December 4, 2011

1960: Cowboys Tie Giants for Only Non-Loss of First Season

It had been a rough first year for the expansion Dallas Cowboys as they took on the New York Giants on December 4, 1960. Under Head Coach Tom Landry, who had previously been defensive coach of the Giants, the team was 0-10. The Cowboys had a capable quarterback in diminutive (5’9”, 168) Eddie LeBaron (pictured at right), formerly of the Redskins and dissuaded from retiring in order to lead the offense until rookie Don Meredith was ready. There were some capable veterans to throw to, such as flanker Billy Howton and TE Jim Doran, and the defense had a star in MLB Jerry Tubbs, but for the most part the new team was awash in mediocre players.

New York, coached by Jim Lee Howell, had won the Eastern Conference the previous two years, but the aging and injury-riddled club was 5-3-1 and coming off of back-to-back losses to the Philadelphia Eagles that had assured they would not finish first a third time. 39-year-old QB Charlie Conerly was one of the injured players, and backup George Shaw was behind center against the Cowboys. HB Alex Webster was also out, as was star HB Frank Gifford, who had been finished for the year – and the whole next season – after a noteworthy tackle by LB Chuck Bednarik in the first loss to Philadelphia.

There were 55,033 fans at Yankee Stadium, the smallest home crowd of the year for the Giants on a sunny afternoon. New York scored quickly on its first possession, taking just four plays with Shaw completing a 41-yard pass to end Bill Kimber and then throwing 10 yards to FB Mel Triplett for the touchdown. HB Joe Morrison followed up with a one-yard scoring plunge and the Giants had a 14-0 lead.

However, before the first quarter was over, HB L.G. Dupre (pictured at left) ran in for a five-yard TD to get the Cowboys on the board. Still, Shaw extended New York’s margin in the second quarter as he connected with end Kyle Rote on a 28-yard scoring play.

Dallas continued to fight back. LeBaron, who nearly sat the game out with a rib injury, tossed a pass to Dupre for a 21-yard TD and Fred Cone kicked an 11-yard field goal to narrow the score to 21-17 at halftime.

Pat Summerall posted the only points of the third quarter with a 26-yard field goal that gave the Giants a seven-point lead. The Cowboys knotted things up in the fourth quarter thanks to a 56-yard drive capped by LeBaron throwing again to Dupre for a 23-yard touchdown, followed by Cone’s extra point.

First-year backup QB Lee Grosscup put the Giants back ahead 5:45 into the final period with a 26-yard touchdown pass to end Bob Schnelker. With five minutes to go, Dallas DT Bill Herchman recovered a fumble by Morrison. LeBaron passed to Doran for 32 yards to the New York nine and two plays later connected with Howton for an 11-yard TD. Cone kicked the tying extra point, and that was it. The game ended in a 31-31 draw, the first non-losing game in Dallas franchise history.

The statistics reflected the evenness of the score. The Cowboys outgained New York by just one yard (328 to 327) and each team had 19 first downs. The Giants turned the ball over three times, to two by Dallas.

Eddie LeBaron completed 17 of 35 passes for 267 yards with three touchdowns and two intercepted. Billy Howton (pictured at right) caught 6 passes for 78 yards and a TD and Jim Doran added three receptions for 62 yards. The game’s scoring star, L.G. Dupre, accumulated the most receiving yards, however, with 82 on three catches that included two touchdowns while also rushing for 27 yards on 8 carries with another TD. HB Don McIlhenny was the leading ground gainer for the Cowboys with 34 yards on 8 attempts.

For the Giants, George Shaw was successful on 8 of 16 throws for 149 yards and two TDs against one interception. Lee Grosscup added five completions in 11 attempts that gained 75 yards and a touchdown (his only one of the season). Bob Schnelker hauled in 5 passes for 69 yards and a TD and Kyle Rote also gained 69 yards on his three receptions that included a score. HB Ed Sutton topped the running attack with 62 yards on 7 carries.

The Cowboys lost their season finale at Detroit and finished at the bottom of the Western Conference with a record of 0-11-1 (they shifted to the Eastern Conference in ’61). New York split its last two games and placed third in the conference at 6-4-2.

Eddie LeBaron had a respectable season for a bad team, although he led the NFL by tossing 25 interceptions. Still, he was in the top five in pass attempts (225), yards (1736), and yards per completion (15.6). L.G. Dupre’s accomplishments were more modest as he led the club in rushing with just 362 yards and caught 21 passes for 216 more. His three touchdowns against the Giants accounted for most of his season total of five.