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The origin of the Eagles-Cowboys rivalry

The late 1960s saw the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys headed in opposite directions. In 1966, the Eagles had their last winning season for 12 years, while the Cowboys made their first of eight straight playoff appearances. But despite these two franchises having little in common at the time, they laid the groundwork for a rivalry that would span decades.

October 9th, 1966. The 3-0 Cowboys were steamrolling the league. They had won 52-7, 28-17 and 47-14 before hosting the Eagles. The Eagles were 2-2, coming off a blowout loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. The Eagles got blown out that day, down 28-0 at the half. The Cowboys again ran up the score, throwing for two more touchdowns in the third quarter en route to a 49-0 lead. In the rematch the next month, that would linger.

November 6th, 1966. The 5-1-1 Cowboys visited the 4-4 Eagles at Franklin Field, with the Eagles needing a win to stay alive in the race for the NFC East division title, and the Cowboys needing a win to stay ahead of the 2nd place Browns. Eagles coach Joe Kuharich showed his team the earlier blowout every day in practice to motivate his players. It seemed to have worked. From scrimmage, the game was another lopsided affair, but Dallas struggled to move the ball, gaining just 240 yards on 70 plays. However that lapped the Eagles, who gained just 80 yards on 49 plays. They completed five passes all game. There were seven total turnovers, eight total sacks. And yet the Eagles won, because Timmy Brown, Mr. Everything, returned a first quarter kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown, and then in the second quarter returned another 90 yards for a touchdown. Aaron Martin returned a punt 67 yards for a score and Sam Baker added a field goal to give the Eagles a 24-17 lead at the half. The Eagles didn’t score again all game, but held the Cowboys to just two field goals. Late in the game with the Cowboys moving down the field, safety Joe Scarpati stripped running back Dan Reeves on a hotly contested play. Reeves, later known as the stoic coach of the Broncos, Giants and Falcons, was so incensed he accidentally knocked an official over chasing him down to protest. He was ejected and fined, and maintains that the play should have been whistled dead before the turnover. Brown set a record for kick return yards in a game with 247 on five returns. The Eagles won a game they should have easily lost 24-23. The Cowboys wouldn’t forget.

December 10th, 1967. The Eagles, stuck in second place at 5-6-1, traveled to the Cotton Bowl to face the division leading 8-4 Cowboys. Brown says he was told before the game that the Cowboys had put a bounty on him. For most of the game, those rumors seemed false. As for the game, like the previous season, it was a one sided affair. The Cowboys outgained the Eagles 325 to 102, and had five of the first six scores as they raced out to a 31-3 lead. Late in the game, the Cowboys, not content to win a blowout at home enroute to another NFC Championship Game appearance, went after Brown.

Brown ran a dummy route and QB Norm Snead threw to a receiver on the other side of the field. Cowboys LB Lee Roy Jordan, who would be inducted into the Cowboys Ring of Honor in 1989, viciously elbowed Brown in the face. Brown suffered a broken jaw and had six teeth knocked out. He was unable to eat solid food for six weeks. Jenkins got a 15 yard penalty. In 1972 Mel Tom, a rookie in 1967, would take out Roger Staubach with a late hit. The Cowboys dominate the Eagles for the next decade after 1966, winning the next 10 matchups and 20 of the next 22, making the Eagles an also ran instead of a rival.

The rivalry between the teams would blossom in 1987 when Buddy Ryan and Tom Landry exchanged on-field insults, Landry running up the score with his strike breakers over Ryan’s scabs, and then Ryan returned the favor in the post-strike rematch. But the seeds were sown in the 60s, when the teams were actually competitive against each other and legitimately hated each other.

If they happened today those games would never be forgotten.

Four Downs

1 Wentz’s learning curve is ridiculous, can he accelerate it again?

In training camp and the preseason, Wentz was regularly overthrowing his receivers. It was seen as a flaw that would be fixed over time. That time was short lived, as Wentz stopped consistently sailing passes as soon as the regular season started. In his first two games, he took too many hits. Again, it was a fixable flaw, but it wouldn’t happen overnight. Except like his overthrows, it did. In his third game Wentz stopped taking too many hits, and hasn’t done so since.

The past three games he’s made some questionable decisions, but like the overthrows and hits, they’re all fixable rookie mistakes. Lately he’s put a little too much trust in his awful receivers, he’s tried to force it a little too much when he hasn’t needed to. Wentz’s learning curve so far would indicate that he’ll fix those quickly too. Against a mediocre Cowboys defense, Wentz shouldn’t be hurting for opportunities.

2 The circus never leaves town

P.T. Barnum, equal parts businessman and showman, is widely credited with the phrase “there’s a sucker born every minute.” Nothing better illustrates this, or is more fitting to Barnum’s legacy, than the fact that there is no evidence that he actually ever said it. But that’s never stopped anyone from thinking he did.

It reminds me of people who want to be insiders in sports. They float a rumor, vaguely word it in a weasley way so that when it inevitably doesn’t happen they can point to the vague language they used, and have no accountability for when they are wrong. Be wise to keep that in mind anytime you see something that seems too good to be true from a random “insider”.

3 Schedule makers: take a lap

The Eagles had a Week 4 bye, which shouldn’t even exist, and now they’re on game two of three against teams coming off their bye. Every team has to have a game or two against someone coming off a bye, but three in a row? That ain’t right. And two of them in a row on the road (Dallas and the Giants)? There’s no justification for that.

4 Is Howie Roseman on vacation?

Each week the Eagles have flipped Darrell Greene on and off the practice squad as a way to get an 11th player on the 10 man practice squad. Going to eleven seems to a be a theme this season. We’ve poked a lot of fun at it all year, and then this week….. Nothing. We are distraught here at BGN not being able to report on this regular activity. Did Roseman head to the beach for the week? In Mallorca?

Or did the league tell them to knock it off? If so, why now? In 2010 the Saints spent all year bouncing QB Sean Canfield on and off the practice squad, and did nothing. Greene’s only been on and off the roster for half the season. If the league is cracking down on practice squad shenanigans in the wake of the 2010 Saints, they shouldn’t have waited so long with the Eagles.

At least we got some fun out of it.

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