The last time the Eagles began their season with a 5-0 mark was in 2004 when they subsequently went to the Super Bowl to meet the New England Patriots. We all know how that ended, and how close they got to capturing their first title.
But the Eagles also began the 1981 season with a 5-0 slate, a year that easily could have slipped our memories.
Fittingly, the Eagles met the Cowboys Sunday night for a battle the overall lead in the NFC East that the Birds came out on top of.
In this year’s version of my Yesterday column - a trip back in time to recount teams, games, and pop culture in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and beyond – I will take a look at some Eagles’ and Phillies’ postseason games, some Eagles-Cowboys matchups, and some pop culture items from past.
These Eagles Didn’t Fly High Enough: The ‘81 Eagles began the season with a flurry and actually won their first six games of the season under head coach Dick Vermeil and quarterback Ron Jaworski. They were a season away from appearing in the first Super Bowl in a loss to the Raiders.
The Eagles appeared to be back on track to the Super Bowl, as they stormed through their first six games, having four of them at the Vet.
However, a 35-23 loss to Minnesota in Week 7 turned their fate. In that game, the Vikings’ Tommy Kramer tossed four touchdown passes – one to future broadcaster Ahmad Rashad – and generated the largest point output against the Birds all season.
From there, the Eagles recovered with a 20-10 victory over Tampa Bay at the Vet, but they fell short the following week at home against Dallas in a 17-14 loss.
This game was a classic Eagles-Cowboys battle in which there was plenty of thrash talk in the papers before the contest.
The Eagles jumped out to a 14-3 lead, but Dallas rallied in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Danny White hit tight end Doug Cosbie – remember him? - with a touchdown pass, and Tony Dorsett scored the game-winner on a nine-yard run late in the game.
Jaworski was knocked out of the game with a rib injury due to a vicious hit from Cowboys’ safety Dennis Thurman, and Joe “The Paterson (NJ) Plank” Pisarcik entered the game.
Pisarcik did drive the Birds down to the Dallas 16-yard line, but dropped passes and a missed Tony Franklin field goal ended the drive.
The Eagles’ fortunes didn’t get any better over their final seven games, as they went 4-3 over the pan to finish 10-6.
Philly faced the Giants again in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, and they couldn’t
stop the Giants’ Rob Carpenter, who ran for 161 yards. The Eagles did rally from a 20-0 deficit, but they couldn’t finish.
One name certainly forgotten from the past can be defensive end Leonard Mitchell. He was the Birds’ top pick in the ‘81 draft, and he never really reached his potential. Mitchell was eventually moved to an offensive tackle in his six seasons in Philly, and he spent one season in Atlanta.
How About Those Cowboys: Over the years, there have been many Eagles-Cowboys showdowns.
The one that will always stay with me is the 1980 NFC Championship Game in which the Eagles finally got the Dallas stigma off their backs in a 20-7 victory.
I watched it at a college buddy’s house just outside of Philadelphia, and remembered how cold it was. The temperature was 12 degrees with a wind gust of 30 miles per hour that produced a wind chill of minus three.
The “Buddy Ryan Bounty Bowls” of 1989 always will be near the top of the list. In the first game on Thanksgiving in Dallas in which the Eagles won 27-0, Ryan reportedly placed bounties on Dallas kicker Luis Zendejas and quarterback Troy Aikman.
That game gained plenty of notoriety, and “Bounty Bowl II” in Philly a few weeks later was a must-watch. The Eagles won the game, 20-10, over the then hapless Cowboys - who finished 1-15 in Jimmy Johnson’s first year – and Eagles’ fans pelted referees, players and even announcers with snowballs. There was the classic shot of Johnson is his Cowboys’ jacket that had remnants of snow on it as he avoid some snowballs running off the field.
Most people may have forgotten the 1987 matchups in the strike season. The opening matchup featured the Eagles’ “scab” players in a match against many of the Cowboys’ veterans who returned and led the team to a 41-22 thumping.
In the rematch later, Ryan had his squad back, and decided to run it up on the Boys. Having a 30-20 lead in the final seconds, Eagles’ quarterback Randall Cunning apparently was ready to take a knee, but he popped up and hit Mike Quick with a pass. Quick was interfered with on the play, and the ball was on the Cowboys’ two. Keith Byars took it into the end zone, and Ryan ignited some more bitter feelings between the two teams.
North of the Border: In 1981, the Phillies were in an interesting situation. A strike split the season in two, and the Phillies won the first half, and Expos took the second. But the Phils lost their steam in the second half and didn’t have the same moxy that they had in the opening half.
The two met in the playoffs, and the Expos outlasted them in five games. Montreal’s Steve Rogers outdueled Steve Carlton in two games, and the Phils managed just 12 runs in five games.
Did You Have A Mullet (or still do)?: Staying with the theme of 1981, a mullet surfaced as one of the year’s and decade’s fashion statements. You may also recall getting that pair of Calvin Klein jeans.
We all can think back of the day when going to a mall was a big event, as they were quite popular in the early 80s. Nike and Adidas began to dominate the sportswear scene.
And we were all mesmerized in August ‘81 when MTV hit the airwaves. We also asked ourselves if we were or knew someone who was a “Yuppie.”
Clip It On: If you attended Catholic elementary and/or high school, you had a clip-on tie cross your path.
There were nearly a mandatory item during the 60s and 70s, and are still used today. Most of them were easy and comfortable, but there were the ones that were tight around your neck. You also had to be careful not to break a part of it. Sooner or later, you would graduate to tying your own tie, which was a challenge.
Muscle or Desired Cars: Being a high-school product of the late 70s, I remember the Pontiac Trans-Am and Firebird being “the” car back in the day. A friend of mine had a Trans-Am, and it was a huge experience to be able to ride in one.
Another car that came to mind was a 70s Chevelle. Another friend had one that was “fully loaded” according to him, and it certainly sounded like it was. You could also put a Mustang from the 60s and 70s in that category, as it was a car that most of us wanted to own.
I’m sure that I am missing a few. If you know of one, please drop me an email.
Do You Remember? Every week, I’ll look back at a former player, manager, coach, or broadcaster who has crossed our lives over time. Do you remember Eagles’ fullback Leroy Harris?
Harris came to the Eagles before the 1979 in a trade with the Miami Dolphins, and he was an integral part of the offense as a blocker and alternate choice for Wilbert Montgomery. Harris was a key in the Eagles’ ‘80 championship game in which he gained 60 yards. He was injured in 1981 and ended his career after the 1982 season.