Philadelphia Eagles versus Dallas Cowboys
Those three words speak for themselves. Eagles fans want 2 things more than anything for every football season:
- Win the Super Bowl
- Beat the Cowboys
As the Eagles get ready to face their most hated opponent in Week 11, which will be their first time squaring off this season, I want to give my take on this deep and historic rivalry that has given us some of the greatest games in franchise history.
I started to really follow and watch Eagles football in the early 2000’s, right around the start of the Andy Reid / Donovan McNabb era. I didn’t have the privilege of witnessing all of the classic matchups between the two teams during the 80’s and 90’s, but the rise of the rivalry has been well documented; from Dick Vermeil vs Tom Landry to Buddy Ryan vs Jimmy Johnson, The Bounty Bowls, 4th and 1, and Michael Irvin’s career ending injury. They were just some of the numerous moments that both sides will never forget.
Not to be outdone though, there have been plenty of memorable games that have occurred since 2000. The intensity and hatred hasn’t dissipated but just evolved as time has gone on. While there have been a number of losses that us as a fanbase have had to endure during that time (the back-to-back losses in the 2009 season still sting), there have been numerous wins that have been so much fun for us to watch too. One thing you can count on when it comes to the Cowboys of the past decade and a half is that not only will they lose in big games, but they’ll do so in incredibly embarrassing and painful fashion. Of course, that has meant absolutely joyous moments for us Eagles fans to cherish.
It’s difficult picking out which Eagles vs Cowboys games I loved watching the most, let alone ranking the top 5. I’m sure my list is going to be vary in some degree with the way other fans would rank them. But when it came down to it, these 5 games have to be the top 5 most unforgettable ones I’ve watched. And yes, they’re all games that the Eagles have won. I chose not to include the losses.
- 2015, Week 9 (November 8): Eagles 33, Cowboys 27 (OT)
I like to refer to this game as the “Greg Hardy shouldn’t be in the league but of course Jerry Jones would be the one to sign him and call him a leader” game. Do you remember all of the issues Hardy had been involved in? Not only do you have his domestic violence charges, but then you have instances like his comments about Tom Brady’s wife Gisele Bundchen, the sideline spat he had with Dez Bryant where he shoved an assistant coach’s clipboard back in his face, and his constant tardiness to team meetings. Not once did Greg Hardy seem apologetic or remorseful about any of his actions, and reports were that many of his teammates were very resentful toward his presence on the team. This was a guy that gave everyone the impression that he was just a bad human being.
The much-hyped season for the Eagles wasn’t going the way the team and the fans had expected it to up to that point. They had a 3-4 record and additions like the reigning rushing champion DeMarco Murray and the 1st round pick Nelson Agholor were big disappointments for the most part. But the team was coming off of their bye week and was looking to gain some momentum for a 2nd half run. And with Tony Romo going down with a broken collarbone in Week 2 (thanks to Jordan Hicks), the Eagles were in good position to take advantage of a reeling Cowboys team.
The game went back and forth with the teams trading scores all throughout a hectic 4th quarter. The game was tied on a last second field goal by Dan Bailey that sent it to overtime, but the Eagles won the toss and had no intentions of giving the ball back to the Cowboys. After going for it on 4th and 1 and converting with Ryan Mathews, Sam Bradford hit a strike to Jordan Matthews over the middle of the field and Matthews sprinted untouched into the endzone for the game winning touchdown.
Afterwards, Greg Hardy’s motor and effort were put on blast by the Eagles’ linemen. Just more evidence to why Jerry’s comments about Hardy being a leader were nothing but delusional and absurd.
- 2006, Week 16 (December 25): Eagles 23, Cowboys 7
The 2006 season was the most unforgettable Eagles season to me, personally. They might not have made it to the Super Bowl or even to the NFC Championship game, but it was still special because that team showed the most heart out of any Eagles team I’ve seen play.
After Donovan McNabb tore his ACL in the Week 11 matchup against the Titans, the season was figured to be lost in the minds of many fans and the media. The Philadelphia Eagles were was 5-5 at that point and had to face the Colts the next week as well as a 3 week stretch against each of their NFC East rivals on the road. Losing to the Colts 45-21 all but confirmed the doubts in people’s minds… except for the Eagles’.
With Brian Westbrook now taking on a featured role in a balanced offensive attack and veteran journeyman QB Jeff Garcia finding new life in his game, the Eagles were able to reel off 3 consecutive wins against the Panthers, Redskins, and Giants. That set up a Christmas Day showdown between the Eagles and Cowboys. The Cowboys were a game ahead of the Eagles with a 9-5 record, but a win for the Eagles would give them the tiebreaker and the division lead.
The Eagles went ahead 10-0 in the second quarter and never looked back. All the Cowboys’ offense could muster was a touchdown pass to Terrell Owens (more on him soon) in the 2nd quarter. The Eagles’ defense was stellar the whole game, forcing Tony Romo into 2 interceptions and a 45.5 passer rating. While the Cowboys’ running backs, Julius Jones and Marion Barber, only managed to get 41 yards on 16 carries, the Eagles’ running backs couldn’t be stopped. Brian Westbrook ran for 122 yards on 26 carries and Correll Buckhalter ran 8 times for 38 yards and a TD.
Considering almost all of us Eagles fans thought we were getting nothing but coal from the football gods for Christmas that year, a 23-7 Eagles win on Christmas Day over the Cowboys to take over 1st place in the division was one of the best Christmas presents we could have ever asked for. The Eagles carried that momentum into the Wild Card round of the playoffs, eliminating the rival NY Giants.
- 2006, Week 5 (October 8): Cowboys 24, Eagles 38
The other reason why the 2006 season remains as the most unforgettable one for me is because of this game: the return of Terrell “Benedict Arnold” Owens to Philadelphia.
We all know about the drama that occurred between Owens and Donovan McNabb following the Super Bowl loss. No matter whose side you were on or whom you thought deserved more blame, the fact remains that the breakup between the Eagles and TO was ugly and unfortunate. Many believe that had TO stayed in Philly the Eagles could have won at least one Super Bowl title during that time, if not more. And to make matters worse, after his release, TO decided to sign with the Dallas Cowboys, fully becoming a “traitor” in the eyes of Philadelphia.
This game got all of the media attention during the lead up for the week, and the atmosphere at the stadium made it feel like a playoff game. And it’s a good thing the game itself didn’t disappoint.
Despite getting a team high 11 targets, TO was only able to come down with 3 catches for 45 yards, with one target being a short-armed drop by him and another being intercepted by Lito Sheppard.
With the Cowboys trailing by a touchdown, thanks to a 40 yard TD from McNabb to Reggie Brown, a defensive Pass Interference call on 4th and 18 against Michael Lewis gave the Cowboys hope. The ball was placed on the 6 yard line of the Eagles, putting them in prime position to tie the game. The stadium was in disbelief and was praying for someone to make a play to seal the game.
Their prayers were answered as a Drew Bledsoe pass into the endzone was intercepted once again by Lito Sheppard who took it all the way back for a pick-6. The Eagles and their fans celebrated the 38-24 win as a dejected Terrell Owens left the field in defeat. Little did he know that wouldn’t be the only time he would walk off of the field at The Linc from an agonizing loss to his old team.
- 2013, Week 17 (December 29): Eagles 24, Cowboys 22
The top two games came down to the two Week 17 “win or go home” matchups. The decision by the league to make Week 17 be all divisional matchups has been great and has already provided some amazing games for football fans to watch, especially for Eagles and Cowboys fans.
The debut season for Chip Kelly as the Eagles’ new head coach got off to a very questionable start midway through the year with the team going 3-5 halfway through. But once Nick Foles stepped in for an injured Michael Vick, the team took off winning 6 of their next 7 games, setting up the pivotal matchup with the Cowboys.
The Cowboys had been teetering around the .500 mark almost all season and were 8-7 after a win against the Redskins the previous week. However, they would no longer have Tony Romo as the star QB suffered a back injury that would end his season. If the Cowboys were going to make the playoffs and try to make some sort of playoff run, it would have to be with Kyle Orton at the helm.
The Eagles had a 10 point lead late in the 2nd quarter, but the Cowboys would claw their way back into the game slowly behind the leg of Dan Bailey. Orton then connected with Dez Bryant for a 32 yard TD pass that brought the Cowboys within a 2-point conversion of tying the game, but the pass attempt to Dez for the 2 points was broken up by Cary Williams.
The Eagles had a chance to close the game out, but failed to pick up the 1st down on 3rd and 4. Momentum was in the Cowboys’ favor, all they had to do was get into field goal range for Bailey to hit a game winning kick. But the huge play that the Eagles needed would come from their slot CB, Brandon Boykin. On the first play of the drive, Boykin took advantage of an inaccurate throw that was behind Miles Austin, intercepting the pass and sliding to the ground to clinch the victory.
One of the most memorable shots from the game that I’ll always cherish is seeing the shot of Jerry Jones in his luxury box suite with his back now turned to the camera and shouting in anger.
For one week there was hope in Philadelphia after having to deal with the whole “dream team” debacle. Unfortunately, this was the high point of Chip Kelly’s tenure in Philly. The Eagles would lose in the Wild Card round the following week to the Saints and would miss the playoffs the next 2 seasons. But at least Chip left us with this gem of a game to remember him by.
- 2008, Week 17 (December 28): Cowboys 6, Eagles 44
If you haven’t read the Oral History of this game on the Eagles’ official team website, you should.
In the end, this had to be #1. You could argue that this is one of the top Eagles-Cowboys games not only since 2000 but in the entire history of their rivalry.
Much like the 2006 season, the Eagles’ season was supposed to be over with a minimal chance at making the playoffs. The team had a horrendous stretch in November losing to the Giants, tying the Bengals (McNabb didn’t know ties were a thing in football), and losing to the Ravens, putting them at 5-5-1.
Then all of a sudden they went on a winning streak, starting with a convincing Thanksgiving night win against the Cardinals and followed by wins against the division leading Giants and then the Browns. It was looking like another strong late season push by the Andy Reid-led Eagles.
But all hope seemed lost once again after the Eagles fell to the Redskins in Week 16. At 8-6-1, they needed 2 out of 3 things to happen in order to have a shot at making the playoffs still. They needed the Raiders to beat the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay and either the Texans to beat the Bears or the Giants to beat the Vikings.
Bears 24, Texans 31
Buccaneers 24, Raiders 31
In what would be Brian Dawkins’ final home game as an Eagle (and he had a feeling going into the game that it could be), there was no way the Eagles were going to lose this game. Not with everything that this team had been through. Not with the electricity that had built throughout the stadium leading up to kickoff.
The teams traded field goals in the 1st quarter. And then in the 2nd, the onslaught began.
As I was watching the Eagles offense score almost at will, the defense and special teams forcing turnovers and making every big play, and almost everything falling the Eagles’ way, it was like watching an experienced Madden gamer play against the computer on the Rookie difficulty setting. It’s hard to believe, but I could say that even with the final score being 44-6, it still wasn’t even that close. The Eagles absolutely dominated the Cowboys in a way that I haven’t seen a team dominate another in any football game I’ve ever watched.
Even though I wasn’t there at the stadium for the game, I could tell that the atmosphere was unbelievable. The only time I remember seeing and hearing the Philly crowd go this crazy was when the Eagles beat the Falcons in the NFC Championship game to make it to Super Bowl XXXIX.
There was no Super Bowl visit for this 2008 Eagles team. A heart crushing loss to the Cardinals in the NFC Championship Game prevented that storybook ending from happening. But still, you can’t overlook the accomplishments from that season, including the 2 playoff wins they had following this game. The Eagles beat the Vikings in Minnesota thanks to one final clutch play from Brian Westbrook, and then they beat the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants in New York (well technically the Meadowlands, NJ). But they wouldn’t have been able to do any of that if it wasn’t for this epic 44-6 victory.
No matter how you rank them or what games stand out to you the most, the one thing that’s not debatable is that there’s almost nothing better than an Eagles win over the Dallas Cowboys. The only thing that would be is a Super Bowl win, but if our prayers are answered then we might be able to celebrate both sooner rather than later.
But for now, first thing’s first.
We want Dallas.