In 1966, the Dallas Cowboys became the most exciting team in the NFL.
I was only 8 years old but I was thrilled by the first pro sports team I had ever seen in person. I had seen several games with my dad at the Cotton Bowl starting in 1964. But in ‘66 my family had moved away from the D/FW area and I could only watch the Cowboys on my parents black and white TV.
That ‘66 season, Tom Landry’s innovative offense led the league in scoring, passing, total offense, and point differential. QB “Dandy” Don Meredith threw 27 TDs in 14 games, 13 of them to my first sports hero, “Bullet” Bob Hayes. Bullet scored on a 95 yard TD pass that yr which was one of the most exciting plays in Cowboys history. RB Don Perkins was a punishing runner who scored 8 TDs himself.
Landry’s innovative flex defense was a run stuffing machine, holding opponents to only 84 yards a game. These guys became the original “Doomsday Defense”. Sacks were not kept in those days but the Cowboys D behind the great HOFer Bob Lily and pass rush monster Willie Townes would have led the league. Future HOFer Mel Renfro was a great cover corner.
The only thing standing in the way of the Cowboys winning the NFL (this was before the merger) and playing the AFL champ in SB I were the GB packers, the defending champs led by MVP Bart Starr and legendary coach Vince Lombardi.
The championship game was played in Dallas, in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 1, 1967.
The Cowboys overcame a 14-0 early deficit to tie it in the second qtr. Then trailed again 34-20 in the 4th. But scored to make it 34-27 on a 65 yd bomb from Meredith to TE Frank Clarke with about 5 min left. After forcing a packers punt, the Cowboys got the ball back with a chance to tie with about 3 min left. They drove methodically down the field and had a first and goal inside the ten with less than a minute left.
A false start and a few short gains, the Cowboys faced 4th down at the two yard line with no timeouts and just seconds left. On 4th down Meredith did a rollout to the right but packer LB Dave Robinson was draped all over him and his desperate pass in the end zone was intercepted. I had my first sports cry that day.
The packers went on to SB I two weeks later and beat the chiefs 35-10. We could have won that first SB.
I hated the packers.
Exactly 364 days later, on Dec. 31st, 1967, the Cowboys had their chance at revenge, facing the pack again for the NFL championship, this time in GB. Today, it is famously known as “The Ice Bowl.” At kickoff the temperature was -13 below, with a -30 wind chill.
I won’t go into all the details of that game, but in similar fashion to the prior game the Cowboys had overcome a 14 point deficit to take a17-14 lead with 3 min left on RB Dan Reeves gadget play pass to WR Lance Rentzl. All we had to do was hold them one more time. You know the story. The packers scored with 9 seconds left on a Bart Starr QB sneak. I had an even bigger sports cry that day.
Of course the pack went on to win SB II against the raiders two weeks later 33-14. We should have been there. The Lombardi Trophy could have been called “The Landry Trophy”.
Sports is full of “could have been moments” though, right?
The Green Bay Packers were my original most hated team. As a kid, those packers were the most “hate”I ever felt for an opposing team…well…maybe later it was the deadskins, lol.
This Sunday I’ll remember those old ghosts of the old days with the hope the Cowboys can settle some old scores from the distant past.