The Dallas Cowboys haven’t beaten the Broncos in Denver in a long time and have little history to speak of against this franchise.
It’s well understood that the Dallas Cowboys and other NFC teams play those from the AFC only so often. The current NFL system has teams meeting each other at least once every four years and with the location being a little less consistent.
Having said that, the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos have very little history against one another and the most memorable game between these two franchises came back in 1978 in Super Bowl XII. It marked the second championship for a Cowboys team that was peaking during Tom Landry‘s legendary career as head coach and also during the ‘Doomsday’ era of dominant defense in Dallas.
To date, the Cowboys and Broncos have only met 12 times – ever, and that includes the Super Bowl matchup almost 40 years ago.
Even more compelling is the fact that the Dallas Cowboys have only played a football game in Denver a meager six times, with the seventh meeting coming on Sunday.
What does all of this mean?
Well, not really anything pertaining to football this weekend, but there’s always some fun to be had when looking back in time, right?
Let’s look back to 1992, which marks the last time the Dallas Cowboys beat the Broncos at Mile High Stadium.
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On December 6, 1992 then-President Elect Bill Clinton had yet to enter the White House. A terrible, now-forgotten song called ‘How Do You Talk To An Angel’ by a group called The Heights was ranked No.1 on the Billboard Top 100 and TV shows like The Heights (related to the song) and Martin were just making their debuts that year.
A crucial test that season came in the form of a road trip to Denver to play the Broncos – a test made a bit easier by the fact that future Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway would be sitting out with an injury. Nonetheless, it wasn’t lost on me that playing in Denver was a difficult task given the paper-thin air at an elevation of 5,280 feet.
The game started easy enough with the Cowboys jumping out to an immediate 14-0 lead that looked insurmountable given that Elway would remain on the sideline in street clothes.
But the Broncos got back into the game while shuttling quarterbacks Tommy Maddox, a Metroplex high school product, and Shawn Moore. Denver went up 27-24 in the fourth quarter on a gut-punch 81 yard touchdown strike that put Dallas on the ropes. Maddox threw a lateral pass to wide receiver Arthur Marshall who then tossed a deep ball to Cedric Tillman for a huge momentum swing and the first lead of the day for Denver.
Aikman drove the Dallas Cowboys down the field in the closing minutes, mainly by hitting tight end Jay Novacek while the Denver defense put all of it’s focus on Smith. Approaching the two-minute warning, Smith scored a touchdown for the winning margin on a 3-yard draw play that tied the franchise record for touchdowns in a single season with 16.
The person who had held that record going into that game was none other than Broncos head coach Dan Reeves, who was wrapping up his final season in Denver before heading to the New York Giants the following season.
That 31-27 victory was the last time the Cowboys won a football game in Denver.
Dallas has obviously never won at relatively new Sports Authority Field at Mile High, which opened in 2001. On the bright side, the Cowboys are 0-1 at the outdoor stadium following a close game there in 2009.
Sunday’s game will be a true test as it can’t be overstated just how difficult it is to maintain stamina in the air of Denver. It’s arguably the greatest home-field advantage in sports and a third victory ever in Colorado couldn’t come at a better time.
This much is true: When the Cowboys have had a Super Bowl-contending football team, they’ve had no issues beating the Broncos no matter where the game was held. Dallas was sandwiched between Super Bowl appearances in 1973 when they first beat the Broncos at Mile High. Dallas beat Denver in 1977 at Texas Stadium just inside of a month before beating them again in Super Bowl XII.
Those 1990s Cowboys had the victory in ’92 at Mile High Stadium and then beat Elway & Co. at Texas Stadium in 1995, this time just a few months before winning a third Super Bowl in a span of four seasons.
If the Dallas Cowboys are the better team on Sunday, they will the game – and if this is true, they might just be really, really good.