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Dashed Dreams: The 1970 Dallas Cowboys

History remembers the victors much better than it does the losers. the teams that win it all are instantly immortalized as one of the sport's greatest while the loser can only stand on the sidelines watching as their legacy is forever tarnished all the while thinking: "Was all that work wasted?". Sometimes they find redemption, but for the most part, the losers of the Super Bowl never return. But this article is not about what happened before or after the Super Bowl. Instead, this is the story of a single, forgotten team: the 1970 Dallas Cowboys.

The Lead-Up

Although they were young, the Dallas Cowboys were starving for a championship. Since their birth in 1960, coach Tom Landry and general manager Tex Schramm had built the Cowboys into a finely tuned machine that was capable of beating just about anyone. After years of hard work, they finally made it to the playoffs in 1966, only to lose a heartbreaker to the Green Bay Packers in the NFL Championship Game, beginning a long, tenous streak of postseason misfortune.

For four straight years, the Cowboys dominated the competition in the regular season, only to fall flat on their faces in the playoffs. While they had heard of the Super Bowl, they had yet to step foot on its esteemed ground.

Things felt different in 1970. Promising rookies such as running back Duane Thomas and safety Charlie Waters joined the team that year, immediatly providing a spark on both sides of the ball. All that was missing was an established quarterback that Tom Landry was fully invested in. For in that year, he had two.


The Cowboys began their season in Philadelphia, down 7-0 against the lowly Eagles in the first quarter. Then the Cowboys' vaunted offense came to life. First, Walt Garrison scored from the one, then Lance Rentzel caught a 31-yard touchdown pass from Roger Staubach to give Dallas the lead in the third quarter. Mike Clark's 13-yard field goal iced the game as the Cowboys won 17-7.

The following week, the Cowboys found themselves staring at a 10-point halftime deficit against the Giants. Once again, the offense bailed them out. Short runs in the third quarter by Calvin Hill and Walt Garrison gave the Cowboys a four point lead heading into the fourth. Bob Hayes (58 yards) and Lance Rentzel (24 yards) each caught touchdown passes from Roger Staubach to lead the Cowboys to a resounding 28-10 triumph.

After being humbled by the Cardinals 20-7 the following week, the Cowboys gutted out a 13-0 win over the lowly Falcons with Craig Morton's 12-yard touchdown pass to Rentzel icing the game for Dallas.

If their loss to the Cardinals a couple of weeks earlier was humbling, then Dallas's 54-13 pummeling by Minnesota in Week 5 was downright humiliating. It was bad from the start as Ed Sharockman returned a blocked punt 23 yards for the game's first points, an omen of the attrocities to come for the Cowboys that afternoon. Even after taking a 34-6 halftime lead, the Vikings were clearly out for blood, pouring on 20 more points in the second half. Only Calvin Hill's late touchdown made the point differential somewhat respectable.

Itching for a chance to be in the spotlight, Duane Thomas put the team on his back in a win over Kansas City, gaining 134 yards on the ground while scoring the first two touchdowns of his career in the 27-16 win. Lance Rentzel was the hero the following week, scoring on receptions of 86 and 56 yards in a 21-17 win over the happless Eagles.

Perhaps they were arrogant when they prepared for the Giants. Perhaps they were a little too emboldened over their previous matchup, a nifty 18-point win. Whatever the case may be, the Cowboys were in for a dogfight in Week 8 at Yankee Stadium. Although they had a comfortable 17-9 lead at the half, the Cowboys fumbled their lead away in the second half, gutted by Ron Johnson's 199 yards of total offense and two touchdowns. The Cowboys lost 23-20.

The Cowboys hit their low point the next week, getting blown out by the Cardinals 38-0. This loss seemed to stir something within the Cowboys. From then on, they went on a winning streak that propelled them all the way to the Super Bowl. In succession, they beat the Redskins (45-21), the Packers (16-3), Redskins again (34-0), Browns (6-2) and Oilers (52-10). Having won the last five games of the regular season, the Cowboys felt ready make the final push to the Super Bowl.

The Playoffs

Just because they were red-hot doesn't mean that the Cowboys weren't ripe for an upset early in the playoffs. After all, the playoffs are a weekly death match with the loser going home. Although the Cowboys usually potent offense ran into a brick wall from Detroit, they did just enough to eke out a 5-0 victory over the Lions.

The following week, the Cowboys traveled to San Francisco to play in the final game ever played at Kezar Stadium for the NFC Championship. The Cowboys faced the daunting task of defending against the league MVP, John Brodie, who's 3,112 yards and 30 touchdowns led the NFL.

In a tale of two halves, the two soon-to-be rivals walked down Kezar's long, dark tunnel for the second half tied at three. After all those painful postseason losses, the Cowboys were staring down the barrel of another lost season.

Duane Thomas was not one to die quietly and scored the game's first touchdown ona 13-yard dash early in the third quarter. After Walt Garrison added a five-yard touchdown reception from Craig Morton on the following Cowboys drive, Dallas suddenly found themselves up by two touchdowns.

Still, John Brodie was the NFL MVP for a reason and had grown accustomed to taking the game by the horns. He led the 49ers on a methodical drive late in the third quarter, ending it in style with a 26-yard strike to Dick Witcher to narrow the deficit to 17-10.

Undaunted, the Cowboys defense held strong throughout the fourth quarter, prevailing in the end. At long last, the Dallas Cowboys were heading to the Super Bowl. What could possibly go wrong?

Super Bowl V

Everything that could possibly go wrong did, not just for the Cowboys but also for the Baltimore Colts. In total, there were 11 turnovers and 14 penalties between the two teams, including four fumbles lost by Baltimore.

Appropriately dubbed "the Blunder Bowl", the first touchdown itself was more than a little odd. In those days, two offensive players would touch a passed ball on the same play. In the middle of the second quarter, Johnny Unitas launched a bomb down the field, that was bobbled into the waiting hands of John Mackey who then rumbled 75 yards down the field for the game's first touchdown. Players on the Cowboys defense swore that receiver Eddie Hinton had tapped the ball first, but the referees stated that a Dallas player had touched it shortly before Mackey grasped the ball in his reliable hands.

The Cowboys responded with along, methodical drive that ended with Duane Thomas catching Craig Morton's pass for a seven-yard touchdown. the Cowboys began the third quarter like they had at the end of the second, with a long, methodical drive that ended with the Colts backed against their own end zone. This time was different though as Thomas fumbled the ball at the two-yard line. Even though their center Dave Manders clearly fell on the ball and had possession, the referees were caught up in the typical confusion of the scrum and gave the ball back to the Colts.

Down 13-6 at the time, the Colts used their unique opportunity to tie the game up. From there, it was a defensive struggle for both sides. Or perhaps it was a blunderfest. However you look at it, neither team scored until late in the fourth quarter when Craig Morton threw an ill-advised interception right into the hands of Colts linebacker Mike Curtis. A short while later, with the clock winding down on their championship dreams, Colts rookie kicker Jim O'Brien nailed a 32-yarder to sink the Cowboys' hopes. The Colts won 16-13.

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