IRVING, Texas - With their five Super Bowl trophies and the "America's Team" label they treat like a birthright, it's easy to forget the Dallas Cowboys were once nothing more than wannabes who kept getting turned away by Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers.
To call their early meetings a rivalry wouldn't be fair to the Packers. They were the kings of the NFL and Tom Landry's Cowboys were just another team aiming for the crown.
Drama arrived in 1967 with championship games played on the very first day of the year and the very, very frigid finale. Both games were decided by one play in the final half-minute. Green Bay came through both times, then went on to beat the AFL champions in the first two Super Bowls.
"So the Cowboys were only two plays away from it being the Landry Trophy instead of the Lombardi Trophy," said Herb Adderley, a Hall of Fame defensive back on those Packers teams who later played in two Super Bowls for the Cowboys.
Yeah, that's enough to call it a rivalry. Especially when you add in what happened in the 1990s, when Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin led Dallas to three Landry, er, Lombardi Trophies, repeatedly denying Green Bay's Brett Favre and crew a chance to reclaim their franchise's glory.
"Payback time is what I called it," Hall of Fame defensive tackle Bob Lilly said.
The Dallas-Green Bay rivalry moves into a third generation tonight, when Favre and the 10-1 Packers visit Texas Stadium to face Tony Romo and the 10-1 Cowboys.
The winner moves a game up in the race for homefield advantage in the playoffs and gets the tiebreaker, making it a two-game lead with four to play. What it really means is that this game could determine whether the NFC championship - which could be yet another high-stakes Dallas-Green Bay game - is played at Texas Stadium or Lambeau Field.
Favre is 0-8 at Texas Stadium, having lost every regular-season and postseason matchup from 1993-95, then again in '96, when the Packers were headed to their first Super Bowl title since the late '60s. He lost one more in '99 and hasn't been back since.