Quarterbacks Ron Jaworski and Mike Phipps spent almost three quarters today trying to match each other with poor plays. Fortunately for Philadelphia, Jaworski shrugged off the boos of his hometown fans in time to save the Eagles from an upset in the wild-card round of the National Football Conference playoffs.
While Phipps ruined any chance for a Chicago victory with two interceptions and several other bad throws, Jaworski tossed two second-half touchdown passes to rally Philadelphia to a 27-17 triumph.
The victory moved the Eagles into the NFC semifinal round Saturday at Tampa Bay.The Bucs' defense is stronger than that of the Bears, and that could be bad news for Jaworski unless he improves vastly on today's effort.
Still, he did not struggle as much as Phipps, who turned in one good quarter -- the second -- then spent the rest of the day overthrowing receivers or passing into the arms of grateful Eagles defenders.
Phipps' costliest mistake came late in the third period when the Bears were on the Philadelphia 10, trying to break a 17-all deadlock.
His intended receiver, Brian Baschnagel, faked a slant-in pattern, then turned outside into the corner of the end zone. Phipps thought cornerback Bobby Howard would take the first fake, so he put up the pass without seeing whether the Eagle defender had been tricked.
Howard was hot. He stayed right iwth Baschnagel and easily picked off the throw. Three plays later, Jaworski teamed with halfback Billy Campfield on the game-winning 63-yard pass-run touchdown that started Chicago packing for an unhappy trip home.
Phipps had to be sharp since the major part of the Bear Offense, Walter Payton, did not have one of his finer afternoons.
Payton, struggling with a pinced nerve in his neck, was limited to 67 yards on 16 carries. But he will remember the one run that didn't count, an 84-yard sweep around right end early in the third quarter that should have moved Chicago to the Philadelphia one, ready to increase a 17-10 halftime lead.
Instead, the sideline dash was nullifield by a motion penalty on Baschnagel. Payton could pick up only 21 yards the rest of the game against an aggressive Eagle defense that tackled the ball almost as much as the ball carrier in the second half.
Payton's long sprint was only one of a handful of near-Chicago scores that will haunt Coach Neill Armstrong the rest of the winter. Consider:
Rookie receiver Rickey Watts dropped a pass on the Eagle 30 in the first quarter, despite being five yards behind the nearest Philadlephia player.
Tight end Mike Cobb juggled a second-period pass once, then twice in the end zone while Howard rode on his back.The ball finally dropped on the turf ahead of Cobb's outstretched hands.
After Allan Ellis had grabbed a tipped Jaworski pass and returned it to the Philadelphia 40 midway in the third period, the Bears, in two tries, could not pick up three yards after Payton had scampered for seven on first down. Incredibly, they never gave the wondrous Payton another carry in the series, that ended with Bob Thomas missing a 50-yard field goal.
With the game tied at 17, Baschnagel broke away from the Eagle secondary and was at least five yards in the open. But Phipps overthrew him by another five at the Philadelphia 20. Later in that series, Howard intercepted.
"I think we played them ahead to head," Phipps said, "but they just made more big plays than we did. But I don't think we have anything to be ashamed of."
Despite a Saturday pep talk by Eagle Coach Dick Vermeil that emphasized his team's need for "more desire and to get hungry again," the Eagles almost had a lot to be ashamed of until Jaworski got his bearings.
The Bears held Wilbert Montgomery to 87 yards and, except for a 20-yard scramble by Jaworski, took away Philadelphia's rushing game. That put the pressure on Jaworski, but by that time he had thrown that Ellis interception, he didn't look as if he could handle the heat.
"We want Walton," chanted the Eagle fans, referring to backup quarterback John Walton. Vermeil and Jaworski both shrugged off the boos, which soon became cheers after the next two Philadelphia possessions.
Following the missed 50-yard field goal, Jaworski had the game tied at 17-all on just six plays.He set up the touchdown with a 16-yard slant-in pass to 6-foot-8 Harold Carmichael, then had the Eagles into the end zone with a 29-yard strike to the same receiver.
"The pattern was designed to take advantage of their zone defense," said Carmichael, who caught a 17-yard scoring pass in the first quarter. "I just went into the seam they were giving us."
Jaworski helped with a fine fake to Montgomery that momentarly held up the Bear defense. That was the last the three surprises on the drive, the other two being first-down passes called by the normally conservative Vermeil.
Once Howard ended the next Bear threat, the Eagle fans clearly had reclaimed their favorite team. They were roaring and Jaworski had regained his rhythm to combine with theri renewed enthusiasm.
Once, on third down and eight, from his 37, Jaworski looked to Campfield, who had swung right out of the backfield with the option of running either an out or turn-up pattern, depending on the Bear defense.
Chicago was in man-to-man coverage, so Cambfield broke outside. Jaworski hit him with the pass. Then, a bit of Eagle luck came into play.
Carmichael was trying to clear out the side for Campfield by taking the linebacker downfield. But Plank, the free safety, wouldn't let him move. As Campfield caught the ball, Carmichael, Plank and linebacker Jerry Muckensturm all collided.
"It wound up being sort of a pick," Carmichael said. Then wide receiver Charles Smith came back to add a block and the two Bears were knocked out of the play, allowing Campfield to turn a 10-yard pass into a dramatic touchdown with 12:24 left in the game.
"I don't know whether it was a legal or illegal pick," said Armstrong, "but the play really hurt us."
Later, Tony Franklin kicked a 34-yard field goal (he earlier booted a 29-yarder) to give the Eagles added breathing room. But they didn't need it, since Phipps was crumbling under an aroused Philadelphia pass rush.
Phipps played much better in the second quarter. After Philadelphia had grabbed a 10-7 lead on Franklin's first field goal, Phipps connected with tight end Greg Latta for a 14-yard gain. Then he threw to Baschnagel in the end zone. Herman Edwards slammed into the Bear receiver for a penalty at the one and Payton carried for the touchdown.
Then Jaworski was called for intentionally grounding a pass and, on the next down, fumbled the center snap, bringing on the boos. Chicago recovered at the Eagle 16, but with Payton on the bench because of the neck injury, Phipps could record only a 30-yard Thomas field goal for a 17-10 halftime margin.
"No one but our football team took the Bears seriously," Vermeil said. "Especially on defense, they are better than anyone we've played but Pittsburgh. We thought we could throw on them and, thank goodness, that's how it finally worked out."