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EXCERPT | Jan. 11, 1981
Champs At Last
Exorcising 20 years of demons, Philly crushed Dallas
Playing for their first championship in more than 20 years—since quarterback Norm Van Brocklin led them to victory over the Packers in the 1960 NFL title game—the long-suffering Eagles ran roughshod over the Cowboys when the two teams met for the NFC crown on Jan. 11, 1981. Steve Wulf reported from Philadelphia.
The Eagles won because they reintroduced to football what nostalgia freaks may remember as "the ground game"—the same type of offense that the Oakland Raiders would use to down San Diego's Chargers later in the day—and then put a defense on the field that Dallas quarterback Danny White called "a brick wall."
They won because Wilbert Montgomery, who was supposed to play this game in a wheelchair, ran for 194 yards, only two short of the NFL playoff record set in 1949 by the Eagles' own Steve Van Buren, who dropped by the locker room to congratulate Montgomery on his effort. On the Eagles' second play from scrimmage, Montgomery cut back off right tackle and went 42 yards untouched for a touchdown. He broke another one for 55 yards in the fourth quarter; he could have gone farther, but he had to pull up because he had a sore knee. All week long Montgomery was hardly able to work out with his teammates because of a bruised left leg, and without him the Eagles are, well, no yards and no cloud of dust. Without Montgomery, Philly would be on vacation right now, not packing for New Orleans.
The Eagles did not fare so well against the Raiders in Super Bowl XV, falling behind early and rushing for just 69 yards in a 27--10 loss.
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SI's L. Jon Wertheim examines how in the NBA, gambling among teammates such as Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton was allowed to become a defining element of the league's culture.
Well before an alleged card-game dispute between two Wizards—a misnomer of the highest order—metastasized into the first full-blown sports scandal of this young decade, intrateam gambling was already embedded in the culture of the NBA. Just consider the elements. You have a kennel of hypercompetitive alpha dogs, vast pastures of downtime, and wealth to the point of abstraction. But there's also this element: complicity from management. Coaches, and even executives, encourage or, at the bare minimum, tacitly permit the high-stakes wagering. At a time when team chemistry is increasingly elusive, these games of chance pass for team-bonding exercises. I once watched a well-regarded coach end a practice with a shooting contest, standing sentry over the money at half-court. He remarked that he could actually learn a great deal about players' mental toughness by watching how they performed with money and pride on the line. Several years ago I wrote a short piece for SI on Aaron McKie, then a Philadelphia guard. Though one of the NBA's good guys, McKie boasted that he was supplementing his sizable salary with winnings at Bourré, incidentally, the same game that Arenas (above) and Crittenton were allegedly playing. "Shooting holes in their pockets," McKie said, cackling.
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Pittsburgh, with Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier rushing for 111 and 98 yards, respectively, beat Oakland 24--13 for the AFC title, before claiming its first Super Bowl championship.
The 49ers' run to their first NFL crown included an epic 28--27 defeat of Dallas in the NFC title game. Dwight Clark caught the game-winning touchdown pass with 51 seconds left.
Green Bay hadn't been to a title game since '68, but Antonio Freeman's second-quarter score helped the Pack hammer Carolina 30--13 in a prelude to Super Bowl XXXI.
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Photograph by JERRY WACHTER
BIRD IN FLIGHT Montgomery ran wild in Philly's 20--7 triumph, dashing 42 yards for a score on the Eagles' second play from scrimmage.
HEINZ KLUETMEIER (HARRIS)
WALTER IOOSS JR. (CLARK)
AL TIELEMANS (FREEMAN)
JOHN BIEVER (ARENAS)
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH (FAN)
JONATHAN DANIEL/GETTY IMAGES (DAWSON)
DUANE BURLESON/AP (ARTEST)