DALLAS - The Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles engage each other in another prime time battle Sunday night at AT&T Stadium. While the game is momentous from NFC East perspectives, the game is also significant in terms of the NFL on television. Sunday night will mark the 14th consecutive season a game in the Dallas-Philadelphia series has featured on prime time TV, the longest active streak in the league.
"It's one of the greatest match-ups in all of sports, not just pro football, but any rivalry game," said tight end Jason Witten while serving early Thanksgiving dinners Monday to Salvation Army clients Monday at the Carr P. Collins Social Service Center in Dallas.
Really, Witt? That's almost putting it up there with the Dallas-Washington rivalry. Perhaps this series has surpassed the NFL's range war (which, at its longest, went eight straight seasons from 2008-15) if the Dick Ebersols and George Bodenheimers of the world have been putting it in front of the most eyeballs since George W. Bush's reelection campaign. Let's take a look at each prime time game between Cowboys-Eagles:
Nov. 15, 2004 (Monday Night Football) -- Donovan McNabb and new receiver Terrell Owens stormed into Texas Stadium and out-gunned the Cowboys 49-21. The most memorable play, and one that captured the McNabb years of the rivalry, was the quarterback scrambling for a full 14 seconds before hitting receiver Freddie Mitchell for a 60-yard completion that setup an Eagles touchdown before halftime.
Nov. 14, 2005 (Monday Night Football) -- Would you ever believe safety Roy Williams was the face of the Cowboys franchise at one time? He was, and ABC Sports featured him and McNabb in the promos the week leading up to the game.
Fittingly, the game would come down to Williams and McNabb as the horse-collaring safety had a key pick-six late in the fourth quarter that gave Dallas the 21-20 lead en route to their first victory at Lincoln Financial Field.
Dec. 25, 2006 (Sunday Night Football) -- In a rare Monday afternoon game, new quarterback Tony Romo, who was the catalyst for the Cowboys' playoff run, got a formal introduction to the series and legendary defensive coordinator Jim Johnson.
The Eagles defense held Romo to 14-of-29 for 142 yards, a touchdown, two interceptions, and sacked him three times -- all in front of his date, Carrie Underwood. T.O., in his first season with the Cowboys, caught two passes for 23 yards and a score in the 23-7 loss that handed the NFC East to Philadelphia.
Nov. 4, 2007 (Sunday Night Football) -- The Cowboys returned to Lincoln Financial Field and obliterated the Eagles 38-17. Owens caught 10 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown and Romo completed 20-of-25 for 324 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception. The Dallas defense strip-sacked McNabb on the first play of the game.
Sept. 15, 2008 (Monday Night Football) -- The final Monday night game at Texas Stadium started out with the Cowboys answering David Akers field goals with a 72-yard yard bomb to T.O. and a 98-yard kickoff touchdown return by rookie running back Felix Jones.
Romo gave away a fumble in the end zone the Eagles turned into six points. Rookie receiver DeSean Jackson had a six-catch, 110-yard effort, and would have had the touchdown had he not throw it away before crossing the goal line. Romo engineered a fourth quarter comeback and Dallas prevailed 41-37.
Nov. 8, 2009 (Sunday Night Football) -- Dallas returned to The Linc, the scene of a 44-6 crime on Dec. 28, 2008, to open the series with the Eagles. The Cowboys defense had a huge stop on a McNabb sneak on fourth-and-1 at the Dallas 45-yard line early in the fourth quarter. Dallas would take a 20-13 lead four plays later with Romo hitting meteoric receiver Miles Austin for a 49-yard touchdown.
Weirdly, Andy Reid sent Akers to kick a 52-yard field goal on fourth-and-11 with 4:33 to play rather than go for it. The Eagles lost two timeouts due to upheld challenges, and running back Marion Barber ran out the clock en route to a 20-16 victory.
Dec. 12, 2010 (Sunday Night Football) -- NBC chose to stay with the 4-8 Cowboys versus the 8-4 Eagles rather than flex to a better game. Wade Phillips had been fired eight games into this failed season and now offensive coordinator-turned-interim head coach Jason Garrett was coaching for a promotion. Why did NBC stay? Because the Cowboys always draw ratings.
The Cowboys honored late franchise quarterback Don Meredith, who died a week early on Dec. 5. With Romo lost long ago with a broken collarbone, rookie receiver Dez Bryant also lost with a broken ankle, the Cowboys managed to go toe-to-toe with the Michael Vick-led offense. However, the defense could not stop running back LeSean McCoy, who gained 50 yards on four carries in the Eagles' four-minute offense, to get the ball back.
Oct. 30, 2011 (Sunday Night Football) -- This was the game the Cowboys were going to show those Eagles. Romo was back. Not only was Bryant going to introduce himself to the Eagles, but so was rookie running back DeMarco Murray, who set the franchise single-game rushing record with 253 yards the previous week against the Rams.
Instead, the Eagles scored four touchdowns and two field goals on their first six drives, building a 34-0 fourth quarter lead. If not for receiver Laurent Robinson's 70-yard touchdown, the Cowboys would have been shutout for the first time since Nov. 16, 2003 at New England.
Dec. 2, 2012 (Sunday Night Football) -- It was the end of the Reid era. The Eagles were 3-8 on the season and starting rookie Nick Foles at quarterback and Bryce Brown at running back. Dallas was 5-6, but the NFC East was trash that season, so the Cowboys could conceivably win the division. Brown's two touchdown runs helped the Eagles jump out to a 14-3 lead over Dallas.
But the Cowboys were at their healthiest of the season offensively with Murray and Austin back from injury. Dallas took the lead 31-27 with a 6-yard Bryant touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, and first-round cornerback Morris Claiborne sealed the deal with a 50-yard scoop-and-score. Dallas prevailed 38-33.
Dec. 29, 2013 (Sunday Night Football) -- The schedule-makers actually had the Oct. 20 and the Dec. 29 match-ups as afternoon games on FOX. But for the third straight season, the Cowboys were playing in a win-to-get-in game for the NFC East title. For the first time in three seasons, Dallas would have home-field advantage.
Unfortunately, Romo gave it all as he played through a herniated disc in Washington to keep the dream alive with a 24-23 fourth quarter comeback. Kyle Orton filled in for Romo and delivered a 358-yard performance, completing 30-of-46 with two touchdowns and two interceptions. The last pick ended the Cowboys season 24-22 as cornerback Brandon Boykin snagged a pass intended for Austin.
Dec. 14, 2014 (Sunday Night Football) -- The Eagles demolished the Cowboys 33-10 on Thanksgiving, but had since lost a game to Seattle as the Cowboys pulled out a Thursday night victory in Chicago. The two 9-4 squads were playing for control of the division, and Bryant delivered with six catches for 114 yards and three touchdowns. Dallas would cruise to a 38-27 win and as part of a four-game winning streak heading into the playoffs.
Nov. 8, 2015 (Sunday Night Football) -- Dallas was waiting on Romo to return from a collarbone injury, and the NFC East had a failure to launch. All the Cowboys needed to do was take care of business in division games while he was healing. Dallas would not go gently into that Sunday night, even with Matt Cassel at quarterback.
After throwing an obligatory pick-six to start the fourth quarter, Bryant caught an 18-yard touchdown to keep the Cowboys even 21-21. Dan Bailey traded two field goals with Caleb Sturgis, including a 44-yarder with seven seconds in regulation to send the game to overtime. However, Sam Bradford led Philadelphia on a nine-play, 80-yard drive with future Buffalo Bills receiver Jordan Matthews scoring a 41-yard, game-winning touchdown.
Oct. 30, 2016 (Sunday Night Football) -- The Cowboys and Eagles featured rookie quarterbacks in Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz. Philadelphia lead 23-13 in the fourth quarter and had picked off Prescott to get there. Sensational rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott rushed 22 times for 96 yards. After Dallas tied the game 23-23 with a Bryant 22-yard touchdown, the two sides traded two punts apiece before overtime.
As the obverse of 2015, it was Prescott who led a 12-play, 75-yard drive that featured a 2-yard sneak to convert a fourth-and-1. Five plays later, Jim Schwartz's defense forgot all about Witten, a future Hall-of-Famer, who caught the 5-yard, game-winning touchdown.
The Cowboys and Eagles will no doubt write an exciting chapter in this gridiron saga. With Dallas clinging to postseason hope at 5-4 and the Eagles running away with the NFC East at 8-1, Witten knows the gravity of this 14th straight prime time affair.
Said Witten: "More so this year than any, they're on top of our division, on top of the NFC, and really a good football team. We've got our work cut out for us. I said this a few weeks back, but going into the bye, our margin got a little bit smaller. We're able to fight out of that and get back to a winning record, but now that margin still remains tight. And, so, I believe in our team. I believe we've got a good football team, and really a good group of guys and coaches who work hard together. We've got to play better at critical times, and certainly [Sunday in Atlanta] wasn't good enough."
What your fondest memories of the Cowboys vs the Eagles in prime time over the last two decades? Share 'em with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.
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