So here we are. The last game of the 2009 regular season against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Cowboys have already earned a spot in the playoffs and have a chance to win the NFC East if they beat the Eagles on Sunday. They also have an outside chance of getting the #2 seed and a bye. I guess you could say that the last two weeks have been kind of a coming out party for the Cowboys. They go to New Orleans and beat the undefeated Saints, then they go to Washington and shutout the Redskins.
I guess the term “coming out party” was the reason why I selected this game against the Eagles from 1991. It was coach Jimmy Johnson’s third year in Dallas. You could see the progress of the team. The talent level was also increasing. They just needed to get over that hump and get themselves into the playoffs. So on a cold mid December day in 1991 the Cowboys went to Philadelphia’s Veteran Stadium with a 9-5 record looking to get over that hump. The game was not too exciting and the stats will not jump out at anyone, but what you did see was a team coming together and doing something they had not done since 1985. They earned their way into the playoffs.
The Cowboys jumped out to a 3-0 lead on a Ken Willis 50 yard field goal. They increased their lead to 5-0 when Manny Hendrix tackled John Booty in the end zone after the Eagles fumbled the ensuing kickoff.
The Eagles came right back in the second quarter and took the lead 7-5 when quarterback Jeff Kemp connected with Maurice Johnson on a 31 yard touchdown pass. The Eagles added a field goal before halftime and took a 10-5 lead into the locker room.
The only points in the third quarter came from another Ken Willis field goal which cut the Eagles lead to 10-8. The Cowboys would take control of the game in the fourth quarter.
Dallas punt returner Kelvin Martin fielded an Eagles punt his own 15 yard line and raced up-field. After breaking a few hand tackles Martin found himself at midfield with only Eagles punter Jeff Feagles in front of him. Feagles lunged at Martin’s feet, but Martin was able to keep his balance. After getting past Feagles it was Eagles running back Robert Drummond who was racing after Martin from behind. As Martin passed midfield he saw that Dallas cornerback Issiac Holt, who was now in front of him was directing Martin to go to his right. As Martin passed him, Holt took aim at Drummond and hit with a bone crushing block that made every highlight film that night. Martin finished his 85 yard punt return for a touchdown and gave the Cowboys the lead at 15-10. I tried my best to find the video of Issiac Holt’s block because it was one of the best blocks I have ever seen. You could actually see Drummond crumble to the ground.
“That block will make ESPN’s highlights,” Avezzano said. “That guy would have caught Kelvin.”
The Eagles answered back with a field goal and closed the Cowboys lead to 15-13. There was still 9:46 left in the game and the Cowboys had the ball at their own 20 yard line. Instead of going conservative, offensive coordinator Norv Turner ran a play-action pass on first down. Eagles linebacker Byron Evans bit on the fake which allowed Jay Novacek to run past him. Cowboys quarterback Steve Beuerlein hit Novacek in stride for a 32 yard gain putting the Cowboys in Eagles territory.
“It was very aggressive play-calling,” Beuerlein said. “Norv (Turner, the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator) knows you’ve got to make plays to win ball games – and he gave us a chance.”
Steve Beuerlein did not have a great game. He was only 9 of 31 for 145 yards. He also started the game with ten straight incompletions. But the important thing was that he never turned the ball over and neither did anyone else on the Cowboys.
The Cowboys continued their drive after the Novacek reception and found themselves at the Eagles four yard line. Beuerlein then found Michael Irvin in the end zone for the touchdown and a 22-13.
The Cowboys would add a third Ken Willis field goal to finish out the game and walked away with a 25-13 win. The win also clinched a playoff spot for the Cowboys for the first time since 1985 and the first time under coach Jimmy Johnson.
“We shocked the house,” Cowboys safety James Washington said.
“At halftime, the whole talk was that we were one play away from taking the lead,” Johnson said. “Just hang in there, be patient and execute the plan.”
“It’s our biggest win to this point,” Johnson said. “But we’ve got bigger wins coming.”
Dallas would finish the 1991 season with an 11-5 record. They would have to travel to Chicago in the first round of the playoffs where they upset the Bears 17-13. But then their season would come to an end in Detroit the following week as the Lions handed the Cowboys a horrible 38-6 loss.
You can view the box score here…
UPDATE: I was able to locate the video of Kelvin Martin’s punt return. This video starts with the punt return and then shows other highlights from 1991 and 1992.