PRO FOOTBALL : Eagles Win Division, Save Ryan With a 23-7 Victory Over Cowboys
Buddy Ryan has two early Christmas presents under his tree, the NFC Eastern Division championship and a new lease on his job.
With owner Norman Braman down on the outspoken Ryan and reportedly ready to give him the ax if Philadelphia didn’t make the playoffs, Randall Cunningham threw 2 touchdown passes Sunday to lead the Eagles to a 23-7 victory over the Dallas Cowboys.
“Personally this rates right up there with the three Super Bowls I’ve been to,” said Ryan, former defensive coordinator at Chicago.
“We won in great style and I’d like to thank the (New York) Jets for helping us out.”
The Jets’ 27-21 victory over the New York Giants (10-6) gave the division title to the Eagles (10-6) because Philadelphia swept its two games with New York.
The Eagles intercepted 3 passes by Steve Pelluer while winning their first division title since 1980 and making the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons.
“We will respond the same way we have all year,” Ryan said. “The defense has been playing great and the offense is getting straightened around.
“This is how we’ve played all year. We shut them down cold.”
The Eagles held Herschel Walker to 63 yards rushing, but Walker set a club record by surpassing the 1,971 rushing-receiving yards compiled by Tony Dorsett in 1981.
Dallas (3-13) had the second-worst record in club history. The Cowboys were 0-10-1 in 1960, their first season.
“They deserve it,” Dallas Coach Tom Landry said of the Eagles. “They stuck in there and won the close games all year. Nobody picked them but they won it and you have to give them credit.”
The Eagles got it going after Walker’s 1-yard scoring run gave Dallas a 7-0 first quarter lead.
Cunningham’s 41-yard hookup with Mike Quick set up Cunningham’s 12-yard scoring pass to Keith Jackson that tied the score.
Luis Zendejas’ 37-yard field goal made it 10-7 at halftime.
Cunningham ran 25 and 18 yards to set up his 15-yard touchdown strike to Quick on a 75-yard scoring drive to start the second half, giving the Eagles a 17-7 lead.
Zendejas kicked two 27-yard field goals in the fourth quarter.
Braman denied afterward that he considered firing Ryan.
“There has never been any conjecture about Buddy as far as I’m concerned,” Braman said. “This is our greatest win ever, and Buddy had a point to prove. He has made this team what it is.”