- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Did we really see it out there in gloomy Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia on Sunday? Did we really see a preview of Super Bowl XV? Well, why not? After a 10-7 victory over Oakland, the Eagles are 11-1 and running away with the NFC. Well, maybe not running away, but they've got a two-game lead on Dallas with four to play and they've already clinched a playoff spot, which is nifty going for November. And the Raiders are 8-4, one game off the pace in the AFC, against a tougher slate of opponents.
Why couldn't it be? Why couldn't these two teams line up in New Orleans on Jan. 25? They're as good as anybody, and certainly they showed it on Sunday. They played a classic. Not a classic by modern standards, not one of those 42-35 shootouts with footballs flying all over the place. It was a throwback, folks. It was good old defensive football, a throwback to those hardbitten days of yesteryear—like three years ago—before the rule makers opened the gates and let the passers in. The fans ate it up, and even the players seemed to feel they were involved in something special.
"This is my kind of football," Philly Coach Dick Vermeil said. "I love a game like this. It tells you something about the character and intensity of the people playing in it."
In his postgame press conference, Vermeil called it, "the greatest game our defense has ever played." Early in the fourth quarter, after Oakland had gone ahead 7-3 on an 86-yard Jim Plunkett to Cliff Branch shocker, the Raiders' only big play of the day, Eagle Defensive Coordinator Marion Campbell called his troops together on the sidelines.
"He doesn't usually get very emotional during a game," said 30-year-old Linebacker John Bunting, "but he said, 'I just want you to know this is the best defensive effort I've ever been a part of.' "
"You know, I didn't have a very good day out there," said Eagle Quarterback Ron Jaworski, who was 14 for 32, with five of his passes dropped. "I guess quarterbacks get in the habit of thinking that a great game means four touchdown passes and 300 yards or something like that. But today I felt I was in a great football game. I mean for pure football. It was something I just enjoyed being part of."
"Fun, it's fun to play one like this," Eagle Defensive End Claude Humphrey said. "You can go home and feel you've done something really great."
It was an hour and a half after the final whistle, the equipment men were almost through collecting the towels and locking the doors, and Humphrey was the last man in the locker room. Actually, the trainer's room. Humphrey was lying on his back on a bench, his left leg elevated and wrapped in a heavy black nylon envelope, the toes encased in an inflated polyurethane cap. A green tube ran down the side of the contraption, and inside it ice water was bubbling. The scene looked like an outtake from Star Trek, but it was the Eagle training department's bow to modern science, a machine called a Jobst Cryotemp, which cools down and stimulates the sore knees of 36-year-old defensive ends.
"It's a leg rejuvenator," Humphrey said, smiling. "Old people love it. I twisted my knee early in the game, but I never thought of coming out. Not in a game like this. I was having too much fun."
Three and a half sacks was Humphrey's contribution to the cause. He's had 13½ this year. Not bad for a guy whose age lies somewhere between 33 (Eagle press book) and 36 (Football Register). The sacking of Plunkett came early and in bunches, six in the second quarter; all told he had to eat the ball eight times. The bulk of the pressure was applied by a sawed-off 260-pound demon named Ken Clarke, who came barreling up the middle from his tackle position. Humphrey, whose role as designated left-side rusher on passing situations may prolong his career indefinitely, was there to collect Plunkett when he tried to escape.