In 1978, the Philadelphia Eagles made their inaugural Super Bowl playoff berth under head coach Dick Vermeil and continued their progress during his fourth year. Winning more games, reaching back into postseason play, and advancing further than previously achieved. Vermeil had taken a broken franchise and turned it around in 1978 before losing in the final seconds to the Atlanta Falcons. 1979 held much promise, and the Eagles delivered on that promise.
Philadelphia was an evenly balanced team on both sides of the ball, led by Wilbert Montgomery – an unassuming 25-year-old running back who amassed 1,550 yards rushing and tied for second on the team with 41 receptions – making him an all-pro selection.
Harold Carmichael, the original Megatron and future hall of fame, was another Pro Bowl selection, with 52 catches for 872 yards and tight end Keith Krepfle making 41 receptions. Ron Jaworski led them from quarterback with his strong 18/12 TD-INT ratio, making up for a subpar completion percentage.
Stan Walters and Jerry Sisemore each earned Pro Bowl selection as offensive tackles. In contrast, nose tackle Charlie Johnson represented the defense as their sole Pro Bowl selection, yet still finished ninth overall in points allowed compared to 12th for their offense.
Philadelphia kicked off their home schedule against an underwhelming New York Giants squad, using a 23-point second quarter to build up an insurmountable lead before holding on 23-17. Their defense limited New York to just 23 rush yards.
The Eagles lost in Atlanta in a thrilling wild-card heartbreaker the previous year and were eager for revenge at Veterans Stadium for Monday Night Football Week 2. Jaworski performed well, going 16/27 for 214 yards while connecting nine times with Carmichael, but their running game never got going and ultimately resulted in a 14-10 defeat.
Montgomery was back on track against New Orleans, rushing for 95 yards and leading Philadelphia to victory 26-14 despite struggling in the red zone. They then overcame New York Giants again, with Montgomery contributing 126 yards in an exciting 17-13 game victory.
Pittsburgh was the reigning Super Bowl champ. On September 28th, they came across Pennsylvania to face the Philadelphia Eagles, who were four-point underdogs at home against the Pittsburgh Steeler defense. Montgomery produced another strong performance by producing 98 yards against them. Jaworski and Terry Bradshaw did little in terms of throwing thus, Philly prevailed 17-14.
Montgomery continued his streak in St. Louis (the Cardinals had previously been members of the NFC East), totalling 117 yards for the Philadelphia Eagles (they trailed 20-17 due to four turnovers); however, an unlikely hero named Billy Campfield scored key points with an 11-yard run.
Next week in old RFK Stadium, Philadelphia’s ground game and five-game winning streak were put to an end by the Washington Redskins outrushing them 211-61. Philly again turned over four times during this 17-7 loss; Cincinnati followed soon thereafter with the Eagles four-turnover game that resulted in an embarrassing 37-13 setback for Philly.
Montgomery was dominant again as she ran wild, amassing 197 yards on 30 carries against an underachieving Cleveland team that would barely miss the playoffs. Jaworski was 16/23 for 205 yards, but two interceptions by him and two lost fumbles resulted in another four-turnover game with yet another loss, 24-19.
Philadelphia was reeling when they went into Dallas to play two-time defending NFC champion and standard bearer of the NFC East, Dallas. Philadelphia were 10-point underdogs and trailed 7-0 until things turned in Philadelphia’s favor: Jaworski connected with Carmichael for a 32-yard touchdown pass; Jaws found Charles Smith for a 29-yard scoring play; Montgomery ran off 37 yard touchdown run that outrushed Tony Dorsett by over 130 yards; the Eagles won 31-21.
Next week was a letdown against St. Louis, another disappointing team. Still, Philadelphia eventually prevailed 16-13 thanks to Jaworski connecting with Krepfle on a 40-yard touchdown pass from Jaworski and Philadelphia remained turnover-free for most of the game. That led them back into winning 21-10.
Philadelphia led the NFC East with a 9-4 record. Dallas and Washington followed closely at 8-5 while two wild-card spots remained open; Chicago was considered an outside contender at a 7-6 record.
The Eagles hosted a dismal Lions team and, after a lackluster first quarter, unleashed some fury in the second. Jaws hit Carmichael for touchdown passes of 20 and 24 yards as Philly cruised to an easy 44-7 win that ensured them a wild-card berth even as rivals like Cowboys, Redskins, and Bears all held serve with their own victories.
Dallas was now coming into Philadelphia for an early Saturday afternoon game, and a victory would clinch their first NFC East title. At halftime, it was tied 10-10 after Jaworski found Montgomery for a 14-yard touchdown pass to tie it. But Philly’s running dominance that had powered them so effectively on Monday Night had turned on them: Montgomery only ran 65 yards while Jaworski only completed 13 out of 36 passes for 216 yards; Philadelphia fell behind 24-10 before losing 24-17.
Not only did Philadelphia missed their shot at the NFC East title. Three teams tied at first in terms of wins, but Washington and Dallas would play head-to-head to determine who would get an edge against Philadelphia via tiebreaker rules.
Philadelphia had their season finale against an impressive Houston Oilers side, yet found themselves out-muscled and without enough steam to compete. Meanwhile, Houston settled into their own wild card spot due to early day results; Philadelphia won 26-21.
Dallas won the NFC East division, while Chicago grabbed one of two wild cards available. Thus bringing Chicago back into town on the day before Christmas Eve for their game at The Vet.
Carmichael scored early off an 18-yard pass from Jaworski, but Chicago quickly responded. Walter Payton ran for two touchdowns between an Eagle field goal and one from Chicago just prior to halftime, leaving Philadelphia trailing 17-10 at that point.
Out of the locker room, things were looking grim when Payton launched an 84-yard run. Still, an illegal motion penalty nullified it and allowed Eagles quarterback Jaworski to score another touchdown from 29 yards with Carmichael to tie the game.
The Bears drove back downfield, but defensive back Bob Howard intercepted a pass in the end zone to end their threat. Jaworski found Campfield for a 63-yard touchdown pass, and Philadelphia led 24-17. Soon thereafter, however, the Eagle’s defense forced another turnover, setting up another field goal at 27-17 before cornerback Herm Edwards intercepted another pass en route to closing out this game with another victory.
Philadelphia was giving Tampa Bay (+4.5), making their inaugural postseason appearance, an edge in this matchup; unfortunately, that didn’t materialize.
On an early Saturday afternoon that kicked off Round 2, the Philadelphia Eagles did not play well, being outrushed 186-48 and falling behind 17-0 early in the game. However, they clawed their way back to pull within 24-17 before falling short.
The 1979 Philadelphia Eagles built on their predecessor’s success during Vermeil’s tenure and took another step forward, reaching their inaugural Super Bowl appearance.
They took that final step in 1980 by winning the NFC Championship game before losing 27-10 to the Oakland Raiders. The year after that Super Bowl loss, the Eagles made the playoffs again, only to lose to the New York Giants 27-20. It was all downhill after that, The strike-shortened season produced a below .500 record, and the Eagles would miss the playoffs; Vermeil would retire, and the Eagles would go through a rebuilding phase until 1988 when the Eagles would once again make the playoffs under Buddy Ryan.
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