Long ago, from 1982 through 1987, the Eagles were a forgotten team to the primetime audience, not included once in those seasons on Monday Night Football. The bluster of Buddy Ryan, and the lure of quarterback Randall Cunningham and the Gang Green defense, brought the Eagles to the national forefront in the late 1980s.
There was a two-year period, in 1999 and 2000, when the Eagles were dark during Monday nights (although a 2000 game against Atlanta aired on ESPN's Sunday night broadcast) as head coach Andy Reid built up the franchise from the wreckage of the last seasons of Ray Rhodes at the helm.
Now, of course, the Eagles are must-see football and they are featured in prime time for four games, plus the Thanksgiving Day game in Dallas and the possibility that a late-season game could be flexed into the national spotlight. This is a premier franchise playing the kind of football that America craves.
The Eagles are 28-25 all time on Monday Night Football. The first appearance was in 1970, against the Giants at Franklin Field, and the broadcast turned legendary not because the 1-7-1 Eagles turned the tables on the powerful Giants and won, 23-20 behind two touchdown runs from slow-as-cement quarterback Norm Snead. Nor was it one to remember because the Eagles scored such a stunning upset in the 10th Monday Night Football broadcast ever after Giants defensive end Fred Dryer called the Eagles "the worst football team in captivity" after the Giants crushed the Eagles in a preseason game.
The legendary part happened in a press box that wasn't heated and during a time when, reportedly, the drinks were flowing freely. It was a broadcast that featured Howard Cosell, Don Meredith and Keith Jackson, a star-studded cast, indeed, and one that broke down when Cosell left the broadcast at halftime complaining of stomach illness as he vomited all over Dandy Don's shoes.
And so the Eagles' Monday Night Football journey began. There have been some games to remember among the franchise's 53, and here is a list of some of the best of the best:
- November 12, 1979: The Eagles serve notice that they have arrived, beating the Cowboys 31-21 at Texas Stadium. A fourth-and-1 touchdown pass from Ron Jaworski to Harold Carmichael was one of the big plays, and Tony Franklin nailed a 59-yard field goal to put the Eagles ahead for good in a signature victory on the road. The Eagles were 2-19 against Dallas in the previous 21 games and had not won in Dallas since 1965.
- October 10, 1988: Quarterback Randall Cunningham had the move we've all seen a million times. He bounced away from the hit of linebacker Carl Banks, regained his footing and fired a touchdowns pass to tight end Jimmie Giles as the Eagles defeated the New York Giants, 24-13 at Veterans Stadium. It was a remarkable play by a remarkable quarterback that lifted him and the Eagles squarely into the national spotlight.
- November 12, 1990: The Eagles destroyed the Redskins 28-14 in what became known as "The Body Bag Game." Six Redskins were injured that night and safety William Frizzell turned to the Washington bench and asked "Do you need any more body bags?" and the game had an instant and classic nickname.
- December 2, 1991: The great Eagles defense flexed its muscle in a game that became known as "The House of Pain" game. Philadelphia defeated the high-flying Houston Oilers 13-6 with one of the great defensive efforts ever. The Eagles had four sacks, forced six fumbles (five lost) and limited Houston to 21 rushing yards on 11 attempts. "They brought the house," said defensive tackle Jerome Brown, "we brought the pain."
- November 25, 2002: With Donovan McNabb sidelined because of a broken ankle, the Eagles turned to Koy Detmer at quarterback and Detmer completed 18 of 26 passes with a pair of touchdowns before he suffered a gruesome elbow injury. A.J. Feeley finished up in the 38-14 win over San Francisco and Feeley played the remainder of the regular season.
- November 15, 2004: This may have been the most remarkable game of an amazing season. McNabb tossed four touchdown passes and threw for 345 yards, including a 60-yard strike on which McNabb scrambled for 14 seconds to keep the play alive as the Eagles stomped Dallas, 49-21. The opening to the broadcast featured wide receiver Terrell Owens and actress Nicolette Sheridan doing a skit promoting the ABC series Desperate Housewives, a piece that, of course, caused plenty of controversy and forced ABC to apologize for airing it.
- November 15, 2010: Quarterback Michael Vick threw four touchdown passes and ran for two more as the Eagles wiped out Washington, 59-28. The Eagles led 59-21 after three quarters. Vick threw for 333 yards and ran for 80 more in the rout.
- September 9, 2013: The Chip Kelly Era began with a bang. The Eagles went into FedEx Field and rolled up 26 points and 322 yards on 53 plays the first half, and then held on for a 33-27 victory.
"It's always special to play on Monday night," said safety Malcolm Jenkins. "You know that the rest of the league is watching, so you are playing in front of your peers. You are the only game in the league. Once the game starts, it's like any other game, but everyone is aware of the circumstances. We know that everyone home and that all of our friends are watching.
"It's a special event for the league. It's a showcase."