Philadelphia Eagles News

Didinger: Inside The One-Yard War


With the Eagles and Cardinals preparing for Sunday's showdown, it started me thinking about other games in the series. While it never had the passion of the Cowboys rivalry, the Eagles-Cardinals series had its share of memorable moments.

This week marks one such anniversary: The Great Goal Line Stand, October 25, 1992. It is also remembered as the Joe Bugel Bungle. If you were in Veterans Stadium that day - especially if you were seated behind that end zone - your ears may still be ringing.

If you only saw the final score - Eagles 7, Cardinals 3 - you would think it was a boring affair and it was for long stretches. Randall Cunningham completed only nine passes. The Eagles had more penalties (13) than first downs (11). The teams combined for three missed field goals and five turnovers. It was pretty ugly.

But what most people remember is the stand the Eagles made late in the first half.

The Cardinals ran seven plays, six of them from the 1-yard line or closer, and never crossed the goal line. They were red splatter on a green wall. Who can forget the sight of Reggie White, Seth Joyner, Byron Evans, Clyde Simmons and the rest pushing the Cardinals back play after play?

"What I remember about that," tackle Mike Golic said later, "was Seth saying, 'They aren't getting in. I don't care how many plays they run, they aren't getting in.'"

Just to set the scene: The Eagles led 7-0 on a Cunningham to Calvin Williams touchdown pass. Late in the first half, Cardinals quarterback Chris Chandler completed a pass to Randal Hill who fumbled when he was tackled by Otis Smith. Safety Rich Miano recovered the loose ball at the 1-yard line.

Despite the bad field position, coach Rich Kotite called for a pass. Cunningham's long toss was picked off by Aeneas Williams who returned it to the 3-yard line. The Cardinals were in position to tie the score, but the Eagles' superb defense had other ideas.

Here is the sequence:

First play: Running back Johnny Bailey gains 2 yards putting the ball at the one.

Second play: Chandler tries a quarterback sneak and has the ball slapped out of his hands by tackle Mike Pitts. The Eagles recover but the officials rule linebacker Britt Hager was offsides, nullifying the play.

Third play: Bailey is thrown back by Evans and Golic losing half a yard.

Fourth play: Bailey is stuffed again. However, Hager is called for offsides. It is still third down.

Fifth play: Another quarterback sneak and Chandler is stopped cold. But wait, there is another flag. This time William Thomas is offsides. The ball is advanced again. Now it is less than a foot from the goal line

Sixth play: Bailey tries again and a wall of green jerseys led by Evans pushes him back.

At this point, the 64,676 fans were on their feet roaring. The volume had increased with each stop and Joyner, Evans and others were waving their arms urging the fans to cheer even louder. It was fourth-and-goal and Cardinals head coach Joe Bugel called time out to think it over.

"After all that we knew they weren't going to kick a field goal," Joyner said. "We knew they would go for it. The only question was what would they do? Would they really try to run it up the middle again?"

"You would've thought somewhere in there they would've tried at least one play where (Chandler) would've faked a handoff and tried a rollout or something," Golic said. "They weren't getting an inch between the tackles."

But when the Cardinals broke the huddle, White was certain they were coming up the middle again.

"After all that - I mean, six straight plays - they weren't going outside now," he said. "They were gonna prove they could punch it in."

The final play: Chandler handed off to Bailey who tried to run right, but White shoved two blockers back into his path. White grabbed Bailey first followed by Hager then the rest of the defense. The One Yard War, as it became known, was won by the Eagles and even though it was only halftime, the game was effectively over.

The sequence became part of Bugel's coaching legacy. The man who won three Super Bowl rings as an assistant under Joe Gibbs in Washington, the man who made the Hogs the most renowned offensive line in league history, admitted later he let emotion cloud his judgment. As a coach familiar with the physical nature of the NFC East, he wanted to instill a Hog-like toughness in the Cardinals. He wanted to prove it was a different day in Arizona and the sad-sack Cardinals could go toe-to-toe with the big boys and win.

For Bugel, the problem was this: the Cardinals' line wasn't the Hogs and Johnny Bailey wasn't John Riggins.

"I'll always remember that," Golic said. "We fed off the energy of the crowd. We fed off the emotion of each other. It was seven plays but it could have been 17 plays. They weren't getting in, not that day they weren't."

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 Comcast SportsNet. Didinger will provide Eagles fans a unique historical perspective on the team throughout the season for You can read all of his Eagles History columns here. He is also the author of The New Eagles Encyclopedia, which is already among the hot sellers on Amazon.

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