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2003 Dallas Cowboys season

2003 Dallas Cowboys season
Head coach Bill Parcells
Owner Jerry Jones
Home field Texas Stadium
Record 10–6
Division place 2nd NFC East
Playoff finish Lost Wild Card Playoffs (Panthers) 29–10
Previous season Next season
< 2002 2004 >

2003 marked the 44th season for the Dallas Cowboys organization as the team, coming off three consecutive 5–11 seasons, hired former New York Giants, New York Jets, and New England Patriots coach Bill Parcells. In a scheduling coincidence, the Cowboys faced all three said teams in the 2003 regular season.

Despite the release of team legend Emmitt Smith, the Cowboys' fortunes began to change with the introduction of Parcells as head coach. Parcells began to reshape the team, particularly on offense, with an overhaul of the coaching staff, including former New York Giants offensive coordinator Sean Payton. Parcells retained much of the defensive staff, including defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, and maintained the team's basic 4-3 defense instead of immediately installing the 3-4 defense which was a trademark of all Parcells's prior teams. This proved a wise decision, as the Cowboys finished the season with the top-ranked overall defense. As in his previous stops, Parcells started to rebuild his team through the draft. In his first year in Dallas, Parcells picked future Pro Bowl players cornerback Terence Newman, tight end Jason Witten and future Cowboys defensive captain linebacker Bradie James. One of the biggest rookie acquisitions came via free agency when the team signed undrafted rookie and future franchise quarterback Tony Romo (although that move got little attention for a few years). Also typical of his prior teams, Parcells brought in veteran players who had played for him at his previous coaching stops, signing fullback Richie Anderson and speedy wide receiver Terry Glenn with whom Parcells had a checkered history.

Though the Cowboys opened the season with a loss, a dramatic come-from-behind victory the next week against the Giants at New York spurred the team's confidence, particularly in third-year quarterback Quincy Carter. This would be followed by a reunion with Emmitt Smith (now with the Arizona Cardinals) in Dallas. Smith would injure his shoulder early in the game and not return. After starting with a 7–2 record, the Cowboys went 3–4 in the second half of the season including a loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in Foxboro. The game received a lot of hype due to Bill Parcells and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick seemingly[according to whom?] strained relationship due to the events following their final season coaching together with the New York Jets. Though the Cowboys finished 10–6 and earned a playoff berth, they lost in the first round to the eventual NFC champions, the Carolina Panthers.

The Cowboys ranked first in total defense (253.5 yards per game), third in rushing defense, and second in scoring (16.3 points per game), which helped the team qualify for the playoffs for the first time in the decade. In October, the Cowboys snapped a six game losing streak to the Philadelphia Eagles (at halftime of the Eagles game, Tex Schramm was posthumously inducted into the club's Ring of Honor).

This turned out to be the final season for long-time (and often Pro Bowl) Cowboys safety Darren Woodson. Woodson represented the last player link to the Jimmy Johnson Cowboys (and to all three Super Bowl teams of the 1990s). Woodson was on the roster the following season (2004) but never saw action due to injury.


Week Date Opponent Result Kickoff Time Attendance
1 September 7, 2003 Atlanta Falcons L 27–13 FOX 4:00pm
2 September 15, 2003 at New York Giants W 35–32 ABC 9:00pm
3 Bye
4 September 28, 2003 at New York Jets W 17–6 FOX 4:00pm
5 October 5, 2003 Arizona Cardinals W 24–7 FOX 1:00pm
6 October 12, 2003 Philadelphia Eagles W 23–21 FOX 1:00pm
7 October 19, 2003 at Detroit Lions W 38–7 FOX 1:00pm
8 October 26, 2003 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers L 16–0 FOX 1:00pm
9 November 2, 2003 Washington Redskins W 21–14 FOX 4:00pm
10 November 9, 2003 Buffalo Bills W 10–6 CBS 4:00pm
11 November 16, 2003 at New England Patriots L 12–0 ESPN 8:30pm
12 November 23, 2003 Carolina Panthers W 24–20 FOX 1:00pm
13 November 27, 2003 Miami Dolphins L 40–21 CBS 4:00pm
14 December 7, 2003 at Philadelphia Eagles L 36–10 FOX 1:00pm
15 December 14, 2003 at Washington Redskins W 27–0 FOX 4:00pm
16 December 21, 2003 New York Giants W 19–3 FOX 1:00pm
17 December 28, 2003 at New Orleans Saints L 13–7 FOX 1:00pm

Season summary

Week 1 vs. Atlanta Falcons

The Parcells era of the Cowboys began inauspiciously in a 27-13 loss to the Falcons at Texas Stadium. With Michael Vick out with injury Doug Johnson started for the Falcons and had two passing touchdowns and a rushing score. Quincy Carter had a touchdown to Joey Galloway and an interception.

Week 2 at New York Giants

On Monday Night Football Parcells returned to Giants Stadium for the first time since his final year as NY Jets coach and the ensuing game against the NY Giants became a memorable struggle. The Cowboys raced to a 23-7 lead as kicker Billy Cundiff proceeded through a huge day, but the Giants behind Kerry Collins erupted, outscoring the Cowboys 25-12 in the second half; the go-ahead Giants score (a 30-yard Matt Bryant field goal) came with eleven seconds left, but a return to the Dallas 40 and a 26-yard catch by Antonio Bryant set up Cundiff's sixth field goal of the game, a 52-yarder with no time left. In overtime both teams traded punts before Quincy Carter led the Cowboys to the Giants 6-yard line and Cundiff connected on a seventh field goal and 35-32 win; in that process Cundiff tied Chris Boniol's record from Dallas' 1996 win over the Packers.

Week 4 at New York Jets

Following their bye week the Cowboys returned to the Meadowlands, this time to face the Jets. The Cowboys rushed for 202 yards and Troy Hambrick and Antonio Bryant touchdowns in the second quarter were enough as the Cowboys won 17-6.

Week 5 vs. Arizona Cardinals

The Cowboys hosted former NFC East foe Arizona; they limited the Cardinals to 151 total yards and sacked Jeff Blake twice in the endzone for a safety, ultimately winning 24-7. Quincy Carter had 277 yards and two touchdowns.

Week 6 vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Randal Williams ran back the opening kickoff for a Dallas touchdown, and from there the Cowboys raced to a 17-7 lead in the third. But by late in the fourth Duce Staley's 52-yard catch from Donovan McNabb and a Correll Buckhalter score put the Eagles up 21-20. Quincy Carter then completed a 19-yard pass to Joey Galloway; two Troy Hambrick runs set up the go-ahead Cowboys field goal with 1:14 to go; the Cowboys then sacked McNabb and he fumbled to Dallas, ending the game a 23-21 Dallas win.

Week 7 at Detroit Lions

The Cowboys embarrassed the Lions by scoring the game's final 38 points, with a monster day for Quincy Carter and Terry Glenn, who both hooked up for three touchdowns; Mario Edwards then intercepted Joey Harrington and scored. In the end the Cowboys were 38-7 winners and stood at 5-1.

Week 8 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The embattled Bucs shut out the Cowboys 16-0 as Keyshawn Johnson caught a touchdown while Quincy Carter was intercepted twice.

Week 9 vs. Washington Redskins

</th> </tr>
1 234Total
Redskins 6 008 14
Cowboys 0 777 21
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Week 10 vs. Buffalo Bills

Bill Parcells faced his once and future quarterback Drew Bledsoe as the 4-4 Bills came to Dallas. Bledsoe managed only two drives ending in field goals while the Cowboys were only slightly better, managing a two-yard Quincy Carter touchdown for the 10-6 Cowboys win.

Week 11 at New England Patriots

Parcells traveled to Foxboro for the first time since the 1999 season and faced his former assistant Bill Belichick on Sunday Night. The Patriots had won five straight and made it six as they sacked Quincy Carter once and intercepted three passes. Former Patriot Terry Glenn was held to one catch as the Patriots ground out a 12-0 win.

Week 12 vs. Carolina Panthers

The Cowboys hosted the surging Panthers and the game lead tied or changed six times. Joey Galloway caught a touchdown, one of two from Quincy Carter, while Aveion Cason's touchdown put Dallas up 24-17. John Kasay's field goal at 3:51 to go made it 24-20 late in the fourth, but the Cowboys killed the remaining clock on four Carter completions for 21 yards and a four-yard run aided by a Deon Grant personal foul penalty.

Thanksgiving Day vs. Miami Dolphins

The 8-3 Cowboys hosted the 7-4 Dolphins for the first time since 1999. The two teams had clashed in memorable contests in 1993 and 1996 and both were in the thick of their playoff races. The second quarter became a frantic affair following a first quarter score by Jay Fiedler. The Dolphins erupted to outscore Dallas 23-14 in the second, and from there the game merely awaited its obsequies on two more Miami touchdowns (one a strip-sack of Quincy Carter run back by Jason Taylor) and a Carter score to Antonio Bryant. The Dolphins finished up 40-21 winners and both teams faced key division matchups at 8-4.

Week 14 at Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles all but locked up the NFC East by crushing the Cowboys 36-10. They intercepted Quincy Carter twice and forced a fumble through the endzone for a safety. Donovan McNabb had three touchdown throws despite a failed fourth-down attempt in the fourth quarter, and Correll Buckhalter finished the game on a 64-yard touchdown run.

Week 15 at Washington Redskins

On a dismal day for quarterbacking (Quincy Carter and Tim Hasselbeck combined for just 16 of 50 passes for 164 yards and a Carter touchdown) Troy Hambrick exploded to 189 rushing yards as Dallas shut out the Skins 27-0.

Week 16 vs. New York Giants

</th> </tr>
1 234Total
Giants 3 000 3
• Cowboys 10 333 19
  • Date: December 21
  • Location: Texas Stadium, Irving, TX
  • Game start: 1:00 p.m. EST
  • Elapsed time: 2:55
  • Game attendance: 64,118
  • Game weather: 57°F; wind 10
  • Referee: Mike Carey
  • Television network: Fox
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Carter got back in groove with 240 yards and a touchdown as four Billy Cundiff field goals aided a 19-3 Dallas win over the Giants. Dallas now stood in a three-way race for the NFC Wildcards with the Seahawks and Minnesota.

Week 17 at New Orleans Saints

The Saints were still smarting from a shocking series of laterals ending in a touchdown and missed PAT against Jacksonville the week before. They responded by intercepting Quincy Carter three times and shutting out the Cowboys the remaining two quarters for the 13-7 Saints win. The Cowboys made the playoffs nonetheless on Arizona's last-second win over the Vikings; it was Dallas' first playoff appearance since 1999.


NFC East
(1) Philadelphia Eagles 12 4 0 .750 5–1 9–3 374 287 W1
(6) Dallas Cowboys 10 6 0 .625 5–1 8–4 289 260 L1
Washington Redskins 5 11 0 .313 1–5 3–9 287 372 L3
New York Giants 4 12 0 .250 1–5 3–9 243 387 L8


Dallas Cowboys 2003 roster

Running Backs

Wide Receivers

Tight Ends

Offensive Linemen

Defensive Linemen


Defensive Backs

Special Teams

Reserve Lists

Rookies in italics
53 Active, 4 Inactive


  1. ^ Retrieved 2014-Aug-31.