Cunningham stars as Eagles hold off Bears' rally, 30-22

September 13, 1994|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Sun Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- This was quite a coming-out party, in front of Dan, Al, Frank and a national television audience.

Quarterback Randall Cunningham, who had roused suspicion that he was finished with a shaky preseason and a paranoid season opener, was near his old form last night in leading the Philadelphia Eagles to a 30-22 win over the Chicago Bears at Veterans Stadium.

Cunningham, 31, seldom threw deep, and he didn't leap over any defenders in a single bound, but he looked cool and comfortable in the Eagles short drop-back, quick-release offense.

Cunningham completed 24 of 36 passes for 311 yards and three touchdowns. The performance may have erased some doubts about Cunningham, who missed the final 12 games last season with a knee injury, his second career-threatening leg injury in three years.

Last night marked only the first time in his 10-year pro career that Cunningham has thrown for more than 300 yards in consecutive games.

But Cunningham was far from sensational in the Eagles' 28-23 season-opening loss to the New York Giants in which he completed 20 of 39 passes for 344 yards. He overthrew and short-hopped receivers. He didn't know when to run or throw, at times trying to shield his legs from another injury. Even his teammates quietly questioned his ability.

But with nearly seven minutes left and a 30-7 lead, most of the crowd of 64,890 had started filing out of the stadium: Dan Marino may not be the only quarterback rebounding from a career-threatening injury.

The Bears' only answers to the Eagles and Cunningham were three fourth-quarter touchdown receptions. Curtis Conway had a yarder with 12:15 left, and one of 85 yards with 5:53 remaining. The last one came with 3:35 left, a 16-yard pass from quarterback Erik Kramer to tight end Marv Cook.

Chicago moved from its 23 to the Eagles' 49 on its second possession, but the drive stalled there. Halfback Lewis Tillman gained four yards on a first-down run, but Bears quarterback Erik Kramer failed to complete his next two passes, one that was almost intercepted by linebacker Byron Evans.

The Eagles went 83 yards on 11 plays on their next possession for a touchdown and 7-0 lead. Cunningham was outstanding during the drive, completing passes of 2, 8, 21, 19 15 and 9 yards.

The big play was a 21-yard completion to running back Herschel Walker over the middle on third-and-12 from the Eagles' 28. Cunningham finished the drive with a 9-yard touchdown reception to wide receiver Calvin Williams, from Dunbar High, on a short fade rout that gave Philadelphia a seven-point lead with 3:19 left in the first quarter.

Philadelphia scored on its next possession, this time on a 68-yard drive. The Eagles mixed the run and pass perfectly, blending the rushes of Walker and fellow running back James Joseph with quick, drop back passes from Cunningham.

Williams and Cunningham hooked up on a 19-yard pass over the middle to the Bears 16, and three plays later Cunningham found Williams on a square out in the left corner of the end zone for a 14-yard score with 12:06 left in the second quarter.

Philadelphia made it 21-0 midway in the second quarter after Cunningham threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to tight end Maurice Johnson.

The touchdown was set up by a 47-yard punt return from Jeff Sydner, who bolted through a huge hole in the coverage to the Bears' 19. On second-and-goal from the 7, Cunningham threw to Johnson for the touchdown.

The play showed just how poorly the Bears were playing pass defense. Cunningham threw behind Johnson, who turned around, caught the ball, fell and then back-pedaled into the end zone before he was touched by cornerback Donnell Woolford.

Nothing Chicago did in the first half could stop the Eagles, and Philadelphia scored on its last offensive series of the first half.

Cunningham, completing five of seven passes for 61 yards, took the Eagles to the Bears' 24 before place-kicker Eddie Murray kicked a 41-yard field goal with two seconds left in the second quarter to give Philadelphia a 24-0 lead at the half.

In the first half, Chicago had just one first down and 32 total yards. The Eagles finished with 172 yards, and Williams had four receptions for 64 yards and two touchdowns.

Philadelphia stayed with its dink and dunk offense in the third quarter. On it first possession, the Eagles went from their 10 to the Bears 12 before Cunningham overthrew receiver Fred Barnett on a slant-in on a third-and-five.

Murray kicked his second field goal, a 29-yarder, to put the Eagles ahead, 27-0, with 9:43 remaining in the third period.

Murray made his third, a 33-yarder, as Philadelphia took a 30-0 lead with 2:41 left. Murray's field goal was set up by an interception from safety Greg Jackson, who intercepted a Kramer pass on a slant-in intended for Curtis Conway, and returned it 32 yards to the Bears' 25.

Even though Philadelphia came away with only three points, the Eagles used 4:11. On their first drive, the Eagles consumed 5:17.

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