Saturday, December 27, 2008
No matter the circumstances, the playoff implications or the records of the two teams, football games between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys are the epitome of the word 'rivalry'. In two different eras, the Roger Staubach and Tony Dorsett days of the 1970's and the Aikman-Emmitt-Irvin days of the mid-1990's, the Eagles and their fans had to sit through numerous defeats at the hands of the team from 'Big D'. The Birds got some revenge during the bluster of the Buddy Ryan era, and even more during their emergence as a perennial contender this past decade. Along the way there have been numerous unforgettable games and moments. This all started waaaay back on September 30th, 1960, a full year before I was even born. The Cowboys were an expansion team that year, and the Eagles were on their way to winning their last NFL championship to this day. But on that late September day it didn't matter that Dallas would end up winless, or that the Birds would win a title. The Cowboys fought the Eagles tooth and nail before the Birds finally overcame with a narrow 27-25 victory. Veteran sports writer Stan Hochman has told the story that the real beginnings of the venom in the rivalry can be traced to the late 1960's and an Eagles running back named Timmy Brown. He ran all over the Cowboys in those days, and so it was rumored that Dallas coach Tom Landry put a 'contract' out on Brown, some reward for one of his own players taking Brown out of the game. On December 10th, 1967, the 'Boys were delivering a beating, having the Eagles down by 31-3 at the half. Late in the 2nd half, Brown was finishing up his route as a decoy on a pass play aimed at a different receiver. As that pass fell incomplete, Dallas linebacker Lee Roy Jordan blind-sided Brown with a stiff elbow to the jaw. Brown's jaw was broken, he had six loose teeth, and he ate from a straw for a month and a half. Jordan got a 15-yard penalty. The rivalry was on. But it was mostly one-sided, as the Cowboys went on to win 17 of the 20 games played between the two teams during the 1970's. As the decade was ending, however, the Eagles were emerging from their losing ways, and were advancing towards their moment of deliverance. Under young, energetic head coach Dick Vermeil, the Birds advanced to the NFC Championship on January 11th, 1981. Who would be waiting there, standing between the franchise and its first-ever Super Bowl berth? The Dallas Cowboys, of course. But this day at cold, windy Veteran's Stadium would be different, and it would start early. Birds all-pro running back Wilbert Montgomery took a handoff from Ron Jaworski, slipped through the Dallas line, and bolted 42 yards for a first quarter touchdown. Eagles Hall of Fame linebacker Bill Bergey would say that it felt like 'millions of volts of electricity' was coming from the fans in the stands that afternoon. The Eagles went on to finish off the Cowboys by a 20-7 score in front of those delirious fans. As a 19-year old young fan myself, I remember it vividly, this great victory over our hated rivals which was coming just a little over two months after the Phillies had delivered us a World Series championship. We were on top of the world. Those are just some of the memories from ages ago now that have shaped the great rivalry. Tomorrow it will rear its head once again here in Philadelphia. It could mean a playoff berth for one or both of the teams. It could mean nothing in the standings. The Eagles fans will most certainly be ready, no matter the circumstances of the standings or playoffs, which will have been settled by game time. One thing is certain, it will mean something, because it is Eagles-Cowboys. If it ends up being the Eagles final game of the season, there are few better ways to end it than with a win over Dallas.