This Sunday, the Cowboys will close their regular season against the Washington Commanders. Although their playoff presence is certain, Dallas still has something at stake in Week 18: the NFC East divisional championship, plus the potential #1 seed in the NFC playoffs.
This isn’t the first time the cowboys have entered the final week of the regular season with something important at stake. On several occasions throughout history, Dallas has had to decide the division title or its berth to the playoffs. And these encounters have left both joys and disappointments.
Next, we review the most outstanding duels of the Cowboys playing in the last week of the NFL regular season.
1979 Season – Cowboys 35, Redskins 34: The epic comeback led by Staubach
We begin with one of the most memorable duels between Dallas and Washington. In the final week of the 1979 regular season, the Cowboys and the then Redskins played for the NFC East divisional title. Losing this match had different implications: for the cowboys it meant qualifying as the second wild card, while the capitalists would be left out of the playoffs.
That day, Texas Stadium witnessed one of the most epic comebacks led by quarterback Roger Staubach. Both Cowboys and Redskins exchanged dominance on the scoreboard during the match. However, two touchdowns in the final five minutes put Dallas to victory, sealed by Staubach’s pass to receiver Tony Hill in the final minute of the game.
This game, it is worth mentioning, was Staubach’s last regular season as a professional. His last meeting was in the divisional round, where the Cowboys lost to the Rams. After the 1979 season, “Captain America” would announce his retirement from the NFL, thus marking the end of an era in the cowboy team.
1993 Season – Cowboys 16, Giants 13 (OT) – The Emmitt Smith Game
In the final week of the 1993 regular season, the Cowboys and Giants entered with a record of 11-4 and with the #1 seed in the NFC at stake. However, this meeting would later be better remembered as the “Emmitt Smith game”.
In the second quarter, the Cowboys running back suffered a separation in his right shoulder that could set him aside for the rest of the game. However, Smith continued to play despite the serious pain he was in. Emmitt finished the game with 168 rushing yards and 61 passing yards plus a touchdown. Among them, 41 yards on the offensive drive that gave the Cowboys a 16-13 victory in overtime.
In this way, the cowboy team secured the #1 seed in the National Conference and the bye in the wild card round. In that season, the Cowboys won their second straight Super Bowl. Meanwhile, the Giants would be eliminated at the hands of the 49ers in the divisional round.
Today will be the first time the Cowboys and Giants have played on CBS since Emmitt Smith separated his shoulder in the 1993 season finale:pic.twitter.com/VdMobIuyZM
— Bobby Belt (@BobbyBeltTX) October 11, 2020
2009 season – Cowboys 24, Eagles 0: The prelude to the last playoff duel between the two
In week 17 of the 2009 season, the Cowboys hosted the Eagles for the NFC East championship. Dallas entered this game with a 10-5 record, while Philadelphia led with a 11-4 record. Although both teams would qualify for the playoffs, this game could alter the conference standings for that instance. And, indeed, it was.
The Cowboys silenced the Eagles with a 24-0 victory, clinching the divisional crown. With this result, Dallas would rank #3 in the NFC, while Philly would drop to #6. This marked a reunion in the wild card round, where the Cowboys defeated their archrivals for the third time this season. Likewise, this was the last playoff duel to date between the two.
2011 season – Giants 31, Cowboys 14: Elimination at the hands of the eventual champions
In the final game of the 2011 regular season, the Cowboys once again came in with the NFC East title on the line. This time, they had to face the Eli Manning-led Giants, eventual Super Bowl champions that season, on the road.
The New Yorkers would take the lead with a score of 21-0 at halftime. Nonetheless, Tony Romo led a Dallas comeback attempt, pulling them within 21-14 starting the fourth quarter. Despite this, the Giants would end up defeating the Cowboys 31-14, knocking them out of the playoffs.
Throwback to Week 17 in 2011
Giants v. Cowboys with the winner going to the playoffs and the loser staying home
Eli Manning hits Victor Cruz for a 74-yard TD to get the party started! pic.twitter.com/RN6q455n9P
— Bobby Skinner (@BobbySkinner_) November 15, 2019
2012 season – Redskins 28, Cowboys 18: Again at the gates of the playoffs
In 2012, the Cowboys entered the final game of the regular season with an 8-7 record and almost eliminated from the playoffs. However, they could still qualify and even win the NFC East title if they beat the Redskins (9-7) on the road.
However, the Redskins’ defense would do their thing with cowboy quarterback Tony Romo. Said unit added 11 tackles, two sacks and three interceptions, the last of which was the most decisive with the 21-18 game. Ultimately, the Redskins would beat the Cowboys 28-18, winning the NFC East title and eliminating the Cowboys on the spot.
Where were you when…? 12/30/2012 — @Redskins LB @RobJax50 intercepts Tony Romo w/ about 3 mins left in the game, ultimately sealing the NFCE division clinching win against the Cowboys. This is one of the best moments of the last decade, going from “here we go again” to champs. pic.twitter.com/a8wLkl8E2J
—AB (@andrew_burton) May 26, 2020
2013 season – Eagles 24, Cowboys 22: Third consecutive “final” lost by Dallas
In 2013, the Cowboys had a “final” for the NFC East title for the third consecutive year. On this occasion, his rival on duty were the Eagles. However, the cowboy team would lose again, once again being at the gates of the playoffs.
This match ended with a 24-22 victory for Philadelphia against a Dallas team that had quarterback Tony Romo down due to injury. Cowboy quarterback Kyle Orton’s interception with less than 2 minutes left sealed the win for Philly, thus eliminating the Cowboys.
A late Brandon Boykin interception against the Cowboys gave the Eagles the NFC East title #OTD in 2013.
Great call by Al Michaels. Even better reaction from Jerry Jones.
— Shibe Vintage Sports (@ShibeSports) December 29, 2021
2020 season – Giants 23, Cowboys 19: Divisional fight “ruined” by Eagles
To finish, let’s review what happened in week 17 of the 2020 season. Cowboys (6-9), Giants (5-9) and Washington (6-9) came with options to win the NFC East title. The situation was this: the winner between the Cowboys and Giants could be crowned division champion, this as long as Washington lost to the already eliminated Eagles.
That afternoon of January 3, 2021, Dallas lost to New York 23-19 at MetLife Stadium. The final minutes were dramatic, being marked by two plays: the interception of cowboy quarterback Andy Dalton, and a fumble by rival running back Wayne Gallman that officials gave as “recovered.” This was a somewhat controversial decision, as it was able to give Dallas another chance to try to win.
This game did not alter the divisional picture, as Washington would win against Philadelphia that Sunday night. However, that game was marked by the controversial “tanking” about the Eagles, who took out quarterback Jalen Hurts in the second half and decided to play with their reserves.
This benefited Washington, who kept the division. Meanwhile, the incident produced internal problems for the Eagles for the next few days. Of course, the Giants did not hide their anger against Philadelphia for hurting them with that decision to “play to lose” and improve their position for the 2021 Draft.
And goodbye season #DallasCowboys!
— Emmanuel Gutiérrez (@gymbooroso) January 3, 2021
Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth rip Doug Pederson and The Eagles organization for tanking and I’m here for it pic.twitter.com/JUg9tiuAss
—Jeffrey Walizer Jr (@JWalizerJr) January 4, 2021
This year, the Cowboys arrive already classified for the last game of the regular season, but with hopes of achieving the NFC East division title. To do this, they need to beat the already eliminated Commanders and expect the Eagles to lose to the Giants. Besides, Dallas could also achieve the # 1 position in the NFC if these results are added to a loss of the 49ers against the Cardinals.
Although New York is already in the playoffs and has nothing to play for, there are those who think they could “get back” at Philadelphia for what happened in 2020. If so, they would drop from #1 in the NFC to #5. Basically, what the G-Men do will be the main unknown of a Sunday afternoon game that could alter the classification of the National Conference for the playoffs.
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#TBT: Cowboys Regular Season Finale Matchups in History