NFL Nation: Bob Lilly

Roger Staubach and Drew PearsonAP Photo/Bill Kostroum
Score: Cowboys 17, Vikings 14
Date: Dec. 28, 1975 Site: Metropolitan Stadium

With nearly 40,000 votes cast, Roger Staubach’s Hail Mary pass to Drew Pearson was voted as the most memorable play in Dallas Cowboys' history by the ESPN.com readers.

Troy Aikman’s fourth-quarter pass to Alvin Harper in the 1992 NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers that set in motion the 1990s dynasty finished second. Bob Lilly's sack of Bob Griese in Super Bowl VI was a distant third even if it propelled the Cowboys to their first championship.

SportsNation

Which is the most memorable play in Cowboys' history?

  •  
    57%
  •  
    36%
  •  
    7%

Discuss (Total votes: 38,414)

The voters got this one right. Staubach is the most iconic player in franchise history, and that play is frozen in time. It was one of the most iconic plays in NFL history and introduced “Hail Mary,” into the league’s lexicon. You cannot write the history of the NFL without that play.

To recap the play: With time running out in a 1975 divisional playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings, the Cowboys had the ball at midfield and needed a miracle. They had dominated statistically, but the Vikings had a 14-10 lead.

Staubach pumped to his left after taking the shotgun snap, in hopes of moving safety Paul Krause away from the sideline. As he pumped, Staubach said he nearly lost the ball and as a result the pass was underthrown.

Subsequently, Pearson had to pull up and either knocked Nate Wright down (Minnesota's version) or made an excellent adjustment to the ball (Dallas' version) to score the winning touchdown, pinning the ball against his right hip.

Some of you wondered why Tony Dorsett's 99-yard run, Emmitt Smith's carry in which he broke Walter Payton’s rushing record or his stiff-arm of Lawrence Taylor playing with a separated shoulder, Clint Longley's Thanksgiving Day heave against the Redskins or even Leon Lett's miscue in Super Bowl XXVII didn’t make the list.

Two of my personal favorites: Marion Barber’s run out of the end zone against the New England Patriots breaking seven tackles and Tony Romo's first-down scramble vs. the St. Louis Rams after a shotgun snap sailed over his head didn’t make the list either.

There needed to be some historic value to the play. The Hail Mary had that, so did Aikman-to-Harper and Lilly’s sack.

But there’s no question which play had the most value.

Storied pasts loom over Cowboys, Packers

December, 13, 2013
12/13/13
8:00
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- As the Cowboys walk to the team meeting room every day, they are met with pictures of Dallas' five Super Bowl winners. Each collage has a team photo and pictures of smiling players, coaches and executives from winning NFL championships.

At Lambeau Field, the photos from the great moments in Packers history line the wall from the tunnel to the locker room. When the stadium was renovated years ago, they took a row of old bricks and moved it to the new tunnel so players can say they walk over the same ground as the greats who played at Lambeau Field.

With a loss Sunday, though, either team will need even more help to just make the postseason.

[+] EnlargeTony Romo and Aaron Rodgers
AP Photo/David StlukaCowboys QB Tony Romo, right, and Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers know the burden that comes with playing for franchises trying to recapture past glory.
Like the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Francisco 49ers, the Cowboys are constantly chasing ghosts from past teams.

The Packers and Cowboys have combined for 18 NFL championships (Green Bay 13, Dallas five) and nine Super Bowls (Green Bay four, Dallas five). They produced one of the NFL’s iconic games -- the Ice Bowl -- in the 1967 NFC Championship. They were coached by legends in Tom Landry and Vince Lombardi. They rekindled the rivalry in the 1990s, meeting in the playoffs from 1993 to 1995.

The current teams carry something of a burden with them because of the successful pasts.

“We always look at it as a sense of pride and energy to tap into,” Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said. “We think it’s very important to have that and recognize it and honor it, so I always refer to it as there’s pride in the bricks of Lambeau Field and it’s something we need to tap into. We talk to our current team about it and how important it is to win and represent the Green Bay Packers the right way.”

Jason Garrett does not talk about the expectations laid out from the likes of Roger Staubach, Bob Lilly, Tony Dorsett, Randy White, Mel Renfro, Michael Irvin, Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith. He talks about the standard those players and teams set.

“You want to be in a place where there’s a high standard for achievement,” Garrett said. “I think that’s a good thing. That brings the best out in people. What we try to do each and every day is be our best. Come to work as players and coaches and put our best foot forward and get ready for our challenges each week and again, embrace the past. That’s a good thing. ... That drives us. That’s part of what drives us to achieve, really, each and every day, and certainly each season.”

Tony Romo is constantly measured against Staubach and Aikman. Aaron Rodgers is measured against Bart Starr and Brett Favre, but he has the Super Bowl ring that Romo is still looking for, having beaten the Steelers at AT&T Stadium in Super Bowl XLV.

Rodgers has 23 teammates on the roster with a Super Bowl ring.

Romo hopes one day to have his own, so he and his teammates can have their pictures on the wall holding the Lombardi Trophy.

“You want to be a part of a storied franchise,” Romo said. “It just makes it important. You want a challenge. You want it to matter, and you want it to be important. That’s what’s great about this organization and great about our fans.”

Best Cowboys Team Ever: 1993

June, 22, 2010
6/22/10
11:00
AM ET
Notable players: QB Troy Aikman, RB Emmitt Smith, FB Daryl Johnston, WR Michael Irvin, G Nate Newton, C Mark Stepnoski, OT Erik Williams, TE Jay Novacek, DT Russell Maryland, LB Ken Norton, DE Charles Haley

Emmitt Smith
Tim Roberts/AFP/Getty ImagesEmmitt Smith held out to start the season, but once he returned, it all came together for the Cowboys.
Analysis: I could make the argument that the ’94 team that lost to the 49ers in the NFC title game was the best, but I’ll save that one for another day. In ’93, Jimmy Johnson and the Cowboys had an enormous target on their backs and the team began the season with Smith in a holdout. Disgusted by an 0-2 start without Smith, Jerry Jones quickly signed the running back to a new contract. The Cowboys ran off seven straight wins and finished the season 12-4.

Dallas sent 11 players to the Pro Bowl after the season, and they could’ve had a few more on defense. If not for Smith’s holdout, this was the type of team that may have made a run at a perfect season. The Triplets were unstoppable, and the Cowboys had perhaps the best offensive line in the league. The Roger Staubach teams of the '70s were formidable, but I just don’t think they were as deep as Johnson’s teams of the early '90s.

The Doomsday defense from the late '70s trumps the defense from the early '90s, but the Triplets surpassed what Staubach, Tony Dorsett and Drew Pearson accomplished.

Most impressive win: It’s too easy to say the Super Bowl, so give me the overtime victory in the Meadowlands over the Giants to end the regular season. The win gave the Cowboys the division title and a wild-card bye week. In that 16-13 win, Smith had one of the best individual efforts in club history. Playing with a separated shoulder, he rushed for 168 yards and caught 10 passes.

Best player: How can you not go with the guy who won the NFL’s MVP award, the Super Bowl MVP and the rushing title in the same season? Let’s go with Emmitt.

Honorable mention

1977: The Super Bowl champions were dominant on both sides of the ball. Dallas began the season 8-0. The Broncos didn’t belong on same field in the Super Bowl. Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Harvey Martin and Randy “Manster” White put the “Doom” in Doomsday.

1992: You almost forget how Jimmy Johnson could send waves of pass-rushers at quarterbacks. Tony Tolbert had more sacks than Haley in ’92. And Maryland and Leon Lett were just beginning to figure things out. The collection of talent was remarkable. The Triplets truly began to impose their will on opponents.

1971: Some of the great defensive players from the early days -- Bob Lilly, Chuck Howley, Lee Roy Jordan -- finally got their championship. The offense scored 29 points per game and the Cowboys won by an average of 13.1 points per game.

Saying goodbye to Texas Stadium

December, 18, 2008
12/18/08
11:47
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

No matter where you stand on the Dallas Cowboys, you have to admit that Texas Stadium is one of the most iconic venues in all of sports. From an aerial view, it's hard to distinguish the NFL's new state-of-the-art facilities, but the hole-in-the-roof has provided an enduring image for Cowboys fans and haters. On Wednesday, the NFC Beast stopped by Valley Ranch and talked to former and current players about what Texas Stadium has meant to them. Former running back Calvin Hill, who now works in player development for the Cowboys, was in his third year with the club when the new stadium opened in 1971. Wide receiver Roy Williams played at Odessa Permian (Texas) High School and remembers his first high school playoff game in the famous stadium.

Calvin Hill, RB, 1969-74
"I'd torn my knee up in the last game at the Cotton Bowl. I figured I'd be allowed to watch [the first game in Texas Stadium] from a box upstairs, but they didn't let me. They said I could sit in the stands with my wife. I spent the game driving around Denton, and I was pissed. The first time we practiced in there, I just remember it being so pristine. It was like an opera house. I remember Bob Lilly saying to one of the coaches, 'Can we spit in here?'" When it rained, we'd go over to Texas Stadium to practice because we didn't want to mess up the practice field. I remember looking up in the stands and seeing Tex [Schramm] and Gil [Brandt] sitting out of the rain. Lilly kept talking about how stupid we were to be out in the rain while those guys were sitting up there enjoying themselves. I put a lot of sweat equity in that building. I hurt my knee in my last game there and I remember dislocating my elbow. At the time, I think we wanted a building that rivaled the Astrodome, which was called "The Eighth Wonder of the World." There were rumors that [ownership] had run out of money, and that's why we had that hole in the roof. At one point, they were having a little trouble moving the [luxury] boxes and they gave me the chance to have one in lieu of the $50,000 signing bonus they owed me. I didn't take them up on that offer. I remember coming in after one game at Texas Stadium and LBJ was standing in the locker room. The one thing I recall is thinking, 'I had no clue his hair was so white.'" Like a lot of presidents, he'd aged a tremendous amount in a relatively short period of time."

Roy Williams, WR, 2008-present
"
Playing there in high school meant a lot to me. Seeing those name tags above your locker made you feel like a Dallas Cowboy. I remember scoring a touchdown. I ran down the left sideline and then around the goal post to the other side of the field. I didn't want to stop running. I just wanted to stay out there forever. And I still have that name tag at home."

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Roster Advisor

NFL SCOREBOARD

Thursday, 12/18
Saturday, 12/20
Sunday, 12/21
Monday, 12/22
WEEKLY LEADERS