The Philadelphia Eagles scored 24 points in the second period today and crushed the Detroit Lions, 44-7, clinching at least a wild-card spot in the National Football League playoffs.
Ron Jaworski threw two touchdown passes to Harold Carmichael and the Eagle defense allowed Detroit only five first downs for the day. The Eagles would clinch the NFC East title and home playoff position if they beat the Cowboys here Saturday.
"Our preseason goal was 10 victories and we have achieved it," Philadelphia Coach Dick Vermeil said. Asked if he didn't have another goal now, Vermeil said, "No, not right now. I will tomorrow."
The Eagles zoomed into a 24-0 lead before halftime and the crowd of 66,128 in Veterans Stadium spent much of the rest of the game watching the progress on the scoreboard of the Redskins' comeback over Green Bay.
Vermeil professed uninterest in what was going on at RFK Stadium and later in Irving, Tex., where the Dallas Cowboys beat the Giants, even though the Eagles have to play the Cowboys in six days.
"We don't worry about the other teams," the coach insisted, "because I know we're going to the playoffs."
Vermeil went so far as to let Jaworski return at quarterback in the third quarter after having suffered a mild sprain of the right ankle earlier in that period. And he continued to use ball-carrier Wilbert Montgomery, despite the onesided competition and the fact Dallas' visit is so near.
Did he think about resting the ankle that left the quartrback something less than effective in a 17-7 loss at Washington?
"I thought about it," Vermeil said, "but he said he was all right and wanted to play. He just rolled his foot under his weight. I thought about resting Montgomery, too, but I'd like to see him win the rushing title."
So Montgomery ran the ball 22 times for 108 yards, including a one-yard touchdown plunge. Jaworski already had thrown two touchdown passes to Carmichael among 11 completions in 17 attempts in building a 24-0 lead before Jaworski was injured. He finished with 14 for 23 and 233 yards.
Jaworski said, "I just turned my ankle a little. I told the coach I was healthy enough to go back in. My job is to play, and I wanted to play. It was my fault that I got hurt. I had been wearing a brace since a game before we played the Redskins in Washington. I didn't wear it today."
Dr. Vincent Di Stefano, Eagle physician, said it was a "mild sprain on the lateral side. I reinforced it with strapping during the game. He's the type of player you can't hold back.
"The next 24 hours will tell how bad it is. If he walks tomorrow with an essentially normal gait, there's no problem. If it's painful and swollen a little, it may be more than 'mild.' There's three types of sprains -- mild, moderate and severe. He had a moderate sprain when he played at Washington."
Vermeil said of the attainment of the playoffs again, "I thought it would take five years for us to become competitors, but we darn near did eight years of hard work in four years. First off, I was not surprised by today's performance. I could see today coming, I could see it last night, because of the concentration of the players. I thought the score would be 24-7."
On a blackboard behind Vermeil was written, "We are 'in.'"
It turned out to have been written by General Manager Jim Murray, who has a flair for verbalizing the Eagle slogans.
"Saturday is going to be a holy game of obligation," Murray said of the upcoming visit by the Cowboys, whom the Eagles beat 31-21, in a Monday night game in Dallas. "The Eagles are no longer an endangered species. Our first goal under Vermeil was to play a meaningful game in December for a change. We may be able to move that to January, now."
Owner Leonard Tose, trying to show restraint, said, "I have been on the field twice -- last week and this week. Maybe I will again, if we beat Dallas."