Here Come Those Guys Again

Cowboys won - barely - 13-9, scoring their only touchdown on holder Eric Bjornson's scamper on a fake field goal. The call was that close. 

Go back to 1995, that third Super Bowl season in four years. Who should show up at Texas Stadium for the Cowboys' divisional-round playoff game? The Eagles, who the Cowboys easily dispatched 30-11, getting them on their way toward winning Super Bowl XXX. But had they lost to the Eagles . . . .  

How 'bout 1992, when the Cowboys won the first of those three Super Bowls? Their first playoff opponent was . . . the Eagles, who they had lost to the first time around that season, 31-7. The result: A 34-10 wipeout, sending the Cowboys to San Francisco for the NFC title game. 

Then there was 1991. Remember? The Cowboys had won three straight, going from a ho-hum 6-5 to 9-5, and one of about six teams in contention for a wild-card berth. They were tied for second in the NFC East with Philadelphia, and having played the past 2½ games with Steve Beuerlein at quarterback after Troy Aikman suffered a sprained knee. Funny thing was, some bad information was circulating before the game. The Cowboys thought they needed to beat Philly and have San Francisco lose to Kansas City on Saturday for them to clinch their first playoff berth since 1985. 

The Cowboys, under head coach Jimmy Johnson and Jones' ownership, were on the edge of qualifying the franchise's second regime, the owner having taken serious grief for hiring a "college" coach to replace Tom Landry. But here came the Eagles, and yep, in Game 15 - I'm not making this stuff up - and of all things, Johnson's Cowboys were 0-5 versus the Eagles since he had arrived in 1989. They had gotten shut out by the Eagles, 24-0, in the first meeting that year, meaning the Cowboys had lost eight straight to them, and had not beaten Philadelphia since 1987, and at that, it was a replacement-player game during the strike. 

Well, who will ever forget Kelvin Martin's 85-yard punt return that pushed the Cowboys into a 15-10, early fourth-quarter lead on their way to a 25-13 victory. And unbeknownst to them, there had been misinformation passed out earlier in the week. The Cowboys didn't need a victory coupled with a San Francisco loss to qualify for the playoffs, which they didn't get. 

All they needed was that victory, along with a Detroit victory to clinch the NFC Central Division title, all of which Johnson explained in a joyous locker room at The Vet. Johnson and Jones had arrived. 

Strange thing was, they almost had arrived the previous year. Same game, the 15th. Same place, The Vet. Same team, the Eagles. No kidding, and this after the Cowboys had just come off a 1-15 season in Johnson's and Jones' first year. 

The Cowboys had just won four straight, surprisingly pulling themselves up from a languishing 3-7 to 7-7. In a weird NFL season, all they needed was one victory in the final two games to clinch a wild-card berth. In this season, eight was going to be enough. 

And who should they have to play, but the haughty Eagles, their head coach Buddy Ryan, being his arrogant self, saying before the game even though the Eagles needed a late fourth-quarter touchdown to beat the Cowboys, 21-20, earlier in the season, "I don't know if they are any better or not; looks like the same group playing to me." 

Well, with the Cowboys riding a red-hot Aikman during the winning streak, of all things, he suffers a shoulder separation five minutes into the game. In came backup Babe Laufenberg, who had thrown all of seven passes all year after the Cowboys traded Steve Walsh to New Orleans. Unfortunately, Laufenberg would only complete 13 of 36 passes and was intercepted four times, the final one returned 35 yards for a touchdown by Eric Allen to seal the Eagles' 17-3 victory. 

Without Aikman, the Cowboys would lose the final game to Atlanta, and when the Saints kicked a game-winning field goal in the final seconds of the final game of the NFL season, the final wild-card berth was theirs. Had the Saints lost, the Cowboys still would have qualified at 7-9. 

So see, these two teams have a history, even going back to the 1980 NFC title game, when on a cold Philadelphia day, the Eagles defeated the Cowboys, 20-7, to earn their first

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