This week's Eagles-Cowboys game will likely decide the NFC East winner. The anticipation is already building for Sunday's late afternoon kickoff at Lincoln Financial Field. There is a different vibe to Dallas Week. The Eagles feel it and their fans definitely feel it.
I'll never forget the buildup to the October 5, 1992 game. The Eagles and Cowboys were both 4-0 and the game was billed as a preview of the NFC Championship. The fact that it was scheduled for a Monday night at Veterans Stadium added even more electricity to the event.
SportsRadio WIP went all in. At the urging of morning show host Angelo Cataldi, WIP did what amounted to a 15-hour pre-game show. The station moved all of its programming that day to the tent outside Veterans Stadium. Cataldi signed on at 6 a.m. and the conversation continued right up to the 9 p.m. kickoff.
"When I first proposed it," Cataldi said, "a station executive said, 'How are you going to fill 15 hours?' I said, 'You may find that 15 hours isn't enough.' I was right. People started showing up at 4 (a.m.), two hours before we went on the air."
The Cowboys were staying at a downtown hotel. Norv Turner, their offensive coordinator, went for a walk that morning. He stopped for a cup of coffee and overheard people talking about the game. Young people, old people. Men, women, kids on their way to school. No one was talking about anything other than what the Eagles were going to do to the Cowboys that night.
When Turner returned to the hotel, he bumped into Skip Bayless who was writing a book about the Cowboys. Turner told Bayless what he heard on the Center City streets.
"So, how do you win this game?" Bayless asked.
"I just hope we survive," Turner replied.
Mike Golic was a defensive tackle with the Eagles that season. He left the team hotel that morning and drove to his South Jersey home to relax for a few hours before he went to the stadium. Up ahead, he saw a tractor-trailer clip a car and send it tumbling off the highway. Golic pulled over and rushed to the car, which was heavily damaged with its windows blown out.
Golic saw the driver slumped over the steering wheel, barely conscious. The man had WIP on the car radio. Golic did not pay any attention to that. He was more concerned about the driver.
"Man, are you all right?" a frantic Golic asked.
The driver looked over, dazed and bloody. He saw Golic and his eyes widened.
"Hey, you're Mike Golic," he said. "I'm going to the game tonight. Get me out of here."
"No, no, don't move," Golic said. "Sit still. Helps on the way."
The driver wasn't worried about that. He wanted to know more about the game.
"You think you're gonna win?" he asked as he fumbled with his seat belt in an effort to free himself.
Golic stayed on the scene and talked to the man until the emergency workers arrived. He said all the guy wanted to talk about was how the defense had to shut down Emmitt Smith and get a big rush on Troy Aikman so they could win the game. Golic took the man's contact information so he could check on him later. Indeed, the man did make it to the Vet that night.
An hour before kickoff, the WIP tent was overflowing with fans. A guy came in carrying an inflatable life-sized Aikman doll and a chainsaw. His plan was to fire up the crowd by cutting the doll in half. The only problem was when he hit the doll with the saw, it exploded and the saw went flying. It hit another fan and clipped off part of his thumb.
"Blood went flying everywhere," Cataldi said, "but the guy just wrapped it in a towel. He said, 'I'll get it looked at after the game.'"
The guy from the car and the guy from the tent went home happy that night because the Eagles dominated the Cowboys, winning 31-7. It started on the very first play from scrimmage when Reggie White threw his blocker aside and roared in on Aikman. The quarterback tried to escape and finally threw the ball away, drawing an intentional grounding penalty. Two plays later, Aikman threw an interception to John Booty that was returned to the Dallas 14-yard line.
Randall Cunningham needed just three plays to score, carrying the ball into the end zone himself for the touchdown. Things didn't get any better for the visitors after that. The defense sacked Aikman four times (two by White, one each for Andy Harmon and Clyde Simmons) and intercepted him three times (one each by Booty, Byron Evans, and Wes Hopkins). The offensive star was the former Cowboy Herschel Walker, who accounted for 100 yards in total offense and scored two touchdowns.
"The Philly fans are a different breed," said Emmitt Smith, who was held to 67 yards on 19 carries that night. "The fans in Washington get on us, the fans in New York get on us, but not like Philly. I mean, they're yelling stuff at us while we're still on the bus."
Don't expect this Sunday to be any different.
An award-winning writer and producer, Ray Didinger was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995. He has also won six Emmy Awards for his work as a writer and producer at NFL Films. The five-time Pennsylvania Sportswriter of the Year is a writer and analyst for NBC Sports Philadelphia. Didinger will provide Eagles fans a unique historical perspective on the team throughout the year for PhiladelphiaEagles.com. You can read all of hisEagles History columns here.He is also the author ofThe Eagles Encyclopedia: Champions Edition which is in bookstores now.