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Punt Return Helps Put Cowboys in Playoffs : NFC: Martin runs a punt back 85 yards for the winning touchdown as Dallas scores 17 points in fourth quarter to beat Eagles, 25-13.

December 16, 1991|From Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA — The Dallas Cowboys haven't forgotten what it was like on the bottom now that they are back near the top.

Kelvin Martin returned a punt 85 yards for one touchdown and Steve Beuerlein passed to Michael Irvin for another Sunday as the Cowboys rallied to beat the Philadelphia Eagles, 25-13, to reach the playoffs for the first time in six years.

"When we were 1-15 (in 1989), we didn't lose by much," Irvin said. "We just lost games. We needed a winning attitude, and now we've got it."

Dallas (10-5) won its fourth consecutive game and made the playoffs with the help of Detroit's victory over Green Bay.

The Eagles, whose six-game winning streak was broken, are still scrambling to make the playoffs. Philadelphia (9-6) must beat Washington next week and hope the San Francisco 49ers lose their final game and that the New Orleans Saints lose their last two, including tonight's game with the Raiders.

"We battled well but not too wisely today," said Philadelphia quarterback Jeff Kemp, who was sacked seven times (2 1/2 by Jimmy Jones and two by Ken Norton) and had two passes intercepted. "We need help now, but we won't give up."

The Eagles had a 10-5 lead at halftime as Beuerlein completed only two of 17 passes for 17 yards.

Dallas took a 5-0 lead when Ken Willis kicked a 50-yard field goal and Rod Harris fumbled the ensuing kickoff into the end zone, where Philadelphia's John Booty recovered but was tackled for a safety.

Kemp, who completed 18 of 37 passes for 150 yards, passed to tight end Maurice Johnson on a 37-yard touchdown play to give the Eagles a 7-5 lead and Roger Ruzek added a 37-yard field goal before halftime.

"I told them at halftime we were only one play away from taking the lead," Dallas Coach Jimmy Johnson said.

"We were able to play the running game well and put them in passing situations," said Johnson, who for the fourth consecutive week was able to call it "our biggest win in the three years I've been here."

Dallas came back in the third quarter, turning Larry Brown's interception of Kemp into Willis' second field goal, a 32-yarder that made the score 10-8.

Then came the punt return early in the final quarter. Martin sidestepped Ken Rose and cut right up the middle, avoiding four more Eagles and finishing with punter Jeff Feagles as Issiac Holt gave him a crunching block.

"Once I hit the hole, it was just a matter of beating the punter," Martin said.

Said Eagle Coach Rich Kotite, "We had him surrounded, but we just missed a couple of tackles that let him get loose."

That seemed to take the life from the Eagles, although they pulled to 15-13 on Ruzek's 47-yard field goal.

The Eagles sacked Dallas' Troy Aikman 11 times earlier this season, but Philadelphia got to Beuerlein only once.

Willis made field goals of 50, 32 and 37 yards, the last one with 2:40 to play as Dallas ended a nine-game losing streak to the Eagles in non-strike games.

Beuerlein, who passed four yards to Irvin for the clinching touchdown with 6:02 left, completed nine of 31 passes for 145 yards and had completions of 32 yards to Jay Novacek and 36 yards to Irvin on the drive to Dallas' final touch.

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