December 11th 1960, the Dallas Cowboys finished their first, and possibly worst season in their storied history. It ended as all but one other game did that season did with the Detroit Lions beating the Cowboys 23-14, capping off a winless season. A game that featured running back Nick Pietrosante for the Lions and quarter back Eddie LaBaron for the Cowboys, these two teams have come a long way since then. These two non divisional foes have faced off against each other over 20 times, two of those being in the playoffs.
In the 53 years since these two teams first met they have had some incredible and even record breaking match ups. The opening game of the 1968 season the Dallas Cowboys, led by Don Meridith, put up numbers that even by today’s standards are staggering, scoring 59 points with 542 yards of offense, one of the more lopsided affairs between these two teams.
Two seasons later in 1970 these opponents met for the first time in a playoff game. Once again the Cowboys came out victorious, just in the complete opposite fashion, with a 5-0 tally. It was the Cowboys doomsday defense on a 21 consecutive quarter without giving up a TD streak that propelled the ‘boys to an old school smash mouth win. This wasn’t the only time the Cowboys defense humiliated the Detroit lions when in 1977 they put up one of their most dominate performances ever holding the Lions to 120 offensive yards and 7 first downs.
It wasn’t until 1991 that the Cowboys and Lions met in the postseason again. This time it was the Lions turn to take out the Cowboys. Ending their season and six game winning streak the Lions stomped the Cowboys 38-6 putting up 421 yards, a slight improvement from their last playoff game. This playoff game also featured two of the greatest running backs in the history of the NFL in Barry Sanders and Emmit Smith. It was in week 3 of 1994 that these two had their most memorable battle. The Lions topped the Cowboys 20-17 in an overtime win, lead by Barry Sanders’ 194 yards on 40 carries while Emmit Smith fell short with his still impressive 143 yards and 4th quarter game tying TD on 29 carries. Then in week 16 of the 2001 season the Lions topped the Cowboys 15-10, but the most significant player was not playing for Detroit as Emmit Smith set an NFL record by eclipsing 1000 yards on the season for the 11th straight time.
With a history that dates back to the beginning of the Dallas Cowboys in 1960, it’s remarkable that the two most dramatic and exciting meetings of these teams are the two most recent. In week 13 of 2007 season the Dallas Cowboys, down by 13 points going into the 4th quarter, used an early Marion Barber TD, a missed Jason Hanson field goal and then a game winning touchdown pass from Tony Romo to Jason Witten with 18 seconds left on the clock, to complete one of the more remarkable comebacks in Cowboys history with a 28-27 win. Their next match up in week 4 of the 2011 season the Detroit Lions had their chance to get even. Once down 27-3 the Lions stormed back with 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to crush the Cowboys 34-30.
That brings us to week 8 of the 2013 season. Two opponents that once pitted two of the greatest running backs ever against each other, now pit two of the NFL’s best wide receivers in Calvin Johnson and Dez Bryant against one another. The Cowboys have given up as much as 51 points and as few as 3, while scoring as much as 48 and as few at 16. the Detroit Lions have scored as much as 40 and given up as few as 9 points this year. With a history that has some of of the most dominant defensive and offensive performances and the recent flare for the dramatic finishes, this weeks match up has a bit of everything.With two of the most explosive offenses both looking for a division title we are set up for what could be one of the better games in a history that dates all the way back to 1960.
(Game info courtesy of Cowboys Chronicles A Complete History of the Dallas Cowboys by Marty Strasen)