Better believe Eagles long on confidence

Commentary

September 15, 1993|By Bill Lyon | Bill Lyon,Knight-Ridder News Service

PHILADELPHIA -- Tale of Two Cities, updated version:

The Dallas Cowboys, behind, went for the touchdown instead of the field goal Sunday because their coach had lost confidence in his kicker, who had missed.

The Cowboys lost.

The Philadelphia Eagles, tied, went for the field goal Sunday because the coach had confidence in his kicker, who also had missed.

The Eagles won.

And suddenly the world is upside down. The Cowboys are 0-2 and the Eagles are 2-0.

"If you only have a little faith in a player," Rich Kotite said, "then don't even have him on the team. Am I right?"

Without question, to borrow the pet phrase of the Eagles' coach.

Linville Elliott, the Cowboys' kicker, had missed twice, so Jimmy Johnson, trailing Buffalo by 13-10 with seconds left, ordered a pass, even though the Cowboys probably would have been favored in an overtime.

The pass was deflected in the end zone and intercepted at the goal line. And today, this foreboding statistic is being hammered into the Cowboys: No team has ever started 0-2 and made it to the Super Bowl.

The Eagles, showing resilience and resolve, drove 91 yards to tie the Packers at 17, got the ball back and then ran seven plays -- seven straight running plays, with Vaughn Hebron and Herschel Walker alternating, the little boot-scooter one play, the tip-tap-toe quick-foot the next, taking turns behind that pachyderm parade of an offensive line the Eagles have assembled.

Seven running plays in a row while the Packers desperately used their timeouts and it became obvious that Kotite was going to run the ball down Green Bay's gullet and run the clock down to the nubbin and then send in Roger Ruzek.

And how smart was that?

Ruzek looked like a shaky bet at best.

He had missed from 32 yards in the opener, leaving the Eagles vulnerable to defeat, and he had missed from 31 against the Packers, and he had been inconsistent during the preseason.

In short, he looked like a critical miss just waiting to happen.

"You should have heard them on the sideline," Kotite said Monday. "All the players -- everyone -- believed in Roger."

None more so than the coach, who is big on loyalty, who gives it and feels betrayed when it isn't returned.

"That's what I like about this team," Kotite said. "Everyone's pulling for each other. I'm telling you, there's a chemistry here."

The Eagles will have need of all the chemistry the lab can produce. But for now, they are percolating.

"Oh, man, I love it when you guys write that we're out of it," Seth Joyner was saying, his eyes aglow.

The other times Joyner has been this excited, he has been ripping the coach's play-calling as too conservative. What did he think of the offense against Green Bay?

The offense "showed me something, making those two long scoring drives in the fourth quarter," he replied. "You know, even in your darkest moments, you have to believe."

Joyner and Byron Evans played splendidly Sunday, played in a fine rage, played so well that the Packers' last three possessions produced one interception and two punts and not even one first down.

And the Eagles turned a game that was supposed to be a withdrawal into a deposit instead, and suddenly, the sun has come out.

Two weeks ago, the talk was gloomy. Enough ticket-buyers stayed away to cause a TV blackout. The season was being written off even before the first game. Now you hear all sorts of giddy speculation. Some even look at the next four games -- Redskins (without Mark Rypien), Jets, Bears, Giants -- and project the Eagles at 6-0 going into the Cowboys game on Halloween.

To borrow from the Green Bay radio analyst's repertoire: The Eagles had better make hay while the wind is at their backs because the last 10 games on their schedule are 10 widow-makers.

Rich Kotite did no gloating at his weekly media conference Monday.

When he returned to his office, where the radio always issues soothing music, he was asked if, behind closed doors, in private, he would like to indulge in just a little gloating.

"Nah," he said. "Nah."

And he thought for a moment, perhaps considering the week, the season, his entire tenure. And he offered the inchworm perspective:

"Little by little. . ."

There's a lot of road left, much of it unpaved, but the Eagles do seem to be getting there.

% Little by little. . .

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