Philadelphia Eagles News

Doug Pederson's unsung role in the best rivalry in sports

Doug Pederson played a part in the Eagles-Cowboys rivalry history. He was the quarterback for the first win of the Andy Reid era, which happened to come against Dallas on October 10, 1999 at Veterans Stadium. Pederson completed a 28-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Charles Johnson with 1:07 remaining in the game, and the Eagles won 13-10.

History made.

"Fox 2 weak, Z dagger, I believe. It was a 'clear' route down the middle," Pederson said on Monday at the NovaCare Complex as he turned his full attention to Sunday's NFC East showdown against Dallas at Lincoln Financial Field. "They 'zero' blitzed us (all-out blitz) and I threw it over the top, if I remember correctly. Charles made the catch, bailed me out, and made a touchdown."

That win in 1999 won't make any "top 10" lists this week – and you will see plenty of them – and there aren't going to be many fans who talk about that game as an "all-time great" in a series between rivals that has been played 121 times since 1960. But we all know the truth: Every game against Dallas is something special.

Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field just happens to have an NFC East title on the line, for all intents and purposes. The Eagles need to beat Dallas to stay alive. Them's the facts, ma'am.

"It's obviously an important game for both teams and I have understood from the time I came to the Eagles as a player how much it means to beat the Dallas Cowboys," Pederson said. "It's a division game and it's a great rivalry."

We'll spend the rest of the week discussing what the Eagles need to do to defeat Dallas – establishing the running game and playing keep-away from the Dallas offense, containing wide receiver Amari Cooper, and winning along the line of scrimmage defensively are three things the Eagles need to do – but for now, it's my turn to provide a list of the Best Eagles-Cowboys Games With Playoff Implications on the Line for Both Teams …

January 11, 1981: NFC Championship Game

The best of them all because, simply, there was so much on the line. The Eagles, in freezing temperatures, came out and took it to Dallas at Veterans Stadium to advance to their first Super Bowl. How many great moments do you want? The Wilbert Montgomery 42-yard touchdown run that gave the Eagles a 7-0 is legendary, and the vision of fullback Leroy Harris rumbling into the end zone for a touchdown shook Veterans Stadium to its core.

I was a 15-year-old kid in West Chester, Pennsylvania, watching with my family and loving every minute of it. The 20-7 win, anchored by a devastating defense, represented a breakthrough for a franchise that had generally been awful for most of my years on the planet. Finally, the Eagles reached the Super Bowl, and they did it defeating the hated Cowboys, a team they had beaten only four times from the 1968 season until that NFC Championship Game. How sweet it was …

December 18, 1988: Eagles Win NFC East

I was there. And the game was a bore, with the Eagles blowing out the Cowboys, 23-7. It happened to be Tom Landry's final game as the head coach for Dallas. What was interesting is that the Eagles gathered in a room, mostly together as an entire team, and watched as the Jets upset the New York Giants on a Ken O'Brien touchdown pass to Al Toon, and the Eagles captured the NFC East title for the first time since 1980.

Two weeks later, the Eagles lost in Chicago in the playoffs in the Fog Bowl, so that little ole' Dallas rivalry game was forgotten by many. But if you were there, it was special. Buddy Ryan had the Eagles on a roll. No doubt they would win many playoff games in the future …

December 23, 1990: Aikman Injured, Eagles Close in on Postseason

This game didn't clinch anything, but it was a critical game as the Eagles, 7-6 as they entered the game, sent quarterback Troy Aikman to the sidelines with a separated shoulder and knocked Dallas out of playoff contention. The Eagles won the following week against the Phoenix Cardinals and earned a playoff spot.

December 25, 2006: 'Merry Christmas, Philadelphia'

Backup quarterback Jeff Garcia continued his late-season surge and the Eagles won on the road at Dallas, beating quarterback Tony Romo and the Cowboys 23-7 to clinch a playoff spot. A win the following week against Atlanta clinched the NFC East for Andy Reid's Eagles.

The game itself was over early. Garcia led scoring drives four of the first five times the Eagles had the football. When the game ended, Garcia was interviewed on television and won over everyone watching by yelling, "Merry Christmas, Philadelphia," into the cameras. The Garcia legend was in full flight.

December 28, 2008: A Football Miracle to Earn a Playoff Berth

This was the craziest day ever to end a regular season. To even have a chance to have something to play for in the late-afternoon game, the Eagles needed Oakland to beat Tampa Bay in a 1 p.m. game and then have Minnesota lose to the Giants or the Bears lose to Houston. Well, Oakland beat Tampa Bay (Garcia, the Tampa Bay quarterback, was sacked on the final play of the game), Minnesota beat the Giants on a 50-yard field goal on the game's final play, and Houston defeated Chicago, 31-24.

All the Eagles had to do was beat Dallas and they were in the playoffs. The game wasn't even close. Chris Clemons and Joselio Hanson returned fumbles for touchdowns. The Eagles played at a sold-out and frenzied Lincoln Financial Field and crushed the Cowboys, 44-6.

And a playoff berth was landed, with the Eagles making a run all the way to the NFC Championship Game. Remember, you can't win it unless you're in it.

December 29, 2013: Brandon Boykin INT Secures Division Title

Chip Kelly had one season to remember as the Eagles' head coach and the highlight was the end-of-regular-season game at Dallas with a division title on the line. Nick Foles threw two touchdown passes and LeSean McCoy ran wild, gaining 131 yards on 27 carries to win the NFL's rushing title (1,607 yards), but the game came down to the defense.

Playing against quarterback Kyle Orton, who lit up the defense for 358 passing yards, cornerback Brandon Boykin made his big move late in the game. With just under two minutes remaining, Boykin picked off a pass intended for wide receiver Miles Austin – it was thrown behind Austin, running a post on the left side of the formation – and then took a few steps and slid to a stop. Game over. Eagles won, 24-22, and captured the NFC East.

It was a brilliant way to end the regular season and while Sunday's game at Lincoln Financial Field doesn't have the exact same stakes – for the Cowboys, a win would clinch the division, while the Eagles need to finish with a better record than Dallas, so the game the following week at New York is important, too – it means a lot.

The rivalry is the rivalry. It's the best in sports, at least from this perspective. It's fun, it's ferocious, and it's almost always unpredictable. Welcome to Dallas Week, with so much on the line, just like we thought when the season was announced in the spring.

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