As the NFL celebrates it’s 100th year, NFL Films recently put together a terrific list of the Top 100 plays in league history.
While I may beg to differ with the position of some of these picks (Philly Special No. 10, behind the Minneapolis Miracle?), it’s pretty cool to see 100 years of league history condensed into 100 great plays. Those 100 plays essentially tell the story of the league and virtually all of the awesome players and teams that have been a part of the league for the last century.
While the Eagles were well represented, there were obviously a number of plays in team history that were left out, mostly because they mean more to us than they do the league as a whole. Still, this feels like a good time to share my list of the Top 30 plays in team history.
In this post, we’ll start with Nos. 21-30, with more coming in the following days!
30. LeSean McCoy runs wild in the snow (2013)
In 2013, the Lions came to Lincoln Financial Field and, although heavy snow was not in the forecast, whiteout conditions descended upon the Linc just minutes before the 1pm kickoff. There were at least two or three inches of snow on the field and it was driving down from the heavens on the players like crazy.
So, it’s incredible that McCoy ran for 217 yards on 29 carries with two touchdowns in this game, with this run perhaps being the most memorable of the day, bringing the Birds back from an early hole and giving the team the lead in a game they would win going away, 34-20.
29. Troy Aikman to James Willis to Troy Vincent (1996)
James Willis picked off Troy Aikman...— NFL (@NFL) November 9, 2018
And LATERALED to @TroyVincent23 for the game-sealing TD! #FBF (via @NFLThrowback)
: #DALvsPHI Sunday (8:20pm ET) on NBC pic.twitter.com/tMpP694b7U
I originally had Nick Foles’ 7-TD game in here, but I had forgotten what an amazing play this was. The Eagles were in Dallas in Ray Rhodes’ second year and the Cowboys were the defending champs. The last time these two teams met, the Cowboys had spanked the Eagles in the NFC Divisional round of the playoffs.
Here, the Eagles held a 24-21 lead with time winding down. Troy Aikman had Dallas at the Eagles’ 3 yard-line. We were certainly looking at a tie game and it seemed pretty certain the Cowboys were going to score a TD and win the game.
But for once, fate intervened. Aikman got pressured in the pocket and his arm was hit as he threw. Willis jumped in front of the pass in the end zone, ran about 15 yards and then lateraled it to Vincent, who went the rest of the way for the score and a satisfying 31-21 victory.
This would be the high point of the Ray Rhodes era. The team would stumble down the stretch but still made the wild card, losing to the 49ers in San Francisco 14-0, a game that absolutely nobody remembers ever took place.
28. David Akers’ game-winning FG vs. Giants (2006 Wild Card)
The 2006 season was one of the weirdest in recent memory. Donovan McNabb got hurt mid-season and had to be replaced with Jeff Garcia. The Eagles were 5-6 at one point and the season appeared all but dead. The Birds then won their last four games, the last three of which were on the road against divisional opponents, to finish 10-6 and earn a wild card spot.
On wild card weekend, they hosted the 8-8 New York Giants in a game that was close throughout. As he did so often throughout his career, David Akers came through in the clutch and kicked a 38-yarder as time expired to send his team to the divisional round, where the Birds would lose to the Saints in a heartbreaker in New Orleans. But this was one clutch kick.
27. Rob Carpenter’s Halftime “Hail Mary” vs. Detroit (1995 Wild Card)
The Detroit Lions came into their 1995 NFC Wild Card match-up as a road favorite, having won seven games in a row, with a 10-6 record. Meanwhile, the Eagles had also gone 10-6, surprising everyone in the NFL under first year head coach Ray Rhodes, but with Barry Sanders at running back and a “Run-n-Shoot” offense that was putting points up on the board seemingly at will, Lions offensive lineman Lomas Brown felt confident enough to declare in the days leading up to the game, “By the end of the first quarter, we’re going to have this game over with.”
With just five seconds left in the 2nd quarter, the Eagles led 31-7, and a party was going on. That’s when things got surreal. A Hail Mary throw by Rodney Peete somehow ended up in the arms of journeyman wide receiver Rob Carpenter, the dagger in what would eventually be a 58-37 victory at the Vet.
26. Keanu Neal’s knee to Torrey Smith (2017 Divisional Playoffs)
What if Nick Foles’ pass just before halftime of the Eagles’ divisional round game against the Falcons doesn’t bounce off of Keanu Neal’s knee? What if it doesn’t land right in the arms of Torrey Smith? What if Neal intercepts the ball and runs it in for a touchdown, or at the very least gives the Falcons great field position for a field goal just before the half?
Every championship team gets a little bit of luck along the way (see the Patriots and “The Tuck Rule”). We remember Philly demolishing the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game and outlasting the Patriots to win the Super Bowl, but without this fortunate turn of events, none of it probably would have happened.
25. Dawkins levels Alge (2004 NFC Championship)
With the Eagles leading the Falcons 14-3 and just a little over two minutes remaining in the half, Atlanta was driving when tight end Alge Crumpler caught a pass downfield at the 10-yard line. It was a tremendous play by Crumpler, first to catch the ball then absorb what was perhaps the defining hit of Brian Dawkins’ career.
Sure, the Falcons would score a touchdown to pull within 14-10, but Crumpler was not heard from for the rest of the game, and the Eagles would go on to shut out Atlanta in the 2nd half, sending the Birds to their second Super Bowl in team history.
24. Randall Fake Kneel Down vs. Dallas (1987)
This was the game where a city fell in love with Buddy Ryan.
In 1987, NFL players went on strike for about a month at the beginning of the season amidst the sport’s most serious labor strife ever. For three of those weeks, the NFL used “scab” players, guys off the street to suit up and play each other for games that would actually count in the standings. The Eagles lost all three of those games, the last of them to the Cowboys after multiple Dallas stars, such as quarterback Randy White and running back Tony Dorsett, crossed the picket lines, ran a number of gadget plays and clobbered the replacements, 41-22.
A couple weeks later, the regular players were back and, in a game at the Vet, the Eagles were up 10 in the final seconds. A couple kneel-downs would end things. But head coach Buddy Ryan, still incensed from what happened in Dallas a couple weeks before, had Randall Cunningham fake a kneel down and throw a deep pass to Mike Quick, which drew a pass interference call in the end zone. From there, Keith Byars plowed through the demoralized Dallas defensive line for an all-too satisfying 37-20 victory.
23. Miracle at RFK (1989)
This game, and the play in question, was documented in the most recent episode of BGN Memories, but suffice it to say, it was a pretty incredible game, and a ridiculous play that resulted in one of the most memorable Eagles wins of the Ryan era.
22. Randall’s 91-yard punt (1989)
With about 12 minutes left in a taut, early-December battle between the Eagles and Giants, the score was tied at 17 and the Eagles were backed up near their own goal line. Philly was 8-4 and the Giants were 9-3, so this was a huge game in the ‘89 season, and it looked like New York was going to force a huge swing in field position with the Eagles backed up with 4th and forever on their own two-yard line.
Rather than bring in the regular punter, Ryan decided to let Cunningham, who punted in college, to kick the ball out of their own end zone. Aided by huge gusts of wind as his back, Cunningham connected on a gorgeous punt that traveled 91 yards before ultimately being picked up by Dave Meggett at his own 7-yard line and returned to his own 16. Moments later, Reggie White would force Phil Simms into the arms of Mike Golic, who stripped the QB of the ball, giving the Eagles the ball at the Giants’ 12. Byars would score a 2-yard touchdown shortly thereafter, giving the Birds a huge 24-17 victory at the Meadowlands.
21. Chris Clemons & Joselio Hanson fumble returns in 44-6 (2008)
At one point in 2008, the Eagles were 4-6-1. The season was lost. It was ugly, but no one really cared because the Phillies had just won the World Series. But the Eagles decided they wanted a little bit of the city’s attention, too, and went on a three-game winning streak to improve to 7-6-1. Still, coming into the final week of the season, the Birds needed a miracle to get into the postseason. They needed Oakland, a 13-point underdog, to upset the Bucs in Tampa, and they needed Houston, a six-point underdog, to beat the Chicago Bears. With both of those games happening at 1pm ET and the Eagles game set for 4:15, they would know by kickoff whether or not their game would matter.
When the Raiders and Texans pulled off their miracles, the Eagles-Cowboys tilt suddenly became a win-or-go-home game. Everyone expected a dogfight. But the Cowboys never showed up.
The two plays that best summed up that shellacking were fumble returns by defensive end Chris Clemons and cornerback Joselio Hanson at the start of the third quarter, touchdowns that fully humiliated the Cowboys and sent the Eagles on a run that would ultimately end in the NFC Championship Game in Arizona a few weeks later.