For the third straight week, the Philadelphia Eagles put themselves in a hole at the start of the game. This time, they found a way to climb out.
The Eagles trailed Washington, 14-0, in the first quarter 2 weeks ago and lost, 17-10. Last week, they fell behind Minnesota, 10-0, in the opening period and lost, 23-21.
Sunday, the Eagles (2-3) trailed the Houston Oilers, 16-0, with only 6:39 gone in the opening quarter. But this time, Randall Cunningham and newly acquired placekicker Luis Zendejas triggered a rally that produced a 32-23 victory.
Cunningham threw 2 touchdown passes and ran 33 yards for another, while Zendejas kicked field goals of 22, 39 and 41 yards.
While Cunningham and Zendejas were leading the offense, the defense put the clamps on Houston's explosive running game and forced quarterback Cody Carlson into his worst day.
Houston, which scored its first-quarter points with the help of 2 blocked punts, managed only 196 yards in total offense, including 55 with the run.
Cunningham completed 24 of 38 passes for 289 yards and rushed for 59 yards in 3 carries--gaining more yards on the ground than Houston.
Carlson completed 10 of 28 passes for 158 yards and was sacked twice for a losses totaling 19. He underthrew and overthrew wide-open receivers the entire game.
Cunningham, who said he was sick before the game and had to take something to settle his stomach, said memories of the last 2 weeks flooded his mind as Houston (3-2) took that early lead.
"It was the same problem as the last 2 games," he said. "I thought, 'You got to bring 'em back; you got to calm this team down.' "
Cunningham said the players began carrying out their roles.
"(Keith) Jackson and (Cris) Carter made some big catches," Cunningham said. "I just tried to do my assignment. If everyone does his assignment, we can win."
Eagle Coach Buddy Ryan admitted he was upset in the first period.
"I don't suppose anybody saw a more disastrous 10 or 15 minutes," Ryan said. "Every time we punted it was a thrill to see if we were going to get it off."
Cunningham connected with 6 receivers, including Jackson (8 for 66 yards) and Carter (2 for 58).
On the Eagles' first scoring drive, which resulted in Zendejas' 22-yard field goal, Cunningham completed passes of 6, 19, 12, 11 and 23 yards.
Philadelphia receiver Mike Quick, a Pro Bowl selection the last 5 years, suffered a fracture of his left ankle after catching a 23-yard pass with 1:41 remaining in the first quarter. The Eagles said he will be sidelined at least 2 months.
Quick caught 2 passes for 35 yards Sunday and has 15 for 384 and 3 touchdowns this season.