I know this is Mike's Baseball Rants, but my Eagles just won, so forgive me this small transgression. It wasn't pretty, but the Eagles pulled out a 20-6 win over the Falcons. What I find interesting, and the reason I am writing this, is that this game, while it was in peril for the Eagles reminded me of a similar game from my youth. That game was a 14-13 loss by the Eagles to the Falcons, a game the Eagles led 13-0 until the last 5 minutes of the game.
Then I got to thinking about other Eagle defeats from the Dick Vermeil-Ron Jaworski era. It may surprise some that Jaworski earned his "Jaws" nickname not because of his verbosity in the broadcasters booth but because of his on-field tenacity and rifle arm (the metaphor gets strained right about there). Anyway, It got me to thinking that this postseason might be dubbed their "Redemption Tour", a series of games in which they exorcise demons from their past. Let me explain.
The Eagles finally reached the playoffs in 1978 after 17 years of futility and then lost in the first round, which was then the Division Playoff. This was the 14-13 loss to the Falcons.
In 1979, the Eagles beat the Bears in the first round, 27-17-it was the year that the Wild Card Round was added. They then lost in the Division Playoff to the Doug Williams-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 24-17.
In 1980, the Eagles finally won the division for the first time and had a bye in the first round. They defeated the Vikings 31-16 in Division Playoff after trailing 14-0 in the second quarter. Next up was the hated Cowboys in the NFC Championship, who the Eagles completely dismantled, and I mean this derisively, America's Team, 20-7. The result seemed inevitable after the opening drive, in which number 31, Wilbert Montgomery, ran through Dallas' defense for a 42-yard touchdown. Unfortunately, the Eagles looked completely flat in Super Bowl XV, falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter and eventually losing to the Oakland Raiders, 27-10.
Actually, now that I think of it, what got me to thinking about this originally was the Jets drubbing of Green Bay, 42-17, in the Meadowlands on the last week of the season to give the Eagles the number one seed in the NFC. This came a day after the Eagles had lost, 10-7, to the Giants on the same field to a) put the Giants in the playoffs as a wild card and b) temporarily lose the homefield advantage in the NFC for the Eagles.
So why did that get me to thinking about the Harold Carmichael-era Eagles? Because the Jets are coached by old Eagles cornerback Herman Edwards (#46 if memory serves). Edwards was the man responsible for the 1978 play that has become known as "The Miracle in the Meadowlands." I'll set the scene: The Giants led 17-12 and had possession on their own 29-yeard line with 31 ticks left. The Eagles had no timeouts. All the Giants had to do was fall on the ball, and they would have secured victory. However, the Giants' QB (and future Eagle) Joe Pisarcik attempted a handoff to running back (and future cruise line hawk) Larry Csonka. The exchange was bad and the ball bounced free. Edwards scooped up the loose ball and ran it in for the winning touchdown.
The 9-7 Eagles would not have made the playoffs in 1978 without that win. That was the first coincidence. Then I looked at the potential Eagles opponents in the playoffs after the Falcons surprising defeated the Pack-men in Lambeau. If the favorites won the rest of the way, the Eagles would face the Falcons, the Bucs, and the Raiders.
Tonight the Eagles led the Falcons 13-6 at the half but should have put more points on the board. They were lucky that they avoided disaster. Again this reminded me of 1978 playoff. 'Twas the night before Christmas and the Eagles scored after a fumbled punt in the first quarter. However, Mike Michel, who was typically the punter but had also taken on placekicker duties due to original kicker, Nick Mick-Mayer's, ineffectiveness, missed the extra point-Eagles led at the half, 6-0. They added another TD in the third quarter to lead 13-0. The game was apparently theirs when the scored remained unchallenged with less than five minutes to play. But Falcon QB Steve Bartkowski drove for two touchdowns to give Atlanta a 14-13 lead with 1:39 to play. Jaworski drove to the Falcon 16, but Michel missed a 34-yarder as time expired.
For most of the second half tonight, I was expecting a similar debacle. The Eagles, however, exorcised their 1978 demons with this textbook definition of winning ugly. All I hope is that the script plays as expected and the Eagles defeat the Bucs next week and the Raiders in the Super Bowl to dispel all of their late '70s demons. We'll just have to see.