As the countdown to the Dallas Cowboys season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers continues, let’s rewind time and look back on the five most memorable Week 1 games in franchise history.
But be warned, not all the games on the list end in a triumphant Cowboys victory. Unfortunately, the heartbreaking losses oftentimes can be more memorable than the joyful wins.
So without further ado, let’s get into the rankings:
5. Cowboys 59, Lions 13 – Sept. 15, 1968
Cowboys fans in the late 1960s had it pretty good. Dallas won its division six consecutive times starting in the 1966 season, and the dominance was thanks in large part to Don Meredith who ranks as an all-time great Cowboys QB.
But the dominant Week 1 victory over Detroit in 1968 was a team effort. Meredith threw for two touchdowns, running backs Dan Reeves and Walt Garrison both found the endzone twice, and linebacker Chuck Howley tallied two interceptions and returned one for a touchdown. Even Meredith’s backup QB Craig Morton came in after the game was out of reach for the Lions and hit receiver Dennis Homan for a 36-yard touchdown.
The Cowboys’ 59 points is tied for the most in a single game in franchise history. Talk about a statement win for a franchise starting only its ninth season in the NFL after joining the league in 1960.
4. Cowboys 10, Texans 19 – Sept. 8, 2002
The betting line for this matchup was Cowboys -8.5 points as Dallas was a safe bet to win against the Texans, who were playing its first game in franchise history. But the Texans defied the odds and the record books, as the last time an expansion team won its opening game was 1961.
The Cowboys’ offense was out of sorts throughout the game. Quincy Carter started at QB and threw for only 131 yards and an interception. Michael Wiley’s 46-yard rushing score was the only touchdown of the day for Dallas, and if it wasn’t for that big gain the Cowboys would have rushed for a total of just 104 yards.
For the Texans, it was the debut for its first overall draft pick David Carr. The Fresno State-alum didn’t have an overly impressive game either, throwing for 145 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, but it was enough to get the win in the new Lone Star State rivalry game.
The upset loss still stings for Jerry Jones. The Cowboys owner said at that point, he’d only been moved to tears three times by the Cowboys and the loss to Houston was one of those instances.
3. Cowboys 27, Giants 26 – Sept. 13, 2015
Things got sloppy for Dallas at the end of the first half in this game. Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie scooped and scored a Cole Beasley fumble with just 56 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
The Cowboys next offensive play resulted in an interception by Giants linebacker Uani Unga. But the Cowboys were able to hold the Giants to a field goal following the turnover, so New York took a 13-6 lead into halftime.
Fast-forward to the fourth quarter and the Cowboys trail 26-20 with 1:29 left in the game and no timeouts. Tony Romo pieced together a 72-yard game-winning drive that ended in a touchdown pass to Jason Witten with seven seconds on the clock.
But this win was one of the few highlights of the 2015 season as Dallas would finish fourth in the NFC East with a 4-12 record.
2. Cowboys 41, Redskins 35 – Sept. 12, 1999
The 1999 season marked the end of the Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin era. Irvin retired following the ‘99 season, Aikman played one more season before retiring and Smith joined the Cardinals after the 2002 season.
So the Week 1 overtime thriller was one of the last great games we saw from the Hall of Fame trio.
Going into the fourth quarter, Dallas trailed 35-14. But the Cowboys stormed back and tied the game, scoring 21-unanswered points to send it to overtime.
Then in OT, Aikman hit a 76-yard bomb to Rocket Ismail for the walkoff touchdown. It was a magnificent blast from the past courtesy of the Triplets.
Aikman finished with 362 passing yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions. Smith ran for 109 yards and one touchdown. Irvin posted 122 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
1. Cowboys 23, Redskins 10 – Sept. 7, 1992
We’re sticking with the Triplets for the number one spot on the list of most memorable regular season openers for the Cowboys.
This game was significant for a few reasons:
First, it’s always important to start a season strong, but especially against a hated NFC East rival like Washington.
Second, this game would kick off the first Super Bowl winning season for the Cowboys since 1977.
Lastly, to be the best you have to beat the best. What better way to do so than by taking down the Redskins who were reigning Super Bowl champions from the 1991 season.
Dallas’ special teams unit shined in this game. The Cowboys started the scoring with a blocked punt by Issiac Holt that went through the back of the endzone for a safety. Later in the game, Kelvin Martin housed a 79-yard punt for a touchdown.
Dallas finished the year with a 13-3 record and a Super Bowl win, and it was the start of a dynasty.