On This Date in Sports November 18, 1984: Bell Tolls for Cowboys

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The Buffalo Bills end a 13-game losing streak, earning their first win of the season by shocking the Dallas Cowboys 14-3. The Cowboys had weathered a quarterback controversy all season but were hanging in at 7-4. Gary Hogeboom struggle in Buffalo with two interceptions, leading to him benched in favor of Danny White. Greg Bell leads the Bills to victory, rushing for 206 yards with both Buffalo touchdowns.

The Dallas Cowboys were celebrating their Silver Season in 1984. In the 25-year history, they had become one of the premier teams in the NFL. With Tom Landry coaching the Cowboys from day one in 1984, the Cowboys entered their 25th season, with 18-straight winning seasons, making the playoffs all but once over that period as they won two Super Bowls and made five appearances in the big game.

After losing the Wild Card Game in 1983, the Cowboys went into the preseason with an open competition at quarterback. This would result in Gary Hogeboom supplanting Danny White after four years as a backup. Hogeboom played well early in the season, as the Cowboys won four of their first five games. However, they split their next six, as fans began calling for Danny White to get his job back, with the Cowboys hold a 7-4 record.

The Buffalo Bills were in a team in disarray in 1984. The Bills had lost their last two games in 1983 to finish 8-8 under Kay Stephenson. With a porous offensive line that allowed 60 sacks, the Bills began the 1984 season by losing their first 11 games, as they often were uncompetitive losing most games by two or more scores.

There was little reason to believe Buffalo could win, as they were a ten-point underdog at home, playing at Rich Stadium. On the first play from scrimmage, Greg Bell, the Bills rookie running back, set the tone, scoring a touchdown on an 85-yard run. Bell had been the Bills’ lone bright spot in 1984, rushing for 1100 yards with seven touchdowns. Turnovers plagued Dallas, in the first half as the Bills, who were the worst-ranked defense in the NFL, allowed just a 20-yard field goal by Rafael Septien. The score remained 7-3 in favor of Buffalo until the fourth quarter, when the Bills stuck a dagger into Dallas with Joe Fergusson tossing a three-yard scoring pass to Bell. Fergusson’s struggles had been well documented in Buffalo, as the Bills switched from white helmets to red helmets in 1984 to help him distinguish from three other teams that had white helmets in the AFC East. Greg Bell would end the game with 206 yards on the ground, the first rusher to have 200 yards against Dallas since Jim Brown in 1963.

The Bills would win another two weeks later against the Indianapolis Colts, finishing 2-14 and earning the first pick in the NFL Draft, which they used to pick Bruce Smith, who would become a central figure in the team’s turnaround. The Dallas Cowboys would bench Gary Hogeboom the rest of the season and finished 9-7, missing the playoffs for the first time since 1974.