Packers, not QB, hurt Eagles Last-second FG gives Green Bay 27-24 victory

November 16, 1992|By Jack McCaffery | Jack McCaffery,Contributing Writer

MILWAUKEE -- In his public search for an answer to the Philadelphia Eagles' midseason struggles, coach Rich Kotite went right to the usual suspect: the quarterback.

But, after the Eagles' 27-24 loss to the Green Bay Packers yesterday, maybe that probe should be expanded. Eagles linebacker Seth Joyner even suggested the search should lead Kotite to a mirror.

Though quarterback Randall Cunningham -- the starter, backup and starter, in that order -- played effectively, the Eagles lost for the fourth time in six games.

The Packers' Chris Jacke kicked a 41-yard field goal with no time left for the victory. That followed Herschel Walker's lost fumble at the Eagles 23 with 43 seconds to play.

The Eagles' defeat, however, resulted as much from repeated breakdowns in the one area they never expected to suffer: the defense. Though Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre played more than half of the game with a separated left shoulder, he completed his first 11 passes, 23 of 33 overall, good for 275 yards and two touchdowns.

Green Bay was especially effective across the middle, where tight end Jackie Harris collected most of his eight receptions and 98 yards, and where Sterling Sharpe roamed for many of his seven catches and 116 yards.

Green Bay (4-6) has won two of its past three. The Eagles, after a 4-0 start ballooned their championship expectations, are 6-4.

"This is a great win," Green Bay coach Mike Holmgren said. "The Eagles are a playoff football team that could be in the Super Bowl. Our players are starting to believe in themselves. It's getting a little better."

Meanwhile, while Cunningham was apologizing to Holmgren for having said that the Eagles were playing "just the Green Bay Packers," All-Pro linebacker Joyner broadly hinted that Kotite apologize for his play-calling.

After Jacke forged a 24-24 tie with a 31-yard field goal with 1:31 left, the Eagles gained possession at their 11. On first down, Walker gained 9 yards off left tackle. But, on the next play, Walker went right, was hit by Don Davey, fumbled, and Johnny Holland recovered. Two plays later, Jacke won the game at the gun.

Meanwhile, Joyner seethed.

"You got the ball back inside your own 20. How far do you think you are going to get running the ball?" Joyner said. "You've got to get the ball in field-goal range so the field-goal kicker can win the game for us. Some things I don't understand. Is it me?

"The object is to get the ball down the field. We have two timeouts left and a minute and 30 seconds left on the clock. Every time you run the ball, you are using time off the clock. The thing is to get down and kick the field goal and give us a chance to win the game."

Said Kotite: "We were going for the first down. I wanted to get to the 20 before we went with four wide-outs. We were going for it [a score]."

Kotite had returned Cunningham to the starting lineup after a game and a half with Jim McMahon in the role. Cunningham passed for 169 yards and a touchdown, directed two fourth-quarter touchdown drives and ran twice -- once for 18 yards, the other time for 13.

"I was able to relax and be myself during the week off," Cunningham said. "I still felt a lot of pressure in this game. But just knowing now that I can make mistakes and not be pulled, it allowed me to feel more comfortable and the offense to feel more comfortable. We felt great."

Cunningham was at his best in the fourth quarter. After Green Bay took a 21-10 lead on Favre's 3-yard touchdown pass to Darrell Thompson, Cunningham tossed a screen pass to Heath Sherman, who raced 75 yards for his second touchdown of the game.

On the Eagles' next possession, Cunningham twice had Fred Barnett open for long completions, but, each time, Barnett was interfered with by Packers. The penalties of 39 and 44 yards moved Philadelphia to the Green Bay 2. From there, Walker scored, giving the Eagles a 24-21 lead.

"No controversy this week," Cunningham said. "There was controversy last week. We can't get controversial this week. But I'll say this about, 'It's only the Green Bay Packers.' I ran my mouth too much. They are a great football team. I apologize to the head coach, Mike Holmgren, and that's all straightened out."

At halftime, though, the controversy still bubbled. The Eagles faced a 14-3 deficit, and Kotite had established the precedent of changing quarterbacks. Two weeks ago, he replaced Cunningham with McMahon at halftime of a 20-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. He kept McMahon as quarterback last week, and the Eagles defeated the Los Angeles Raiders, 31-10.

This time, Kotite remained patient, and Cunningham returned for the second half.

"Hey, I didn't know what was going to happen," Cunningham said. "I was just happy to go back in there and start. I guess that phobia is over now."

Philadelphia 3 0 7 14 24

Green Bay .. 0 14 0 13 27

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