Flying to the Finish Line

By Ryan Shute, Sports Talk Philly staff writer 

The 116th overall meeting between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys will take place at Lincoln Financial Field Sunday at 1 p.m. Dallas holds the series lead by 15 wins, leaving the Eagles with a series record of 50-65.

Dallas has become a common opponent in the season finale on the Birds schedule in the more recent years mostly due to the NFL scheduling all divisional matchups during Week 17 since 2010. Unfortunately, there have been some meaningless games and Sunday's matchup will be the same.

One that comes to mind was the 2010 finale. The Eagles had already clinched the division title and knew there was no chance of improving from the No. 3 seed by the time they kicked off against the Cowboys. Michael Vick was sat in place of Kevin Kolb at quarterback, Jerome Harrison got the nod at running back while LeSean McCoy rested, and the defense was scattered with subs playing more snaps than usual.

On the Dallas side, they were a team full of injuries with a 5-10 record leading to a few of their regulars not playing in the contest as well. Stephen McGee would line up under center in place of the injured Tony Romo and the Eagles faithful would not get the chance to properly welcome rookie Dez Bryant in his first trip to South Philly, as he was held out of the contest. 

In the battle of who's who on the field, McGee would have one familiar vet to go to and make a difference in the outcome, as he found tight end Jason Witten for the game winning score and the ugly game would finish with Dallas coming out on top, 14-13.

The Birds would best the Boys in some very important finales, one which happened at the Linc on the final day of the 2008 season.

The Eagles would pound Dallas in a winner-take-all game to clinch a wildcard berth and end the Cowboys season.

Although this was the icing on the cake, as the outcome of the game had already been decided, a stand out play was when Brian Dawkins forced a fumble out of the hands of Dallas running back Marion Barber deep in Eagles territory. The ball was recovered by defensive back Joselio Hanson, who took the ball 96 yards to the end zone to make the score, 41-3. The Eagles would add three more points and the beat down would finish, 44-6.

The Eagles would get the Cowboys again in a similar scenario in 2013, where they played down in Big D in a defacto NFC East Divisional Championship match.

Eagles running back Bryce Brown would score a fourth-quarter touchdown to give the Birds a 24-16 lead with just over six minutes to play in the fourth quarter.

Dez Bryant would answer back with a touchdown from quarterback Kyle Orton to make it a two-point game, but their two point conversion try would fail leaving the score 24-22 in favor of the Birds. 

The Eagles were not able to run the clock out and were forced to punt the ball back to Dallas, giving them 25 seconds left and good field position with the ball on their own 40-yard line. Eagles defensive back Brandon Boykin would seal the win for the Birds, as he stepped in front of Cowboys receiver Miles Austin to pick off Orton's pass.

This time the Eagles were able to kill the clock and the Cowboys season and take the 2013 NFC East crown.

It may not involve the Cowboys, but there is an interesting tale to be told that some old school die-hard fans may or may not remember or for some of the younger fans may not be educated on that took place twenty-three years ago.

The NFL would schedule every team in 1993 to have not just one bye week, but two bye weeks, running the NFL regular season on an 18 week schedule for the one and only time in league history.

The Eagles would take part in a season finale with two rarities in San Francisco against the 49ers that the NFL may never ever see again. The first was that it was a Week 18 regular season game and and also on Monday Night Football. The NFL abolished Monday Night Football during its final week of the regular season some years ago to give each playoff team an equal amount of rest.

The Week 18 Monday Night battle would see the playoff bound 49ers give their starters some playing time to make an impact in the high scoring affair, but did resort to using second stringers to finish the game.

Wide receiver Jerry Rice and running back Ricky Watters would both see action and be involved in the scoring as they each recorded a touchdown and quarterback duties were split between regular starter Steve Young and back-up Steve Bono. Young would throw for two touchdowns during his time on the field.

But the offensive star of the game would be Eagles quarterback Bubby Brister, who completed 26 of his 43 passes for 350 yards and three touchdowns.

The Birds rushing offense was stymied by the San Francisco defense, but that didn't stop Brister from involving the running backs in the passing game. Running back James Joseph was Brister's favorite target on the night, being targeted a team high nine times making 6 receptions for 109 yards. His backfield mate Herschel Walker was involved as well, receiving for 75 yards and a touchdown.

The Eagles would have a 24-10 halftime lead erased in the third, but would regain a 34-24 lead in the fourth. History would repeat and the Birds would blow another lead of at least two possessions.

Bono would score a touchdown on a one-yard run and kicker Mike Cofer would kick a game-tying field goal to send the game into overtime tied, 34-34.

The Eagles would prevail in the extra session as Roger Ruzek knocked down a 28-yard, game-winning field goal, finishing the Eagles season with an 8-8 record.

One last thing to note is since the inception of the bye week in the NFL, the Eagles have fared well in the season finale, going 16-10 in those 26 games.