With one minute to go in the game, at the time when he's usually making another improbable catch to pull out yet another miracle victory for Dallas, Drew Pearson was delivering a right cross to the side of Philadelphia Corner-back Roynell Young's head. That one punch of frustration said as much about the NFC championship game as did the roar of the 70,696 fans in Veterans Stadium when time finally ran out. The Eagles, whose last conference (and NFL) title came in 1960, beat the Cowboys, who were born that same year and soon thereafter were playing in title games almost every year, by a score of 20-7. And the score was much closer than the game.
"The mighty Cowboys just couldn't accept the fact that the Eagles were beating America's Team," said Young, the rookie from Alcorn State who was the Eagles' No. 1 draft choice last spring.
The Mid-Atlantic States' Team won not because it made the Cowboys wear blue shirts, or because Coach Dick Vermeil hasn't been to sleep in five months, or even because of barefoot passer Tony Franklin. The Eagles won because they reintroduced to football what nostalgia freaks may remember as "the ground game"—the same type of offense that the Oakland Raiders would use to down San Diego's Chargers later in the day—and then put a defense on the field that Dallas Quarterback Danny White called "a brick wall."
They won because Wilbert Montgomery, who was supposed to play this game in a wheelchair, ran for 194 yards, only two short of the NFL playoff record set in 1949 by the Eagles' own Steve Van Buren, who dropped by the locker room to congratulate Montgomery on his effort. On the Eagles' second play from scrimmage, Montgomery cut back off right tackle and went 42 yards untouched for a touchdown. He broke another one for 55 yards in the fourth quarter; he could have gone farther but had to pull up because he had a sore knee. All week long Montgomery was hardly able to work out with his teammates because of a bruised left leg, and without him the Eagles are, well, no yards and no cloud of dust. Without Montgomery, Philly would be on vacation right now, not packing for New Orleans.
Reports from the Eagles' warm-weather practice site in Tampa portrayed the players as nervous, uptight and wounded. On Wednesday, Quarterback Ron Jaworski supposedly got so frustrated working against the Dallas Flex defense that he completed a 40-yard pass to a blocking sled. As a further sign of desperation, Philadelphia chose to wear white jerseys at home so that Dallas would have to wear blue; the Cowboys had been only 10-10 in blue over the years, and three of their four losses this year had come in that color. Vermeil, who would be matching wits with the 12-years-older Tom Landry, even played the role of the star-struck coach, saying one day, "I remember when I was a high school coach in California and Dallas was playing Green Bay in the championship game." Also, the Eagles were down to two wide receivers.
Small wonder the headline in Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer read: BATTERED, EDGY EAGLES FACE COWBOYS.
Well, it was all a joke. "We used you guys," Jaworski told assembled newsmen after the game. "The coach gave us instructions on how to deal with the press. It was a perfect setup. We wanted to inflate the Cowboys' egos. In the meetings we knew we were going to win, but we acted worried. You notice I threw that pass to the sled with a lot of you guys standing around?"
"The Cowboys shouldn't have read the newspapers," said Eagle Linebacker Jerry Robinson. "You could tell from the way they walked on the field, with their arms at their sides, that they had their bags already packed for New Orleans."
Drew Pearson said as much himself, "The blue jerseys didn't make a difference," he said. "The only color we were worried about was green—money green. We counted it too soon."
The Cowboys got Rude Awakening No. 1 on the first play from scrimmage when Tony Dorsett went wide right and gained zilch. The Eagle defense began celebrating right then. "I knew then this game would be different," said Dorsett. Only three weeks before, Dorsett had run for 74 yards as Dallas rolled to a 35-27 win over Philadelphia. But Dorsett was held to 41 yards Sunday, and the Cowboys had only 202 yards of total offense. Pearson was never much of a threat, catching just two balls for 15 yards, and White had only five more completions (12) than he had punts.