A simple mention of the Eagles–Cowboys rivalry creates instant fireworks.
Records do not matter when these teams meet.
When the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys renew their rivalry on Sunday Night Football, there will be many ways to reflect the mutual dislike. No matter what season we’re talking about, “Dallas sucks” tends to be a popular phrase whenever these two teams meet.
The animosity spiked over the years as the Cowboys proclaimed themselves “America’s Team” while Philly countered with Buddy Ryan as “Instigator-in-Chief.” Every rivalry needs one.
Each team has two victories this season, but this game holds the same relevance as all others in the series led by Dallas, 73-49.
1. Going to the summit
What could be more satisfying for the Eagles than beating the Cowboys to secure the franchise’s first-ever Super Bowl appearance?
Prior to this Jan. 11, 1981, conference championship game at Veterans Stadium, the Eagles had gone 12-4, securing first place in the NFC East via tiebreaker against the Cowboys. Wilbert Montgomery’s 194-yard rushing effort defined what was perhaps Philadelphia’s biggest regular-season win of all time.
This 20-7 Eagles victory was also known as the Blue Jersey Game. The host Eagles made the Cowboys wear their seemingly cursed blue uniforms (which Dallas had used in losing Super Bowl V). Dallas was, indeed, cursed again.
2. Buddy rubs it in
What, Buddy Ryan rub salt in the wound?
The Eagles coach was a central figure in the rivalry. In 1987, with many of the Cowboys players crossing the picket line during the strike, Dallas thumped the replacement-laden Eagles, 41-22.
Ryan accused Dallas coach Tom Landry of running up the score.
Two weeks later, with all NFL players back, Buddy extracted payback. With the Eagles up by 10 points late, he had quarterback Randall Cunningham fake taking a knee and throw a bomb into the end zone. This is not what victory formation looks like.
The pass prompted a pass-interference call and a final touchdown for the 37-20 final.
It takes in-your-face moments to propel a rivalry.
3. An unlikely but huge triumph
Last year looked like a lost one for Philadelphia. In midseason, the Birds were plastered 37-10 by the Cowboys. They were 5-7, but then notched two improbable come-from-behind wins over the New York Giants and Washington Redskins (now Football Team).
When they played Dallas on Dec. 22, they were still ravaged by injuries. Dallas was favored. Philly was expected to go quietly, “expected” being the key word. The Eagles thwarted Dallas 17-9 to stave off elimination. Then they beat the Giants again to win the division. And Jason Garrett lost his job as Dallas head coach.
This victory came right in the middle of a gigantic December for Philadelphia.
4. Bounty Bowls
Ah, Buddy Ryan again.
After the Eagles thumped the Cowboys 27-0 on Thanksgiving Day in 1989, Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson accused Ryan of taking out a bounty on former Eagle Luis Zendejas and quarterback Troy Aikman.
But it’s what he said that served as lighter fuel.
In the Dec. 10 rematch, Eagles fans pelted opposing players with ice balls. Some hit Johnson as he was escorted off the field by Philadelphia police. More than 100 people were ejected.
One security guard said “this place was like Beirut” today.
After this game, beer sales were banned for the rest of the season at Eagles games.
5. Westbrook redefines culture
Remember the attention given to Todd Gurley scoring Sunday for the Atlanta Falcons when he should have stopped short and let his team run out the clock? It became even more intensified when his team lost on the final play of the game.
The origin of this thinking, and several plays like it, came from Brian Westbrook. During the Dec. 17, 2007, game, Westbrook stopped short of a sure touchdown, taking a knee at the 1-yard line. This allowed quarterback Donovan McNabb to take a knee three times to ensure the 10-6 win over Dallas. It was thinking outside of the box and completely unselfish. After his play, the logic of this tactic became commonplace.
OK, fantasy owners fumed, but what are you going to do?
6. The great lateral move
On Nov. 3, 1996, with the Eagles leading at 24-21, James Willis made a memorable play. The Eagles linebacker intercepted a pass in the end zone, ran out to the 10 and lateraled the ball to Troy Vincent. And he took it to the house, completing a 104-yard touchdown return.
The Eagles would go on to win 31–21 in Dallas.
7. DeSean Jackson, the magician
DeSean Jackson is known for the electrifying play. On Dec. 12, 2010, he gave another example of why.
With the game tied 20-20, Jackson took a pass from Michael Vick and turned it into a 91-yard scoring scamper. This was vintage Jackson. The completed pass was 10 yards, but Jackson literally went from one sideline to the other, weaving across the entire field to elude defenders.
And the coup de grâce? He fell backward into the end zone, silencing the Dallas home crowd.
The Eagles went on to win. And for Jackson, this was a prequel. A couple of weeks later, he broke the backs and the hearts of the New York Giants with a punt return for the game-ending touchdown.
7.5. That other “bowl” game
One night before an Eagles-Cowboys game, Ryan had nearly choked to death on a pork chop when out to dinner with offensive coordinator Ted Plumb. It was good that Plumb intervened and saved Ryan’s life. Once word got out, however, the Eagles bench was showered with pork chops and various other like-minded meat products during the game. The event was dubbed, appropriately enough, “The Porkchop Bowl.”
Ryan was indispensable to this rivalry. He had three bowl games named in his honor.
Eagles + Cowboys rivalry = NFC East bragging rights
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) October 29, 2020
As a side note, Sunday night’s game, like many of the previous meetings mentioned above, could play a significant role in determining which team wins the NFC East. The 2-4-1 Eagles currently have a slight edge over the 2-5 Cowboys.
But will the final result be memorable enough to make the next Eagles-Cowboys list?