There's been talk off and on in recent weeks in Philadelphia that Jim McMahon may get a chance to quarterback the struggling Eagles instead of Randall Cunningham.

McMahon came very close to playing as an Eagle for the first time Sunday when Cunningham came up limping with a bruised knee after a 6-yard gain with 5:50 remaining in the game at Dallas."We didn't know the extent of the injury," said Eagles' offensive coordinator Rich Kotite, "but I went over to Jim and started going over what we were going to do, how we were going to call the plays, things like that.

"Yeah, Jim was going in," Kotite said.

But Cunningham decided he was all right, returned to play the next series and completely took charge of not only the game but perhaps Philadelphia's immediate future.

Cunningham's comeback performance will, at least for now, silence the McMahon backers.

The Eagles were in danger of losing 20-14 to the lowly Cowboys, who'd just blocked a punt and recovered on Philadelphia's 24-yard line, then scored to go ahead with four minutes left in the game.

On Philadelphia's next possession, "Randall came into the huddle and laughed," tight end Keith Jackson told Kevin Mulligan of Knight-Ridder Newspapers. "He said, `Hey, look, we've got almost four minutes in the game, and they think they're going to stop us? Who do they think we are?"'

"You could feel Randall's confidence getting contagious. It was an awesome thing," added tackle Ron Heller.

Philadelphia drove 85 yards on 13 plays and tied the score with :44 left, leaving it up to Weber State's Roger Ruzek to win the game with his third extra-point kick of the day. Ruzek had missed two field goals the week before.

Some criticism in Philadelphia has centered on the "new" offense the Eagles have been using. Coach Buddy Ryan said before the season that the "new" offense is really just the old offense with new terminology. "McMahon says it's the easiest system he's ever been in," Ryan countered. "Took him two days to learn it. It's no big deal."

Last week, after a 13-7 loss to Washington, Loss No. 4 for a team that's supposedly playoff-bound, Ryan said, "Any new offense is going to take time, and I knew that going in."

According to the Los Angeles Times, prior to Sunday's game in San Diego, Chargers' Coach Dan Henning told his players Tampa Bay Coach Ray Perkins had a guaranteed victory and didn't need to use somewhat-injured quarterback Vinny Testaverde. True statement or not, the Chargers used it for all it was worth. "I was fired up for this game because of what Perkins said, and so were a lot of other guys," said Charger linebacker Gary Plummer.

San Diego scored the first four times it had the ball in a 41-10 victory. The Chargers intercepted Tampa quarterback Chris Chandler four times, scoring twice and causing him to call it his worst game ever. The Bucs fumbled five times, losing three.

It snowballed against Tampa so badly that in the final six minutes, the Bucs fumbled on three consecutive possessions - first by Chandler, then by former Weber State quarterback Jeff Carlson, the third-string signalbarker, and then by kick returner Danny Peebles. Carlson was credited with a yard rushing.

Houston linebacker Al Smith was back in form Sunday. He made eight solo tackles, tying for the eighth best performance of the week in the NFL, and four assists. The former Utah Stater career-tackle record-holder had two tackles and an assist Oct. 21 but had totaled 17 tackles and 10 assists in his two previous games.

MOVES - Former Ute tight end Andy Parker, recently put on the Los Angeles Raiders' roster after being waived preseason by San Diego, has been moved to injured reserve status after a hamstring pull. Former BYU safety Eric Bergesen was waived by Atlanta Oct. 20, re-signed and put on the Falcons' practice squad and then promoted to the playing roster again Thursday after linebacker Michael Reed went on injured reserve.