The Primetime Emmy Awards telecast on ABC was tackled for a loss on Sunday, thumped by one of the top-rated primetime NFL games of recent years.

Opposite the highly rated Dallas-Green Bay pigskin matchup on NBC, the kudocast looks to have settled for all-time low-water marks in both key demographics and total viewers. Results came on the eve of the new television season as the broadcast biz hopes to bounce back following a sluggish 2007-08 campaign hampered by the writers strike.

Ratings for awards shows in general have consistently drifted downward over the years, but the Emmys now seem to be afflicted with the same problem as the Oscars: Viewers at home can’t relate to the winners if they haven’t seen them.

Top drama winner “Mad Men,” for example, routinely attracts fewer than 2 million viewers, and comedy winner “30 Rock” is actually the least popular of NBC’s returning comedies, averaging 6.5 million last season.

Looking at the numbers Sunday, the three-hour Primetime Emmys averaged a preliminary 3.8 rating/9 share in adults 18-49 and 12.2 million viewers overall, according to Nielsen. The telecast, derided by most critics, peaked around 8:30 or 9 p.m. with a little more than 13 million viewers.

The demo score was down 12% from last year’s previous low (4.3/11 on Fox), while the total viewer count slipped by 6% vs. last year (from 12.95 million). The smallest previous gathering for an Emmycast was the 12.3 million who tuned in for the event on Fox in 1990.

This year’s ceremony registered a 12.2 household rating/18 share in New York and a 13.7/23 in Los Angeles, according to Nielsen’s metered-market overnights. But it managed only a 5.7/8 in top-10 market Dallas, where the Cowboys did a 36.3/54.

ABC’s red-carpet Emmy spec “Jimmy Kimmel’s Big Night of Stars” averaged a prelim 1.2/4 in 18-49 and 4.6 million viewers overall during the 7 o’clock hour.

As for football, the Cowboys’ 27-16 victory over the Packers is expected to average around an 8.5 rating/20 share among adults 18-49 and nearly 21 million viewers overall. Those numbers would make it among the top five-rated games since “Sunday Night Football” began on NBC in September 2006.