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Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins: Two Memorable Days at Old RFK Stadium

Posted on December 29, 2018 by Dean Hybl

1981-Eagles-RedskinsThe Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins will renew their rivalry on Sunday for the 169th time as both teams look to close out the 2018 season with a victory.

Since they first met on October 21, 1934 when the Redskins were still playing in Boston, the Eagles and Redskins have played many memorable games. As division rivals, they typically play twice a year, which has created great drama and familiarity for both the franchises and the fans. They have met one time in the playoffs, with the Redskins ending the Buddy Ryan era in Philadelphia with a 20-6 win over the Eagles during the 1990 season.

The Redskins hold the all-time series lead 85-77-6, but interestingly enough, the Eagles actually have out-scored the Redskins 3,535 points to 3,336.

I had the great pleasure of witnessing two of the most exciting games in the series, both played at the old RFK Stadium in Washington.

The first was during the 1981 season and the second was in 1989. Both games included some fantastic individual plays and exciting endings that resulted in the team that had seemingly been in control for most of the game making a fatal mistake that cost them the win.

December 6, 1981 – Week 14 – Philadelphia Eagles (9-4) at Washington Redskins (5-8)

After reaching the Super Bowl during the 1980 season, the Philadelphia Eagles started the 1981 campaign with six straight wins and seemed poised for another championship run. However, they entered the week 14 game at Washington having lost two straight games and three of their last five.

Conversely, in their first season under the leadership of Joe Gibbs, the Redskins opened the 1981 campaign with five straight losses. After climbing to 5-6 on the season with an overtime win over the New York Giants, they stumbled with consecutive losses to enter the game against the Eagles with a 5-8 record and trying to avoid a losing campaign.

Billy Campfield caught two second quarter touchdown passes for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Billy Campfield caught two second quarter touchdown passes for the Philadelphia Eagles.

The opening minutes of the game proved to foreshadow the final results. After stopping Washington on their first drive, the Eagles easily drove into Washington territory before Ron Jaworski fumbled the ball with Washington recovering near midfield.

The Redskins then quickly drove downfield as running back Joe Washington carried much of the load and finished with a six-yard touchdown run. A missed extra point by Mark Moseley resulted in a 6-0 Washington lead.

The Eagles dominated the remainder of the half and took a 13-6 lead with two touchdown passes from Jaworski to Billy Campfield. However, the first half stats make it clear that it could and probably should have been a greater scoring spread than seven points.

Philadelphia out-gained the Redskins 235-77 in the half, including 177 passing yards. They also had 14 first downs, compared to four for the Skins and kept the ball for nearly 17 minutes. But as was the case with the opening drive, turnovers held the Eagles back as they had two in the half to keep the score close.

After relying on Jaworski and the passing game in the first half, the Eagles strapped their wagon to Wilbert Montgomery to carry them in the second half. He finished the game with 116 yards on the ground and the Eagles rushed for over 100 yards in the half.

However, turnovers continued to be the equalizer. With the Eagles leading 13-9 midway through the final period, Jaworski was picked off by linebacker Monte Coleman, who returned the pass 51 yards for a touchdown to give Washington a 15-13 lead with about seven minutes remaining.

The Eagles didn’t move on their next possession, but with just over two minutes remaining they started a drive at their own 20 yard line and in just over a minute moved all the way to the Washington seven yard-line.

Holder John Sciarra was unable to secure the snap on what would have been a game-winning field goal for the Eagles.

Holder John Sciarra was unable to secure the snap on what would have been a game-winning field goal for the Eagles.

Needing just a field goal to win, they trotted in bare-footed kicker Tony Franklin with 58 seconds left to attempt a 25-yard field goal.

Amazingly, the snap was high and holder John Sciarra was unable to put it down. He attempted to run, but was thrown down by Coleman and other Redskins to secure the Washington victory.

In many ways, you can point to this game as the end of the Dick Vermeil era of excellence in Philadelphia. Though they managed to reach the playoffs with a 10-6 record, the Eagles lost to the Giants in the opening round and after failing to reach the playoffs in 1982 Vermeil resigned while introducing the term burnout to coaching.

It also could be considered the game that started Joe Gibbs and the Redskins on their championship path. They won the final two games of the 1981 season to finish with an 8-8 record and then in 1982 went 8-1 in the regular season and won the Super Bowl.

September 17, 1989 – Week 2 – Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) at Washington Redskins (0-1)

When the Eagles and Redskins met in the second week of the 1989 season, the Eagles were flying high after making the playoffs a year ago and then winning their opening game against the Seattle Seahawks.

Randall Cunningham passed for 447 yards and five touchdowns against the Redskins.

Randall Cunningham passed for 447 yards and five touchdowns against the Redskins.

Though Washington had finished the 1988 season with a 7-9 record, they were just two years removed from a Super Bowl title and expected to contend in 1989. They lost their opening game 27-24 to the New York Giants, so the division matchup with the Eagles was a big early season contest for them.

The Washington Redskins didn’t take long to set the tempo for the game as speedy receiver Gary Clark raced past cornerback Eric Allen and took a pass from Mark Rypien in stride for an 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the game. A bad snap on the extra point kept the lead at 6-0.

A fumble by Anthony Toney on the third Philadelphia offensive play of the game was recovered by Charles Mann to give the Redskins a chance for another quick score.

They didn’t waste any time as the second offensive play for the Skins resulted in their second touchdown with Gerald Riggs breaking tackles at the line of scrimmage and then rambling 41 yards for the score. A successful conversion made the score 13-0 in favor of the Skins.

Philadelphia turned the ball over deep in their own territory on each of their next two possessions. They dodged a bullet on the first one as Rypien threw a deep pass that was picked off by Eric Allen.

However, after Brian Davis intercepted Randall Cunningham for the third Philly turnover of the quarter, Rypien tossed an 11-yard touchdown to Earnest Byner to make the score 20-0.

Philadelphia finally was able to move the ball on their next offensive possession and got on the scoreboard thanks to a 17-yard touchdown pass from Cunningham to Keith Jackson.

Washington didn’t take their foot off the pedal as they made the score 27-7 on a five-yard touchdown pass from Rypien to Clark.

Buddy Ryan got an improbable victory ride after the Eagles rallied to beat the Redskins.

Buddy Ryan got an improbable victory ride after the Eagles rallied to beat the Redskins.

The Eagles began to turn things around midway through the second half as an interception by William Frizzell gave them great field position deep in Washington territory. Anthony Toney made up for his earlier miscues by scoring on a three-yard run.

Chip Lohmiller converted a late 25-yard field goal to give Washington a 30-14 halftime advantage.

After turning the ball over on their first three possessions, the Eagles settled down and didn’t turn the ball over the remainder of the game. Conversely, turnovers became more of a factor for the Skins as they finished the game with six turnovers.

A five-yard touchdown pass from Cunningham to Jackson completed a 92-yard drive and cut the deficit to nine points. Another five-yard touchdown toss, this one to Cris Carter early in the fourth period, following a Washington fumble cut the Washington lead to two points at 30-28.

After another Washington turnover, the Eagles had a chance to take the lead, but Luis Zendejas missed a 33-yard field goal.

Having struggled offensively for much of the second half, the Redskins finally got things going with a scoring drive that culminated in a 43-yard touchdown pass from Rypien to Art Monk to make the score 37-28 with 3:06 remaining.

Philadelphia was able to march back down the field and cut the lead back to two points on a two-yard touchdown toss to Mike Quick in the back of the end zone with 1:48 remaining.

Rather than try an onside kick, the Eagles chose to kick away and let their defense stop the Redskins. When Gerald Riggs scampered 58 yards on the first play, it looked like the decision may not have been a good one for the Eagles.

However, a fumble by Riggs two plays later proved to be the break they needed. Al Harris picked up the fumble, but his teammate Wes Hopkins took it from him and raced 77 yards before Ricky Sanders he was tackled out of bounds by Ricky Sanders at the four-yard line.

Cunningham then capped his career-day with his fifth touchdown pass of the game, a four-yard toss to Keith Jackson on the first play after the fumble. The score made it 42-37 with :58 remaining in the contest.

Fittingly, Washington’s final chance ended on the first play of their next possession as Jerome Brown stripped the ball from Mark Rypien and Reggie White recovered for the sixth takeaway of the game for the Eagles.

Cunningham finished the game completing 34 of 46 passes for 447 yards and the five touchdowns. Keith Jackson caught 12 passes for 126 yards and three touchdowns.

Gerald Riggs had the best rushing game of his career with 221 yards on 29 carries, but the final attempt proved to be a costly one for the Skins.

Interestingly, when the two teams met later in the season the game was a defensive struggle with the Redskins winning 10-3. Philadelphia finished the season 11-5 and a Wild Card playoff team while the Redskins finished 10-6 and failed to earn a playoff spot.


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