Letting Atlanta Off the Hook

Last Sunday nights game reminded me of  how the Eagles let the  Atlanta Falcons off hook each year from 1978 to 1980.  The losses  hurt the Eagles during the season and in the playoffs.

1978 at Atlanta-the Wild Card Playoff Game.  Both teams had 9-7 records

It was a raining sloppy  day for the Falcons  first post season game since their inception in 1966.  This was the Eagles first post season action since the  1960 NFL Championship Game.   Both clubs had trouble moving the football on the soggy turf.  After the Eagles recovered a fumble, Ron Jaworski threw a touchdown pass to Harold Carmichael.   Wilbert Montgomery, who otherwise had an awful day, inced over for second score.  So the the Eagles were leading 13 to 0 with just under four minutes left in the game.  Mick Michel missed an extra point. 

 Bobby Lee Howard then intercepted a pass from Steve Bartkowski and return it to the Falcons four .  I thought the game was over and the Eagles would win.  On the next play, Mike Hogan fumbled the ball  back to  Atlanta.  Steve Bartkowski took over and threw  two touchdown passes.  Atlanta won the  game 14 to 13.  The Eagles could not get pass the first playoff weekend.

1979 at Philadelphia-Week Two-Atlanta won 14 to 10.

The Eagles were leading 10 to 7 late in the third quarter.   They had the ball on the Falcons four on fourth and one.  The Atlanta defense stopped  Wilbert Montgomery for no gain.  After that, the Eagles did nothing.  This loss really hurt the Philadelphia Eagles in the playoffs.  If the Eagles had won, they would have finished first in the NFC East, had the BYE week, and the home field advantage in the playoffs.  As it was they beat the Chicago  Bears in the Wild Card Game 27 to 17 but lost to Tampa Bay 24 to 17 the following week.  This lost to Atlanta may cost the Philadelphia Eagles a trip to the Super Bowl.  Playoff losses have their roots in the regular season.    

1980 at Philadelphia-Week 14  Atlanta won 20 to 17.

The Eagles were leading 14 to 3 at midfield late in the first half. Ron Jaworski threw an interception which led to an Atlanta touchdown. Philadelphia did nothing in the second half.   The impact of this loss is not easy to understand.   In the final game of the season at Dallas, the Cowboys  came in at 11-4 and the Philadelphia Eagles were 12-3.  The complicated NFL rules that stated Dallas had to defeat the Eagles by 25 or more points to claim the NFC East Title and get the BYE week.  After three quarters, the Eagles trailed 35 to 10 but rallied to score 17 points and lose 35 to 27.  They lost the game but won the battle.

If they had won the Atlanta game, the final week’s game at Dallas would have been meaningless. They could have rested the starters and played reserves with an eye to 1981.  Having a game where the result that does not matter is a chance to experiment that is a luxury to any team



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