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On Sunday, the Cowboys (6-3) and Vikings (8-1) will meet for the 34th time when Dallas visits Minnesota to face the hottest team in the NFC. Given how well both teams have started, the game could very well join the list of classic duels between the two franchises. 

Randy Moss is quite possibly the owner of the greatest individual performance in the rivalry's history. On Thanksgiving in 1998, the then-rookie wideout caught three touchdown passes in Minnesota's rout of Dallas. The greatest game between the two teams took place 23 years earlier, when then-Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach said the most famous prayer in the history of sports. 

After splitting their first two playoff games against one another earlier in the decade, the Vikings hosted the Cowboys in the first round of the 1975 playoffs. First-time Super Bowl champions three years earlier, Tom Landry's Cowboys were actually the underdog against Bud Grant's Vikings, who had represented the NFC in each of the previous two Super Bowls. Dallas needed late-season wins just to make the playoffs, while Minnesota rolled into the postseason after going 12-2 during the regular season. 

Back then, the Vikings played their games at Metropolitan Stadium. It had no roof, which gave the home team an enormous home field advantage late in the season, especially against warm-weather teams like the Cowboys. The weather for this game followed suit, with the kickoff temperature at 25 degrees (with a 17 degree wind chill) and 8 mph winds. 

Minnesota struck first when All-Pro running back Chuck Foreman blasted through the Cowboys' defense from a yard out. It was the only score of a first half dominated by Dallas' "Doomsday" defense and Minnesota's "Purple People Eater" gang. The best defender on this day was Vikings future Hall of Fame lineman Carl Eller, who managed to record three sacks of Staubach. 

Led by Staubach and his three-headed backfield of Doug Dennison, Preston Pearson and Robert Newhouse, the Cowboys took their first lead on Dennison's touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Minnesota, behind the running and receiving of Foreman, re-gained the lead when Brent McClanahan's second effort got him across the goal line late in the fourth quarter. 

After its offense went backwards on its ensuing drive, the Cowboys' defense gave Staubach another chance when safety Charlie Waters came up and stuffed Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton on a running play to the outside on third-and-2, forcing a punt with under two minutes left. 

Staubach and the Cowboys' offense moved 35 yards to midfield with 32 seconds left on the clock. On second-and-10, Staubach pump faked to his right before going for it all down the near sideline. The slightly underthrown pass fell right into the hands of Drew Pearson, who put the Cowboys in front for good. Instead of the Vikings, it would be Landry's Cinderella Cowboys advancing to the NFC Championship game. 

After the game, Staubach inadvertently created the term "Hail Mary" when asked about the play. 

"I was a Catholic kid from Cincinnati, and they asked me, 'What were you thinking about when you threw the ball,'" Staubach recalled, via the team's official website. "I said, 'When I closed my eyes I said a Hail Mary.' I could have said Our Father, Glory Be, The Apostles Creed.

"So he picked it up and gradually, instead of the bomb or the alley-oop, those were kind of the big plays winning games back then. He coined the phrase and, of course, I said it. The NFL recognizes I said it, and slowly but surely it took off. Now it's used for everything."

Pearson, who joined Staubach in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2021, accounted for all of the Cowboys' 91 yards on their game-winning drive after not making a catch during the game's first 58 minutes. While his touchdown catch is part of NFL lore, his catch two plays earlier with Dallas facing a fourth-and-17 is perhaps even more impressive. On the play, Pearson streaked downfield before cutting toward the near sideline. After pulling down Staubach's pass, Pearson was actually kicked by a security guard, who surely didn't like what transpired two plays later. 

While Pearson and the Cowboys were celebrating, the Vikings argued that Pearson had committed offensive pass interference on the play. Pearson and cornerback Nate Wright made contact with each other as Pearson put himself in position to catch the pass. As Wright fell to the ground, Pearson caught the pass, then danced the remaining five yards for the score. 

"Must have been a lot of people praying," Pearson said after the game, "because it was a lucky catch." 

Pearson certainly doesn't regret his contact of Wright on the game-winning play. He does, however, regret throwing the historic ball into the stands after scoring the touchdown. 

"I can't believe I did that," Pearson said with a laugh in 2021. 

The historic play propelled the Cowboys to the NFC Championship, where they dismantled the Rams to earn a third trip to the Super Bowl in six years. Pearson opened the Super Bowl with a touchdown, but he and the Cowboys ended up on the short end of a 21-17 score vs. the Steelers. Pearson and the Cowboys would win the franchise's second Super Bowl two years later before losing another epic showdown with Pittsburgh in the final Super Bowl played during the '70s. 

The Vikings, losers of three prior Super Bowls before losing the "Hail Mary" game, would make it back to the Super Bowl in 1976. The result was similar to the Vikings' three previous trips to the big game, as the Raiders dominated from start to finish while winning their first championship. 

The loss, or more specifically, how the Vikings lost that game still doesn't sit well with Tarkenton, who wonders what may have been had Staubach's prayer not been answered.  

"That was one of our best teams," Tarkenton told ESPN decades later. "That's how we lose." 

Minnesota fans are surely hoping that this is the year that its team wins that elusive championship. By defeating the Cowboys on Sunday, the Vikings will increase their odds of doing so while settling an old score in the process.