The Philadelphia Eagles made the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers look like an ordinary football team today and came away with a 17-14 decision over the defending Super Bowl champions at Veterans Stadium.
The previously unbeaten Steelers made key mistakes time after time and the opportunistic young Eagles continually came up with the big plays. Their fourth victory in five games enabled them to keep their share of first place in the NFC East with Dallas and Washington.
It was basically a game of head-knocking and the Eagles always seemed to get the last and loudest knock.
"We aren't as good as Pittsburgh over a 16-game season, but we sure were better than them today," said jubilant Coach Dick Vermeil.
There were a number of near-fights throughout the game and Pittsburgh tackle Larry Brown was ejected for unsportsmanlike behavior in the second quarter.
"One of Pittsburgh's strengths is intimidation and we made it known right away that we are not going to be intimidated by anyone," said linebacker John Bunting.
Steeler mistakes included Franco Harris' fumble at the goal line in the fourth period, two Terry Bradshaw interceptions, one in Philadelphia's end zone, and running into the punter when the Eagles had a fourth and 43.
Harris' fumble proved to be most costly. The Steelers, behind, 17-7, at the time, had driven from their 20 to the Philadelphia one-yard line with 8:52 to play.
On third down, Harris plunged over his right guard and was just about to cross the goal line when Eagle line-backer Frank LeMaster stripped away the ball and teammate Ken Clarke recovered it.
By the time the Steelers got the ball back, there was only 2:48 remaining. That was time enough for Bradshaw to get one touchdown, a 37-yard strike to John Stallworth with 1:12 left, but the Steelers never got the ball a second time.
"I knew I couldn't make a solid hit on him, because he was already practically by me when I saw him," LeMaster said. "So I just tried to strip him of the ball.
"He was carrying the ball in one hand. He would have scored if he was carrying it in two.
"Everyone was trying to strip the ball from them because all of their backs carry the ball in one hand, away from their bodies," LeMaster added. "They came into the game leading the league in fumbles and that's why."
The Steelers did hold onto the ball long enough to score first, however. Linebacker Jack Ham intercepted a Ron Jaworski pass over the middle with 6:51 left in the half. It was ham's 28th career interception, tops in the league for active linebackers.
Seven plays later, Sidney Thornton scored from the seven to cap a 47-yard drive and the Steelers led, 7-0, with 4:34 left in the half.
According to the Eagles, the key drive of the game came after the ensuing kickoff, when Jaworski took them 80 yards in eight plays.
Jaworski completed three of four passes on the drive, two to tight end Keith Krepfle for gains of 30 and 27 yards.
Leroy Harris scored the touchdown on a one-yard sweep with 38 seconds left in the half and Tone Franklin's coversion tied the score at 7.
"That drive was probably the best drive I ever engineered in my life," Jaworski said.
The Eagles took the second half kickoff and drove into range for a 48-yard Franklin field goal and a 10-7 lead.
Later that period, the Steelers had the Eagles in a fourth and 43 at the Philadephia 35 and were called for running into punter Max Runager.
Four plays later, he got off a 57-yard punt downed at Pittsburgh's three-yard line.
Five plays after that, from his 16, an erratic Bradshaw threw a flat pass right to the Eagles' Bunting, who returned the interception to the two.
Wilbert Montgomery, who gained 98 yards in 28 carries, scored two plays later and Franklin's point after put the Eagles on top, 17-7, with 2:49 left in the third quarter.
Before Harris' fumble, the Steelers had another golden chance to score, but blew it. From the Eagle 14, Bradshaw tried to loft the ball into the end zone to tight end Bennie Cunningham, but Eagle cornerback Herman Edwards picked it off.
The defeat snapped a 12-game Steeler win streak, going back to the last five regular season games and three playoff games last season.
"We felt we could play with anybody and we proved it," said LeMaster. "The Steelers played well. We just forced the situations."