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Sports Then and Now

Classic Rewind: Philadelphia Eagles Knock Out Phil Simms and the Giants

Posted on November 17, 2010 by A.J. Foss

The Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants renewed their bitter rivalry in a pivotal game for the NFC East title in week 12 of the 1988 NFL season.

The Giants entered the game with a 7-4 record and tied for first place in the division, thanks to quarterback Phil Simms and their stellar defense, lead by All-Pro linebacker Lawrence Taylor.

Meanwhile, the Eagles entered the game one back of the Giants, with a 6-5 record.

Like the Giants, the Eagles had a great defense; the “Gang Green” defense constructed by head coach Buddy Ryan and featured a lineup that included defensive tackle Jerome Brown, linebacker Seth Joyner, rookie cornerback Eric Allen, and sack master Reggie White at defensive end.

But the biggest star on the Eagles was quarterback Randall Cunningham, perhaps the most exciting player thanks to his rocket arm and scrambling ability.

The Eagles met the Giants earlier in the 1988 season on a Monday night in Philadelphia when Cunningham pulled off a play for the ages.

On a play at the Giants’ five-yard-line, Cunningham scrambled right where he was met by Giants linebacker Carl Banks who hit him on the legs, appearing to be knocking Cunningham to the ground.

But using his left hand for balance, Cunningham stayed on his feet and threw a pass into the end zone that was caught by tight end Jimmie Giles, which lead to a 24-13 win for the Eagles, their first win over the Giants since the 1984 season.

Six weeks later, the two teams met on a soggy day in the Meadowlands for first place in the NFC East.

It did not take long for the action to get when on  Seth Joyner intercepted a Simms pass and returned it 30 yards to the Giants’ 2-yard-line on the sixth play of the game.

Randall Cunningham emerged as the leader of the Eagles in 1988.

This set up a controversial touchdown when Cunningham tried to sneak it in from the one-yard-line where he appeared to be stopped short by Taylor.

But the officials signaled touchdown and despite protests from Taylor, the Eagles took a 7-0 lead just 3:44 into the game.

However, the lead did not last long as the Giants scored on their very next possession when Simms hit wide receiver Stacy Robinson on a crossing pattern down the middle, who then outran cornerback Eric Everett for a 62-yard touchdown that tied the game at 7-7.

Both teams added field goals in the second quarter with Luis Zendejas kicking a 37-yard field goal for the Eagles, followed by Paul McFadden’s 21-yard field goal that ended a 15-play, 79-yard drive for the Giants.

The Giants’ opening drive of the second half also lasted 15 plays, but this time they traveled 94 yards and got a touchdown when Simms found Stephen Baker in the end zone for a nine-yard touchdown that gave New York its first lead of the game at 17-10.

But disaster struck for the Giants on their next drive when Simms was knocked out of the game when Reggie White hit Simms just as he threw a pass that fell incomplete.

Simms landed on his throwing shoulder, causing a bruised shoulder that forced him out of the game in which he completed 17 of 28 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns.

Simms’ replacement was Jeff Hostetler who had only thrown six passes at this point of the 1988 season.

Hostetler was unable to get the Giants offense into gear as his six possessions ended in four punts and two interceptions, both by Eagles safety Terry Hoage.

The Eagles still trailed 17-10 with 6:25 to play in the fourth quarter when they began a drive at their own 44-yard-line.

After Cunningham ran 29 yards for a first down, the Eagles faced a third-and-seven from the 18-yard-line.

The Eagles knocked Phil SImms out in the second half. Clyde Simmons would later score the game-winning touchdown on an improbable play.

Cunningham dropped back and fired a bullet to rookie tight end Keith Jackson, who made the catch at the five-yard-line, who then turned it up field and appeared to be on his way to a touchdown when he was hit by Giants safety Terry Kinard at the two, jarring the ball loose where it went into the end zone.

However, the ball was recovered by Cris Carter for an Eagles touchdown and with the extra point, Philadelphia tied the game 17-17 with 4:28 to play in regulation.

Neither team could mount a scoring chance in the last minutes of regulation, so the game went into overtime.

The Eagles won the coin toss and elected to go on offense, where they traveled 34 yards before punting the ball back to the Giants, who took over at their own 20-yard-line.

That is where Hoage made his second interception of the game, giving the Eagles the ball at the Giants’ 41-yard-line with a chance to win the game.

On the first two plays of the drive, Cunningham completed a 12-yard pass to Michael Haddix and then ran 12 more yards for another first down.

Two runs by Haddix and Keith Byars put the Eagles at the Giants’ 13 for third down when Ryan decided to go for the field goal.

Zendejas came on to attempt a 31-yard field goal that would give the Eagles a win and force a tie for first place with the Giants.

But Zendejas’ kick never made it beyond the line of scrimmage as Taylor busted through the middle to block the kick where it was picked by Eagles defensive lineman Clyde Simmons, who was part of the Eagles’ field goal unit.

Simmons started to run toward the end zone and was able to run through several Giants defenders into the end zone for a shocking game-winning touchdown.

The Giants protested that the play was illegal since a kicking team can not advance a blocked field goal or punt if the ball goes beyond the line of scrimmage.

However, Simmons picked it up at the 15, two yards behind the line of scrimmage, thus making it legal and giving the Eagles a 23-17 overtime win over the Giants.

Another thing that made this victory so improbable for the Eagles was that came one day after the tenth anniversary of their famous “Miracle at the Meadowlands” win

The two teams finished the season with identical 10-6 records, but because of their season sweep of the Giants, the Eagles won the NFC East and advanced to the playoffs, while the Giants were left out.

The Eagles would be eliminated by the Chicago Bears in the famous “Fog Bowl” in the divisional playoffs, the first of three straight postseason appearances for the Eagles, but zero wins.

After their elimination in 1990, Ryan was fired as head coach and after the 1992 season, White left the Eagles and went to Green Bay as a free agent.

Cunningham remained quarterback of the Eagles until 1995 where he retired for one season before rejoining the NFL in 1997 to play five more seasons before retiring for good after the 2001 season.

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