The Cincinnati Bengals are sitting squarely at .500 heading into their Week 5 matchup with the 3-1 Dallas Cowboys. It will be interesting to see if the Bengals can finally record a win over a team that actually appears to be good this season, but it will also be interesting because the Bengals and Cowboys, quite simply, almost never play each other. In fact, since the Bengals joined the NFL in 1970, they have only met with the Cowboys a total of 11 times. The Bengals haven’t looked great in those games, only winning four and losing seven.
The very first game between these franchises took place on November 4, 1973. Cowboys quarterback and Cincinnati native Roger Staubach lead the Cowboys with 14 completions on 18 passes for 209 yards and three touchdowns (154.6 quarterback rating). They ended up absolutely dominating the Bengals by a score of 38-10, partially due to a poor game by Ken Anderson (14/22, one touchdown, three interceptions, 66.9 quarterback rating).
Despite dropping a pair of division games to the Steelers and Browns before their winning streak, they ended up tied with the Steelers for first place, winning the AFC Central crown on conference record and finishing with their first playoff berth in franchise history. Unfortunately, in typical Bengals fashion, they were blown out by the Miami Dolphins in the first round of the playoffs and ended their season there.
Interestingly enough, the season shook out very similarly for the Cowboys, who lost three games early in the season. But, after beating the Bengals in Week 8, they won five of their final six games, ending up 10-4 and on top of their division. The biggest difference is, they won their first round playoff game against the Los Angeles Rams, before being blown out in the NFC Championship by the Minnesota Vikings 27-10.
The Bengals also lost their next game against the Cowboys, in 1979, and didn’t manage to record their first victory in the series until December 8, 1985. That said, they made a statement in that game, winning by an incredible score of 50-24. It was Boomer Esiason’s first season as the Bengals’ starting quarterback and he absolutely lit the Cowboys’ defense up for 265 yards, three touchdowns, and a 135.8 quarterback rating. Running backs James Brooks, Larry Kinnebrew, and Charles Alexander topped the win off with four more touchdowns on the day, giving the Bengals their first win over the Cowboys, in style.
As you would expect, things didn’t go great for the Bengals when they played the Cowboys in the ‘dark ages’. They only won one of the four games they played against the Cowboys from 1991-2000, being outscored 105-80.
The Marvin Lewis era started out well against the Cowboys as Carson Palmer led the Bengals to a 26-3 victory in 2004. Cowboys quarterback Vinny Testaverde had a particularly bad game that day, only managing to complete 18 of his 30 passes for 207 yards, a touchdown, and three interceptions (41.2 quarterback rating).
Carson Palmer’s Bengals did get one more shot at the Cowboys in 2008. But, a wholly ineffective game from him (80.8 quarterback rating) and a fantastic day from Tony Romo ruined the day for the Bengals. Bengals wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh performed well on the day with seven receptions for 85 yards and two touchdowns. But, as the Bengals’ only standout performer on the day, he was unable to help the Bengals secure a victory.
Dre Kirkpatrick back, Tyler Eifert not in attendance at Bengals’ Wednesday practice
The Bengals hit the field on Wednesday to practice for their upcoming game against the Cowboys. But, Tyler Eifert was noticeably absent.
Even if he had, it probably wouldn’t have mattered much as the Bengals were in the middle of an eight game losing streak to start the season. They ended up 4-11-1 at the end of the season and the Cowboys, who had a better season, didn’t even make the playoffs. So, there wasn’t really anything to gain or lose for either team with a different result.
The Bengals and Cowboys have played each other once in the Dalton-Green era. It was a very dramatic Week 14 game in which the Bengals, arguably, outplayed the Cowboys during almost the entire game. But, a walk-off field goal for Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey at the end of regulation gave the Cowboys a 20-19 win despite not having held the lead since the end of the Bengals’ first drive.
Ultimately, it was the Bengals’ inability to convert in the red zone that hurt them in the game. The Bengals had built a solid 19-10 lead by the end of the third quarter, but it was primarily due to five consecutive field goals from Bengals reserve kicker Josh Brown. Dalton did connect with Andrew Hawkins in the endzone early in the game to take a 7-3 lead. But, it was the only Bengals touchdown throughout the entire game. Eventually, the Cowboys were able to take advantage of that ineffectiveness with a Dez Bryant touchdown and Bailey’s field goal to seal the fourth quarter comeback.
Unlike the 2008 loss, the Bengals would have benefited heavily from finding a way to win this one. The loss was the only one of their final eight games. Had they pulled out the win, they would have finished 11-5, good enough for winning the division title over the Baltimore Ravens. Instead of traveling to Houston in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, they would have hosted the Colts who looked incredibly vulnerable in their 24-9 loss to the Ravens.
Who knows if the Ravens would have gone on to beat the Texans in Houston and continue on their way to winning the Super Bowl like they did with the No. 4 seed. Either way, the Bengals finishing with just that one extra win likely would have produced a much more favorable ending to the 2012 season.
This year, the Bengals will be looking to record their first win over the Cowboys of the Dalton-Green era. It could be tough as rookie quarterback Dak Prescott has been extremely efficient so far. He only has thrown for three touchdowns, but he has the third highest completion percentage (67.9) of quarterbacks with at least 130 attempted passes. He has yet to throw an interception and knows that he is best served handing the ball off to rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott, who currently leads the NFL in rushing yards (412).
Hopefully, the Bengals’ generally poor history against the Cowboys does not dictate the end result of this game.