Vanderjagt’s Texas Stadium Initiation Turns To Double-Misery For Cowboys In 10-10 Tie With Vikings
The fourth and final exhibition contest for the 2006 season was a much anticipated event for the Dallas Cowboys. After weeks of drama and countless hours riding a stationary bike at practice, wide receiver Terrell Owens was set to make his Cowboys debut on a toasty August evening in Irving.
But long after Owens was pulled from the game with one reception to his credit, another high-profile figure rose up to grab the headlines and bury the night in a graveyard of infamy. Mike Vanderjagt, the highest-paid kicker in franchise history, was welcomed to Dallas for the first time with a shower of boos after two overtime misses led to a miserable 10-10 tie with the Minnesota Vikings, the first preseason tie for the Cowboys since a 13-13 finish against Detroit in London during the 1993 campaign.
Drew Bledsoe started at quarterback for the Cowboys, and completed 9-of-11 passes for 69 yards and an interception, before retiring to the bench for the second-half.
What seemed to be a normal preseason game filled with mistakes and uninspiring play took a turn for the bizarre in the final moments of regulation after backup quarterback Tony Romo connected with Tyson Thompson on a 2-yard scoring play to draw the Cowboys within 10-9. That’s when head coach Bill Parcells bypassed the opportunity to end the game altogether, bringing Romo and the offense to the sideline and opting for a Vanderjagt extra-point instead. A fifth period ensued, much to the chagrin of the 60,299 in attendance at Texas Stadium.
In overtime Romo again proved worthy of the one-year $2 million contract extension he had signed earlier in the day by quickly moving the Cowboys offense into scoring position. Vanderjagt then duly trotted out onto the artificial playing surface and pushed his 33-yard field goal attempt wide right. Not to be denied , Romo engineered one final drive in the closing seconds in a last-ditch attempt to send the Cowboys faithful home in a happy mood. If only he had more time…
With two seconds remaining, and the ball resting at the Minnesota 15-yard line, Parcells’ only option was to place his faith in another mid-range attempt from Vanderjagt. The kick, this time from 32 yards, was pushed to the right yet again, prompting a look of disgust from the quarterback and head coach. Vanderjagt could only watch in stunned disbelief, as his reputation as the NFL’s most accurate kicker was being destroyed before his very eyes.
“They were obviously horrible,” Vanderjagt said afterward of his two misses. “Not enough work, I guess, but a 32-yard field goal in the middle of the field? Put it on me.”
His theatrical reaction after watching the ball sail wide on the second attempt was overshadowed by the torrent of boos that descended from the stands, the frustrations of a needless tie bubbling to the surface.