After nearly giving away a game to Buffalo or, rather, throwing it to them, Tony Romo and the 5-0 Cowboys welcome Tom Brady and the 5-0 but untested Patriots this Sunday in a battle of two of the league’s three remaining unbeatens.
It's the first official Big Game of the 2007 season.
But the sub-plot to the Donnybrook du Jour is that Dallas and New England also represent the NFL’s last two dynasties. In fact, the 1992-1995 Cowboys and the 2001-2004 Patriots are the only two teams in history to win three Super Bowls in four years.
It’s a fact that leads to a lot of e-mails sent to our cardboard-box world headquarters. Dallas fans simply can’t believe that the 21st century Patriots are as good as their “Triplets”-led team of the 1990s. Patriots fans can’t believe that the 1990s Cowboys deserve mention alongside perhaps the best big-game team in football history.
It also leads to a lot of heated debates in chat boards all around pigskin cyberspace.
So, in preparation for Sunday's battle, to squash the constant trickle of e-mails we get on the topic, and to settle the chat-board debate once and for all, we decided to stack up the two dynasties like a beer-can pyramid of Cold, Hard Football Facts.
It's hard to compare dynasties from beginning to end, especially when each won three titles in four years (and when one may still be in progress). So we picked out the best team from each bunch: the 1992 Cowboys and the 2004 Patriots.
The 1992 Cowboys won 13 games, best of the Triplets Era, and had the greatest scoring differential (+166) of any of those champion Dallas teams. And they closed out the season with their dominating 52-17 Super Bowl victory over the Bills.
The 2004 Patriots won 14 games, tying the 2003 team, but consistently looked more dominant in the process than their 2003 counterparts, outscoring the opposition by 177 points (the 2003 Patriots outscored their opponents by just 110 points).
With Hall of Fame quarterbacks, iconic coaches, tough defenses and even some special-teams standouts, this matchup is like a scrum for a loose ball in the NFL, with plenty of statistical eye-gouging sure to raise the ire of fans on both sides.
We could jump into the pig-pile and punch somebody in the family jewels. Instead, we will turn to the Cold, Hard Football Facts and our trusty Tale o’ the Tape to sort it all out.
1. The 1992 Cowboys put the defense in the Big D
New England coach Bill Belichick is thought of as a defensive genius. But the defense of his 2004 Patriots pales in comparison to that of the 1992 Cowboys, which surrendered 65 fewer yards per game. In fact, over the course of the season, the 2004 Patriots surrendered 800 more yards through the air and 200 more yards on the ground.
Despite the difference in yards, Belichick’s defensive prowess is still very evident on the scoreboard. The 2004 Patriots allowed 16.2 PPG, just 1.0 points more per game more than the 1992 Cowboys. Both defenses were also dominant at times. The 2004 Patriots held six opponents to 10 points or less. The 1992 Cowboys held seven opponents to six points or less.
The Patriots were a prime example of the bend-but-don’t-break philosophy. But the Cowboys dominated the opposition in every defensive aspect.
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Patriots 48, Cowboys 27