1978 Dallas Cowboys season

1978 Dallas Cowboys season
Head coach Tom Landry
General manager Tex Schramm
Owner Clint Murchison, Jr.
Home field Texas Stadium
Record 12–4
Division place 1st NFC East
Playoff finish Lost Super Bowl XIII (Steelers)

The 1978 Dallas Cowboys season was their 19th in the NFL. For the third consecutive season, the Cowboys finished in first place in the NFC East. The Cowboys scored 384 points, which ranked first in the NFC, while the defense only gave up 208 points. Twice, the Cowboys appeared on Monday Night Football.

The Cowboys became the first franchise to appear in five Super Bowls. With their loss to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XIII, they also became the first team to lose a Super Bowl after having won it the previous year.

NFL Draft

Pick # NFL Team Player Position College
28Dallas CowboysLarry BetheaDefensive endMichigan State

Regular season

The defending Super Bowl champions were again led by quarterback Roger Staubach. Staubach finished the season as the top rated passer in the NFL (84.9) by throwing 231 out of 413 completions for 3,190 yards and 25 touchdowns, with 16 interceptions. He also rushed for 182 yards and another touchdown. Wide receivers Drew Pearson and Tony Hill provided the deep passing threats, combining for 90 receptions, 537 yards, and 7 touchdowns. Tight end Billy Joe Dupree contributed 34 receptions for 509 yards and 9 touchdowns. Running back Tony Dorsett had another fine season, recording a total of 1703 combined rushing and receiving yards, and scoring a total of 9 touchdowns. Fullback Robert Newhouse and halfback Preston Pearson also contributed from the offensive backfield, combining for 1,326 rushing and receiving yards, while Newhouse also scored 10 touchdowns. The Cowboys also had a superb offensive line, led by Herbert Scott and 12-time Pro Bowler Rayfield Wright

The Cowboys' "Doomsday Defense" finished the season as the top-ranked defense in the league against the run by only allowing 107.6 yards per game. Pro Bowl linemen Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Harvey Martin and Randy White anchored the line, while linebackers Bob Breunig, D. D. Lewis and Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson provided solid support. Their secondary, led by safeties Cliff Harris and Charlie Waters, along with cornerbacks Benny Barnes and Aaron Kyle, combined for 16 interceptions.

The Cowboys started the regular season slowly, winning only six of their first ten games. Both the offense and the defense played ineffectively, including giving up interceptions and fumbles. Dallas finished strong, winning their last six regular season games to post a 12–4 record.

In the aftermath of the season, NFL Films produced its annual highlight reel as it does for every NFL team. Notable of the highlight reel was the title, "America's Team". It would come to be a label that would define the Dallas Cowboys for the rest of their history. However, the label is most remembered for the Cowboys of this era, appearing in three Super Bowls in four years and claiming a unique spotlight in the American consciousness.


Week Date Opponent Result Attendance
1 September 4, 1978 Baltimore Colts W 38–0
2 September 10, 1978 at New York Giants W 34–24
3 September 17, 1978 at Los Angeles Rams L 27–14
4 September 24, 1978 St. Louis Cardinals W 21–12
5 October 2, 1978 at Washington Redskins L 9–5
6 October 8, 1978 New York Giants W 24–3
7 October 15, 1978 at St. Louis Cardinals W 24–21
8 October 22, 1978 Philadelphia Eagles W 14–7
9 October 26, 1978 Minnesota Vikings L 21–10
10 November 5, 1978 at Miami Dolphins L 23–16
11 November 12, 1978 at Green Bay Packers W 42–14
12 November 19, 1978 New Orleans Saints W 27–7
13 November 23, 1978 Washington Redskins W 37–10
14 December 3, 1978 New England Patriots W 17–10
15 December 10, 1978 at Philadelphia Eagles W 31–13
16 December 17, 1978 at New York Jets W 30–7

Game notes

Week 1

1 234Total
Colts(0-1) 0 000 0
Cowboys(1-0) 0 21143 38
  • Date: September 4
  • Location: Texas Stadium, Irving, Texas
  • Game start: 8:00 p.m.(ET)
  • Game attendance: 64,224
  • Game weather: 87°F, wind 8
  • TV announcers (ABC): Frank Gifford, Howard Cosell, and Don Meredith


Week 2

1 234Total
Cowboys (2-0) 7 1467 34
Giants (1-1) 0 7107 24
  • Date: September 10
  • Location: Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey
  • Game start: 1:00 p.m. EST
  • Game attendance: 73,265
  • Game weather: 61°F, wind 14 mph
  • TV announcers (CBS): Don Criqui, Tom Brookshier, and Sonny Jurgensen

Week 3

Dallas Cowboys 14 at Los Angeles Rams 27
1 2 34Total
Cowboys (2-1) 0 7 0714
Rams (3-0) 7 7 01327

at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

  • Date: Sunday, September 17, 1978
  • Game time: 4:00pm(ET)
  • Game weather: 67 degrees, relative humidity 77%, wind 10 mph
  • Game attendance: 65,749
  • TV announcers (CBS): Pat Summerall and Tom Brookshier
  • Pro-Football-Reference.com

Week 4

St. Louis Cardinals 12 at Dallas Cowboys 21
1 2 34Total
Cardinals (0-4) 7 3 2012
Cowboys (3-1) 0 7 01421

at Texas Stadium

  • Date: Sunday, September 24, 1978
  • Game time: 4:00pm(ET)
  • Game weather: 76 degrees, relative humidity 70%, wind 5 mph
  • Game attendance: 62,760
  • TV announcers (CBS): Pat Summerall and Tom Brookshier
  • Pro-Football-Reference.com

Week 5

Dallas Cowboys 5 at Washington Redskins 9
1 2 34Total
Cowboys (3-2) 0 0 325
Redskins (5-0) 3 3 309

at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium

  • Date: Monday, October 2, 1978
  • Game time: 9:00pm(ET)
  • Game weather: 68 degrees, relative humidity 58%, wind 13 mph
  • Game attendance: 55,031
  • Referee: Gene Barth
  • TV announcers (ABC): Frank Gifford, Howard Cosell, and Don Meredith
  • Pro-Football-Reference.com

Week 6

1 234Total
Giants(3-3) 0 300 3
Cowboys(4-2) 7 773 24
  • Date: October 8
  • Location: Texas Stadium, Irving, Texas
  • Game start: 1:00 p.m.
  • Game weather: 69°F • Wind 10
  • TV announcers (CBS): Pat Summerall and Tom Brookshier


Week 7

Dallas Cowboys 24 at St. Louis Cardinals 21
1 2 34OTTotal
Cowboys (5-2) 0 7 140324
Cardinals (0-7) 7 7 07021

at Busch Stadium

  • Date: Sunday, October 15, 1978
  • Game time: 2:00pm(ET)
  • Game weather: 48 degrees, relative humidity 67%, wind 11 mph
  • Game attendance: 48,991
  • TV announcers (CBS): Lindsey Nelson and Paul Hornung
  • Pro-Football-Reference.com

Week 8

Philadelphia Eagles 7 at Dallas Cowboys 14
1 2 34Total
Eagles (4-4) 0 0 707
Cowboys (6-2) 0 14 0014

at Texas Stadium

  • Date: Sunday, October 22, 1978
  • Game time: 2:00pm(ET)
  • Game weather: 76 degrees, relative humidity 51%, wind 14 mph
  • Game attendance: 60,525
  • Pro-Football-Reference.com

Week 9

Minnesota Vikings 21 at Dallas Cowboys 10
1 2 34Total
Vikings (5-4) 14 7 0021
Cowboys (6-3) 0 3 7010

at Texas Stadium

  • Date: Thursday, October 26, 1978
  • Game time: 8:30pm(ET)
  • Game weather: 61 degrees, relative humidity 58%, wind 11 mph
  • Game attendance: 61,848
  • TV announcers (ABC): Frank Gifford, Howard Cosell and Don Meredith
  • Pro-Football-Reference.com

Week 10

Dallas Cowboys 16 at Miami Dolphins 23
1 2 34Total
Cowboys (6-4) 0 3 6716
Dolphins (7-3) 17 3 0323

at Orange Bowl

Week 11

Dallas Cowboys 42 at Green Bay Packers 14
1 2 34Total
Cowboys (7-4) 7 14 14742
Packers (7-4) 7 0 0714

at Milwaukee County Stadium

  • Date: Sunday, November 12, 1978
  • Game time: 4:00pm(ET)
  • Game weather: 31 °F (−1 °C), humidity 73%, wind 14 mph, wind chill 21 °F (−6 °C)
  • Game attendance: 55,256
  • Pro-Football-Reference.com
Team Stats Dal GNB
First downs 32 9
Rush-yards-TDs 58-313-4 17-66-1
Net pass yards 224 76
Comp-Att-Yd-TD-INT 21-34-234-2-0 7-26-88-1-2
Sacked-yards 2-10 3-12
Total yards 537 142
Turnovers 2 3
Penalties-yards 9-80 6-41

Week 12

1 234Total
Saints(5-7) 7 000 7
Cowboys(8-4) 0 1476 27

Week 13

Washington Redskins 10 at Dallas Cowboys 37
1 2 34Total
Redskins (8-5) 0 0 3710
Cowboys (9-4) 13 7 10737

at Texas Stadium

  • Date: Thursday, November 23, 1978
  • Game time: 3:30pm(ET)
  • Game weather: 61 degrees, relative humidity 88%, wind 7 mph
  • TV announcers (CBS): Pat Summerall and Tom Brookshier
  • Pro-Football-Reference.com

Week 14

New England Patriots 10 at Dallas Cowboys 17
1 2 34Total
Patriots (10-4) 7 3 0010
Cowboys (10-4) 3 0 7717

at Texas Stadium

  • Date: Sunday, December 3, 1978
  • Game time: 4:00pm(ET)
  • Game weather: 48 degrees, relative humidity 70%, wind 16 mph
  • TV announcers (NBC): Dick Enberg and Merlin Olsen
  • Pro-Football-Reference.com

Week 15

Dallas Cowboys 31 at Philadelphia Eagles 13
1 2 34Total
Cowboys (11-4) 14 0 10731
Eagles (8-7) 7 0 0613

at Veterans Stadium

  • Date: Sunday, December 10, 1978
  • Game time: 1:00pm(ET)
  • Game weather: 31 degrees, relative humidity 51%, wind 18 mph, wind chill 19
  • Pro-Football-Reference.com

Week 16

1 234Total
Cowboys (12-4) 7 3137 30
Jets(8-8) 0 007 7
  • Date: December 17
  • Location: Shea StadiumFlushing, New York
  • Game start: 1:00 p.m. EST
  • Game weather: 43°F, wind 23 mph
  • TV announcers (CBS): Frank Glieber and Tom Matte



NFC East
Dallas Cowboys(2) 12 4 0 .750 7–1 9–3 384 208 W6
Philadelphia Eagles(5) 9 7 0 .563 4–4 6–6 270 250 W1
Washington Redskins 8 8 0 .500 4–4 6–6 273 283 L5
St. Louis Cardinals 6 10 0 .375 3–5 6–6 248 296 W1
New York Giants 6 10 0 .375 2–6 5–9 264 298 L1


Dallas Cowboys 1978 roster

Running Backs

Wide Receivers

Tight Ends

Offensive Linemen

Defensive Linemen


Defensive Backs

Special Teams

Reserve Lists

Rookies in italics
45 Active, 2 Inactive


NFC Divisional Playoff

Dallas Cowboys 27, Atlanta Falcons 20
1 2 34Total
Falcons 7 13 0020
Cowboys 10 3 7727

at Texas Stadium, Irving, Texas

Dallas' "Doomsday Defense" limited Atlanta quarterback Steve Bartkowski to only 8 completions in 23 attempts and intercepted him 3 times en route to victory. After the Falcons led 20–13 at halftime, the Cowboys scored 14 unanswered points in the second half.

NFC Championship Game

Dallas Cowboys 28, Los Angeles Rams 0
1 2 34Total
Cowboys (12-5) 0 0 72128
Rams (12-5) 0 0 000

at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles

There was a lot of bad blood between the Dallas Cowboys and the LA Rams prior to their 78' NFC Championship contest. Along with the Vikings in the 70's, the Cowboys also had a recent history of eliminating the seemingly Super Bowl bound LA Rams from the playoffs, which only further consigned the Rams to always being just, "next years champions". So when the undefeated Super Bowl champs Dallas Cowboys came to play the undefeated (2-0) LA Rams in Anaheim, California. during week 3 of the regular season, the Rams wanted their victory to make a statement not only to the Dallas Cowboys, but to the rest of the league as well, "That the 1978 season was definitely, the year of the Rams!".

The week 3 contest was a hard fought, early season match-up between the two hated rivals, with the Rams jumping ahead by a touch down twice in the game, only to have the Cowboys come back to even up the score. With the score tied at 14-14 in the 4th quarter, Pat Haden connected with Willie Miller for a 43-yard TD reception, making the score 20-14, with an easy extra point kick to follow. However, after Rams kicker (Frank Corral) missed the extra point, the score remained 20-14, leaving the Rams and their fans, desperately holding on to a 6-point lead in the fourth quarter, against a Cowboy team well known for winning close games in the final minutes.

Unfortunately, for the Cowboys and their fans, Rams (DB) Rod Perry would prevent the Cowboys from celebrating another miraculous come back victory by intercepting a Staubach pass and returning it for a 43-yard TD. The tens of thousands of cheering fans were deafening, during and after, Rod Perry's interception touchdown return that cemented a 27-14 Rams victory over the most hated and successful of their playoff rivals. But, it was LA's immediate reaction to Rod Perry's 4th quarter play that had grown into a celebration so intensely loud, wild and unyielding, it boarded on taunting and flaunting their victory in the face of the Cowboys by both the Rams fans and the players. In a rare display of anger and frustration, Staubach was seen pointing his finger at a few Rams players while telling them that the Cowboys will "get them" the next time they meet each other, in reaction to the over exuberant celebrating Rams players.

Well, as expected, both teams did eventually meet each other again, and as luck would have it, they met later that same season in the NFC Championship match. Both teams entered the game with a 12-4 regular season record. Both teams dominated their first round playoff opponents, which included a Rams 34-10 blowout victory at home over their other long time playoff nemesis, the Minnesota Vikings. And now, because of that much celebrated LA victory over Dallas in week three, the Cowboys had to play the Rams for the NFC Championship in Anaheim, California, to even get the chance to defend their Super Bowl title in Miami against the Steelers, who had already won the AFC Championship against the Houston Oilers earlier that same day. But, as far as the Rams and their fans were concerned, the Cowboys would never get that chance because this was definitely going to be the year the Rams finally got over the hump, and became "this years champions".

Now, the stage was set for an emotionally charged, thrilling, epic NFC Championship contest, and fueling the already intensely high emotional flames was non-other than the mouth of the south himself, Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson. The national, and international, sports media had descended on Thomas Henderson like a flock of buzzards auditioning for a Hitchcock movie the day after the Cowboys 27-20 playoff victory over the Falcons. And, Thomas was more than eager to feed them some controversial meat to chew on for the week. Thomas began the week by suggesting that the reason the Rams never went to a Super Bowl, despite their many playoff appearances over the past two decades, was because they had very little to no class as a team and organization. And, that the Rams are a team of chokers, and, that the Rams were going to choke again in the upcoming game. Henderson's comments about the Rams choking in the playoffs would be repeated by Henderson just before scoring the final touch down that left millions of Cowboy fans, and critics alike, shaking their heads in both amusement and amazement by the end of the game.

The much anticipated NFC Championship game began as a scoreless defensive struggle for nearly three quarters of play, which included Rams kicker Frank Corral missing two field goal attempts in the first half. However, the Cowboys would eventually break the 0-0 tie by forcing 5 second half turnovers that would lead to a 28-point victory, and a return to the Super Bowl. With 1:52 left in the third quarter, it all began to go horribly wrong for the Rams when Dallas safety Charlie Waters intercepted a pass and returned it to the Los Angeles 10-yard line. Five plays later, running back Tony Dorsett, who finished the game with 101 rushing yards, scored on a 5-yard touchdown run to give the Cowboys a 7–0 lead. Waters then recorded another interception on the Rams next drive, setting up quarterback Roger Staubach's 4-yard touchdown pass to Scott Laidlaw with 58 seconds into the final period. On Waters' second interception, Pat Haden's throwing hand hit Randy White's helmet, breaking his thumb and knocking him out of the game. On the Rams' next drive, Vince Ferragamo, Haden's replacement, hit Willie Miller on a 65-yard pass to the 10-yard line, but on first and goal Cullen Bryant fumbled, and Cowboys defensive end Harvey Martin recovered at the 11-yard line. Dallas then marched 89 yards, featuring a 53-yard run on first down by Tony Dorsett to score on Billy Joe Dupree's 11-yard touchdown catch.

With a comfortable 21-0 lead by the Cowboys late in the 4th quarter, and the Rams now going nowhere with their backup quarterback, the CBS cameras panned over to Thomas Henderson standing on the sideline with the microphone on. Seizing the opportunity, Thomas told the several million viewers, "It's 21-0, the Rams are choking, and I ain't through yet." On the next Rams possession, Thomas Henderson intercepted a Ferragamo pass with 1:19 left in the game and returned it 68-yards for the final touchdown. While the touchdown interception return, and prior comments may have impressed millions of viewers, it was Henderson's celebratory football finger roll over the goal post that angered many others. Henderson's TD celebration was later deemed by the media as, "Adding Insult to Injury", which amused Henderson, the Cowboys, and their millions of fans but, also increased the huge division between the people who were Cowboys fans and the people who were Cowboys haters. In the end, all of this 'controversy' only served to accelerate Thomas Henderson's already skyrocketing "Hollywood" persona into that of a pop-cultural phenomenon. Thomas Henderson was later featured on the cover of Time Magazine just prior to the Super Bowl, and NBC described Henderson as the "Muhammad Ali of the NFL" during the pre-game player introductions for Super Bowl XIII. While ABC-TV decided to jump on the "Hollywood" Henderson band wagon by inviting him to compete on their very popular annual Superstars competition immediately following the 28-0 victory over the Rams. Now that's what you might call adding insult to injury.

Super Bowl XIII

Dallas Cowboys 31, Pittsburgh Steelers 35
1 2 34Total
Steelers (AFC) 7 14 01435
Cowboys (NFC) 7 7 31431

at Orange Bowl, Miami, Florida

Super Bowl XIII can arguably be called the greatest collection of NFL talent ever to gather for a game. In additions to Coaches Noll and Landry, 14 players would go on to enshrinement in the Hall of Fame: 9 from Pittsburgh (Bradshaw, Harris, Swann, Stallworth, Webster, Greene, Lambert, Ham, and Blount), and 5 from Dallas (Staubach, Dorsett, White, Wright, and Jackie Smith).

Much of the pregame hype surrounding Super Bowl XIII centered around Cowboys linebacker Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson. Henderson caused quite a stir before the NFC Championship Game by claiming that the Rams had "no class" and the Cowboys would shut them out. His prediction turned out to be very accurate; the Cowboys did shut them out, aided by Henderson's 68-yard interception return for a touchdown.

In the days leading up the Super Bowl, Henderson began talking about the Steelers in the same manner. He predicted another shutout and then made unfriendly comments about several Pittsburgh players. He put down the talent and the intelligence of Bradshaw, proclaiming "Bradshaw couldn't spell 'cat' if you spotted him the 'c' and the 'a'". But the Steelers refused to get into a war of words with Henderson. Greene responded by saying the Steelers didn't need to say they were the best, they would just go out on the field and "get the job done".

Awards and records



The Football Encyclopedia ISBN 0-312-11435-4
Total Football ISBN 0-06-270170-3
Cowboys Have Always Been My Heroes ISBN 0-446-51950-2


External links

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