By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer
Eagles vs. Cowboys: the most bitter rivalry in Philadelphia sports. Always has been, and always will be.
Ask any true, hardcore Eagles fan what team they hate the most, and they will say Dallas, probably followed by a an expletive or two.
For the fans, the hatred is there. It has always been there. It will always be there. You know why? Because this hatred spans generations. It’s a family thing.
I’m willing to bet that one of the first memories that any Eagles fan has is having a relative tell you that “Dallas sucks.” It’s certainly mine.
I remember so vividly the day that my Mom-Mom, who is one of the biggest Eagles fans I’ve ever known, told me for the first time about her displeasure of the Dallas Cowboys. I’ve never seen anyone hate anything the way she hates that stupid star, and I could hear the way she despised everything about the Cowboys just from the way she said “Dallas.”
So you see, this hatred goes so far beyond the players, the teams, the coaches and even the fans of today. This goes back decades. And this is how it all began.
Supposedly, it all began on December 10, 1967. Cowboy defender Lee Roy Jordan delivered an elbow to Eagles running back Timmy Brown, the Eagles best player at the time, that was so dirty that it cost Brown nine teeth. According to an interview Brown did with the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2013, it was “The dirtiest hit I ever had...That started the rivalry.”
That play, combined with all of the hoopla that is “America’s Team”, has created a dynamic of such unique despise between the two fan bases and teams ever since.
Since the rivalry was officially considered “on” almost exactly 52 years ago, there have been plenty of moments that Eagles fan will cherish forever because of this rivalry. Take a stroll down memory lane and relive the ten best moments of the greatest rivalry in Philadelphia sports.
#10: Brian Westbrook Stops at the One (December 16, 2007)
2007 was a forgettable year for the Eagles, surrounded by the disappointment of mediocrity that would eventually lead to an 8-8 finish. The Cowboys, on the other hand, were in the midst of their best season since the early 90’s, en route to an eventual 13-3 finish and top seed in the NFC (they would lose to the Giants in the Divisional Round).
However, this day in the old Texas Stadium would be an uneventful day turned all-time moment for the Eagles that, in my opinion, is often forgotten. Late in the fourth quarter, the Eagles were up 10-6. The Eagles were on the Cowboy 25-yard line, and needed just one first down to seal the victory.
According to Westbrook, Eagles offensive lineman Jon Runyan told Westbrook that if he broke the run and had a clear shot to the end zone, to just go down at the one-yard line. Lo and behold, Westbrook broke free at the line of scrimmage, and had nothing but an ugly blue end zone in his sight.
Just as it looked like #36 was about to waltz into the end zone, he inexplicably fell down at the one-yard line, just like Runyan had told him to do. At the time, everyone was confused. Looking back on it, however, you begin to understand the logic.
If Westbrook scores, the Cowboys have a chance, a slim chance, to score twice and win the game. If Westbrook goes down, the Eagles can run out the clock and the game is over much, much quicker. If there’s anything the Eagles have taught me over the years, you don’t leave anything up to chance.
#9: The Pickle Juice Game (September 3, 2000)
Coming into the season opener of the 2000 season, the Eagles hadn’t won a season opening game since 1996, and had gone just 1-9 against Dallas in their previous ten meetings in Texas Stadium.
The Eagles needed a spark. With the temperature a sweltering 109 degrees at kickoff, the hottest game in NFL history, the Eagles found their advantage from the most unlikely of sources: a pickle jar.
Legend has it that Eagles trainer Rick Burkholder provided the Eagles with pickle juice prior to the game, as a way to combat their severe loss of salt from their bodies because of how much they were sweating. It worked.
After a beautiful onside kick by Eagle legend David Akers to begin the game, it was all Eagles from there on out. The Eagles won the game 41-14, and would finish the season 11-5, while the Cowboys would never recover, faltering to an abysmal 5-11.
#8: The Pick-Six Pitch (November 3, 1996)
The Eagles were clinging for dear life to a 24-21 lead with less than a minute remaining. The Cowboys were driving, determined to score a touchdown to take the lead for good. Dallas had won three of the previous four Super Bowls at the time, and the Eagles had lost six straight games in Dallas.
What happened next was inexplicable. Eagles linebacker James Willis did the impossible and intercepted hall-of-fame quarterback Troy Aikman in the end zone to seal the win. However, Willis did exactly what you shouldn’t do in that situation: run.
He inexplicably ran about ten yards out of the end zone, and then made his second big time no-no in about two seconds: he pitched the ball to Troy Vincent. What could have been an unforgivable disaster turned into elation, as Vincent caught Willis’ pitch and raced the 90 yards to the end zone for what was the longest touchdown in Eagles history at the time.
The Eagles won, 31-21. Philly would finish at 10-6 and make the playoffs, while Dallas would also finish at 10-6 and would win the division due to tiebreakers. Both teams would lose in the playoffs.
Also, one of many great Merrill Reese calls: “The Eagles win, the Eagles win, the Eagles win!” I love that man.
#7: Brandon Boykin Seals 2013 NFC East Crown (December 29, 2013)
With the Eagles holding onto a 24-22 lead for dear life, the Cowboys had 1:45 left to drive down the field and attempt a field goal to win the game. The winner of this game would win the NFC East, while the loser would miss the playoffs entirely. So this game had some pretty large implications to say the least. The Cowboys turned to...Kyle Orton?...to try and save the day. Orton was starting for an injured Tony Romo.
The Birds had just punted to give the ball back to Dallas, and the Cowboys offense was coming off of a drive that saw Orton hook-up with Eagle-killer Dez Bryant for a touchdown that would make it a two-point game. The Cowboys drive would begin from their own 32-yard line. They would run just one play.
On the first play, Orton zipped a pass over the middle for one-time Eagle Miles Austin. The ball never got to him. Brandon Boykin, the Birds slot corner who had been making big plays all year, jumped in front of Austin and intercepted the ball. Boykin went down, the Eagles ran out the clock and the Chip Kelly experiment was off to a perfect start (*shudders*).
The Eagles would lose a heartbreaker at home to the Saints the next week and their season was over. Still, the Eagles got to celebrate winning NFC East supremacy over their arch rivals.
#6: The Play That Went on Forever (November 15, 2004)
2004 was a magical season for the Eagles, as they finally got over the NFC Championship game hump and made it to the Super Bowl. This play was one of the signature plays of the season.
Philadelphia was leading Dallas 28-14 in the second quarter of a Monday Night game, but they faced a third and ten in Dallas territory. What happened next was pure wizardry.
McNabb took the snap, spun out of a sack from a free rusher, and sprinted to his right where he was met with nothing but Cowboy defenders. In today’s NFL, you probably would have seen him throw the ball away. Lucky for us, McNabb spun back to his left and ran all the way to the near sideline, where he would uncork the most accurate pass he’s probably ever thrown in his life. The ball landed in the arms of Freddie Mitchell 60 yards down the field, and Texas Stadium, along with all of America, was stunned.
The play lasted a whopping 20 seconds. The Eagles would go on to throttle the Cowboys by a score of 49-21. Dallas would finish 6-10 while the Eagles were playing in the Super Bowl.
#5: LIIIIIITTTTOOOOO (October 8, 2006)
In what was the most anticipated game of the Eagles 2006 season, the Eagles hosted the Cowboys for an early season match-up of the rivalry. Only this just wasn’t any other Eagles-Cowboys game. This was the return of the guy who went from the most beloved Eagle to the most hated traitor: Terrell Owens.
Owens ended up being a non-factor in the game, logging just three catches. Still, the Cowboys found themselves trailing by just seven with 32 seconds left to play at the Eagles six-yard line. Cowboys quarterback Drew Bledsoe threw the ball to the end zone, looking for Jason Witten.
The throw was nowhere close to Witten. Eagles cornerback Lito Sheppard was in the right place at the right time, intercepted the pass and flew 102 yards to the other end zone for the game-clinching touchdown. Just like that, eight year old me had a new favorite player.
Both teams made the playoffs, but the Eagles won the NFC East and won a playoff game, while the Cowboys lost in the wild card round.
Here is the play synced up to the song Lido Shuffle by Boz Scaggs. Magical.
#4: The Fake Knee (October 25, 1987)
Context time: Two weeks prior to this game, the NFL strike was still going on. Some of the Cowboys players had crossed the picket line, while none of the Eagles had. Eagles head coach Buddy Ryan was furious that Dallas signal caller Tom Landry had used his starters, which included multiple future hall of famers, against his rag-tag group of players. Dallas beat up on Philly, 41-22.
Two weeks later, the two teams matched up at the Vet, this time with the Eagles regular starters. The Eagles were up 30-20 with just a few seconds remaining. Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham took a knee on first and second down. He did not take a knee on third down.
Instead, Cunningham chucked the ball deep to receiver Mike Quick, where he was interfered with by a Dallas defender. Ryan then called for a rub-it-in touchdown by running back Keith Byars, and the Eagles won 37-20 for their first win of the season.
#3: “They Stop Him Again!” (December 10, 1995)
This one gets part of it’s legend from Merrill Reese.
In a game tied at 17 with a little over two minutes remaining, the Cowboys faced a fourth and one from their own 29-yard line. Barry Switzer, the Cowboys head coach, inexplicably chose to go for it. Dallas ran their best play, Emmitt Smith behind left guard, and the Eagles stopped him.
To the surprise of everyone in the stadium, the refs ruled that the play did not count because of the two-minute warning (yes, really). So the Cowboys got another shot. Instead of choosing to punt, Switzer again chose to go for it.
The Eagles felt extremely disrespected. They had just proven that they could stop the Cowboys, but Switzer still thought his offense was better than the Eagles defense.
Dallas ran the exact same play. They got the exact same result. There was absolute pandemonium, Merrill Reese lost his mind. Gary Anderson would kick the go ahead field goal, and the Eagles upset the Cowboys 20-17.
Dallas would go on to win the Super Bowl, beating the Eagles in the divisional round along the way.
#2: 44-6 (December 28, 2008)
Entering the final day of the 2008 season, the Eagles and Cowboys were both on the outside looking in on the playoff picture. Both teams needed the Raiders to defeat the Buccaneers, and the Bears to be upset by the Texans. Both things happened before the Eagles and Cowboys even kicked off.
Because of those results, the game between Dallas and Philadelphia became the game that would determine the sixth and final seed of the NFC playoffs, with the loser watching the playoffs from their couch. What happened next was something that will live in the memories of Eagles fans forever.
The Eagles used a 24-point second quarter to jump out to a 27-3 halftime lead and the Cowboys looked dead in the water. Yet, the Eagles would continue to take their souls.
Brain Dawkins forced fumbles that were returned for touchdowns on back-to-back possessions, one by Chris Clemons, the other by Joselio Hanson. Romo then fumbled again on the very next possession, where Trevor Laws decided he would just fall on the ball instead of returning it to the end zone. How nice of him.
The Eagles won the game 44-6 in one of the most embarrassing games of the rivalry. The Eagles would go on a miracle run all the way to the NFC Championship game, while the Cowboys watched from home.
#1: 1980 NFC Championship
There has never been a bigger game in this rivalry than a game that would decide who went to the Super Bowl.
The Cowboys had to travel to the Vet for the NFC Championship. Advantage: Eagles. The Eagles wore white at home, because in that era, the Cowboys considered wearing their blue jerseys bad luck. Advantage: Eagles. The temperature was in the single digits with 30-mile-per-hour winds. According to Ron Jaworski, the Eagles quarterback, “When we came down that tunnel and heard the fans, it was 70 degrees and sunny.” Advantage: Eagles.
My Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop were at that game. Every time my Mom-Mom talks about the game, she describes how bitterly cold it was and how much ice was beneath their feet. They were bundled in blankets and jackets. They didn’t care, this was for the Super Bowl, and it was against Dallas.
Just two minutes into the game, an injured Wilbert Montgomery took the Eagles second play from scrimmage 42 yards to the end zone. It was only 7-0, but the game was over. The Eagles dominated the rest of the game and won by a score of 20-7, but it wasn’t really even that close.
Unfortunately, the Eagles fell to the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XV. While it would have been nice to win it all, beating the Dallas Cowboys for the right to go to the Super Bowl is something that Eagles fans will hang onto forever.
Bonus: My Favorite Eagles Fan Video of All-Time
will be in jerryworld on sunday pic.twitter.com/BP1LJXpy11— Jeff McDevitt (@JeffMcDev) October 17, 2019