Spot On: Lions and Cowboys and Playoffs…Oh My!
Russell S. Baxter
Spot On: Lions and Cowboys and Playoffs…Oh My!
By Brandon Fazzolari
Special to Pro Football Guru
The Dallas Cowboys and the Detroit Lions face off this Sunday for the 29th overall time since the Cowboys joined the NFL back in 1960. As an expansion team that season, the Cowboys went winless and began the long process of building a winner. On the other hand, the Lions won three titles led by Hall of Fame quarterback Bobby Layne in the previous decade and were a proud, accomplished franchise.
By 1966, however, the tables turned and it was Dallas that would become the team to capture America’s consciousness while Detroit embarked on a history marred by dozens of subpar seasons. Believe it or not, Detroit has taken on Dallas three times in the postseason. Let’s take a look back at those games.
Cowboys 5, Lions 0 (1970 NFC Divisional Playoffs)
The Lions were introduced to Tom Landry’s “Doomsday Defense” the first time these teams matched up in the playoffs back in 1970. Coach Landry was a defensive wizard who was a coordinator for that side of the ball for some of the vaunted New York Giants’ teams of the 1950s. In Dallas, he constructed a powerhouse around the amazing Bob Lilly who was quite simply one of the greatest players in NFL history at any position. Detroit had little chance in this one as quarterbacks Greg Landry and Bill Munson completed only seven passes and turned the ball over three times.
Detroit was excellent on defense as well in this game, particularly in the red zone. However, they had difficulty stopping the run with Duane Thomas, who ran 30 times for 135 yards.
Lions 38, Cowboys 6 (1991 NFC Divisional Playoffs)
The 1991 Lions were a magnificent story. They were having a decent season under Wayne Fontes featuring the dynamic tailback Barry Sanders out of Oklahoma State. In just his third year, Sanders was already drawing comparisons to the best to ever play the position. When offensive lineman Mike Utley suffered a midseason neck injury that would leave him paralyzed, the Lions rallied to put together a truly special season inspired by his “thumbs up” as he was carted off the Pontiac Silverdome playing field.
The Cowboys were also having an incredible season but were not ready for what would happen at the Silverdome.
This game was completely one-sided and proved two things: Dallas was very young and still one year away and Sanders was a marvelous talent. The Cowboys were reasonably close in the first half, but things got away from them when unheralded Lions’ Erik Kramer and Willie Green connected for their second touchdown. Even when Hall of Famer Troy Aikman came off the bench, the Cowboys were unable to register a touchdown drive.
Cowboys 24, Lions 20 (2014 NFC Divisional Playoff)
Jim Caldwell’s second-ranked defense held the Cowboys to four consecutive punts to start the game. On the other side of the ball, Matthew Stafford came out blazing. First, he hit Golden Tate for a 51-yard touchdown. On their second possession, the Lions got an 18-yard scoring run from Reggie Bush.
Dallas, though, got a huge play at the end of the first half when Tony Romo found Terrance Williams for a 76-yard touchdown on a third-and-12. Late in the third, Romo hit Dez Bryant for a big play setting up the Cowboys for a touchdown that cut the lead to 20-14. They would add a field goal before things got completely wacky.
The Lions had a third-and-one around midfield when Stafford looked for tight end Brandon Pettigrew off a play fake. Cowboys’ linebacker Anthony Hitchens recognizes the play, but is a step late and his back is turned to the ball as it caroms off his shoulder while he appears to interfere with Pettigrew. A flag is thrown and official Pete Morelli calls the Cowboys for pass interference. Unfortunately for Lions fans, the head linesman overruled the flag prompting Caldwell to punt. By the way, the debacle was further exacerbated by the fact that Bryant was not flagged for running out onto the field without his helmet.
The Cowboys put together a dramatic, but short drive to take the lead due to Sam Martin’s shanked punt. Thanks to a big play by Jason Witten and two defensive holding penalties, the Cowboys had a first-and-goal from the 8-yard-line. Williams dropped the first down pass, then committed a false start before gathering the go-ahead touchdown pass from Romo.
With the score 24-20, Stafford had an opportunity to save the day. Instead it was DeMarcus Lawrence who would steal this show. On his first fumble recovery on this drive, he fumbled it back to Detroit. He gave himself another chance and this time, he fell on the ball and iced the win.
Brandon Fazzolari (@spot_bills) is a lifelong Buffalo Bills fan and a Vegas sports reporter for Vegas the Network.