1978 Dallas Cowboys season

1978 Dallas Cowboys season
Head coach Tom Landry
General manager Tex Schramm
Home field Texas Stadium
Record 12–4
Division place 1st NFC East
Playoff finish Lost Super Bowl XIII (Steelers)
Previous season      Next season
< 1977      1979 >

The 1978 Dallas Cowboys season was their 19th in the NFL. For the third consecutive season, the Cowboys finished in first place in the NFC East. The Cowboys scored 384 points, which ranked first in the NFC, while the defense only gave up 208 points. Twice, the Cowboys appeared on Monday Night Football.

The Cowboys became the first franchise to appear in five Super Bowls. With their loss to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XIII, they also became the first team to lose a Super Bowl after having won it the previous year.

NFL Draft

Pick # NFL Team Player Position College
28 Dallas Cowboys Larry Bethea Defensive End Michigan State

Regular season

The defending Super Bowl champions were again led by quarterback Roger Staubach. Staubach finished the season as the top rated passer in the NFL (84.9) by throwing 231 out of 413 completions for 3,190 yards and 25 touchdowns, with 16 interceptions. He also rushed for 182 yards and another touchdown. Wide receivers Drew Pearson and Tony Hill provided the deep passing threats, combining for 90 receptions, 537 yards, and 7 touchdowns. Tight end Billy Joe Dupree contributed 34 receptions for 509 yards and 9 touchdowns. Running back Tony Dorsett had another fine season, recording a total of 1703 combined rushing and receiving yards, and scoring a total of 9 touchdowns. Fullback Robert Newhouse and halfback Preston Pearson also contributed from the offensive backfield, combining for 1,326 rushing and receiving yards, while Newhouse also scored 10 touchdowns. The Cowboys also had a superb offensive line, led by Herbert Scott and 12-time Pro Bowler Rayfield Wright

The Cowboys' "Doomsday Defense" finished the season as the top ranked defense in the league against the run by only allowing 107.6 yards per game. Pro Bowl linemen Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Harvey Martin and Randy White anchored the line, while linebackers Bob Breunig, D. D. Lewis and Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson provided solid support. Their secondary, led by safeties Cliff Harris and Charlie Waters, along with cornerbacks Benny Barnes and Aaron Kyle, combined for 16 interceptions.

The Cowboys started the regular season slowly, winning only six of their first ten games. Both the offense and the defense played ineffectively, including giving up interceptions and fumbles. Dallas finished strong, winning their last six regular season games to post a 12–4 record.

In the aftermath of the season, NFL Films produced its annual highlight reel as it does for every NFL team. Notable of the highlight reel was the title, "America's Team". It would come to be a label that would define the Dallas Cowboys for the rest of their history. However, the label is most remembered for the Cowboys of this era, appearing in three Super Bowls in four years and claiming a unique spotlight in the American consciousness.


Week Date Opponent Result Attendance
1 September 4, 1978 Baltimore Colts W 38–0
2 September 10, 1978 at New York Giants W 34–24
3 September 17, 1978 at Los Angeles Rams L 27–14
4 September 24, 1978 St. Louis Cardinals W 21–12
5 October 2, 1978 at Washington Redskins L 9–5
6 October 8, 1978 New York Giants W 24–3
7 October 15, 1978 at St. Louis Cardinals W 24–21
8 October 22, 1978 Philadelphia Eagles W 14–7
9 October 26, 1978 Minnesota Vikings L 21–10
10 November 5, 1978 at Miami Dolphins L 23–16
11 November 12, 1978 at Green Bay Packers W 42–14
12 November 19, 1978 New Orleans Saints W 27–7
13 November 23, 1978 Washington Redskins W 37–10
14 December 3, 1978 New England Patriots W 17–10
15 December 10, 1978 at Philadelphia Eagles W 31–13
16 December 17, 1978 at New York Jets W 30–7

Game notes

Week 1

1 234Total
Colts 0 000 0
• Cowboys 0 21143 38


Week 2

1 234Total
Cowboys 7 1467 34
Giants 0 7107 24
  • Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com

Week 6

1 234Total
Giants 0 300 3
• Cowboys 7 773 24


Week 12

1 234Total
Saints 7 000 7
Cowboys 0 1476 27
  • Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com

Week 16

1 234Total
Cowboys 7 3137 30
Jets 0 007 7




1978 Dallas Cowboys Team Starters
12   Roger Staubach      QB
33   Tony Dorsett        RB
44   Robert Newhouse     FB
80   Tony Hill           WR
88   Drew Pearson        WR
89   Billy Joe DuPree    TE
67   Pat Donovan         LT
68   Herbert Scott       LG
62   John Fitzgerald     C
64   Tom Rafferty        RG
70   Rayfield Wright     RT
72   "Too Tall" Jones    LDE
75   Jethro Pugh         LDT
54   Randy White         RDT
79   Harvey Martin       RDE
56   Thomas Henderson    LB
53   Bob Breunig         LB
50   D.D. Lewis          LB
31   Benny Barnes       LCB
25   Aaron Kyle         RCB
41   Charlie Waters     SS
43   Cliff Harris       FS
Kicking Team
1   Rafael Septien     K
11  Danny White        P
86  Butch Johnson      WR/PR/KR
Dallas Cowboys 1978 roster

Running Backs

Wide Receivers

Tight Ends

Offensive Linemen

Defensive Linemen


Defensive Backs

Special Teams

Reserve Lists

Currently vacant

Rookies in italics
45 Active, 0 Inactive


NFC Divisional Playoff

Dallas Cowboys 27, Atlanta Falcons 20
1 2 34Total
Falcons 7 13 0020
Cowboys 10 3 7727

at Texas Stadium, Irving, Texas

Dallas' "Doomsday Defense" limited Atlanta quarterback Steve Bartkowski to only 8 completions in 23 attempts and intercepted him 3 times en route to victory. After the Falcons led 20–13 at halftime, the Cowboys scored 14 unanswered points in the second half.

NFC Championship Game

Dallas Cowboys 28, Los Angeles Rams 0
1 2 34Total
Cowboys 0 0 72128
Rams 0 0 000

at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles

Super Bowl XIII

Dallas Cowboys 31, Pittsburgh Steelers 35
1 2 34Total
Steelers (AFC) 7 14 01435
Cowboys (NFC) 7 7 31431

at Orange Bowl, Miami, Florida

Super Bowl XIII can arguably be called the greatest collection of NFL talent ever to gather for a game. In additions to Coaches Noll and Landry, 14 players would go on to enshrinement in the Hall of Fame: 9 from Pittsburgh (Bradshaw, Harris, Swann, Stallworth, Webster, Greene, Lambert, Ham, and Blount), and 5 from Dallas (Staubach, Dorsett, White, Wright, and Jackie Smith).

Much of the pregame hype surrounding Super Bowl XIII centered around Cowboys linebacker Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson. Henderson caused quite a stir before the NFC Championship Game by claiming that the Rams had "no class" and the Cowboys would shut them out. His prediction turned out to be very accurate; the Cowboys did shut them out, aided by Henderson's 68-yard interception return for a touchdown.

In the days leading up the Super Bowl, Henderson began talking about the Steelers in the same manner. He predicted another shutout and then made unfriendly comments about several Pittsburgh players. He put down the talent and the intelligence of Bradshaw, proclaiming "Bradshaw couldn't spell 'cat' if you spotted him the 'c' and the 'a'". But the Steelers refused to get into a war of words with Henderson. Greene responded by saying the Steelers didn't need to say they were the best, they would just go out on the field and "get the job done".

Awards and records

  • Led NFL in Sacks
  • Led NFL, Fewest Rushing Yards Allowed (1,721)
  • Led NFL, Most Rushing Yards (2,783)
  • Led NFL, Points Scored (384)
  • Roger Staubach, NFL Passing Leader
  • Roger Staubach, NFC Leader, Touchdown Passes (25)


  • Tony Dorsett, Second Consecutive 1,000 Yard Rushing Season, (Finished season with 1,325 yards, third in NFL)


  • Cowboys on Pro Football Reference
  • Cowboys on jt-sw.com
  • Dallas Cowboys 1978 Highlight Film 1 of 2; "America's Team" [1]
  • Dallas Cowboys 1978 Highlight Film 2 of 2; "America's Team" [2]