The Dallas Cowboys are preparing to play the New Orleans Saints this coming Sunday night from Mercedes-Benz Stadium in a game that promises to be a classic. With the return of DeMarcus Ware to the lineup and Rob Ryan playing the team that let him go so he could get hired by the Saints. We could dub this game the “5 Minutes Bowl” in reference to Ryan’s comment after his release, “I will be out of work for like five minutes.” This game should be another great one with all of the drama surrounding this game. The Cowboys and Saints have played each other 25 times as Dallas leads the series 15-10 but New Orleans has won 7 out of the last 8 contest including a 42-17 win in 2006.
With this game approaching and the recent passing of former coach Bum Phillips, it made me think of the game between the Cowboys and Saints from 1984. Even though Phillips and Coach Tom Landry duke it out against each other a handful of times, they still made for some great football.
That year, the Cowboys went 9-7 and missed the playoffs for the first time in 9 years. “Bum” Bright also became the new owner of the team that season as former owner Clint Murchison sold it. It was the year the Cowboys said good-bye to several players that year due to retirement including Drew Pearson, who had a car accident that summarily ended his career. Gone were Billy Joe Dupree, Harvey Martin, Robert Newhouse, and Pat Donovan as they all went into the sunset. Butch Johnson was traded that year as well to the Denver Broncos. The Cowboys had drafted Billy Cannon, Jr. from Texas A&M with their first round pick and also had drafted well known track star, Carl Lewis. They were hoping he would suit up and become the next Bob Hayes but Lewis never donned a blue-starred helmet.
The New Orleans Saints didn’t make the playoffs that year as Bum Phillips was trying to get the team into the playoff picture. Phillips had a couple of players follow along with him to New Orleans from Houston, where he coached the Oilers for 6 seasons. His quarterback Kenny Stabler and running back Earl Campbell made the trip down the highway to play for their coach. Phillips also had a future Dallas Cowboy head coach on his staff at that time, his son and defensive coordinator, Wade. The Saints were 7-9 that year as they stumbled out the gate losing 2 of 3 games.
The Cowboys and Saints met in Week 8 as New Orleans travelled to Texas Stadium in Dallas. The Cowboys at that time were 4-3 while the Saints were 3-4. The game started out with Dallas getting on the board first as Rafael Septien kicked a 37 yard field goal. Richard Todd, former New York Jets quarterback, had gotten the start over Stabler and moved the Saints into scoring position as he tossed a pass to Tyrone Young. The score gave New Orleans the early lead, 7-3. The Cowboys could only manage another Septien field goal but this time from 27 yards. Hokie Gajan answered back with a 62 yard run as he was dragging Ed “Too Tall” Jones with him. After a Morten Anderson 49 yard field goal, the Saints went into halftime leading 17-6.
The Saints opened the second half with another Anderson field goal. As to add insult to injury, Dallas starting quarterback Gary Hogeboom threw an interception that went back for a Saints touchdown. After Dirt Winston scampered into the end zone for the Saints, Hogeboom walked off the field holding his wrist as he hit a Saints player on the helmet while throwing the pass. At this point, the Saints were in control 27-6. Insert Danny White, the team’s punter and former starting QB, who came in and went to work. A blocked punt for the Cowboys set up a Tony Dorsett 3 yard run for a touchdown. White found Mike Renfro for a 12 yard touchdown pass to close the gap to 7 points as they were down, 27-20 going into the 4th quarter. With time not in their favor, the Dallas defense had to make a big stand at that point. Kenny Stabler entered the game due to an injury to Todd. Stabler came to the center from their own 9 yard line, he called out the signals and then dropped back to pass. As he did, Randy White crashed his way through the line and smothered Stabler knocking the ball out of his hands in the process. The ball rolled into the end zone with several players flocking after it. Dallas defensive end Jim Jeffcoat ended up with the ball and the tying score. The game was going to overtime after a couple of failed drives from each team.
In overtime, Dallas received the ball and started from their own 29 yard line. D. White threw a pass to Tony Hill but due to an interference call, he missed the ball and as a result of the 24 yard penalty moved Dallas that much closer. Renfro caught his last pass of 6 passes of the day on a 15 yarder that set up a 41 yard game winning field goal by Septien. As of this writing that was the biggest come-from-behind victory in Cowboys history as Danny White led the team from 21 points down to win, 30-27.
Little did we know at the time but would be the last great battle between the two greatest coaches in Texas football history. Bum Phillips would resign during the following season and would never step on the field as a coach. Tom Landry would stay a few more seasons only to be fired on February 25th, 1989. Landry and Phillips coach against each other 3 times in the regular season with Landry having the 2-1 advantage. The two men are together once again as both men are coaching Heaven’s team. The two were different as day and night with their choice of dress to their handling of their players. Landry wore a suit and tie with his trademark fedora and he was a more soft spoken, less hands-on type of coach. Phillips wore his trademark Stetson with blue jeans and a button down shirt. Of course, he didn’t wear his hat inside a dome as he his mother wouldn’t have that. Phillips was more of a guy’s-guy to his players drinking a beer with them after games. Both so different but looked up in the same light as icons of the game and heroes in Texas. Rest in peace to the both of you as Heaven just gained another angel.