Heading into the 4th quarter of the January 3rd, 1993 NFC Wild Card game between the Saints and Eagles, things were looking dim for the visiting Birds. The offense had sputtered for three quarters, and the Birds trailed the Saints, 20-10. Worse yet, the Saints D was the best in the NFL, surrendering a measly 12.6 ppg for the season, which would be the lowest average of any defense in the 1990s. The Superdome was rocking: the home team had NEVER won a single playoff game in franchise history, and they were 15 minutes away from their first.
On the Eagles side of the field, it was their superstars Randall Cunningham and Reggie White who were trying to get off the schneid. The two men had never won a playoff game, and the 29-year old QB had gone 0-3 with 0 TDs and 5 INTs while the offense had sputtered to 8 points a game in three playoff appearances.
With 10:37 left in the game, the Eagles faced a 3rd and 10 from the Saints 35. Randall lofted one into the left side of the end zone. Fred Barnett, who made his one and only Pro Bowl that season, made a spectacular leaping catch over cornerback Reginald Jones, and the Eagles had cut the lead to 20-17. Moments later, while rolling out to his left, Saints QB Bobby Hebert made an awful pass that settled into the arms of Seth Joyner. The Eagles leaned heavily on Heath Sherman in the ensuing short drive, and it was capped by a Sherman 6-yard run around the left end. The Eagles, seemingly dead in the water only minutes before, now took the lead, 24-20.
Momentum had clearly shifted, and the Saints meltdown continued on their next drive. On 3rd and 25 with the home team on its own 5-yard line, Reggie White bullrushed his way into the backfield and sacked Hebert for a safety. A Roger Ruzek field goal on the ensuing drive made it 29-20. Bobby Hebert’s nightmarish 4th quarter continued, as a pass into the flat was picked off by Eric Allen and taken 18 yards to the house. Final score: Eagles 36-Saints 20. The Birds had scored a remarkable 26 points in the final 11 minutes of the game. It was a shocking comeback, as the Saints hadn’t given up 26 points in an entire game all season. But the comeback was somewhat overshadowed by events earlier that same day: the Bills had overcome a 35-3 Oilers lead to pull of the greatest comeback in NFL history.
The Eagles season only lasted one week longer. The next week they fell to the Cowboys 34-10. The win over the Saints was, remarkably, the only playoff victory Randall and Reggie ever had as Eagles.
RELATED: Highlights of that game.
Boxscore of the game.
A couple of years ago, when the Eagles pulled off their miraculous comeback win over the Giants, culminated by a DeSean Jackson TD with no time left, people called it the Miracle at the Meadowlands 2. In fact, it was Miracle at the Meadowlands 3. Some people seem to have forgotten the 2nd one. Which is too bad, because it’s just as crazy as the other two.
The Eagles had stumbled out of the gate in 1988, going 1-3 in the mont of September. They finally started to right the ship in late October, and by November 20th, they were riding a 3 game winning streak into the Meadowlands. The Giants, meanwhile, were 7-4 and tied with the Cardinals atop the division.
It was 48 degrees and pouring rain at kickoff, and it never let up. Randall Cunningham was rendered rather ineffective (14-36, 224 yards) by the rain and the Giants D, and the running backs combined for a mere 43 yards (Randall put up another 64 on the ground.) But the Birds caught a couple of breaks, and also knocked Giants QB Phil Simms out of the game with a bruised shoulder in the 3rd quarter. His replacement, Jeff Hostetler, was completely ineffective, but the Giants still clung to a 17-10 lead with less than 5 minutes left. That’s when Cunningham connected with Keith Jackson over the middle. Jackson was hit by Terry Kinard at the 2 yard line, and coughed it up. It tumbled into the end zone where Cris “All He Does is Catch Touchdwon Passes” Carter proved that he could also recover touchdown fumbles. The game went into overtime.
In overtime, Jeff Hostetler threw a pass into the arms of Eagles defensive back Terry Hoage, and the Birds took over on the Giants 41. They marched the ball down the field to the 13, then Luis Zendejas lined up for the winning field goal. The snap was good, the hold was good, and…”I didn’t see anything,” said Clyde Simmons. ”I just heard a thud.”
Lawrence Taylor had ripped through the middle and blocked the kick. Defensive end Clyde Simmons scooped the ball up at the 15 (there was no lateral as Merrill Reese states in the video) and started running it in. It was a heads up play, as a lot of guys didn’t realize that was he was doing was legal.
”We chased him,” said Leonard Marshall, the Giant defensive end. ”But I think a lot of us thought they couldn’t do that.”
It was legal, since Simmons had picked it up behind the line of scrimmage. And it got the Eagles into the playoffs. Both the Giants and the Eagles finished the season with 10-6 records, but the Eagles went to the playoffs on account of the fact they had beaten the Giants twice that season. To think, if Clyde Simmons hadn’t picked up that fumble…it might have been the Giants playing in that absurd game at Soldier Field in the playoffs. And another interesting note: this game took place 10 years and 1 day after the original Miracle in the Meadowlands.
With the Eagles taking on the Jets on Sunday, it is interesting to note that the Birds are 8-0 all time against the Jets. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been some great games between these two teams however. Probably the greatest came in 1993, in yet another Miracle at the Meadowlands.
The two teams both entered that game in Week 4 at the Meadowlands ready to make a statement. The Eagles were 3-0 and according to the New York Times, looked like a “sure fire playoff contender”. The Jets were 2-1 and looking to compete with the mighty Bills in the AFC East. It was the game of the week, complete with the “A-Team” of John Madden and Pat Summerall announcing. (Here is a pretty fun look at the rosters of the two teams in this matchups piece in the 1993 Inquirer. Lots of guys you had probably forgotten about on the Jets, like Blair Thomas, Johnny Johnson, and Rob Moore.)
The game started out disastrously for the Eagles. Boomer Esiason, the Jets quarterback, unloaded two TDs early to Johnny Mitchell and one to James Thronton. The Eagles found themselves in a 21-0 hole. ANd then things got worse. Randall Cunningham broke his fibula early in the 2nd quarter, and the Eagles had to insert Bubby Brister. Brister actually played well, and the Eagles got back into the game on an 8 yard TD rush from Herschel Walker and a 10-yard TD pass to Mark Bavaro. The score at the half was 21-14 Jets.
In the 3rd quarter, Johnny Mitchell scored his 3rd TD of the game, and the Jets took a 28-14 lead. But Bubby Brister wasn’t done. He threw an 11 yard TD pass to Calvin Williams, then in the 4th Vaughn Hebron tied it with a one yard plunge. But Brister was called for intentional grounding in the end zone a few minutes later, and the Jets took a 30-28 lead. They were then driving for what would be the winning TD when fate intervened. Boomer Esiason tried to complete a pass to WR Chris Burkett. Eric Allen jumped in front of it, and the rest is history, and one of the greatest plays in Philadelphia Eagles history.
It was to be the last hurrah for the Eagles that season. It turned out that Randall was done for the year, and while Bubby filled in admirably, he then got hurt. That’s when the wheels came off. In stepped Ken O’Brien, and the team collapsed. Between Brister and O’Brien, the team lost their next 6 games, and 8 of their next 9. They righted the ship in December, winning their last 3, but by then it was too late. The Eagles finished 8-8, another year of “What might have been” had Randall not gotten hurt. The Jets went 8-8 as well.
A pretty sweet video of some of Cunningham and Vick’s greatest plays.
The city of Philadelphia was abuzz on the last day of 1989. The pieces were all coming together. The team had finished 11-5, including a 6-2 record at home. They would be hosting the wild card matchup with the Rams at the Vet, the first playoff game in Philadelphia since 1981. The weather was 34 degrees at kickoff, and it was well established that the Rams struggled in cold weather (where have we heard that before? Oh yeah, before that damn Bucs game). It was New Years Eve, and Eagle fans planned on being joyfully drunk for the next 36 hours or so. Five minutes later, it would be dead silent.
Eric Allen was injured, and so the Eagles had no choice but to start Izel “Toast” Jenkins, who more than lived up to his nickname. Jim Everett quickly connected with Henry Ellard (is that guy still in the league? I swear, he played for the Rams for 25 years) for a 39 yard TD over the outstretched arms of Toast. Minutes later, the Rams scored again, and suddenly it was 14-0.
Meanwhile, it wasn’t defensive mastermind Buddy Ryan who was the innovator in this game. It was Rams defensive coordinator Fritz Shurmur (father of new Browns coach Pat Shurmur) who shocked Randall Cunningham, showing defenses no-one had ever seen before .
Shurmur had the Rams stay in their zone the whole game, not once switching to man-to-man coverage. And he made things tougher on the Eagles quarterback by flooding the field with his best and fastest players, frequently deploying them in an alignment that utilized five linebackers, six defensive backs and not one defensive lineman.
If that ploy had been tried before in the National Football League, nobody could remember it.
For Cunningham, the scheme produced considerable confusion and too many receivers covered by too many defenders in a secondary more crowded than a King Family reunion***.
Since none of the Rams’ defenders were chasing receivers, as they would have in a man-to-man defensive scheme,
they were looking toward Cunningham when he threw or ran with the ball and thus were able to react quickly.
The dangerous Cunningham was completely shut down, and since the Eagles had no other weapons on offense, their offense was a total dud. They scored in the 4th to cut the lead to 14-7, but Rams running back Greg Bell responded with a 54-yard run deep into Eagle territory and then scored on a short run, and the city of Philadelphia entered the 1990s with tears falling in their beers.
***WTF is a King Family Reunion?