As the NFL celebrates it’s 100th year, NFL Films recently put together a terrific list of the Top 100 plays in league history.
The Eagles were well represented on the NFL Films list, but here, we go through the process of filling in the gaps, as there were obviously a number of plays in team history that were left out.
In this post, we’ll present plays 11 through 20, and if you missed the previous list, Nos. 21 through 30, check them out here!
20. Onsides kick to start the season (2000)
Expectations were high entering 2000. Andy Reid had just finished his first season as head coach and, after a 5-11 season in which Donovan McNabb cut his teeth on NFL defenses, it felt like the Birds were ready to take the next step. No one was predicting an NFC East title, but most believed the Eagles would be one of the most improved teams in the league and could battle for a playoff spot.
The first game of the season was in Dallas where it was insanely hot, to the point that players were drinking pickle juice to ward off the effects of the 105 degree temperatures on the field. As the Eagles prepared to kick off to start the season, David Akers pooched a picture-perfect onsides kick that caught the Cowboys completely off guard and caused an entire city to shout, “Holy s**t!” in unison.
It was recovered easily by the Eagles, who ran behind 201 yards from Duce Staley en route to a 41-14 blowout. This onsides kick to start the season is this play that unofficially launched the start of The Andy Reid Era.
19. Chuck Bednarik hit on Frank Gifford (1960)
Come to see Chuck Bednarik’s grotesquely mangled fingers. Stay for the hit where he nearly decapitated Frank Gifford on the football field.
Late in the 1960 season, the Eagles (6-1) were engaged in a full-on battle with the New York Giants (5-1-1) when, with time winding down in the 4th quarter of what would eventually be an Eagles victory, Gifford tried racing to the sidelines to get out of bounds with the Birds up 17-10 and got clotheslined to the turf by Bednarik, who celebrated with what has become an iconic victory pose.
To his credit, Bednarik said he didn’t realize how badly he’d hurt Gifford. Anyway, Gifford fumbled the ball and missed the rest of that season, as well as all of 1961, with a concussion, before coming back to the league in ‘62. The Eagles would go on to become the only team in NFL history to beat Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers for an NFL championship at the end of 1960.
18. Randall Cunningham’s Carl Banks moment on MNF (1988)
This was the play that put Randall Cunningham on the map. Back when Monday Night Football was still a big deal, the Eagles made their first appearance in seven years and faced a Giants team that came in having won six straight and 12 of their last 14. Trailing 3-0, Cunningham had the ball on the New York five-yard line and absorbed a lower body shot by linebacker Carl Banks, somehow stayed on his feet, and fired a touchdown to tight end Jimmie Giles.
I mean, just look at what this play did to the crestfallen Banks.
It broke him.
It’s not often a single play creates a superstar, but that play did. Cunningham and the Eagles went on to win that game 24-13 and finish 10-6, winning the NFC East at the expense of the Giants on the final day of the season.
17. Brian Westbrook’s punt return at Meadowlands (2003)
After winning back-to-back division titles, the Eagles’ 2003 season was in big trouble. They were 2-3 facing the Giants at the Meadowlands and were about to get the ball for the last time in the game, trailing 10-7 late in the 4th quarter. Facing a 4th down, the Giants punted the ball away and, for reasons passing understanding, kicked it to Brian Westbrook, one of the best return men in football.
Westbrook fielded the punt on a bounce, dodged a couple would-be tacklers, and raced down the left sideline for an improbable 84-yard touchdown that sealed a 14-10 Eagles victory and saved their season. The victory kicked off a nine-game winning streak as the Birds finished 12-4, won the NFC East, and eventually fell to the Panthers in the NFC Championship Game.
16. Donovan McNabb’s 14-second scramble (2004)
In 2004, everything went right for the Eagles, up until the Super Bowl. En route to a 13-3 regular season, McNabb and the Eagles were pounding the Cowboys in Dallas on Monday Night Football when, with about three minutes left in the 2nd quarter, McNabb scrambled around behind the line of scrimmage, raced from one sideline to the other and bought 14 seconds with his legs before he found Freddie Mitchell streaming down the center of the field.
McNabb made an insane throw on the run, hitting Mitchell in stride for a 60-yard catch. The Eagles would punch in another TD and win, 49-21.
15. Eric Allen INT return vs. Jets (1993)
This was a bright spot in a season that did not end well. The Eagles entered their game against the Jets with a 3-0 record, but lost Randall Cunningham for the season with a broken leg earlier in the game. Late in the contest, with the Jets driving, Eric Allen picked off a Boomer Esiason pass at the four and weaved through an insane number of people to take it 96 yards to the house in what is one of the single greatest interception run-backs of all time.
While the Birds would win this game and move to 4-0, they lost their next six and seven of eight, eventually finishing with an 8-8 record.
Eric Allen should be in the Hall of Fame, by the way.
14. Lito Sheppard INT return in T.O.’s first game back (2006)
Terrell Owens was perhaps the most valuable player on the 2004 NFC championship team, but after grousing about his contract that off-season, he came into 2005 intent on being a clubhouse cancer. And that’s exactly what he was. After causing so much trouble that he was cut a few weeks into the ‘05 season, he signed with the Dallas Cowboys and returned to Lincoln Financial Field for the first time, in the enemy’s clothes, in Week 5 of 2006.
The Eagles were 3-1, the Cowboys 2-1. The Linc was packed. The game featured wild swings of momentum and Owens spent much of the game yelling at his teammates and coaches (Jim Johnson’s defense had essentially shut him down that day). With 32 seconds left and the Eagles holding a 31-24 lead, Dallas had driven to the Birds’ six-yard line. That’s when, on 2nd and goal, Drew Bledsoe threw a ball right into the hands of Lito Sheppard, who raced 102 yards for the winning score and a 37-24 victory.
It was a huge moral victory and one of the most satisfying wins in team history.
13. Jake Elliot 61-yard walk-off FG (2017)
It’s rare that a field goal can get you this fired up, but Jake Elliott had me wanting to run through a wall. It was, and is, the longest kick in Eagles history, and there’s nothing like hearing Merrill Reese call a game-winning field goal. This was the first moment of the 2017 that made you think something special was happening.
12. Cunningham 95-yard TD vs. Buffalo (1990)
Donovan McNabb’s 14-second scramble was more drawn out and unbelievable in its own way, but Cunningham did something similar during the 1990 season when, in his own end zone, he somehow managed to avoid getting sacked by Bruce Smith, ducked under him, leaked to his left and threw a bomb that was caught by Fred Barnett, who then outran Buffalo defenders all the way for a 95-yard touchdown.
The 7-4 Eagles lost that game 30-23, but played extremely well in one of the toughest places to play against one of the best teams in football, and left behind one of the all-time greatest plays in NFL history with it.
11. McNabb to Chad Lewis TD (2004 NFC Championship)
It’s incredible that the moment the Eagles finally overcame their demons and, after three straight defeats in conference title games, finally won the NFC Championship would be all the way down at No. 11 on this list. But this feels like the right place for it.
The Eagles had lost to the Rams in St. Louis in 2001, the Buccaneers in the final game ever at the Vet in ‘02, and the Panthers at Lincoln Financial Field the week after 4th and 24 in ‘03. The overwhelming sense was that, if the Birds somehow fell to the Falcons in the 2004 NFC Championship Game, the city might literally collapse in on itself.
Thankfully, the Eagles showed up for this one. A brilliant gameplan by Jim Johnson stifled Mike Vick and, even without T.O. in the lineup (he was still dealing with a knee injury), the Eagles pulled off a convincing 27-10 victory that was iced in the final minutes thanks to this Donovan McNabb-to-Chad Lewis touchdown. It was Lewis’ second touchdown of the game and, unfortunately, resulted in a severely sprained foot that would keep him out of the Super Bowl.
But as someone who was in attendance for this game, that Lewis touchdown triggered a release of emotion that is second only to winning Super Bowl 52. The monkey of four straight NFC Championship Game losses, of always falling short, was gone. They had finally done it. And this was the play that cinched it.