Eagles prepare sudden stop for speeding Giants

November 25, 1990|By Kevin Mulligan | Kevin Mulligan,Knight-Ridder News Service

PHILADELPHIA -- The ABC hype is set to begin for the Dec. 3 "Battle of Unbeatens."

The network is anticipating a "Monday Night Football" audience that will shatter the existing ratings record for a National Football League game on ABC, a record that has stood since Dec. 2, 1985, when the Chicago Bears vs. Miami Dolphins drew a 29.6 rating and 46 share of the TV audience.

ABC insiders say the network is ready to launch a major advertising campaign for the Dec. 3 New York Giants-San Francisco 49ers confrontation as soon as today's games are over. The ready-to-go print ads and radio and TV commercials will focus on the first clash of 11-0 teams in NFL history.

Philadelphia Eagles safety Wes Hopkins and several teammates think ABC and the general public might be overlooking one small fact.

"The Giants are going to have a loss going into that game," Hopkins said, thinking ahead to today's Eagles-Giants showdown at Veterans Stadium. "And I'm sure the Giants aren't thinking about it, because they know that the past two years, we've won four of the last five and to get there, they have to go through the Eagles. And I think that's going to be a tougher test for them than the 49ers."

That was about the loudest volley fired at the Giants' locker room bulletin board from Veterans Stadium this week. But there were a few others. Consider:

* Eagles coach Buddy Ryan said after Thursday's crisp, 2 1/2 -hour Thanksgiving Day practice: "We've beaten them four out of the last five times we've played, and we plan on beating them again."

* Quarterback Randall Cunningham predicted that today's rumble will be the best game of the regular season and then said the following of the Giants' 10-0 record and 13-game, regular-season unbeaten string over two seasons: "I think the road stops here."

In other words, the Eagles don't care whether a victory against one of the NFL's two remaining unbeatens will gain them more respect around the league. The objective is to avenge their 27-20 loss to the Giants in the season opener and solidify their chances for a wild-card playoff berth.

One thing the Eagles would love to establish today is a deep threat against a Giants secondary that has been virtually impenetrable beyond 30 yards this season.

Just twice has the Giants' two-deep zone fortified by Everson Walls, Dave Duerson and Greg Jackson allowed a wide-out a reception covering more than 30 yards. Equally amazing, no wide-out has reached the Giants' end zone this season.

In the opener, which now seems like a decade ago, the longest gain the Eagles' offense could muster was a 29-yard Cunningham-to-Robert Drummond pass.

The list of reasons for the Eagles' apparent reluctance to challenge New York's zones was a lengthy one. The Eagles' new offense was still in a cocoon on Sept. 9. Cunningham barely knew rookie wide-outs Fred Barnett and Calvin Williams, and both had yet to establish themselves.

A lot has changed since. The Eagles are averaging 341.2 yards, 25.1 points and 199 passing yards behind Cunningham, who has adapted beautifully to offensive coordinator Rich Kotite's attack. Barnett and Williams each is averaging more than 18 yards a reception, with longs of 40 and 41, respectively.

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