Classic MNF: Randall's World
By Will Weiss
ABC Sports Online

There are breakout performances, and there are breakout performances on national television.

Randall Cunningham
Randall Cunningham put forth one of the most memorable performances against the Giants.

The Oct. 10, 1988 Monday Night clash between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles seemed to be a mismatch, as many thought the Giants' vicious defense would be too much for the Eagles' young, athletic, fourth-year quarterback, Randall Cunningham.

Those people were wrong.

Thanks to Cunningham's 31-for-41, 369-yard, three-touchdown explosion, Philadelphia ended a six-game losing streak to the Giants, and Cunningham, with one acrobatic display, not only set the tone for the remainder of the game, he became a star.

The play in discussion occurred in the second quarter with the Eagles trailing 3-0 and marching inside the Giants 5. After Keith Byars and Anthony Toney were stuffed on consecutive plays, Philadelphia decided to change things up on third-and-goal. At the 5-yard line, Cunningham rolled to his right and stumbled on the rutty Veterans Stadium turf and was then nailed by linebacker Carl Banks. Cunningham somehow maintained his footing, and with Harry Carson charging fast, let it go and found tight end Jimmie Giles in the end zone.

The play capped a 12-play, 80-yard drive. Not only did he stun everyone present at Veterans Stadium, Cunningham said he surprised himself with the effort.

"Things like that aren't supposed to happen," he said. "When a 248-pound linebacker hits you, you're supposed to go down. My knee was half a foot from the ground. But I just knew I had to try to make the play."

Following a William Frizzell interception, Cunningham completed seven passes for 93 yards, culminating in a 5-yard TD toss to Byars, and the Eagles took a 14-3 lead to intermission.

Eagles vs. Giants on MNF
Date Result
11/23/70 Eagles 23, Giants 20
10/2/72 Giants 27, Eagles 12
9/22/80 Eagles 35, Giants 3
10/10/88 Eagles 24, Giants 13
11/4/91 Eagles 30, Giants 7
Home team in bold

Philly extended its lead to 17-3 on the first series of the second half on a 37-yard field goal by Luis Zendejas. The Giants clawed back, however, and with time winding down in the fourth quarter, had a chance to take the lead.

On fourth-and-10 from the Philly 18, Mark Bavaro beat Seth Joyner on his crossing route. Phil Simms put the ball right in his hands, but, thinking end zone, the All-Pro tight end from Notre Dame dropped it, thwarting the Giants' comeback bid.

The turnover handed the ball back to Cunningham, who had one more trick left in the bag.

Three plays into the drive, Cris Carter got behind Mark Collins at the 35 and Cunningham zipped one to the streaking receiver. The result was an 80-yard touchdown that clinched the 11-point win for Philadelphia.

The Monday Night masterpiece was the catalyst to a standout season, as Cunningham went on to set a career high in passing yards (3,808), and led the Eagles to a 10-6 record and a first-place finish in the NFC East.

This Monday, another dynamic Philadelphia quarterback makes his MNF debut against the Giants (ABC, 9 p.m. ET) -- Donovan McNabb -- who has drawn some comparisons to Cunningham. McNabb enters the game under similar circumstances: Philadelphia is an up-and-coming team, but has lost seven straight to New York. Plus, people know of his talent, but haven't truly gotten a chance to see it. Perhaps McNabb's Eagles will overcome their Giant hurdle, and the third-year QB out of Syracuse will firmly catapult himself into the spotlight on national television Monday night.

That remains to be seen, but 13 years ago, Randall Cunningham set the precedent.

Will Weiss is the editor of ABC's Monday Night Football site.

 
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