Recapping The History Of Cowboys-Redskins Thanksgiving Day Games

By Gary Najman
November 21, 2012 9:16 pm
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Tomorrow, the Washington Redskins will visit the Dallas Cowboys for the seventh time on Thanksgiving Day (the first six match-ups all were Cowboys victories).

The Redskins are the team that the Cowboys have faced most on Thanksgiving (the Dolphins are in second, with five match-ups).

This will be the first time they'll meet at Cowboys Stadium, the other six match-ups were played at Texas Stadium except for the first one, which was played at the Cotton Bowl. That match-up, in 1968, saw the Cowboys at 9-2 vs. the Redskins at 4-7.

Dallas was heavy favored also since Redskins starting quarterback Sonny Jurgensen was injured and in his place Washington started journeyman Jim Ninowski, who had came to Washington from Cleveland the season before. Ninowski, who was making his first start in three seasons fill very good in Jurgensen's place and with his third touchdown pass of the day the Redskins had a 20-19 lead in the fourth quarter.

But the Cowboys came back and regained the lead with a short Mike Clark field goal, and then rookie defensive end Larry Cole picked a Ninowski pass deep in Redskins territory and returned 5 yards for a touchdown to seal a 29-20 victory. It was the first of four career touchdowns for Cole, all against Washington.

In 1974 the Cowboys hosted the Redskins for the first time at Texas Stadium and it became on of the most memorable Thanksgiving Day games of all-time.

Both teams were in the playoff hunt, and the Redskins at 8-3 had a two game lead over the Cowboys for the NFC Wild-Card slot (The St. Louis Cardinals were leading the NFC East with a 9-2 mark). After a hard fought first half the Redskins had a 9-3 lead. In the third quarter they increase the lead to 16-3 with a touchdown reception by former Cowboy Duane Thomas, and then Cowboys starting quarterback Roger Staubach got knocked out of the game, and in his place rookie Clint Longley entered the game.

Longley, who was seeing his first NFL action and was brought in the presason from the Bengals to replace Craig Morton as Staubach's backup, led the Cowboys to two touchdowns and a 17-16 lead entering the fourth quarter. But Thomas scored again for Washington and with less than a minute to play, the Cowboys needed a touchdown to win. And with 28 seconds to play and no timeouts, Longley found Drew Pearson on a 50-yard bomb that gave the Cowboys an improbable win, 24-23.

The next Thanksgiving match-up was in 1978, and with both teams at 8-4 and tied for first place in the NFC East, it was a very anticipated contest. But it was no contest, as the Cowboys ran for 289 yards and a 37-10 win. Backup running back Scott Laidlaw, who was filling as fullback for the injured Robert Newhouse, ran for 122 yards (his career high) and two touchdowns. That defeat had a toll on the Redskins, who then went on to lose their remaining three games of the season.

It was not until 1990 that the old two rivals met, with the Redskins at 6-4 and the Cowboys at 4-7 (few would think at that time that the next three Super Bowls would be conquered by these two teams). With the Redskins leading 17-10 in the third quarter, rookie Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith began to work. Smith scored two touchdowns and ran for 132 in route of a comeback 27-17 win.

In 1996 the Redskins had an 8-4 mark, with a game lead over the defending Super Bowl Champions Cowboys. Again Emmitt Smith led the Cowboys to victory, scoring two second half touchdowns after Washington had taken a 10-7 lead (he had scored another in the first quarter) and amassing 155 rushing yards in route of a 21-10 win.

Finally, in 2002 they met, and for the first time both teams were under .500 (Washington at 5-6, Dallas at 4-7), and with Danny Wuerffel and Chad Hutchinson starting the game at quarterbacks for the Redskins and Cowboys.

But Emmitt Smith was still around, rushing for 144 yards, and again trailing in the third quarter 20-10, safety Roy Williams intercepted Wuerfell, and like Larry Cole 34 years earlier, returned 5 yards for a touchdown. And in the fourth quarter Hutchinson threw a 41 yard touchdown pass to Joey Galloway to take the lead and adding a late field goal, the Cowboys again escaped with a 27-20 victory.

We expect another game with exciting plays, turnarounds and unsung heroes, as it has happened over the years in this, one of the NFL fiercest rivalries. 

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By Gary Najman
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