Memory Lane: Woodson remembers '90s Cowboys vs Packers rivalry

DALLAS - The Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys are taking on one another for the sixth time in the past five seasons, eerily similar to the 1990s when the two teams played each other 10 times from 1991-99.

Eight of those 10 encounters were at Texas Stadium, the previous home of the Cowboys.

"Part of that was three of those games were because we had home-field advantage," said former Cowboys safety Darren Woodson, who played with Dallas from 1992-2003. "And that's one thing you can't take away from our football team. For Green Bay, hey, find a way to get home-field advantage."

Three of the eight match-ups were playoff battles where Dallas earned home-field thanks to a better regular season record. When then-Packers players would whine to Woodson about the disparity in venues, he would emphasize their ability to alter it in the regular season.

Said Woodson: "I was telling George Teague, a member of that team, and LeRoy Butler, they were complaining about coming. I told them, 'Hey, get home-field advantage. And then you can talk about it.' But we had the better record. We earned it. So, for them that should have never been an excuse or anything. They needed to come up and see us and we dealt with them handedly."

Quarterback Brett Favre was emblematic of the Packers in the 1990s Woodson says he was one of the most competitive players he ever faced in his All-Pro career.

"When you thought they were out of it, when it was third-and-long, he had that arm strength to put it in where he wanted to and gave them chances," Woodson said.

However, Favre also nine interceptions in his encounters with Dallas with five of those hurled in the playoffs.

"That's how we looked at Brett," Woodson recalled. "He was going to give you opportunities and that's what we talked about the entire time. I remember having those conversations. He's going to throw us a couple. Our issue is we have to catch them, and then try to take them back to the house. And Brett being as competitive as he was having the ultimate confidence in his throwing arm. He tried to fit balls into tight spots and gave us a lot of opportunities, but he also made a lot of big plays."

Favre was backed by one of the most dynamic coaches of the decade in Mike Holmgren, who led the Packers to a Super Bowl win at the end of the 1996 season. According to Woodson, Holmgren was always finding ways to put him in mismatches due to his covering the slot as a safety.

Said Woodson: "He was going to put me in a situation specifically because I played the safety position but I would cover the slot receiver on second and third down when they came out three wide receivers. That was one of their favorite formations. He was trying to find match-ups to go right at me. He wasn't afraid to tell me after the game or at the Pro Bowl that, 'You know we're coming after you again next year in the slot.' That was the type of coach he was."

The Cowboys-Packers rivalry was the flip side of the Cowboys-49ers rivalry in the '90s, says Woodson. Whereas the Cowboys were the up-and-coming team trying to topple the kings in San Francisco, in the Green Bay-Dallas rivalry, the Packers were young team out to dethrone the veteran champions.

Football fans were robbed of the chance to see the transfer of power in the playoffs. In 1996, Green Bay finally earned home-field advantage; the NFC playoffs would go through Lambeau Field. In the divisional playoffs, Dallas traveled to Carolina and failed to get past the expansion Panthers 26-17. It was Panthers-Packers in the NFC Championship game rather than Cowboys-Packers. If it had been the latter, Woodson believes the Packers would have prevailed.

"They wanted us to win that game so they could get us up there," said Woodson. "But I just don't think we were a good enough team at that point, and we showed. We went to Carolina and played inconsistently throughout the season, came in as a team that had to play on the road basically as a wildcard team to go to Carolina. We weren't half the team that we were in years past."

In 2017, the Cowboys seem like half the team they were a season ago when they bested the Packers 30-16 on Oct. 16, 2016 in Green Bay. In the new millennium, the Cowboys are the young pups and the Packers the seasoned squad. Will Dallas continue to take the next step in surpassing Green Bay as they did in the regular season, or will they succumb to quarterback Aaron Rodgers' impressive playmaking ability as they did in the playoffs?

 

What are your favorite memories from the 1990s battles between the Cowboys and Packers? Share 'em with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.

© 2017 WFAA-TV


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