Now that Training Camp is almost upon us, the reflective pieces are just about over. I had to finish this since I started the list off a few weeks back. Part One.
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2002 – PHI 38, SF 17 – This was a tough choice. I considered going with the Cards game, when McNabb played on a broken leg and threw for 4 TDs. I also considered a MNF game vs the Giants when the Eagles ran for 295 yards. Great memories. The Niners game was special, though. McNabb didn’t get hurt in 2000 and 2001. He was an ironman. Losing him in mid-2002 made some question the Eagles. I bet a friend the Eagles would go at least 4-2 without McNabb. Instead, they went 5-1. And the only loss was in OT.
The SF game was one of the benchmark games for Reid. He had the Eagles so ready to play that the Niners didn’t know what hit them that night. SF was a playoff team that year so this wasn’t a case of the Eagles beating up a patsy. The Eagles built up a 35-10 lead by making big play after big play. Koy Detmer played the game of his life (18-26-227, 2 TDs, no INTs and a rushing TD). One of the most memorable moments in Eagles history took place when Detmer got injured. He was put on the cart and the entire team came over to shake his hand and wish him well. That was unplanned. Just teammates showing their care for a buddy. At that moment, I knew the Eagles would be just fine. That team was special.
2001 – PHI 24, NYG 21 – The Eagles clinched the NFC East by winning this game. This was the first division title since 1988, so that really meant something. The Giants owned the Eagles from 1997-2000, winning 9 straight games. The Eagles beat them 10-9 early in 2001, but this game was different because something was on the line. The Giants were the best team in the NFC East back then so beating them to win the division lived up to Ric Flair’s old saying “To be the man, you gotta beat the man.”
The game was 10-7 at the end of the 3rd quarter. Both teams had the lead in the 4th. The Eagles went up 24-21 late in the game, which set up one of the scariest moments in Eagles history. With only 7 seconds left to go and the Giants deep in their own territory, they went with a simple play. Kerry Collins hit Tiki Barber with a short throw over the middle. As several defenders converged on Barber, he flipped the ball to Ron Dixon. Dixon was able to get out wide and head down the sideline. He went 62 yards before Damon Moore got him down to preserve the win. For a split second, every Eagles fan thought the Giants were going to steal that game from us. So scary.
2000 – PHI 41, DAL 14 – The day that Andy Reid and the Eagles arrived. The Pickle Juice Game. It was boiling hot in Dallas for the 2000 season opener. Optimism was high for the Eagles and Cowboys. Reid threw us all a curveball when he opened the game with an onside kick. The Eagles recovered and dominated the game from that moment on. Duce Staley ran for 201 yards. The Eagles defense was dominant. Troy Aikman was 0 for 5 when he got knocked out of the game. Jeremiah Trotter picked off one of his passes and ran it back for a TD. Dallas finished with just 167 total yards. This game made the NFL take notice that the Eagles losing way of 1997-99 were done.
1999 – PHI 13, DAL 10 – Andy Reid’s first win as coach of the Eagles. The team had started 0-4. People weren’t happy to be sure, but expectations weren’t sky high in 1999 so Reid wasn’t a marked man yet. By beating Dallas at The Vet, Reid instantly became the most popular man in Philly, for the week. This was an ugly game played by bad teams. It is remembered by most people as Michael Irvin’s final game. He took a big hit by Tim Hauck and went hard to the ground. That injured his neck and ended his career. Duce Staley was huge in the 2nd half of the game. He had 22 carries for 110 yards and helped the Eagles move down field for the winning TD pass, from Doug Pederson to Charles Johnson.
1998 – PHI 10, DET 9 – There were no good wins in Ray Rhodes final season. The team went 3-13 and didn’t play well. At all. Bobby Hoying was red hot in this game, going 15 for 21. For 97 yards. Ugh. The running game was good. Charlie Garner was 16-129-1 and Duce Staley was 17-89. They also combined for 9 catches. The longest pass play to a WR covered a whopping 12 yards. Hugh Douglas had 2.5 sacks and the defense kept Barry Sanders out of the endzone, despite giving up 140 yards to him.
1997 – PHI 44, CIN 42 – Bobby Hoying showed the world he was indeed a franchise QB. A week earlier he had beaten the Steelers in a tough game. Now he showed how explosive he could be. The offense piled up 507 yards and 44 points. Hoying was 26-42-313. He threw for 4 TDs and only one INT. Hoying also ran 5 times for 62 yards. The Eagles led 34-21 heading into the final quarter. Cincy lit up the defense and had a 42-41 lead late in the game. Hoying led the Eagles down the field for the winning FG. Unfortunately, instead of this being the launching point for his career, this proved to be a horrible case of fool’s gold.
1996 – PHI 31, DAL 21 – The Eagles ended a 4-game losing streak at Texas Stadium by upsetting the Cowboys. I can’t tell you how big this win was. Beating Dallas in Dallas, and in a legitimate game…huge. The win put the Eagles at 7-2 and gave them a 2-game lead over the Cowboys in the standings. Life was good. The result was great, but also how it happened. The win over Dallas in 1995 involved Barry Switzer foolishly going for in on 4th/1. The 1996 win was a game where the Eagles just outplayed the Cowboys. Ty Detmer, Ricky Watters and Irving Fryar outplayed the triplets. Fryar went up against Deion Sanders and still had 9 catches for 120 yards and a TD.
The score was 24-21 late in the game. Dallas drove down the field, hoping to tie the score or steal the win. They got near the endzone and then this happened.
MLB James Willis made the pick. He lateraled to Troy Vincent, who then ran the ball all the way back for the TD.
Heaven on Earth.
1995 – PHI 20, DAL 17 – The 1995 Eagles were a tough, scrappy bunch. There were some tough, ugly wins that year. Beating Dallas at The Vet in December was a thing of beauty, no matter how ugly the game was. Dallas built a 17-6 lead at the half. Emmitt Smith had run well in the 1st half, going 18-98-1. The defense was dominant in the 2nd half, holding Smith to 10 yards on 9 carries. Rookie Bobby Taylor shut down Michael Irvin all game, holding him to just 3 catches. With 2 minutes left in the game and the score tied at 17, Barry Switzer made a highly questionable decision…twice. Watch below to see what happened.
So who remembered that Ed Hochuli was the official on that questionable call? I sure hadn’t. I can’t tell you how angry I was when Dallas got to re-do 4th down. Luckily Switzer stuck to his guns and got stuffed again. Bill Romanowski blew up Moose Johnston and Emmitt had nowhere to run. That was so great. After the stop, Gary Anderson kicked the winning FG.
One of the forgotten plays in that game was made by MLB Kurt Gouviea. Rodney Peete had fumbled the ball away to Dallas deep in Eagles territory. Dallas could have put the game away. Gouviea hit Emmitt head on and knocked the ball loose and the Eagles recovered.
1994 – PHI 40, SF 8 – One of the shockers. The Niners were favored by many to be a Super Bowl team (which they ended up being). The game was early in the season and SF looked legit. They were 3-1. The Eagles were 2-1 and up and down. It wasn’t supposed to be a blowout, but the Eagles were going to be challenged to hang with SF, let alone beat them. So what happened? For one thing, Charlie Garner. This was his first NFL game and he proved to be the real deal. Garner ran for 2 TDs in the 1st quarter and finished the game 16-111. He added the element of speed to the rushing attack. That hadn’t been there since the days of Wilbert Montgomery. The Eagles defense played great. William Fuller stormed into the backfield and sacked Steve Young for a safety to grow the Eagles lead to 16-0. The closest the score got after that was 23-8. One memorable image was Steve Young getting benched by Georg Siefert. That led to them getting into a fiery shouting match on the sidelines. SF was held to 189 yards and also turned the ball over 3 times. To put things in perspective. Calvin Williams was 9-122 and Jerry Rice was 6-66. Crazy day.
1993 – PHI 20, GB 17 – The Reggie Bowl. Reggie White signed with Green Bay in the offseason. That was crushing. The Eagles headed to Green Bay for the second game of the year. The Eagles wanted revenge, having lost to the Packers in 1992 and also for stealing our star. Could the Eagles win? Could Antone Davis control Reggie? The Eagles trailed 17-7 in the 4th quarter, but scored the final 13 points of the game to pull out the win. There was a terrific 40-yd TD pass from Cunningham to Victor Bailey that tied the game. The real key was stifling defense. Brett Favre was just 12-24-111 and got picked off twice. The Packers finished with just 159 total yards. 4 turnovers hurt the Eagles offense, which gained 352 yards. Reggie did have a sack, but Davis kept him mostly under control. Cheering against Reggie was weird, but it was sweet that his first loss as a Packer came from his old team.
1992 – PHI 47, NYG 34 – I really struggled with this year. The Eagles beat Denver 30-0, only 1 of 2 shutouts in John Elway’s career. They held him to a rating of 29.6 There was the Week 4 win over Dallas, 31-7. That was the last time the Eagles shut down Emmitt Smith. I decided to go with the win over the Giants. That was a wild game. Giants players weren’t happy with coach Ray Handley and threatened mutiny. Eagles players weren’t happy with Rich Kotite and said similar things. The game featured a couple of memorable moments. The most recognized is Via Sikahema going Muhammad Ali on the goalpost. Many have done that since, but Vai started it all that day after his 87-yard punt return for a TD. The other great moment came when Seth Joyner picked off a short pass and ran it back 43 yards for a TD. He got into the endzone and saluted a banner showing Jerome Brown. Magical moment, seeing Seth honor his friend. The Eagles had been down 20-6 before that play. That led to a barrage of points. The Eagles outscored the Giants 41-7 starting with that INT. The Eagles scored on offense, defense and STs. Epic meltdown by the Giants. Oh…and Clyde and Reggie combined for 6.5 sacks. Good day.
1991 – PHI 13, HOU 6 – The House of Pain Game. The Oilers matched a terrific defense with the explosive Run ‘n Shoot offense. They averaged 26 points a game up to that point. No team had held them to fewer than 275 yards. The defense finished in the Top 10 for the year and was physical. The Oilers were also tough on STs. That nasty style of play led to the Astrodome being nicknamed the House of Pain. The Eagles went to Houston on a 4-game winning streak and had ideas of their own. They out-hit the Oilers in a brutal, punishing game. Wes Hopkins knocked out a couple of receivers (and he’d be in major trouble today). Seth Joyner played the game of his life. He had 8 solo tackles, 2 sacks, 2 FFs and 2 FRs. The Eagles finished with 4 sacks and kept regular pressure on Warren Moon. The Oilers finished with only 246 yards. Houston’s defense also played well, holding the Eagles to just 240 yards and knocking Jim McMahon out of the game. Jeff Kemp came on and hit Keith Jackson for the winning TD.
As Jerome Brown said, “They brought the house. We brought the pain.”
1990 – PHI 28, WAS 14 – The Body Bag Game. The Eagles played one of the toughest, most physical games in recent history. There were 8 Washington players that had to be helped off the field. Things got so bad that RB Brian Mitchell finished the game at QB. He was 3-6-40 yards. The Eagles had 4 sacks and picked off 2 passes in the game. Neither team did much on offense. Heath Sherman was the star of the game, going 35-124. Buddy Ryan and his team literally beat the hell out of the Skins on this night. And Buddy and his players let them hear about that all game long.
1989 – PHI 42, WAS 37 – I considered going with the Bounty Bowl, the Eagles 27-0 win over Dallas, but went with this great comeback instead. The Skins led 20-0, 30-14 and 37-28. When they took the 37-28 lead, I was in such a foul mood that I quit watching and went to get lunch. I was in college and headed for the cafeteria. I returned to find out about the great comeback. With about 3 minutes left in the game, the Skins led 37-28. Game over, right? That’s what I thought. Cunningham led the Eagles on a 69-yard scoring drive. He threw a jump ball into the endzone and Cris Carter and Mike Quick battled for the ball. Quick held on for the score. It was now 37-35 with 1:48 left. RB Gerald Riggs got loose for 58 yards when the Skins got the ball back and that really seemed to seal the deal. But Eric Allen made a saving tackle and kept hope alive. Riggs then fumbled on another carry and it was recovered by LB Al Harris. He lateraled the ball to Wes Hopkins, who then went 77 yards to change everything. Cunningham then hit Keith Jackson for a 4-yard TD to steal the game for the Eagles. Cunningham had one of the great games of his career. He was 34-46-447 with 5 TDs. Those are staggering numbers.
Riggs ran for 221 yards and just shredded the Eagles defense. This would be the last 100-yard game by an opposing RB for a while. Not the rest of 1989. Or 1990. Or 1991. Emmitt Smith broke the streak in November of 1992. The Eagles held opposing RBs to less than 100 yards for 53 straight games. That is the longest such streak since 1960. The Ravens got as close as 46 games during the Billick years. Amazing streak. And it is funny that it was started off after giving up 221 yards.
1988 – PHI 23, NYG 17 – The Miracle of the Meadowlands took place in Week 12 of 1978. So naturally something crazy had to happen in Week 12 of 1998, with the Eagles and Giants again facing off there. And it did. The Eagles trailed 17-10 at the end of 3 quarters. With about 5 minutes left in the game, Cunningham hit Keith Jackson in the Red Zone. Jackson fumbled and the ball went into the endzone. WR Cris Carter recovered the ball and that tied up the game at 17. The Eagles had knocked QB Phil Simms out of the game. Backup Jeff Rutledge was picked off in overtime (Yes, Donovan, there is overtime) and that set up a FG attempt. The Giants blocked the FG, but the ball went backward and the Eagles were able to get it. Clyde Simmons then rambled 15 yards for a TD and the win. It seems strange to say this now, but there was a time when the Eagles were known for late game magic.
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Great resource: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/phi/
On a personal note…I remember where I was for each of these games, except the 1988 game. I don’t think that was on TV down here in North Carolina. It amazes me that I can think about these games and go back to the time when I was living through them. So many great memories.