The 115th overall meeting between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys will take place at AT&T Stadium Sunday night at 8:30 p.m. Dallas holds the series lead with a record of 50-64.
When you think of the Eagles-Cowboys rivalry, you can’t help to think about the recently departed Buddy Ryan and how as head coach of the Birds, he dominated Big D.
One of the earliest sparks of the Ryan Era portion of the long standing rivalry took place during Week 5 of 1987 in Texas Stadium.
The players were on strike but the NFL continued the season, leaving the Eagles with a roster full of replacement players. Dallas on the other hand was sprinkled with some of their regulars who crossed the picket line to keep playing.
The likes of Randy White and Ed "Too Tall" Jones were on the Dallas defense going up against Eagles scab quarterback Scott Tinsley. On the Dallas offense, running back Tony Dorsett and quarterback Danny White were carving guys like Elois Grooms, a defensive lineman who had NFL experience but was now 34 years of age and was out of football the previous season.
Tinsley would throw two late touchdowns, with the last one going to South Jersey native Topper Clemons, but the game was already out of hand as Cowboys coach Tom Landry had already allowed his pros to run the score up on the replacements. The final was 41-22.
The Cowboys had to visit the Vet two weeks later and the NFL strike was now over, making the re-match more of a fair fight. Ryan would get his revenge on Landry in a game that had a finish of epic proportions.
The Eagles were pummeling the Cowboys 30-20, and had possession of the football during the waning seconds of the game. The ball was snapped with 10 seconds left for the Birds to kneel down one final time to officially kill the clock, but quarterback Randall Cunningham faked taking a knee, dropped back to pass, and heaved the football into the end zone in the direction of wide receiver Mike Quick. Quick was interfered with by Dallas defender Ron Francis, placing the football on the one yard line with two seconds remaining on the clock.
On the ensuing play, running back Keith Byars rushed it in for a touchdown as time expired, finishing Buddy’s work to embarrass the Cowboys as the Eagles took a 37-20 victory.
Legend has it that in 1989, Buddy Ryan put a bounty on former Eagles kicker Luis Zendejas and possibly had a bounty on Cowboys rookie quarterback Troy Aikman. Some say the reason for the bounty was an incentive to keep the Eagles hungry and help avoid a letdown in that Thanksgiving game that would become known as the Bounty Bowl, as the Birds were a strong team going into Dallas against the 1-10 Cowboys.
Rookie linebacker Jessie Small would take a shot at Zendejas but did not injure him and the Eagles would only sack Aikman once. However, they were able to pick Aikman off three times and hold the Dallas offense to just 68 passing yards.
On the offensive side for the Birds, Cunningham ran the ball five times for 46 yards and threw for 234 yards and two touchdowns, both to Cris Carter, as the Birds blanked the Boys 27-0.
Ryan’s final victory over the Cowboys as Eagles head coach came on Dec. 23, 1990.
In a low-scoring battle and with the Eagles ahead 10-3, Cowboys quarterback Babe Laufenberg threw one of his four interceptions to Eagles cornerback Eric Allen in the fourth quarter. Allen returned the football 35 yards to the end zone finalizing the 17-3 win.
Buddy Ryan finished with a record of 8-2 against Dallas in his five-year tenure with the Birds, sweeping them in three consecutive seasons in the midst of a seven-game winning streak. Ryan’s .800 winning percentage is the highest of any head coach against the Cowboys in Eagles history.
Buddy will be remembered fondly forever.