The 1995 Dallas Cowboys are the perfect example of how the final week of the regular season can help determine the fate of a team. While the ’95 Cowboys did win two playoff games before dispatching the Steelers in Super Bowl XXX, they likely would not have won that Super Bowl if not for the outcomes of three different games during the final week of the regular season.
Following an 8-1 start, the Cowboys welcomed the defending Super Bowl champion 49ers to town for a marquee Week 11 showdown inside Texas Stadium. Dallas had defeated San Francisco in the ’92 and ’93 NFC Championship Games, and was looking to regain the balance of power in the NFC after falling to the 49ers in the 1994 NFC title game, 38-28.
Instead of tilting the scales back in their favor, the Cowboys were blown out by the 49ers, who won the game with ease despite playing without starting quarterback Steve Young. San Francisco’s offense, with Elvis Grbac filing in for Young, still managed to run circles around the Cowboys’ defense by lining up Jerry Rice all over the field. Dallas was hoping to use man coverage on Rice with Deion Sanders watching his every move, but was unable to execute its plan, as Rice lined up on both sides of San Francisco’s offense while creating holes in the Cowboys’ scheme.
With Dallas’ defense scrambling to figure out their assignments, Rice — who was lined up in the slot — took advantage, taking a slant pass and running the remaining distance for an 81-yard touchdown. The rout was on, as the 49ers backed up January’s NFC title win with a convincing 38-20 Week 11 victory.
“This one was actually worse than the championship game. We never even got close,” said Cowboys fullback Daryl “Moose” Johnston during an NFL Films documentary on the ’95 Cowboys. “That San Francisco game was the first time in a long time that we felt like, ‘They’re just better than we are right now.'”