The Fog Bowl

The Eagles take on the Bears tonight, and while there have been plenty of great games between these two teams, the one that certainly sticks out is the Fog Bowl. It was New Year’s Eve, 1988, exactly a year before their next playoff loss. But this was the more memorable loss. The Eagles had started that season much as they started this one, with a win over a bad team and then 3 close losses. But they had rebounded to go 9-3 for the rest of the season, and they came into the playoffs hot, having won 6 of their last 7 games.

The game started on a sunny day in Chicago, but with two minutes left to go the fog rolled in, and the NFL had a decision to make. With visibility at near zero, should the game have been continued? This from a 1989 Sports Illustrated article:

The underlying reason that the game wasn’t suspended, of course, was TV. The idea of the network rearranging its programming schedule was just too awful to consider. As it happened, most of the people on the field agreed. Neither coach wanted the game suspended. “The fog didn’t beat us, the Bears did,” said Philly coach Buddy Ryan. The players didn’t want it stopped, either, although Cunningham said his occasional long passes were pure guesswork. “He put ’em up there, and the good Lord took them into the fog,” said Chicago quarterback Mike Tomczak, who admitted that his visibility was “no more than 20 yards.”

Down 17-9 at the half, Cunningham had to play catch-up against a Chicago defense that played zone in the first half and then shifted to man-to-man, crowding the short receivers and taking its chances with anything deep into the fog. Cunningham did complete one deep fogger, a 65-yarder to tight end Keith Jackson. “Then I looked for him again,” said Cunningham, “and he’d completely disappeared.

Of course, it was continued, and turnovers and penalties inside the red zone killed an Eagles team that clearly outplayed the Bears, but just couldn’t get the ball in the end zone. Cunningham threw for 407 yards, but also threw 3 interceptions. The Bears came away with a 20-12 victory in a game that may have changed the entire future of the Eagles.

Talking about the Fog Bowl in 2009, Cunningham said, “That was terrible. I really believe that we should have went to the Super Bowl that year under Buddy Ryan. Great athletes, great mentality. I think if we could have won that game, that would have been the difference in my career. I probably would have retired an Eagle.”

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