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Return for just a moment to Sept. 14. On that day the Philadelphia Eagles whipped the Minnesota Vikings 42-7, and Eagle Coach Dick Vermeil rode off the field in Bloomington, Minn. on the considerable shoulders of defensive linemen Charlie Johnson and Claude Humphrey. Viking Coach Bud Grant was overheard to mutter that the second game of the season was hardly the Super Bowl.
Well, last Saturday, Vermeil, who is often accused of getting carried away, got carried away again by Johnson and Humphrey, again after beating the Vikings, this time in Philadelphia. On this occasion they had a good reason for doing it. The Eagles had rallied from 14 points down to win 31-16.
"I plan to carry Coach off the field two more times," Johnson said.
"We're grown men and we can do whatever we like," said Humphrey, who is 6'5" and 258 pounds of grown man.
The game, however, didn't look as if it were played by grown men. There were 11 turnovers, and the Eagles won only because eight of them—all in the second half—were by the Vikings. Philadelphia shouldn't have needed such charity. The 12-4 Eagles were seven-point favorites over the NFC Central-champion Vikings, who at 9-7 virtually had to apologize for making the playoffs. When asked if he had anything in his bag of tricks for the Eagles, Grant said, "We emptied our bag just to get here."
So what was Minnesota doing with a 14-0 lead late in the second period? It was exactly as Philadelphia, which is somewhat desperate to be called the City of Champions, had feared. People were worried the "Iggles" would leave their game on the practice field in Tampa. Indeed, it was curious that Vermeil practiced in Tampa for a playoff game in Philadelphia when last year he practiced in Philadelphia for a playoff game in Tampa. In the meantime Grant, who has snow for hair and ice for eyes, kept his team in balmy Bloomington and a couple of days wouldn't even let them work out under their practice bubble.
The weather forecast called for a Froze Bowl, but at game time the temperature was 28�, warmer than the Vikings, who didn't even bother to plug in their "Hot Seats" on the sidelines, had hoped. Still, the Eagles were very cold at the start.
Not even cheating could help Philadelphia. In the second quarter, Punter Max Runager quick-passed to John Sciarra for an apparent first down at the Vikings' 44, with a face-mask penalty tacked on. But the officials ruled that Sciarra had not lined up at least five yards from the sideline, in violation of the "hideout" law (Rule 12, Section 2, Article 14, paragraph f). It comes under the heading of unsportsmanlike conduct.
At that point it looked as if the only Eagle who would be carried off the field this day would be Wide Receiver Scott Fitzkee, who had broken his left foot, reducing the number of Philadelphia wide outs to two. But one of those two was Harold Carmichael, who ought to count as 1�. Quarterback Ron Jaworski took the Eagles 85 yards in 13 plays, throwing a nine-yard TD pass to Carmichael with just 54 seconds left in the half to cut the Vikings' lead to 14-7.
And the Eagle defense turned around in the second half because of a talking-to by Defensive Coordinator Marion Campbell. "We have the greatest respect for Marion," said Linebacker John Bunting, "so he doesn't have to raise his voice for us to listen. He did bring it up a pitch, though. He told us we weren't playing alert, we weren't playing Eagle defense." Said Cornerback Herman Edwards, "We figured if we were going to lose, we were going to take somebody down with us." He had two of the five interceptions Tommy Kramer threw in the second half and held All-Pro Ahmad Rashad to just one catch.