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1971 Dallas Cowboys season

Updated: 2017-07-20T22:56Z
1971 Dallas Cowboys season
Head coachTom Landry
General managerTex Schramm
OwnerClint Murchison, Jr.
Home fieldCotton Bowl
Texas Stadium
Division place1st NFC East
Playoff finishWon Divisional Playoffs (Vikings) 20–12
Won Conference Championship (49ers) 14–3
Won Super Bowl VI (Dolphins) 24–3

The 1971 Dallas Cowboys season was the team's 12th in the National Football League and the first at the new Texas Stadium in suburban Irving, Texas. The club led the NFL with 406 points scored. Their defense allowed 222 points.

For the sixth consecutive season, the Cowboys had a first-place finish. They won their second-consecutive NFC championship, then defeated the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VI to capture their first Super Bowl championship. They were the first team from the NFC to win a Super Bowl since the 1970 merger of the National Football League and the American Football League, and subsequently, the first team from the NFC East division to win the title.



The 1971 NFL Draft was one of the worst in the history of the franchise, although the Cowboys recovered draft choices by trading Tody Smith and Ike Thomas to other teams.

1971 Dallas Cowboys draft
125Tody Smith DEUSC
251Ike Thomas DBBishop
369Sam Scarber RBNew Mexico
377Bill Gregory DTWisconsin
480Joe Carter TEGrambling State
4103Adam Mitchell OTOle Miss
5129Ron Kadziel LBStanford
6155Steve Maier WRNorthern Arizona
7181Bill Griffin OTCatawba
8206Ron Jessie WRKansas
9233Honor Jackson DBPacific
10259Rodney Wallace OTNew Mexico
11285Ernest Bonwell DTLane
12311Steve Goepel QBColgate
13337James Ford RBTexas Southern
14363Tyrone Couey DBUtah State
15389Bob Young TEDelaware
16415John Brennan OTBoston College
17440John Bomer CMemphis
      Made roster    †   Pro Football Hall of Fame    *   Made at least one Pro Bowl during career


Season recap

The Cowboys opened the new Texas Stadium with a 44–21 win over the New England Patriots on Oct. 24. Duane Thomas scored the first touchdown, a 56-yard run two minutes and 16 seconds after the start of the game. Attendance was 65,708 persons.

The team entered the season still having the reputation of "not being able to win the big games" and "next year's champion". The Super Bowl V loss added more fuel to that widely held view. As in the previous season, Dallas had a quarterback controversy as Roger Staubach and Craig Morton alternated as starting quarterback (in a loss to the Bears in game 7, Morton and Staubach alternated plays).[2] The Cowboys were 4–3 at the season midpoint. But after head coach Tom Landry settled on Staubach, the Cowboys won their last seven regular season games to finish with an 11–3 record.

Cowboys' running back Duane Thomas rushing the ball for a touchdown in Super Bowl VI.

Staubach finished the regular season as the NFL's top rated passer (101.8) by throwing for 1,882 yards, 15 touchdowns, and only 4 interceptions. He was also a terrific rusher, gaining 343 yards and 2 touchdowns on 41 carries. Said Cold Hard Football Facts of Staubach's 1971 season, "Staubach finally out-jockeyed Craig Morton for the starting gig with the Cowboys in 1971 and instantly produced one of the greatest passing seasons in history. The numbers are not big and gaudy, but they were ruthlessly efficient –- the 104.8 passer rating truly amazing in a season in which the average rating was 62.2. His 8.9 [yards-per-attempt] in the regular season is phenomenal in any era of the NFL, as was his 18 [touchdowns] against a meager 4 [interceptions] (including postseason). The Cowboys did not lose a single one of Staubach's 13 starts in 1971 and –- most impressively –- he lifted the proverbial "team that couldn't win the big game" to its long-awaited first NFL championship.[...]"[3]

Dallas also had an outstanding trio of running backs, Walt Garrison, Duane Thomas, and Calvin Hill, who rushed for a combined total of 1,690 yards and 14 touchdowns during the season. Garrison led the team in receptions during the season. (Thomas, upset that the Cowboys would not renegotiate his contract after his excellent rookie year, had stopped talking to the press and to almost everyone on the team). Wide Receivers Bob Hayes and Lance Alworth also provided a deep threat, catching a combined total of 69 passes for 1,327 yards and 10 touchdowns. The offensive line, anchored by all-pro tackle Rayfield Wright, Pro Bowlers John Niland and Ralph Neely, and #64 Tony Liscio who was coaxed out of retirement by Tom Landry after Ralph Neely got injured off the field, was also a primary reason for their success on offense. (Neely had broken his leg in November in a dirt-bike accident, and was replaced first by Gregg and then by Tony Liscio, who came out of retirement.)

The Dallas defense (nicknamed the "Doomsday Defense") had given up only one touchdown in the last 25 quarters prior to the Super Bowl. Their defensive line was anchored by Pro Bowl defensive tackle Bob Lilly, who excelled at pressuring quarterbacks and breaking up running plays. Dallas also had an outstanding trio of linebackers: Pro Bowler Chuck Howley, who recorded 5 interceptions and returned them for 122 yards; Dave Edwards 2 interceptions; and Lee Roy Jordan, who recorded 2 interceptions. The Cowboys secondary was led by 2 future hall of fame cornerbacks Herb Adderley (6 interceptions for 182 return yards) and Mel Renfro (4 interceptions for 11 yards). Safeties Cliff Harris and Pro Bowler Cornell Green also combined for 4 interceptions.After the 1971 Bob Lilly would play in the last of his last pro bowl despite being selected after the 1972 and 1973 seasons.Lilly would also score his final career touchdown in a 42–7 smashing of The Philadelphia Eagles.Lilly would retire with the NFL record of scoring the most tds by a defensive lineman with 4.

  • September 26, 1971 – Herb Adderley became the first Cowboy to have three interceptions in one game.
  • The Cowboys earned their first win on Monday Night Football by defeating the New York Giants 20–13 which also the last game The Cowboys played in The Cotton Bowl.


WeekDateResultRecordOpponentPoints ForPoints AgainstFirst DownsAttendance
1September 19Win1–0at Buffalo Bills493719
2September 26Win2–0at Philadelphia Eagles42723
3October 3Loss2–1Washington Redskins162020
4October 11Win3–1New York Giants201321
5October 17Loss3–2at New Orleans Saints142420
6October 24Win4–2New England Patriots442120
7October 31Loss4–3at Chicago Bears192326
8November 7Win5–3at St. Louis Cardinals161320
9November 14Win6–3Philadelphia Eagles20721
10November 21Win7–3at Washington Redskins13016
11November 25Win8–3Los Angeles Rams282115
12December 4Win9–3New York Jets521026
13December 12Win10–3at New York Giants421423
14December 18Win11–3St. Louis Cardinals311218


NFC East
Dallas Cowboys1130.7867–18–3406222W7
Washington Redskins941.6926–1–18–2–1276190L1
Philadelphia Eagles671.4624–3–15–5–1221302W3
St. Louis Cardinals491.3081–72–8–1231279L2
New York Giants4100.2861–73–8228362L5

Note: Tie games were not officially counted in the standings until 1972.

Game summaries

Week 1


at War Memorial Stadium, Buffalo, New York

Week 2

• Cowboys02171442


Week 3

Week 4



Week 6



Dallas' first game at Texas Stadium.

Week 7

Week 8

• Cowboys3031016


Week 9

• Cowboys377320



NFC Divisional Playoff

Dallas Cowboys 20, Minnesota Vikings 12

at Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington, Minnesota

NFC Championship Game

Dallas Cowboys 14, San Francisco 49ers 3

at Texas Stadium, Irving, Texas

Super Bowl VI

Dallas Cowboys 24, Miami Dolphins 3

at Tulane Stadium, New Orleans, Louisiana


Dallas Cowboys 1971 roster

Running Backs

Wide Receivers

Tight Ends

Offensive Linemen

Defensive Linemen


Defensive Backs

Special Teams

Reserve Lists

Rookies in italics
45 Active, 1 Inactive

Awards and records

  • Led NFC, Fewest Rushing Yards Allowed, 1,144 yards
  • Led NFL, 401 Points Scored
  • Led NFL, 5,035 Total Yards Gained
  • Herb Adderley, Three Interceptions in One Game, Club Record
  • Roger Staubach, MVP, Super Bowl VI
  • Roger Staubach, NFL Passing Leader
  • Roger Staubach, Led NFL, 2,786 pass yards
  • Roger Staubach, Bert Bell Award[9]
  • Roger Staubach, NFC Pro Bowl
  • Roger Staubach, All-Pro Quarterback
  • Duane Thomas, NFL Touchdown Leader (13 – 11 Rushing, 2 Receiving)


  1. ^ The Football Database. Retrieved 2015-Jul-31.
  2. ^ Roger Staubach, "Super Bowl VI", Super Bowl: The Game of Their Lives, Danny Peary, editor. Macmillan, 1997. ISBN 0-02-860841-0
  3. ^ Cold Hard Football Facts: The Dandy Dozen: 12 best passing seasons in history
  4. ^ Retrieved 2014-Jun-30.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Retrieved 30-Jun-2014.
  8. ^ Retrieved 2014-Jul-01.
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-06-19. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 

External links

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