Friday, January 2, 2015

Detroit vs. Dallas in the Postseason

The Lions-Cowboys wild card game on Sunday will be the third time the two clubs have met in the postseason. Including the other major professional sports, it will be the seventh between Detroit and Dallas teams.

1970 Divisional

The Cowboys and Lions both finished 10-4 in 1970, with Dallas winning the NFC East and the Lions settling for a wild card two games behind the Vikings. Before 1975, home-field in the divisional round was rotated between divisions and not based on record, so this game was a 3-seed vs. 4-seed matchup.

On the day after Christmas at the Cotton Bowl, the Cowboys scored the game's first points on Mike Clark's field goal in the first quarter. That would be all the scoring for a while as the two quarterbacks put up the following lines:

Craig Morton (Dallas): 4-18, 38 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT
Greg Landry (Detroit): 5-12, 48 yards 0 TD, 0 INT

Dallas was stuffed on 4th-and-goal at the 1-yard line in the fourth, but that set up George Andrie's sack of Landry in the end zone for a safety and an unusual 5-0 lead. Bill Munson took over at QB for the Lions and drove them into Cowboys territory, but Mel Renfro picked him off to ice the game (1:35 mark of video below). It is one of two 5-0 games since 1940.

Here's some of the CBS postgame show, which includes highlights and a young Dick Stockton's interview with Tom Landry.

The Cowboys went on to Super Bowl V against the Colts, but lost a sloppy 11-turnover game on Jim O'Brien's last second field goal, 16-13.

After the franchise spent most of the 1980s in mediocrity (or worse), the Jimmy Johnson-Troy Aikman-Emmitt Smith-Michael Irvin Cowboys reached the postseason for the first time in 1991. They beat Chicago 17-13 in the wild card round, then traveled to Detroit, where Barry Sanders had led the Lions to a 12-4 record and a first-round bye.

The host Lions were in control from the opening drive, with Erik Kramer tossing a 31-yard touchdown pass to Willie Green. Dallas answered with a field goal and after a Mel Jenkins pick-six of Steve Beuerlein, the Cowboys could only muster another field goal and trailed 17-6 at halftime.

Kramer threw for two more scores in the third quarter, another to Green and one to Herman Moore for a 31-6 advantage. Aikman relieved Beuerlein at QB for Dallas, but it didn't matter. Sanders put the icing on the cake with a 47-yard touchdown run to make the final score 38-6.

This is still Detroit's only playoff victory since winning the NFL Championship in 1957. The Lions got thrashed 41-10 by Washington in the NFC title game. The Cowboys meanwhile, were so shaken by the defeat that they never won a playoff game again recovered to win the next two Super Bowls and three of the next four.


Coming off their first American League pennant, the Rangers won 96 games and beat the Rays 3-1 in the ALDS to advance to MLB's final four again. The AL Central champion Tigers won 95 games and outlasted the Yankees in a five-game ALDS to set up this Dallas-Detroit matchup.

A Justin Verlander/C.J. Wilson opening Game One pairing turned into a battle of the bullpens when neither starter got past the fifth inning. Relievers Mike Gonzalez, Alexi Ogando, Darren Oliver, Mike Adams and Neftali Feliz preserved a 3-2 win for Texas.

Ron Washington had to rely on his bullpen again in Game Two when Ryan Raburn's three-run homer knocked out Derek Holland in the third inning. The Rangers tied the game off Max Scherzer in the seventh on a Nelson Cruz solo shot and the game went into extra innings after both teams left the bases loaded in the ninth. Michael Young, Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli opened the bottom of the 11th with singles off Ryan Perry to load bases, setting the stage for Cruz:

It was the first (and to date, only) walk-off grand slam in postseason history.**

** Only because Robin Ventura couldn't make it around the bases in 1999 

At home in Detroit for Game Three, Victor Martinez, Jhonny Peralta and Miguel Cabrera all went deep in support of Doug Fister in a 5-2 win. Just like the second game, Game Four was tied 3-3 in the 11th until Texas rallied. Napoli's single off Jose Valverde scored Josh Hamilton to take the lead and Cruz broke it open with a three-run homer for another 7-3 victory.

Delmon Young's two homers off Wilson in Game Five extended the series for Detroit, but back in Arlington the Rangers clinched their second straight pennant emphatically. Texas tagged the Tigers for nine runs as nine straight batters reached in the bottom of the third inning of Game Six. Cruz capped his dominant series with a two-run homer in his final at bat in a 15-5 drubbing. In six games, Cruz earned one of the most obvious series MVP awards ever after hitting six home runs, driving in 13 and slugging 1.273.

In the World Series, the Rangers were one strike away from the franchise's first championship in consecutive innings in Game Six, but the Cardinals came back to win that game and the next one to give Texas one of the most excruciating defeats in baseball history.


1995 West Quarters

Looking for their first Stanley Cup in 40 years, Scotty Bowman's Red Wings dominated a lockout-shortened 48-game season. With Norris Trophy winner Paul Coffey, Sergei Fedorov, Nicklas Lidstrom, Steve Yzerman and many other stars, Detroit ran up a 33-11-4 record and the NHL's top seed. At 17-23-8, the Dallas Stars snuck past the Kings for the last playoff spot in the West.

The Wings took Game One 4-3 on Vyacheslav Koslov's tiebreaking goal with 10:15 to play. They won again two nights later 4-1 thanks in part to a pair of goals from Lidstrom. Dino Ciccarelli scored three power-play goals in a 5-1 Game Three road victory to push the Stars to the brink. Dallas stayed alive by winning Game Four, but Detroit finished them off in five, 3-1. After opening-round disappointments in '93 and '94, the Wings got over the hump won 12 of 14 to reach the Stanley Cup Final. Their run ended in a shocking sweep at the hands of the underdog Devils.

1998 West Finals

After winning their first Cup in 42 years in 1997, the Red Wings had to go through their Central Division rivals to defend their title in a pairing of the Western Conference's top two teams.

The Wings pitched a 2-0 road shutout to start the series before the Stars evened it up with a 3-1 win. In the Motor City, Detroit nearly blew a 4-0 lead, but hung on to win the third game 5-3. With paralyzed former teammate Vladimir Konstantinov at Joe Louis Arena, the Red Wings won the next one 3-2 on Kozlov's goal with 8:30 to play.

Detroit was 90 seconds from the Final when a last-ditch Stars rally sent the game to overtime before Jamie Langenbrunner's long slap shot extended the series. 

Back in Detroit, Chris Osgood ended the series just as he started it, with a 2-0 shutout.

In the Final against the Washington Capitals, the Red Wings won three one-goal games, then swept the Caps in Game Four to repeat as champions.

2008 West Finals

The Stars knocked off the defending champion Ducks and second-seeded Sharks in the first two rounds in '08, but the West's best awaited them in the Conference Finals.

Detroit blitzed Dallas in the first three games by an 11-4 margin, highlighted by Pavel Datsyuk's Game Three hat trick. They missed two chances to close out the series as the Stars stayed alive, but in Game Six the Wings scored three times in the first period on the way to a 4-1 win. In the next round, they'd lift another Stanley Cup with a 4-2 victory over the Penguins.

Looking at the other NFC game this weekend, the Cardinals-Panthers game will be the second Phoenix-Charlotte playoff meeting, joining this Jake Delhomme disaster from 2008. The Carolina QB threw five interceptions and lost a fumble as well in a 33-13 divisional round defeat.

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