Taking pride in two big defensive plays that shut off the Dallas offense, the Philadelphia Eagles celebrated a 17-10 conquest and their first home victory over the Cowboys in five years today.
"We gave game balls to everyone," Eagle Coach Dick Vermeil said in the tradition of his former coaching associate, George Allen. "We didn't blow them out but we shut them out."
Vermeil's club upped its record to 6-1 and took the lead in the Eastern Division of the National Football Conference with today's triumph before 71,522 in Veterans Stadium.
"Before you become a champion, you've got to beat a champion," Vermeil said. "This was our goal: to beat the Cowboys at home, somethng we had not done in five years."
There was a controversy at the finish when rookie cornerback Roy Nell Young of Alcorn State broke up Danny White's pass into the end zone to wide receiver Tony Hill on fourth and eight with 49 seconds remaining, to preserve the victory and avert a possible overtime.
Hill complained to referee Cal Lepore that Young interfeered with him. Afterward, drawing himself up to Eagle Scout dignity, Vermeil again reacted in the manner of former boss Allen and said, "I thought it was offensive pass interference."
Although the Eagles demonstrated that Dallas could not run the ball with authority against them, despite having averaged nearly 30 points a game, there later was a medical report to suggest that both the Eagles and the Cowboys are going to have trouble in the near future moving on the ground.
The Eagles lost Wilbert Montgomery in the first quarter with a strained knee and the Cowboys lost Tony Dorsett in the same period with a cracked rib. Both said they hope to play next Sunday. Dorsett will have his rib X-rayed Monday.
With Dorsett gaining only 17 yards on six carries, Dallas ended up with an aggregate of 46 yards rushing.
Montgomery gained 23 yards in six attempts. Five other Eagle running backs and quarterback Ron Jaworski added 45 yards after he left the game.
In addition to cornerback Young's big defensive play at the finish, middle guard Charlie Johnson contributed an interception of White that set up the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter, a 15-yard pass from Jaworski to wide receiver Charles Smith.
From the Dallas 24, White hesitated on a slowly developing pass play and finally threw sidearmed and hip high to rookie running back James Jones, who had replaced Dorsett.
Jones got one hand on the ball before linebacker John Bunting knocked it into the hands of Johnson at the 20.
On third and five from the 15, Jaworski intended to go to 6-foot-8 wide receiver Harold Carmichael, but he was double covered and Jaworski waited until Smith broke open in the end zone.
"It took nerve for Jaworski to throw among those defenders," Vermeil said, "but that's why I say we have 'character people.' It was a great play by a great quarterback.
"I was thinking field goal and the play was supposed to be a possession-type pass. I firmly believe that all we're going to do is get better."
White said the interception "was a waggle pass with one blocker to screen. I waited for Hill, but the linebackers shut him off and I threw the ball a little bit in front of James Jones. I threw low to get the ball to him anyway I could, not because I was thinking of trying to avert an interception."
Defensive tackle Randy White gave Dallas its only touchdown when he blew in on Jaworski's blind side in the first period and tackled him so hard the ball was fumbled backward into the end zone. Linebacker Mike Hegman recovered.
Randy White helped avert a possible Eagle touchdown in the same period when he hurried Jaworksi and Dexter Clinkscale, on a safety blitz, sacked Jaworski for an eight-yard loss. On fourth and 14, Tony Franklin kicked a 35-yard field goal for the Eagles.
The Eagles went 57 yards to score a touchdown in that period for a 10-7 lead, on Jaworski's five-yard pass to Carmichael.
The Cowboys tied the score at 10-10 before halftime on Rafael Septien's 33-yard field goal.