Frank Heinz, NBC DFW
As we know all too well, since their last Super Bowl win the Cowboys have been average.
In their last 260 games they’re 130-130. Last year they were 8-8. Year before that, 8-8. This year? 2-2, duh.
And since their move to the billion-dollar stadium in Arlington in 2009, even the Cowboys’ home-field advantage has been, yep, mediocre. The Cowboys have the biggest stadium in the NFL. But they don’t have anywhere near the biggest home-field advantage.
The Cowboys are 20-15 at re-branded AT&T Stadium. That means they’ve won about 57 percent of their home games there. NFL percentage of games won by home teams since ’90: 58 percent.
Obviously there’s no simple coincidence about better players conjuring a better home-field advantage. But let me say this: Opposing teams don’t fear playing the Cowboys on the road. The stadium is big. It’s bold. It’s beautiful. But it’s just too dang comfortable - and much too accommodating - for it to be intimidating.
In ’09 the Cowboys won seven of nine in Arlington, including the signature win of the stadium: a 34-14 thumping of the Eagles in the first round of the playoffs. It’s the franchise’s only playoff win in 17 years. It’s by far the best win in AT&T Stadium.
That could change Sunday. Well, sorta. I say beating Peyton Manning and the undefeated Broncos would be the Cowboys’ second-best regular-season victory in Arlington. The 24-0 shutout of the Eagles in the ’09 home finale clinched the NFC East, so it won’t be threatened for a while. Last December they beat the Steelers to go 8-6 and perch themselves for the playoffs, but a win Sunday would attraction national attention, establish credibility and inject hope in a blasé fan base convinced its merely headed for another season of watching forgettable movies in a kick-ass theater.
Simply put, the Cowboys were a better team with a bigger home-field advantage at old Texas Stadium. When the $1.2 billion joint on Randol Mill Road opened in ’09, a record 105,121 fans showed up. The buzz has decreasingly dulled. Since then the stadium’s drawn only one 100,000+ crowd (the ’09 regular-season finale). The next highest was 95,000 for the Steelers and this year has prompted only 85,000 and 80,000 for Giants and Rams.
A win Sunday would be the NFL’s newsiest result of the season. It would reboot a year already spiraling toward so-so. And it would allow the Cowboys to do something they haven’t since Aikman, Emmitt and Deion played over in Irving in 1999 – start a season 3-0 at home.
A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He currently writes a sports/guy stuff blog at DFWSportatorium.com and lives in McKinney with his fiancee, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.