Eagles 35, Dolphins 28
JOHN F. BONFATTI
Oct. 21, 1996
PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Miami safety Louis Oliver complained that the Dolphins' defense couldn't stop the Philadelphia Eagles, despite the fact they ``were so two-dimensional.''
When one player runs for a career-high 173 yards and another catches four touchdown passes, two-dimensional can translate into too much as the Dolphins found out in their 35-28 loss Sunday.
Ricky Watters was the ground-based dimension that helped the Eagles climb to 5-2, adding a touchdown run in 25 carries.
Irving Fryar was the receiving dimension, catching eight passes for 116 yards and the four scores.
``The offense kept us in it today,'' Eagles defensive lineman Rhett Hall said. ``They carried the team today.''
The Eagle defense did make contributions, sacking Miami quarterback Craig Erickson four times and limiting the Dolphins to 93 yards rushing.
But after a week of criticism about its failure to score in Ty Detmer's pro debut against the New York Giants, the Philadelphia offense rebounded with five touchdowns.
``Everything starts up front. That was the key,'' said Detmer, who completed 18 of 24 passes for 226 yards and four touchdowns. ``I had a lot more time today, and the running game was going.''
Fryar was the obvious story. After three seasons with the Dolphins, he was unceremoniously dumped when Jimmy Johnson took over as head coach in the offseason.
``I wouldn't say it hurt me. It confused me,'' said Fryar, who signed with the Eagles after not receiving an offer from Miami. ``I didn't know why because I wasn't told why. I've heard some different things.''
Mainly, Fryar heard that the Dolphins thought he was too old to remain a productive NFL receiver, a criticism Fryar dismissed.
``I know that I can play,'' he said. ``I might be 34 years old, but I don't think I play like a 34-year-old.''
With age comes experience, and Fryar used that experience and his knowledge of the Dolphin secondary to repeatedly get open.
``Knowing some of those guys, and knowing what I can do, and having practiced against them day-in and day-out the last few years, it gave us an advantage,'' he said.
The Eagles also noted that Miami safeties Oliver and Shawn Wooden were positioned close to the line of scrimmage to help stop the run.
``It allows you to take some shots here and there,'' Detmer said. ``It's just the kind of thing that you've got to hit them when they're open.''
Although Detmer said he missed at least one opportunity, he made up for it by throwing near-perfect passes on Fryar touchdowns of 38, 2, 12 and 36 yards.
``It wasn't like we did a bad job today,'' insisted Dolphins cornerback Terrell Buckley, who was beaten on one of Fryar's touchdown catches. ``I think it would have been different on a dry turf.''
Johnson didn't make any excuses.
``I'm disappointed with our defense. I knew we could tackle and cover better,'' he said. As for Fryar, Johnson said simply, ``He got behind us.''
Miami blew two chances to swing the momentum in their favor.
The first came at the end of the second quarter after Randall Hill's touchdown pass cut the Eagle lead to 14-11 with 1:55 to play in the half.
Instead of shutting Philadelphia down, the Dolphin defense allowed Detmer to lead a successful two-minute drill that ended with Fryar's third touchdown catch with only five seconds left in the half.
``That was huge,'' Detmer said. ``It was 14-11 and we go into the locker room up 10 again. They were getting the ball again at the start of the second half.''
The second came late in the game, after Miami had rallied again, this time closing a 28-11 deficit with the first of O.J. McDuffie's two touchdown catches and the second of Joe Nedney's two field goals.
Nedney's field goal cut the Eagle lead to 28-21 with nearly seven minutes to play, but with 2:38 left to play, Watters broke off a 49-yard touchdown run.
``I just knew I had to hit it hard,'' Watters said. ``I just hit it, and it split open. Now I know kind of what Moses must have felt like.''
The Dolphins (4-3) responded with McDuffie's second touchdown catch, but it was too late.
``You can't give up a late touchdown to Watters, especially when the game is still close,'' Oliver said. ``We messed up the whole day.''
The victory gave Eagles coach Ray Rhodes the perfect gift for his 46th birthday.