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Monday, December 18, 2017


   Three opponents' touchdowns nullified by penalty or replay.
   A missed 39-yard field goal.
   A game-losing touchdown transformed into a game-winning touchback via the opposing quarterback's fumble inches from the goal line.
   And, of course, the NFL's first ever 1st-'n-10 decided by a 3x5.
   You can root for a sports team an entire season - a decade? even a lifetime? - and never benefit from all of the above. But on an unprecedented, unforgettable night Oakland, the Cowboys were gift-wrapped all of them in one of the wildest wins in franchise history.

   10. Cowboys 34, at Rams 31 (9.18.14) - You know you've had a frenetic ride when the largest comeback in franchise history barely makes the list. Dallas trails in St. Louis, 21-0, before Bruce Carter's interception return for a touchdown with 5:58 remaining seals the deal.

   9. Cowboys 31, at Redskins 30 (9.15.83) - Trailing 23-3 at halftime, Danny White rallies Dallas to an electrifying season-opening win at old RFK Stadium behind three second-half touchdown passes, two to Tony Hill and the game-winner to Doug Cosbie with 1:49 remaining.

   8. at Cowboys 35, Redskins 34 (12.17.79) - Down 17-0 early and 34-21 late, the Cowboys and Roger Staubach stage a rally that gives them the NFC East title and knocks their bitter rivals out of the playoffs. Ignited by a critical third-down tackle of John Riggins by Larry Cole, Staubach throws two touchdowns in the final 2:20 and completes the comeback with a score to Hill with :39 remaining.

   7. at Cowboys 24, Redskins 23 (11.29.74) - All but eliminated from the playoffs, the Cowboys trail 16-3 and are suddenly without an injured Staubach on a bleak Thanksgiving at Texas Stadium. Enter Abilene Christian rookie Clint Longley, making his first regular-season appearance in an NFL game. Down six points with :28 remaining, he finds an inexplicably wide-open Drew Pearson for a 50-yard touchdown that literally nobody saw coming.

   6. at Cowboys 27, Giants 26 (9.13.15) - Can't get much more desperate than trailing by three, out of timeouts and your opponent at your 1-yard line with 1:43 remaining. The Giants deliver a huge assist by stopping the clock with a third-down pass, and settling for a field goal and a 26-20 lead. But the Cowboys - without a timeout or spike or injured Dez Bryant - drive 72 yards in six plays and win when Tony Romo (after corralling a bad, bouncing shotgun snap) finds Jason Witten at the goal line with :07. It's the latest game-winning touchdown pass in franchise history.

   5. Cowboys 30, at 49ers 28 (12.23.72) - This playoff game at Candlestick Park is the unveiling of Captain America. The Cowboys trail 28-13 after three quarters (it could be worse had San Francisco not missed two field goals inside of 40 yards), prompting head coach Tom Landry to replace veteran quarterback Craig Morton with Staubach. He responds with two late touchdown passes in a span of :43, sandwiched around an onside-kick recovered by Mel Renfro. Staubach sets up the final score with a 21-yard scramble and hits Ron Sellers with a 10-yard post pass for the unlikely game winner.

   4. Cowboys 25, at Bills 24 (10.8.07) - The first MNF game in Buffalo in 13 years is impossibly unscripted. The Cowboys trail 24-13 entering the 4th quarter because of six Romo turnovers (1 fumble and 5 interceptions, 2 returned for touchdowns). Romo hits Patrick Crayton for a short touchdown, but Terrell Owens is stripped of a 2-point conversion pass to leave Dallas trailing 24-22 with :20 remaining. After a carom off of Sam Hurd, Cowboys’ tight end Tony Curtis then recovers the onside kick. Rookie Nick Folk boots a 53-yard field goal at the gun for a dramatic win, only to have Buffalo call the last-millisecond timeout. But on the second attempt, Folk is good again. Nine points in :20 will get any heartbeat racing.

   3. at Cowboys 21, Eagles 20 (9.15.97) - Inarguably the luckiest win in team history, Dallas survives when Philadelphia holder Tom Hutton bobbles the snap and aborts what would have been Chris Boniol's chip-shot, game-winning field from the 12-yard line with :04 remaining.

   2. Cowboys 20, at Raiders 17 (12.17.17) - It isn't just the three Raiders' negated touchdowns and the fake punt and the dropped interception by Anthony Brown and the 55-yard interference penalty and the dramatic, folded-card first down. The thing that makes Sunday night so dazzling is that even after all those wacky plays the Cowboys need Derek Carr to fumble into - and out of - the end zone to survive.

   1. Cowboys 17, at Vikings 14 (12.28.75) - Staubach's "Hail Mary" 50-yard touchdown pass to Pearson with :24 remaining won the game, but it was only possible after an improbable series of events in the epic playoff game. Leading, 14-10, with 2:00 remaining the Vikings seemed destined to run out the clock at midfield but instead attempt a pass on 3rd-and-2 and fail when Charlie Waters sacks Fran Tarkenton. The ensuing punt leaves Dallas at its 15 with 1:51 remaining. At that point, Pearson had not caught a pass in the game. On a 4th-and-16, Pearson leaps and catches Staubach's 25-yard pass on the sideline, his feet clearly landing out of bounds. However, in 1975 there is a "force out" rule in play, which gives an automatic reception to any receiver who is shoved out of bounds while his feet are in the air. In today's NFL, the Hail Mary would have never even had a chance to be thrown. Two plays later Pearson catches history. He punctuates the touchdown by throwing the ball over the scoreboard, out of the stadium and into the parking lot. The ball - one of the most iconic plays in NFL history - has never been accounted for.


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