These Cleveland Browns have never beaten the Dallas Cowboys. These Browns – the new Browns, founded in 1999 as a sequel to the historic original franchise. They are 0-2 against Dallas in the regular season heading into today’s important matchup.
The Paul Brown Browns, however, certainly had the Cowboys’ number over the years, beating up on the NFL newcomers for the majority of the 1960s in a series of matchups that bloomed into a classic rivalry, including three playoff games. After the league’s 1970 merger, when Cleveland moved to the AFC, the rivalry unfortunately faded into history, with the teams meeting only sparingly in the regular season until the late Art Modell relocated the club to Baltimore in 1996.
The Cowboys’ luck in their series with the Browns-Ravens lineage has taken a turn for the worse, of course, with Dallas having never beaten Baltimore in four tries, including the heartbreaker earlier this season and the woeful Week 16 matchup in 2008, when the Ravens turned out the lights on Texas Stadium with a 33-24 victory.
These things go in cycles, evidently. The original Browns whipped Tom Landry’s upstart team in each of their first four meetings, beginning with their first game, in Week 4 of the Cowboys’ expansion season, 1960. To that point, the team of undrafted rookies and castoffs from other clubs had acquitted itself fairly well against established NFL competition, having lost to the Steelers, Eagles and Redskins in consecutive weeks, but only by a combined 21 points.
The Browns welcomed the Cowboys into the NFL rather rudely, however, one gorgeous October afternoon at the Cotton Bowl, allegedly in front of 28,500 fans, though many reports suggest the stadium wasn’t nearly as full as the club claimed in those early days. Cleveland scored first on a 46-yard carry by future Hall of Fame runner and receiver Bobby Mitchell in the first quarter, before the great Jim Brown plowed in from five yards out in the second. Mitchell then jaunted 30 yards to make the score 21-0 as the floodgates opened, with the Browns returning an interception for a score before halftime, and Mitchell coasting 90 yards for another touchdown on the opening kickoff in the second half. The Browns led 48-0 before backup quarterback Don Heinrich tossed a garbage-time touchdown to Billy Howton.
It was a sign of things to come that season, as the Cowboys went on to post an 0-11-1 record, managing one tie, late in the season against the Giants, while falling by multiple scores in six of the seven losses to come following the trouncing by Cleveland.
The Browns would repeat the favor twice in 1961, as they joined the Cowboys, Steelers, Eagles, Giants, Redskins and St. Louis Cardinals in the newly formed Eastern Conference. That October, they knocked off a surprisingly 2-0 Dallas team, 25-7, at Municipal Stadium in Cleveland, and in December helped eviscerate any hopes of a playoff berth for the Cowboys by beating them 38-17 in Fair Park, in the second of four straight Cowboys losses that sunk their record to 4-9-1.
The Browns won a 19-10 decision over Dallas at home in the teams’ first meeting in 1962, but the second matchup was a different story, seen as something of a pivot point game for the Cowboys franchise and their young quarterback, Don Meredith. Dallas had jumped out to a fine start to the season again, sitting 4-3-1 on the year before losing five of their last six. The lone exception came on Dec. 2, when they tanned the Browns, 45-21, at the Cotton Bowl, in arguably the best performance of the club in its existence to that point.
“You writers and the football public here don’t realize what a fine team you have here in Dallas,” Paul Brown, an admirer of Landry’s, told the assembled media after the game. “You folks just don’t seem to realize this team can give you a championship. They outplayed us all the way … they deserved to win. I congratulate Tom for a fine job.
“Dallas was an inspired team. They’d never beaten us and it had to come sometime, and they did it to us good today.”
The Browns had traded Cowboys-killer Mitchell to Washington the previous offseason (he scored on a 92-yard kickoff return against the Cowboys in his first game with the Redskins) and Dallas managed to hold Jim Brown to only 29 yards on eight carries. Meanwhile, Cowboys running backs Don Perkins and Amos Marsh combined for 209 yards on the ground, while Meredith was 10-of-12 passing for 147 yards and two touchdowns, keeping Cleveland’s defense off balance all day.
Meredith had been struggling in previous games, and hadn’t yet wrestled full-time duties away from veteran Eddie LeBaron, but the fine day against Cleveland was a prelude of what was to come in his career.
“Meredith certainly had better results today,” Landry said after the game he called the Cowboys’ “best showing against a good team at home.”
Still, that impressive day remained the exception rather than the rule in the early years of the series. The Cowboys continued to muddle along in mediocrity while the Browns remained among the NFL’s elite. Cleveland won the next seven games in the series, not to mention an NFL Championship in 1964, while the Cowboys didn’t even experience their first winning season until 1966.
Once Jim Brown retired after the 1965 season, the series turned a bit. Dallas won a measure of confidence that year with a 26-14 home win over a good Browns squad on Thanksgiving, the Cowboys’ debut on the holiday, in what would become an annual tradition. By 1967, the ghosts of Cleveland’s domination had been fully exorcised, or so it would seem. The Cowboys beat Cleveland twice that year, including a 52-14 destruction of the Browns in the Eastern Championship Game, the first playoff win in the club’s eight-year history.
A week later, on New Year’s Eve, the Cowboys lost to Green Bay on a last second Bart Starr sneak in the NFL Championship, the game better known as the Ice Bowl. It was the beginning of the Cowboys’ “Next Year’s Champions” era, though the unwanted legacy was only furthered by playoff slip-ups against … Cleveland.
After beating the Browns convincingly in their run to a 12-2 record in 1968, the heavily favored Cowboys fell to the Browns in the Eastern Championship Game.
“A whole year shot in two-and-a-half hours,” Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm surmised afterward.
It turned out to be the last game of Meredith’s career and a rather disgraced ending. He completed only three of nine passes, connecting with the Browns as often as his own receivers. Meredith’s interceptions led to 17 Cleveland points, and he eventually gave way to Craig Morton under a deafening swarm of boos, the Cotton Bowl crowd en masse deciding their team could never win with Dandy Don, despite the fact he’d posted his best season yet in 1968.
“We needed a psychological lift,” Landry said following the loss. “Morton was the only thing I had that I could use. I took Meredith out not so much for what he was doing, but to try to shake them up. … I hated to take him out. In my opinion, he wasn’t wholly responsible. I don’t know what he will do (in the offseason). I can’t speak for him, but you can bet he feels worse than anybody right now about this game.
“I wouldn’t say (we) got whipped physically – it was more mentally than physically.”
With Meredith retiring after the season, Morton accepted the offensive reins, but his luck against the Browns and in the playoffs was no better. He threw three picks in a 42-10 Week 7 drubbing at Cleveland in 1969, one of just two Cowboys losses in the regular season. Yet again, Dallas was favored in an Eastern Championship matchup with the Browns, and yet again they came up short. Way short.
The Browns jumped out to a 24-0 lead at the Cotton Bowl, and put the finishing touches on the game when Walt Sumner returned a Morton interception 88 yards for a fourth quarter score. Roger Staubach took over for Morton, but the lead was too far out of reach even for “Captain Comeback,” and the Browns advanced with a 38-14 victory.
“We’re not choke-ups,” receiver Bob Hayes said after the game. “There were 40 guys out there and every one of them played his heart out. … I don’t know what happened. Nobody does. It’s a mystery to all of us. We were ready.
“I looked over to our bench and I could see shoulders sag. Guys who had been eager and jumping to get into the game seemed to be saying, ‘Oh no, here we go again. You play hard to get to this game – the playoffs – and you either have it or you don’t have it. We didn’t have it. Why? It’s a mystery to me. We’ve been pointing to this particular game since last September. It’s one we knew we had to win. We have to win a big one to shake off this image. Some day we’re going to do it.”
The Browns had played a huge role in the Cowboys’ earning of the “Next Year’s Champions” moniker. Cleveland had dominated the all-time series to that point, with 14 wins against only five losses, but Dallas has gotten the best of Browns since, winning seven of the 10 matchups between the clubs. None of the games was bigger than 1970, the Browns’ first year in the AFC, when chance pitted the teams in a late season battle once again. The Cowboys had opened the season 5-4, and needed a serious winning streak late in the season to earn a playoff spot. On a muddy, near-freezing day at Municipal Stadium, Dallas triumphed 6-2, the product of two Mike Clark field goals and an excellent day for Landry’s defense, which shut down the Browns running game and recorded four takeaways.
When the Cleveland franchise was reformed in 1999 – four years after the original club moved to Baltimore – their first preseason outing was against the Cowboys in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio. It would prove to be a remarkable night, not only for the Browns’ rebirth, but also as the rare preseason contest that reached overtime, something coaches typically try their best to avoid.
Jim Brown, Bobby Mitchell, Don Meredith and Bob Hayes had given way to the likes of Karim Abdul-Jabbar at running back and Tim Couch at quarterback for the Browns, with backups such as Ryan Neufeld and Singor Mobley playing big roles for the Cowboys by the end, when Cleveland’s Phil Dawson decided the game with a field goal.
“It’s good to see the Dawg Pound back in the NFL,” Troy Aikman said afterward, welcoming the return of the new, old Browns, three years after their apparent demise, and some 30 years since they last played the Cowboys for something truly meaningful.
The teams had certainly played bigger contests, but the history behind the preseason opener made it at least noteworthy, just like today’s game, echoes of an all-but-forgotten rivalry.
Photo: Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks Troy Aikman, Roger Staubach, Don Meredith, Craig Morton, and Danny White
Blog hint: With nearly every photograph on The Boys Are Back blog, you can get additional information by hovering over the photo with your cursor. Many times, if you’ll click on the photo you’ll see a larger image.
First photo: Amos Marsh Jr. (jersey #31), Full Back/Return Specialist, 1961-1964
Amos Marsh Jr. was signed as a rookie undrafted free agent by the Dallas Cowboys in 1961, because they were impressed by his speed. Back then his nicknames were "Moose" and "Forward Marsh".
He started his career as a wide receiver and special teams player. In 1962 to take advantage of his size and speed, he was moved to fullback, playing alongside Don Perkins where he became one of the league top 10 rushers with 802 yards and a 5.6 yards average per carry. That year he also set the franchise record for the longest kickoff return with 101 yards, a record that was broken by Alexander Wright 29 years later in 1991. The play came against the Philadelphia Eagles, when the Cowboys became the first NFL team in history to produce two 100-yard plays in the same game: a 100 yard interception return for a touchdown by strong safety Mike Gaechter and the 101 yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Marsh.
Marsh’s production regressed during the following years, leading the Cowboys to trade him to the Detroit Lions in 1965 after the team acquired fullback J.D. Smith
Courtesy: Dallas Star magazine | Cleveland Plain Dealer archives | NFL | Dallas Cowboys
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Here are the historical notes compiled after todays game with the New York Giants:
The Dallas Cowboys had three receivers top 100 yards tonight (Jason Witten, 167; Miles Austin, 133; and Dez Bryant ,110) for just the second time in franchise history. The first was at San Francisco (11/10/63) as Frank Clarke (190), Lee Folkins (112) and Billy Howton (107) were the first Cowboys trio to accomplish the feat.
Dallas finished the game with 415 net passing yards – the sixth-most in a game in franchise history:
Single-Game Passing Yards (team history)
Miles Austin finished second on the team with nine catches for 133 yards today. His 133 yards marked his third 100-yard outing of the season and the 14th of his career. His 133 yards today were the ninth-most in a game in his career:
Austin’s Single-Game Yardage Total
Austin’s nine catches today upped his career total to 245 to pass Kelvin Martin (237) for 13th in franchise history.
Austin’s 133 yards today upped his career total to 3,855 to pass Doug Cosbie (3,728) for seventh in team history.
Dez Bryant finished third on the team in both receptions (five) and yards (110) today. His 110 yards marked a career-high, his second 100-yard game of the season and the third of his career.
Bryant upped his career receptions total to 149 to pass Don Perkins (146) for 29th in team history.
Bryant improved his career receiving yards total to 1,977 to pass Timmy Newsome (1,966) for 28th in franchise history.
Bryant had a career-long 55-yard catch today.
Lance Dunbar had a 44-yard kickoff return today for the longest kickoff return of the season to date.
Dwayne Harris tied his career-long punt return of 14 yards today.
Felix Jones rushed 13 times for 19 yards and touchdown today. He now has 507 career rushing attempts to become the 12th Dallas Cowboy with 500 rushes.
Jones’ rushing touchdown today was the 10th of his career to make him the 18th Dallas Cowboy with 10-or-more rushing scores.
Danny McCray picked off his second career pass today.
John Phillips notched his second career touchdown reception – the first was also against the N.Y. Giants (12/11/12).
Tony Romo finished today’s game 36-of-62 for 437 yards. His 62 attempts established a club record while his 437 passing yards were a single-game career-high and good for third in club history:
Single-Game Passing Yards (Team History)
|Don Meredith||460||@SF (11/10/63)|
|Troy Aikman||455||MIN (11/26/98)|
|Tony Romo||437||NYG (10/28/12)|
Romo’s 437 yards was his second career 400-yard game (first was 406 vs. Tennessee, 10/10/10) and his 34th career outing with 300-or-more passing yards.
Romo also rushed for his fifth career touchdown today.
DeMarcus Ware’s sack today was his fifth straight game with at least a half sack – the fourth such streak in his career.
Ware has 13.5 career sacks against the Giants – the second-most against any team in the league (Philadelphia, 15.5). He also has 13.5 sacks of Eli Manning – more than any other quarterback he has sacked in the league.
Ware now has 107.0 career sacks to take sole possession of third place on Dallas’ all-time unofficial (pre-1982) sack list:
Jason Witten led the team with a club-record 18 catches for a team-best and career-high 167 yards. Witten now owns the top-three and is tied for fourth for receptions in a single-game in club history:
Dallas Cowboys Single-Game receptions
|Jason Witten||18||NYG (10/28/12)|
|Jason Witten||15||@Det (12/9/07)|
|Jason Witten||14||@NYG (12/6/09)|
|Lance Rentzel||13||WAS (11/19/67)|
|Jason Witten||13||CHI (10/1/12)|
|Dez Bryant||13||@Bal (10/14/12)|
Witten’s 18 catches tied for the third-most in a game in NFL history (Brandon Marshall, 18, vs. San Diego, 9/15/08) and were the most by a tight end in NFL history.
Witten’s 167-yard performance tied for the 20th-best single-game total by a league tight end and was a club tight-end record.
Witten also extended his club tight end record of 100-yard outings to 16.
Witten upped his season catch total to 51 to give him his ninth career and ninth consecutive season with at least 40 catches. He is now tied with Jeremy Shockey for the third-most 40-plus catch seasons and the third-most consecutive 40-catch seasons among tight ends in NFL history.
40-Plus Catch Seasons by a Tight End
|Shannon Sharpe||11||7||1992-98, 00-03|
Witten’s 51 catches thus far also marked his ninth career and ninth consecutive 50-catch season for the second-most by a tight end behind Tony Gonzalez (14 total and 14 consecutive) in NFL history.
Witten now has 747 career receptions and trails Michael Irvin by only three for tops in team history.
Here are the notes compiled by the Dallas Cowboys‘ after the game:
Bruce Carter made his NFL debut tonight playing on special teams.
Last week DeMarco Murray established a club record with 253 rushing yards. He became the ninth Dallas Cowboy to pass the 175 rushing yard mark. His 74 yards tonight represent the sixth-most following a 175-plus yard performance in club history:
175-plus Next Week
Player Yds Opp Date Yds Opp Date
Tony Dorsett 183 @NYG 11/9/80 122 STL 11/16/80
Emmitt Smith 237 @Phi 10/31/93 117 NYG 11/7/93
Tony Dorsett 175 @Bal 12/6/81 101 PHI 12/13/81
Tony Dorsett 206 PHI 12/4/77 92 @SF 12/12/77
Julius Jones 198 @Sea 12/6/04 88 NO 12/12/04
DeMarco Murray 253 STL 10/23/11 74 @Phi 10/30/11
Emmitt Smith 182 @Pho 9/22/91 67 NYG 9/29/91
Troy Hambrick 189 @Was 12/14/03 36 NYG 12/21/03
Julius Jones 194 @Car 12/24/05 35 STL 1/1/06
Laurent Robinson led all Cowboys with 103 receiving yards. It was his second 100-yard effort of the season and the third of his career. He also had his first touchdown as a Dallas Cowboy on a 70-yard reception. It was the second-longest catch of his career behind a74-yard touchdown catch while with Atlanta (at Arizona, 12/23/07).