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You can't write Cowboys history without Hall of Fame coach Don Shula

The history of the Dallas Cowboys wouldn’t be the same without some legendary battles against Hall of Fame NFL coach Don Shula, who passed away on Monday.
Credit: AP Photo/Eric Gay
Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula gestures from the sidelines during the first quarter against the Dallas Cowboys in Irving, Texas on Thursday, Nov. 25, 1993. Miami kicked a field goal on the last play to win 16-14.

DALLAS — The NFL lost a legend with the passing of Hall of Fame coach Don Shula Monday at the age of 90. Anyone who wins two Super Bowls, stacks an undefeated season that caps off with a world championship, and claims the all-time wins record for a coach at 347 will exude greatness for decades.

RELATED: Don Shula, winningest coach in pro football history, dies at 90

Even though Shula was in the AFC East with the Miami Dolphins from 1970-95, and with the Baltimore Colts of the NFL Western Division from 1963-69, Cowboys history would be a little incomplete without Shula.

Dallas faced Shula two times when he was the coach of the Baltimore Colts, but it wasn't a macro zero-sum game for either team in 1967 and 1969. The stakes were as high as they ever could be when Shula's Dolphins faced the Cowboys in Super Bowl VI at Tulane Stadium on Jan. 16, 1972.

The Cowboys were on a nine-game winning streak, including the playoffs, since coach Tom Landry decided to make Roger Staubach the starting quarterback — no more splitting time with Craig Morton. 

Staubach would lead Dallas to a 24-3 victory, take the game's MVP, and leave Shula 0-3 in world championship games as a coach. For Dallas, they were no longer the "bridesmaids of the NFL," earning their first of five Super Bowl wins in franchise history over the Dolphins.

Shula’s time on top would come. He ended up getting two regular season wins over the Cowboys, including a Thanksgiving Day game in 1973, after leading the Dolphins to two Super Bowl wins at the end of 1972 and 1973.

The next big encounter between the two sides was on Oct. 25, 1981, when the 5-1-1 Dolphins came into Texas Stadium to challenge the 5-2 Cowboys. 

Trailing 27-14 in the fourth quarter, Danny White led Dallas with two touchdown drives with a 5-yard pass to tight end Doug Cosbie and a 32-yard pass to running back Ron Springs to stave off defeat. 

White would finish with 354 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception, while his Miami counterpart, quarterback David Woodley, threw for 408 yards and three touchdowns.

However, the Dallas defense picked Woodley off five times. Over the next two seasons, the Cowboys would play in the NFC Championship Game while the Dolphins would represent the AFC in the Super Bowl at the end of the 1982 season.

There were two seasons, 1974 and 1984, that the Cowboys failed to reach the playoffs during Landry's 20 consecutive winning seasons. On Monday, Dec. 17, 1984, the 9-6 Cowboys had to take on the 13-2 Dolphins at the Orange Bowl in the last game of the season.

Second-year quarterback Dan Marino was having a banner year and would set the league record for touchdown passes with 48. Marino would set the bar with a 63-yard pass to receiver Mark Clayton to give Miami a 28-21 lead late in the fourth quarter. 

Dallas missed the playoffs with the 9-7 New York Giants taking their place. Miami would go on to challenge the 15-1 San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XIX, losing 38-16.

The Dolphins would beat the Cowboys three straight times thereafter, and Shula's last game against Dallas was arguably the most memorable game of the series. 

On Thanksgiving Day in 1993, Shula's Dolphins were riding an 8-2 record headed into the last six games of the season — not bad considering they were relying on backups Scott Mitchell and Steve DeBerg to replace an injured Marino.

With 15 seconds left in the game and Dallas clinging to a 14-13 lead, the Cowboys saw it slip from them as defensive tackle Leon Lett slid in the sleet toward a blocked 41-yard field goal.

When Lett contacted the ball, it became live and the Dolphins recovered at the 1-yard line. Kicker Pete Stoyanovich drilled the 19-yarder, giving the Dolphins a 16-14 win, and relegating the Cowboys to 7-4 in their quest to repeat as Super Bowl champions. Dallas would repeat, and the Dolphins would fail to make the playoffs despite a 9-2 mark that late in the season.

What are your favorite memories from the games the Cowboys played against the legendary Don Shula? Share them with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.

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