Turnovers, which were the key to Philadelphia's success last year, may have enabled the Eagles to save their 1990 season.
Trailing Minnesota and in danger of falling to 1-4 for the first time in Coach Buddy Ryan's five-year tenure, the Eagles scored 17 points in the final four minutes Monday and defeated the Vikings 32-24.Ten of those points came off Minnesota turnovers and the Eagles recorded a total of six takeaways in the game, as many as they had managed in the first four contests of the season.
"We got six turnovers," quarterback Randall Cunningham said. "It was like the defense of old." We've just got to have faith. Sooner or later, you're going to come back. I knew eventually that some luck was going to come our way."
The Eagles led the NFL with a plus-24 turnover ratio in going to the playoffs for the second straight time last season but entered the Minnesota game with a minus-four mark this year.
"It shows you it's a team game," Ryan said. "It was an exciting game, a great game to win. We were running out of time. It was time to start winning and I'll take anything I can get."
The game was a sloppily played affair as the two teams were penalized 19 times (13 against the Vikings) and combined for a total of eight turnovers.
Momentum also swung rapidly, as the Eagles, 2-3, jumped out to an early 9-0 lead, fell behind 21-9 and then rallied to hand the Vikings, 1-5, their fourth straight loss.
"We just blew it," Minnesota Coach Jerry Burns said.
The Eagles went ahead 9-0 on Cunningham's 19-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Williams but a bad snap foiled the point-after try.
Vikings quarterback Rich Gannon, a Philadelphia native, seemed to settle down after a shaky start and he brought Minnesota within 9-7 with a 42-yard scoring strike to Cris Carter, a former Eagle.
Rick Fenney ran 1 yard for a 14-9 Minnesota lead with 7:14 to play in the second quarter before Gannon connected again with Carter, this time on a 78-yard scoring play that put the Vikings up 21-9.
The Eagles closed within 21-15 on third-quarter field goals of 30 and 29 yards by Ruzek, the second coming after Herschel Walker fumbled the kickoff.
Minnesota took advantage of a Philadelphia turnover - a muffed punt by Marvin Hargrove - to go ahead 24-15 on a 33-yard field goal by Donald Ingwebuike.
The Eagles were lucky when Cunningham found Fred Barnett for a 40-yard touchdown with four minutes to play that cut the Vikings' lead to 24-22. The ball was tipped by Minnesota's Michael Brim, went off Williams' hands and was grabbed in mid-air by Barnett.
"Randall was trying to hit Calvin between two safeties," Barnett said. "Luckily, I was there to catch the deflection. At that point, everything seemed to go our way. It shows you what can happen if you play as a team and don't give up."
Two plays later, Gannon was hit by Seth Joyner and fumbled the ball, which was returned to the Minnesota 6 by Clyde Simmons. Anthony Toney scored on the next play and the Eagles led 29-24 with 3:01 to go.
"We're out there working had but the breaks just aren't going our way," Gannon said.
Ruzek kicked a 19-yard field goal with 1:53 to play for the final margin after William Frizzell intercepted a Gannon pass and returned it 37 yards to the Vikings' 5.