The Eagles interrupted an unscheduled soccer game in Veterans Stadium on Sunday and awakened 67,106 in attendance with a dramatic touchdown, a scoring tool still foreign to the Cowboys, to swipe a 13-12 victory from Dallas.
Tight end Chad Lewis’ eight-yard touchdown catch off a Rodney Peete pass with 45 seconds to play prompted a mighty cheer for the locals, rivaling the one heard in the first quarter when Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman dropped to a knee, obviously knocked dizzy from a crushing blow delivered by Philadelphia defensive lineman and former Cowboy Jimmie Jones.
Jones, lowering his helmet to deliver the wallop, struck the back of Aikman’s neck, forcing Aikman to leave the game after suffering the fifth concussion in his professional career and the seventh since he began playing football.
Aikman wanted to return in the second half, but was forced to remain on the sideline by team physicians, who will require him to be examined by a neurologist today to receive medical clearance to start at San Francisco this Sunday.
“It’s the first one I’ve had in a couple of years,” said Aikman, who gave way to an ineffective Wade Wilson. “Certainly they are always a concern, no question about it, but that’s all I can really say on that right now.”
Aikman, who has spoken at times in his career about retiring because of his concern about concussions, said he has had worse and does not anticipate this one affecting his career.
“That’s something I would evaluate at the end of the year,” said Aikman, who was hit four of the eight times he retreated to pass. “I had some headaches and some pain in the back of my neck on this one, but my sense came around and I was able to focus on things.”
The outcome of the game, meanwhile, left both teams trailing the surprising New York Giants (6-3) and parked at 4-4 in the NFC East , but headed in decidedly different directions.
“No doubt about it,” Eagle defensive lineman Rhett Hall said, “we can make a run at this thing.”
The Cowboys, aware they are going nowhere until they locate the end zone, were left only moaning and groaning.
“The reason we lost the ballgame is we couldn’t tackle the damn backs,” said an emotional Barry Switzer, Cowboy coach. “We couldn’t line up right and we made damn mistakes--that’s why we lost the ballgame.
“It wasn’t because we didn’t try and didn’t give the effort . . . every damn play. We just couldn’t make plays when we had to make plays.”
In short, the Cowboys aren’t very good. They were three for 14 on third down, gained 93 net yards throwing the ball, allowed six sacks and committed 10 penalties.
In addition, the end zone remained off limits. Thirty-one times the Cowboys have moved within the opposition’s 20-yard line this season and, while scoring every time, they have posted only nine touchdowns.
Against the Eagles they approached the end zone four times, and left on each occasion with a Richie Cunningham field goal.
“We have to score more points,” said Dallas running back Emmitt Smith, who ran 25 times for 126 yards, but still has scored only one rushing touchdown since Thanksgiving. “The Eagles’ defense wasn’t stopping us; we were stopping ourselves.”
The Eagles, short on offense themselves with Peete at quarterback, had Ty Detmer warming up on the sideline several times and the fans chanting “Bobby,” for third-string quarterback Bobby Hoying. But each time Coach Ray Rhodes considered going to the bullpen, one of his receivers dropped a pass, and that was hardly Peete’s fault.
“We struggled at [quarterback], but we hung in there because of some of the things that were happening like the dropped passes,” Rhodes said. “We decided to give him a shot and see if we could get this thing turned around.”
The Eagles’ decisive drive began at their own 26-yard line with 4:20 remaining, and appeared to have come to a halt around the Dallas 32-yard line with a little more than two minutes to play. On fourth and 11, Peete connected with Irving Fryar, who had dropped the three previous passes thrown his way.
“Everybody had their fingers crossed and anything we could possibly cross on our bodies because that was huge for us,” Rhodes said.
Fryar appeared to be tackled short of the 32-yard line, but thanks to a generous spot from the officials, a measurement favoring the Eagles by inches kept the game-winning drive alive.
“I saw some things that didn’t look right to me, but I’m not going to get into that,” snapped Switzer when asked about the placement of the ball.
A seven-yard pass to fullback Kevin Turner and two runs by Ricky Watters advanced the ball to the Dallas eight-yard line. Peete called a play designed to let Lewis victimize Omar Stoutmire, the Cowboy rookie safety subbing for an injured Darren Woodson, and the Eagles ran it to perfection.
“I don’t think this game’s a beauty pageant,” Rhodes said in discussing Peete’s play. “When it turns into a beauty pageant, I’ve got to get out of it. . . . He just finds a way to win, and that’s what counts in this business.
“This is just a huge win for our football team. Our players now can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
But what about the Cowboys, is it time to turn out the lights?
“We’ve been to the playoffs before with as many as five losses,” said Smith, going on the attack. “Don’t count us out. Everyone has been counting us out all year, and that’s fine, but it’s a mistake.”
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
* Denver: 23
* Buffalo: /(OT) 20
Jason Elam’s 33-yard field goal decides it. C4
* Pittsburgh: /23
* Jacksonville: /(OT) 17
Jerome Bettis catches touchdown pass for win. C5
* Minnesota: /10
* Tampa Bay: /6
* Baltimore: /20
* Washington: /17
* N.Y. Giants: /29
* Cincinnati: /27
* Philadelphia: /13
* Dallas: /12
* Kansas City: /28
* St. Louis: /20
* San Francisco: /23
* New Orleans: /0
* Tennessee: /41
* Arizona: /14
* San Diego: /35
* Indianapolis: /19
* Seattle: /45
* Oakland: /34
* Carolina: /21
* Atlanta: /12