One of three articles on the Eagles' rivalry with the New York Giants.
A few years ago, the NFL Network counted down the top 10 NFL rivalries and determined that the Eagles against the New York Giants belonged at the top. These types of things can always be debated, and in fact, Eagles fans might argue that their team has a more fierce rivalry with the Dallas Cowboys.
Regardless, Eagles-Giants is a great rivalry, and it's known for its miraculous endings, hard hits, and incredible plays. Here's a look at five memorable moments — non-miracle division — that went the Eagles' way.
Almost exactly 18 years before the first Miracle at the Meadowlands, there was the mauling at Yankee Stadium. Eagles linebacker Chuck "Concrete Charlie" Bednarik flattened Giants halfback Frank Gifford as he tried to get out of bounds and stop the clock near the end of a 17-10 Eagles victory.
Watch the video and you'll see it was an explosive but legal tackle, even by today's NFL standards.
Gifford fumbled the ball, and the Eagles recovered to seal a game that allowed them to remain in first place in the NFL's East Division.
The Eagles went on to win their third NFL championship. Gifford missed the final four games of that season and the entire 1961 season before returning as a flanker in 1962.
The Giants came to Veterans Stadium with a 10-0 record, but left with a 31-13 defeat, and the most memorable play was Byars, an Eagles running back who was built like a tight end, crushing former Ohio State teammate Pepper Johnson as the Giants linebacker pursued a scrambling Randall Cunningham.
Byars caught eight passes for 128 yards that day and said he planned to take Johnson out to dinner after the game.
The Eagles had lost six straight and 12 of the previous 14 meetings with the Giants when New York arrived at Veterans Stadium for a Monday night game back when that used to mean something.
Down, 3-0, in the second quarter, the Eagles faced a third-and-goal from the 4-yard line. Cunningham faked a handoff, rolled to his right, and was immediately face-to-face with Giants linebacker Carl Banks, who tried to take out the quarterback at the knees. Cunningham used his left hand to keep from going down, quickly gathered himself, and threw to tight end Jimmie Giles for a touchdown.
The Eagles went on to win that game and the NFC East title. "I hit him, but he backed out of it," Banks said. "I saw him catch himself and stand up. The average guy would have gone down. That's the kind of play that makes him tough. That's the kind of play that makes him Randall Cunningham."
The Giants knew Randall Cunningham could beat them with his feet. They just did not think he could beat them with a punt. But that's what he did on a cold, blustery day in the Meadowlands.
Faced with a fourth-and-33 from the 2-yard line and the score tied at 17, Eagles coach Buddy Ryan told Cunningham to remain on the field as the punter. Regular punter Max Runager had struggled all day, and Ryan knew that his quarterback had a powerful leg.
Cunningham caught the ball eight yards deep in the end zone and boomed it all the way to the Giants' 38. Dave Meggett, one of the best returners in the game, let it bounce. The ball rolled to the New York 9-yard line before Meggett retrieved it and returned it to the 16. A sack and fumble by quarterback Phil Simms quickly followed the 91-yard punt, and that set up a game-winning touchdown run by Keith Byars.
"That was the longest punt I've ever had in my life, even without the bounce," Cunningham said.
The Giants were not close to being the best team in football when they won their last two Super Bowls, but they dominated the NFC for most of the 2008 season, sprinting to an 11-1 record before sputtering down the stretch.
Their downfall started with a 20-14 home loss to the Eagles. A little more than a month later, the Giants' season ended with a 23-11 postseason loss to the Eagles at Giants Stadium. Eli Manning was intercepted twice, and with the game in hand, Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb picked up the phone on the Giants sideline after scrambling for an 8-yard gain.