November 6, 2009

1966: Timmy Brown Spurs Eagles Upset of Dallas with TDs on 2 Kickoff Returns

Timmy Brown was an outstanding all-purpose halfback who is often best remembered for his kick returning ability. On November 6, 1966 at Philadelphia’s Franklin Field he had a record-setting day that keyed a surprising – and unusual – win for the Eagles over the Dallas Cowboys.

The Cowboys were sporting a 5-1-1 record and had embarrassed Philadelphia by a 56-7 score just four weeks earlier at the Cotton Bowl. The Eagles were sputtering along with a 4-4 record and the dreadful loss in Dallas had been all too indicative of the uneven play on both sides of the ball.

It was no surprise when Dallas scored first on a two yard run by HB Dan Reeves. But on the ensuing kickoff, Brown fielded the ball at his seven yard line and proceeded to race down the sideline for a 93-yard touchdown. The Cowboys responded with a field goal and then a one-yard TD by QB Don Meredith to move ahead by 17-7 in the second quarter. But once again on the kickoff, it was Timmy Brown running 90 yards for an Eagles TD, becoming the first player in NFL history to return two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same game.

When defensive back Aaron Martin returned a punt 67 yards for another score, the Eagles took the lead and after a 31-yard Sam Baker field goal, led at the half, 24-17. Dallas scored two field goals in the second half to close the Philadelphia margin to a point, and in the last two minutes it appeared they would prevail. QB Don Meredith marched the offense down the field with four consecutive pass completions, three to Reeves and one to flanker Buddy Dial.

When Reeves hauled in a pass inside the Eagles 20 and was struggling to get past CB Jim Nettles at the 13, it seemed likely that Dallas would at least be able to get a field goal. However, Eagles free safety Joe Scarpati, who had missed a tackle upfield, came up behind Reeves and pulled the loosely-held ball out of his arm before the referee could whistle the play dead. His act of larceny ended the Dallas threat, and the final score was 24-23 in favor of Philadelphia.

It was an odd end to a game in which all of the Eagles points were accounted for by the special teams. The defense played well, forcing the Cowboys to punt nine times. But the Eagles offense had been dreadful, accumulating just 80 total yards and five first downs. Quarterbacks Norm Snead (1 completion in 8 pass attempts for no yards) and King Hill (4 of 9 for 55 yards) combined for just five completed passes; with 33 yards lost on five sacks by the Cowboys, the net passing yards totaled 22 for the contest. They also turned the ball over three times.

But the day mostly belonged to Timmy Brown, who, beyond the two touchdowns, accounted for 247 yards on five kickoff returns (the second highest single-game total in league history at the time). With 38 yards on 11 rushes, that came to 285 yards of total offense. For a player who twice set the NFL record for total yards in a season (2306 in 1962 and 2428 in ’63), it was another milestone performance.

The Cowboys went on to finish with a 10-3-1 record for the season, winning the Eastern Conference and losing to Green Bay in the NFL Championship game. The Eagles rallied to finish at 9-5 (their only season over .500 between 1961 and 1978), tying for second place with Cleveland and earning a trip to the Playoff Bowl, the postseason consolation game for conference runners-up in the ‘60s, where they lost to the Baltimore Colts.