Didinger: The game that made Seth Joyner smile

People often ask me if Seth Joyner ever smiles.

They see him sitting next to me on the set of Eagles Pre- and Post-Game Live on NBC Sports Philadelphia but they never see him smile. It's true, Seth is very intense. He was that way as a player and he is that way now.

But he does smile. Really, he does. Just ask him about the September 15, 1991 game in Dallas.

"Yeah," he says. "That was a fun day."

That was the day the Eagles sacked Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman 11 times in a 24-0 beat down at Texas Stadium. It is still the franchise record for sacks in a game and one of Seth's fondest memories.

"It was like a feeding frenzy," he said. "Guys were climbing over each other to get a piece (of Aikman).

"It was a lot like the Body Bag Game (the win over Washington the previous year) except they weren't carrying guys off the field every other play. But it was similar in the way our defense dominated. It was sweet, especially since it was the Cowboys."

Joyner was smiling from ear to ear as he said it. All these years later, it is still a great memory for the guys who played in that game and the Eagles fans who watched on TV. It was a day when the Eagles paid the Cowboys back for some of the pain they inflicted on Philadelphia over the years.

"It was an intense rivalry, Eagles-Cowboys," Joyner said. "We had rivalries with the Giants and Redskins, too, but with the Cowboys it was personal. Buddy (Ryan) hated the Cowboys. He came right out and said it. He didn't like (coach Tom) Landry, he didn't like anything about the Cowboys. He was very open about it and it's one reason why the Philly fans loved him so much. They felt the same way.

"So, as players, we took that same attitude. We didn't want to just beat the Cowboys. We wanted to destroy them. That day, we destroyed them from the very first snap. Troy was still a young quarterback trying to figure it out and we had him running for his life."

Joyner, now an Eagles Hall of Famer, was playing linebacker behind a fearsome front that included Reggie White, Clyde Simmons, Jerome Brown, Mike Golic, and Mike Pitts. The D-line accounted for all 11 sacks. The Eagles didn't have to blitz that day because their line was in complete control.

"It was the most unbelievable thing to be on the back end of that defense and watch those (linemen) take over the game," Seth said. "We started out by stopping the run, so we made them one-dimensional. Once we knew they had to throw, the guys up front turned it loose. We sacked Troy 11 times but I'll bet we had him on his back 15 more times."

The Cowboys came into the game with the NFL's top-ranked offense and the Eagles limited them to 90 total yards, the lowest single-game output in team history. It was the Eagles' eighth straight win over Dallas and the second shutout of the Cowboys in three years by the Gang Green defense. The Eagles blanked them 27-0 in November 1989.

Stan Hochman wrote in the Philadelphia Daily News: "There hasn't been this one-sided a struggle on Texas soil since Davy Crockett got trapped in the Alamo."

The most surprising aspect of the rout was that White, the team's all-time sack leader, had only one of the 11 sacks. Simmons set a team record with four and a half sacks. Brown had two and a half. Golic had two and White and Pitts each had one.

"How Golic got more than me, I still don't know," White said in mock disgust. "That's ridiculous."

"Clyde was killing Mark Tuinei," Joyner said, referring to the Cowboys' left tackle. "Reggie kept saying, 'Clyde, let's switch sides.' He wanted to get over there. But Clyde wasn't about to move, not with the way things were going."

"It was a great day for the whole line," said Simmons, who was named NFL Defensive Player of the Week. "I don't know if it was my best game. I don't look at things that way. But it was the best game from a team standpoint. We had everything going our way. We had them in long-yardage situations all day."

That season, the Eagles' defense ranked first against the run, first against the pass, and first overall. The Eagles had the first defense to finish No. 1 across the board since the 1975 Minnesota Vikings. They were a dominant defense and never more so than that day.

Aikman proved his toughness by getting up after every big hit. When he met with the media after the game, Aikman needed a towel to stem the bleeding from his mouth. Some reporters, hoping to stoke the rivalry between the teams, asked Aikman if he felt the Eagles were a dirty team. He said no.

"They were just a lot better than we were," he said. "They had guys all over the place. It felt like there were 20 guys out there, all chasing me. We couldn't do anything."

"That's part of a young quarterback's growth, learning how to deal with adversity," Joyner said. "Troy became a great quarterback, a Super Bowl Champion, and he had a lot of great moments. But that day wasn't one of them."

Let the record show Seth was smiling as he said it.

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 his Eagles History columns here. He is also the author of The Eagles Encyclopedia: Champions Edition which is in bookstores now.

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