The 1990 season was the Dallas Cowboys' 31st season in NFL. The Cowboys rebounded from a 1–15 season in 1989 to a 7–9 record. Jimmy Johnson won AP's NFL coach of the year honors.
The season began with a win over San Diego, breaking a 14 game home losing streak. The Cowboys showed some early season fight with two wins over Tampa Bay and a near-miss against Philadelphia, but still stood only 3–7 after ten weeks, and were seemingly out of playoff contention. However, the team caught fire in late November, winning four games in a row (including impressive wins over the Redskins and Saints, and a blowout win over the Cardinals). The Cowboys entered the season's final two weeks needing only one win or Saints' loss to make the playoffs as a wildcard. However, in game 15 quarterback Troy Aikman separated his shoulder early against the Eagles and was replaced by Babe Laufenberg (The Cowboys had traded backup Steve Walsh early in the season and Lauferberg was elevated from 3rd string to backup). With Aikman injured, the Cowboys mustered little offense against the Eagles and lost, 17–3. Meanwhile the Saints upset the 49ers (handing the Niners only their second loss) to keep the Cowboys from clinching in game 15. The next week, with Laufenberg again leading the offense, the Cowboys were thoroughly beaten, 26–7, by the 4–11 Atlanta Falcons. When the Saints beat the Rams the next night, the Cowboys were eliminated from playoff contention.
This season featured the debut of running back Emmitt Smith. Smith held out during training camp and was only a minimal contributor in the season's early games, but began to show his future greatness with a 100-plus performance in a week 5 win against Tampa Bay and had a few other outstanding games during the season.
Even though almost a year had transpired since the notorious "Bounty Bowl" games, the vitriolic rivalry between the two teams was still firmly in Cowboys fans' memories. And this was the first encounter since Cowboys players and coaches were relentlessly pelted by snowballs during that last meeting at Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium.
The week before game day in Dallas, Philadelphia head coach Buddy Ryan and Ted Plumb, his offensive coordinator were out for dinner. Coach Ryan was dining on pork chops and started to choke. Fortunately, Plumb quickly initiated the Heimlich maneuver and saved Ryan's life. Word of the incident spread in Dallas, and hatred by Dallas fans was so fevered towards Ryan that former Cowboys' president Tex Schramm dubbed the pending game on October 28 the "Porkchop Bowl." When the game began, Dallas fans tossed pork chops and similar simulated meat products from the stands toward the Eagles bench.