFC Championship game in 1993. Troy Aikman had quite the day with 322 passing yards, but it was Kelvin Martin who had just one catch for six yards on the game sealing touchdown to send Dallas to Pasadena with a 30-20 victory.
Countdown | Play 8: Staubach to Hill GW Touchdown
The Play: In a battle of two bitter rivals, the Cowboys found themselves on the wrong end of a 34-21 score midway through their Week 16 matchup against Washington in 1979. Then Roger Staubach went to work. After finding Ron Springs for the 26-yard touchdown, Staubach led his team down the field before he dumped it off to Tony Hill for an 8-yard score for the game winner to round out the regular season. The win proved to be the final victory of Staubach's career.
Countdown | Play 9: Tony Romo Rushing TD
The Play: In his first season-opener of his career, Tony Romo showed the world he was ready to take over as the Cowboys' signal-caller. He had proved that in 2006 in the middle of the season, but in 2007, he led the Cowboys to a dramatic Week 1 win over the Giants. Fittingly enough, No. 9 had a key 9-yard touchdown run in the second half to keep the Cowboys in front of an eventual win.
Countdown | Play 3: Troy Aikman to Jay Novacek
The Play: By the time the Cowboys got to Super Bowl XXX against the Steelers in 1995 they had already established themselves as the dynasty of the decade. With two titles already under their belt, Dallas handled Pittsburgh to win their third title and used a quick start to accomplish that. Looking to get on the board, Troy Aikman dropped back with pressure coming right towards him and dumped it off to a wide-open Jay Novacek for the 3-yard score. Emmitt Smith would pick up the other two touchdowns in the 27-17 victory.
Countdown | Play 10: Romo to Murray GW TD
The Play: Full of excitement every time they were on the field together, Tony Romo and DeMarco Murray were at it again in Week 16 of the 2013 season. Training 20-14 going into the fourth quarter, the Dallas defense held Washington to just a field goal as the Cowboys got the ball back with less than three minutes remaining. After a big play to Terrance Williams to set it up, Romo found Murray on fourth down with over a minute left for the 10-yard score to complete the comeback victory.
Countdown | Play 11: NFL's All-Time Leading Rusher
The Play: Emmitt Smith is remembered for a myriad of achievement during the course of his Hall of Fame career. Naturally the three-time Super Bowl winner is near the top of the list, but above that is his title as the NFL's all-time leading rusher, a feat he accomplished in Week 8 of the 2002 season against Seattle. With his family and former teammates in attendance, Smith broke Walter Payton's mark that he set at over 16,000 yards with an 11-yard run into immortality. In total, Smith still holds the record at just over 18,000 yards for his career.
Countdown | Play 12: Troy Aikman to Michael Irvin
The Play: The Cowboys were down by 21 points in the fourth quarter in a Week 1 game at Washington back in 1999. But thanks to The Triplets, the Cowboys were able to rally to force overtime. Emmitt Smith scored first and Michael Irvin had two late touchdowns, including a 12-yard TD to cap a 90-yard scoring drive. The Cowboys were able to eventually win in OT with a 76-yard touchdown to Rocket Ismail.
Countdown | Play 13: Tony Romo to Dez Bryant TD
The Play: In a back-and-forth game against the Giants in 2014 that saw one of the greatest catches in NFL history by Odell Beckham Jr., it was Tony Romo and Dez Bryant getting the last laugh. Down 28-24, Romo engineered a final drive, capped off by a 13-yard TD to Dez Bryant. The offensive line made the play happen, giving Romo nearly eight seconds in the pocket before he found Bryant in the back of the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.
Countdown | Play 14: Aikman to Johnston vs PHI
The Play: The play was a simple dump-off to fullback Daryl Johnston, but as famed television announcer John Madden stated during the broadcast, "He doesn't make a lot of plays, but this one is a big one."
At 6-feet-2 inches tall and 238 pounds, Emmitt Smith's battering ram wasn't exactly known for his grace. His nickname was "Moose" after all. However, Johnston tipped the high toss to himself, stiff-armed a helpless tackler, burst to the end zone and then after crossing the goal line, dove over another Eagles defender and somersaulted to the ground. It was an effort sleek wideout Michael Irvin would have been proud to call his own.
Coming with 7:39 remaining in the game, Johnston's touchdown secured a 20-10 victory over rival Philadelphia, improved Dallas' record to 7-1 and sent 65,102 fans home happy, the largest crowd at Texas Stadium since 1985.
Countdown | Play 15: Emmitt Smith SB XXVIII TD
The Play: "Oh, what a run by the league's MVP!"
That's how Brad Sham summed up Emmitt Smith's 15-yard scamper up the middle, which saw him immediately break a tackle in the backfield and then dart to the end zone for the Cowboys' first offensive touchdown of the game. Down 13-6 at halftime to Buffalo, Smith said to offensive coordinator Norv Turner, "Get the ball to me." Dallas did just that.
Less than a minute into the third quarter, safety James Washington tied the score with a 46-yard fumble return, but once the Cowboys offense got on the field, Smith took over. He ran the ball six straight times for 46 yards, took one play off and then made his touchdown run to give Dallas the lead for good.
The Cowboys would go on to steamroll their way to a 30-13 victory over the Bills for their second straight NFL title. And Smith would earn Super Bowl MVP honors after totaling 132 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Countdown | Play 17: Julius Jones GW Touchdown
The Play: With under 35 seconds to play in the fourth quarter of a wild Week 13 matchup with Seattle, Julius Jones came to the rescue. Dallas trailed by 10 points with less than three minutes to play but the Jones rumble from 17 yards out capped off a 43-39 win over the Seahawks. Jones finished with 30 carries for 198 yards and three separate touchdowns along with his game winner.
Countdown | Play 18: Witten One Handed 49ers
The Play: When you think of reliable Cowboys over the years, Jason Witten is assured to be at the top of the list. Though he was not the flashiest player on the field that didn't mean he wouldn't surprise you. With Dallas on the road against the winless 49ers in Week 7 during the 2017 season, Witten streaked up the seam before fading into the endzone with Jasquiski Tartt hanging off him to make the one-handed snag for the 18-yard touchdown from Dak Prescott. That would help propel the Cowboys to a 40-10 win.
Countdown | Play 20: Emmitt Smith TD Run vs IND
The Play: To look at the final box score of the Cowboys' 27-3 clubbing of Indianapolis on Oct. 10, 1993, nothing in particular really jumps out. The two teams were on opposite ends of the spectrum with Dallas headed to a second straight Super Bowl title and the Colts limping to an eventual 4-12 finish.
But digging a little deeper, one play in particular stands out. A Darren Woodson fumble recovery midway through the second quarter, followed by a 2-yard pickup gave the Cowboys' possession at the Colts' 20-yard line with just over two minutes remaining in the first quarter.
And then greatness happened. Emmitt Smith took a handoff on a sweep to the right, cut the ball back inside at the hashmarks, danced his way to the left, picked up a key block from tight end Jay Novacek and then sprinted his way to the left pylon, beating the defense to pay dirt. A 20-yard touchdown run never looked so good.
Staked with a 14-0 lead, the Cowboys had an easy time of it the rest of the day. Enough so, that most might overlook this blowout. But after sitting out the first two games of the season, Smith reasserted himself in this his third contest, finishing with his first 100-yard effort on his way to an MVP year. He was back and better than ever.
Countdown | Play 21: Deion Sanders Reverse
The Play: Name your favorite Deion Sanders play. There would be so many to choose from you'd be hard-pressed to narrow that list down to a reasonable number. So how about this one? Vying for their third Super Bowl title of the 1990s, Dallas played host to the rival Eagles in the 1995 NFC Divisional round. Enter Primetime. Midway through the second quarter, the Cowboys dialed up a reverse handoff for Sanders and let him do the rest, taking it 21 yards for the score and the eventual 30-11 victory.
Countdown | Play 22: Drew Pearson GW Touchdown
The Play: Pro Football Hall of Famer Drew Pearson is known best for making "The Catch" from Roger Staubach in the 1975 NFC Playoffs, but this catch was pretty special, too. In the 1980 NFC Divisional Round against Atlanta, Pearson got behind the Falcons' defense and caught a 22-yard touchdown pass from Danny White in the final minute to win the game, 30-27, and send the Cowboys to the NFC Championship game.
Countdown | Play 23: Terrance William Toe Drag
The Play: Known for his knack for coming up with big plays, Terrance Williams provided yet again when it mattered most. This time it was on the road against the defending Super Bowl champs in Seattle. Facing a 3rd and 20 and trailing 23-20 with less than five minutes to go, Tony Romo spun out of the pocket to avoid a potential game ending sack, thus finding Williams on the far side of the field to make a miraculous toe tapping 23-yard catch to extend the drive. Dallas eventually won 30-23.
Countdown | Play 24: Antonio Bryant GW Touchdown
The Play: The Cowboys found themselves down 13-0 with just under five minutes remaining in their Oct. 13, 2002, game at the Carolina Panthers when second-year quarterback Quincy Carter finally found a spark. Three plays into Dallas' next possession, he hit Joey Galloway on an 80-yard bomb for his team's first score of the day.
After the Cowboys defense forced a punt, Carter and the offense then took over at their own 33-yard line with 2:48 remaining in the game. He marched Dallas down the field, but after a false-start penalty, a 1-yard gain and two incompletions, the Cowboys faced fourth-and-14 at the Panthers' 24-yard line with 1:03 left on the clock.
Carter would loft a pass up to Antonio Bryant, who leapt high and then juggled the ball on the way down before corralling it as he fell into the end zone. The play was reviewed, but the 24-yard touchdown stood, and with the extra point, the Cowboys had an unlikely, 14-13, come-from-behind victory.
He would be sacked six times in the game and have only 77 yards passing before those final two Cowboys series, but when the team needed him most, Carter was there.
Countdown | Play 27: Romo to Dez Go-Ahead TD
The Play: Tony Romo's fourth-quarter, 27-yard touchdown pass to Dez Bryant — and the Cowboys' eventual 20-19 victory over the Bengals on Dec. 9, 2012 — was insignificant compared to the horrific tragedy the team experienced the day before. Jerry Brown Jr., a cornerback on the practice squad, was killed in a car accident hours before the team's road trip to Cincinnati. The Cowboys dedicated their win over the Bengals to Brown.
Countdown | Play 28: Michael Irvin GW Touchdown
The Play: After missing more than half of the 1989 season with a knee injury, Michael Irvin needed to show his teammates, coaches and maybe even himself that he was fully back. That moment occurred late in a comeback win in 1990 over the Bucs. Troy Aikman engineered a late drive that ended in Irvin's 28-yard touchdown in the final seconds at Tampa Bay.
Countdown | Play 29: Newhouse Halfback Pass
The Play: The Cowboys' Doomsday Defense was the main reason they won Super Bowl XII – the second title in franchise history. But there were some big plays by the offense, including the game-clinching touchdown in the second half. Fullback Robert Newhouse surprised the Broncos with this halfback pass to Golden Richards for a 29-yard touchdown to help seal the day for the Cowboys, who cruised to a 27-10 win.