There aren’t very many out-of-division rivalries in the NFL. Most of the time, when one pops up, it is the product of the times and a victim of circumstance. Think Brady-Manning and Seahawks vs. everybody. With every generation, there is a team that is so successful that nearly every team they play develops a relationship with them. The Dallas Cowboys have occupied this role for what seems like most of the league’s history, and their eternal relevancy continually feeds new life into old hatred. A perfect example of this phenomena is the animosity they share with the Green Bay Packers.
As you can see, I would hesitate to call our relationship a rivalry. The two teams meet too seldom for this to be an official rivalry -it’s more like an old grudge; something like the slow-boiling conflicts of Game of Thrones. It’s not that these teams play every year, it’s that entire generations of fans have been trained to hate the other side. Two years ago, when Dez either caught it or didn’t catch it, two new groups of fans were introduced to what has become one of the NFL’s most successful match-ups. Since 1960, when the Cowboys were created, there has been a steady flow of classic games between the two. They can avoid playing each other for years at a time and then get right back on the horse. Speaking to this, the all-time series is tied and the pageantry that has followed their (primarily post-season) meetings is second-to-none.
Everyone remembers “The Ice Bowl”. It’s one of those games, like “The Immaculate Reception” and “The Catch” that are enshrined in every football lover’s heart. Those are the games of our forefathers that seem so implausible or ridiculous that you never forget them. For instance, it was -40 degrees or less on New Year’s Eve 1967 -the day of The Ice Bowl. I just wrote an article that mentioned Tom Coughlin’s beet red, possibly frost-bitten face during a different NFC championship game that was 20-30 degrees warmer. The coldest game played in my lifetime doesn’t even come close.
Everyone remembers the Cowboys dominance of the 70s and our fall from grace. Everyone remembers their teams from the 90s -and our awful regular and postseason record in Big D. Everyone remembers when two 10-1 teams met in week 13 of 2007 for the first time in NFL history. Okay, not everybody remembers that one, but it was Aaron’s first meaningful action and perhaps the catalyst for letting Brett walk the following year.
Over time, things changed. Much like the Green Bay teams of the 70s and 80s, many of the Dallas teams since the mid-90s have been mediocre and flat. There are always a few good years but things never seem to work out. Also much like the Green Bay Packers, it appears they are being lifted out of the muck by a dynamic young QB. Here’s some advice from those who know, just let him play until his legs fall off. Unless you have Aaron Rodgers waiting in the wings, of course.
With all that pomp and circumstance, however, there are some great moments that aren’t so well known. Here are two games that a good Packer fan should remember heading in to Sunday:
Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys
January 1, 1967
Final: GB-34 DAL-27
Before The Ice Bowl and before the Packers won a victory in the first “Super Bowl” (it was called the AFL-NFL World Championship game at the time) there was played another, better game. Funny how some things stay the same. The Packers met the Cowboys at the Cotton Bowl just after another historic Dallas team – SMU – had played the night before. This was the Cowboys first winning season and probably the best game of the year. The Packers came in heavy favorites, but Dallas had the league’s most potent offense. Spectators there that day were witness to the first big blow in a long series of battles between these squads.
Green Bay came roaring out of the gates. The Packers of the 60s are the standard for successful teams in this regard. They usually started out very strong in big games and rarely wilted. However, the Cowboys had the talent to match them at their best. Unfortunately for Dallas, due to the first of four Bart Starr TD passes and a fumbled kick return, it was 14-0 before the Cowboys even touched the ball. The Packers were also able to stymie the Cowboy’s best weapon in “Bullet” Bob Hayes throughout the game for only one yard. However, the Cowboys put up over 400 yards of offense anyway and nearly 200 of that came on the ground.
When Packer Boyd Doyler was flipped in the endzone on a late-hit after a touchdown, HOFer Jim Taylor had to be led to the sidelines by a sagely Starr before he murdered somebody. His team would soon do the talking for him, either way. Doyler’s replacement, the one and only Max McGee of Super Bowl I fame, caught a Starr touchdown soon after. The Cowboys were down 34-20 with little time remaining in the fourth to mount a comeback. However, they were able to score on a 68 yard “Dandy” Don Meredith touchdown pass and cut the deficit. After a stop, Meredith once again led his team down for one final try. However, the Packers D stood strong and forced a goal line interception after putting pressure on Dandy Don and cemented their victory soon after.
Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys
November 24, 1994
Final: GB-31 DAL-42
Jason Garrett was born earlier in the same year that the Packers beat his future team in the NFC Championship for the first time. It would probably become an important moment for him when he learned of his team’s past. As a whole, Garrett’s life course has been massively affected by the Cowboy’s organization. Garrett played for the Cowboys in the early 90s behind Troy Aikman as a long-shot Ivy League backup. He was a career bench warmer and never started a season in the lead role. But he had one big game -a game that was declared the 4th best moment in Texas Stadium history by ESPN. He beat Brett Favre’s Green Bay Packers.
To be fair, this was before the juggernaut 1996-97 season and Brett was still breathing life into a dying franchise. But Garrett played a heck of a game. Well, he played alright. He won a comeback victory in a big spot when nobody expected him to do anything at all. Green Bay led 17-3 at one point and 24-13 at another. Favre had 3 touchdown passes by the 13-minute mark in the third quarter and Sterling Sharpe still had all of his bones.
But it was all Cowboys after that. They scored four straight times to go up 39-24 before garbage-time points were added in. Garrett threw a 45-yard pass and a 35-yard pass to Alvin Harper and Michael Irvin, respectively -both touchdowns. The inimitable Emmitt Smith recorded 133 yards and two touchdowns on a ridiculous 32 carry workload (wow). The Packers went ice-cold and the Cowboys never touched the ball again without scoring. So it goes.
For this Sunday’s game, much has been said about “revenge” or rivalry. The true story is that these teams probably don’t hate each other at all. They’re too far away. (I have a personal grudge against them, but I grew up in Cowboy country.) But there is one thing that is still true: you can bet your life that these teams will show up on the big stage. They always do.