Saturday, April 19, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

The Miracle at the Meadowlands: 35 years later, I (still) don’t believe it!

Herman Edwards prepares to scoop up a fumble in front of Giants quarterback Joe Piscarcik in final seconds of November 19, 1978 Miracle in the Meadowlands game in East Rutherford, N.J. (Burnett/AP file photo)
Herman Edwards prepares to scoop up a fumble in front of Giants quarterback Joe Piscarcik in final seconds of November 19, 1978 Miracle in the Meadowlands game in East Rutherford, N.J. (Burnett/AP file photo)

I’ll never forget that first bus ride up the Jersey Turnpike in ’76 and seeing the Meadowlands in person for the first time. I looked at Merrill Reese and simply said, “wow,” in total awe of the fact that I was going to play against the New York Football Giants there the next day. Simply said, I was totally blown away. Welcome to the NFL, rook!

Little could I imagine that two years later, after being given a second chance, I would be a part of one of the most iconic games in the history of the windy stadium built on the trash fill off of Exit 16W: The Miracle of the Meadowlands.
In 1978 I was cut from the team for poor performance in the pre-season. Aside from catching a TD pass in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton I simply sucked that summer at Widener. I was hiding a sciatic nerve problem that I should have disclosed to our outstanding athletic training staff, headed by Otho Davis, but when you’re a marginal player like me, you just don’t get injured.

Because of my stupidity I could hardly run with a numb leg, at a tortuous training camp, and got cut by coach Vermeil in a very emotional meeting. The fact that was I was special teams captain the year before could not buy me a mulligan and I was let go.

Coach told me to stay in shape as I might be called back and he kept his word a month later. My nerve healed and I was back in the game and once again rolling up the turnpike on Nov. 18, unknowingly about to be part of Eagles lore the next day and forever.
November 19th, 1978, will always be a day of infamy for Eagles and Giants alike. We were heading into East Rutherford riding a two-game winning steak, while the Giants had lost three in a row – all on the road. We had wild-card aspirations and the Giants were looking for a win in the comforts of home. The fans behind our bench were brutal and constantly taunting us and were in a frenzy when a late Eagles drive to win the game was thwarted when Jaws had one of his passes picked off. We were getting hammered with a barrage of verbal assaults.

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  • And then it happened … the miracle. It was like a vacuum sucked the sound out of the stadium as it went totally silent except for the exultations of the Eagles players.
    Divine intervention stepped in. And call it luck, stupidity, or great hustle by the greatest cornerback in Eagles history … a phenomenon was delivered and we won the game 19-17. Herman Edwards scooped up a fumbled handoff from my buddy Joe Pisarcik to Larry Csonka with a few seconds left and scampered into the end zone for the winning TD.

    We went nuts running like crazy to the end zone and piled on Herm. Then I sprinted back to our bench ready to give it back to the ignorant fans behind the bench but they were gone. We got the ultimate last laugh as we came back from the dead and vaulted into the playoffs for the fist time in over a decade. I swear I heard Merrill Reese screaming into the radio microphone, “I don’t believe it … I don’t believe it!”

    Thirty-five years have passed since that glorious day and on Tuesday night we celebrated the “miracle” once again at the annual Otho Davis Foundation Dinner. It was as much a roast as it was a celebration and all of the central cast were there … Vermeil, Jaworski, Pisarcik and Edwards. The stories were even better with the passing of time with Pisarcik stealing the show with his recollection of what he called the “worst day of his life.”

    Sitting there through it all, with no fanfare, was Chip Kelly … sucking it all in and seeing and absorbing the passion Eagles of the fans and alumni. What a night it was and a reminder to us all that it ain’t over until the whistle blows. You just have to keep grinding. If you don’t believe it, just ask any one of us that were there.

    Vince Papale For
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