Sciarra Scores, Eagles Win

sciarra-phil-ballOn a most memorable day that saw the Philadelphia Eagles take the field at Veterans Stadium on South Broad Street without the services of its two starting running backs, it would be the very first ‘read option quarterback’ in franchise history who swept around right end to score the only touchdown of the entire National Football League contest against the visiting Green Bay Packers on November 5, 1978.

ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO — savvy Philadelphia Eagles safety and punt returner JOHN SCIARRA (# 21), the nation’s consensus All-America selection at quarterback for the 1975 NCAA season and the Most Valuable Player of the 1976 Rose Bowl affair that witnessed the UCLA Bruins upset the previously unbeaten and untied Ohio State Buckeyes, holds the ball ‘like a loaf of bread’ to present the illusion that the distinct possibility of a forward pass still remains as fallen Green Bay Packers linebacker GARY WEAVER (# 52), the seven-year NFL professional who played his college football at Fresno State, eats a little astroturf at the since demolished Vet.

(John Ernesto photo/Reading Eagle/11-06-78)

The Green Bay Packers were riding high with a record of seven wins against just two losses and were entertaining serious aspirations of recapturing Super Bowl glory for the first time in more than a decade when arriving in the City of Brotherly Love to face the injury-riddled Philadelphia Eagles, an up and down squad sporting the record of four wins and five losses.

Indeed, head coach Bart Starr’s Packers looked well on the way to their eighth victory of the season after striking early on a 79-yard touchdown pass from David Whitehurst to future Hall of Fame speed burner James Lofton, the former Stanford University All-America who was enjoying a standout NFL rookie campaign. Luckily for the Eagles, however, youthful Green Bay tackle Greg Koch was caught holding an opponent and so Philadelphia supporters were immediately spared from witnessing any scoring celebrations just yet. The visiting Packers did, however, take the lead in the first quarter on the strength of a 42-yard field goal from Chester Marcol, the native of Poland who spent nine years kicking an American football at the highest professional level.

Green Bay went on to roll up 386 yards of total offense — this as compared to the meager 148 yards generated by Philadelphia — but, much to the delight of the folks in the land where authentic cheesesteaks rule, somehow managed to continuously to shoot themselves in both feet via penalties and turnovers.

(John Ernesto photo/Reading Eagle/11-06-78)

The most critical of all the Packers’ mistakes came in the second stanza when Green Bay center Larry McCarron short-hopped his long snap to punter David Beverly, the experienced veteran who just so happened to be standing not so far away from the goal line that his own team was defending. A comedy of errors ensued as Beverly, after first failing on an attempt to scoop up the elusive pigskin, then tried to kick the ball off the ground as would a soccer player only to make a proper mess of that endeavor, as well. Within short order, charging Philadelphia linebacker Ray Phillips had successfully stormed in to procure the available sphere less than five yards from the Eagles’ preferred destination.

Enter John Sciarra, the the first-year NFL defensive back who had spent his first two professional campaigns performing at both quarterback as well as slot receiver for the British Columbia Lions in the Canadian Football League. The Philadelphia Eagles had been experimenting all throughout the 1978 NFL season with the so-called ‘option play’, a tactic that had traditionally always been almost exclusive to the collegiate game up to that point in time. Perhaps not so surprising, given the fact that the Eagles’ third-year head coach Dick Vermeil had worked extensively with both Sciarra and the option play during his previous occupations on campus at UCLA.

On second down from the Green Bay two-yard line, the versatile Sciarra took a conventional snap from under center and sprinted off to his right on what appeared to be a classic pro-style ‘roll out’ play. The was never any question, however, that the former UCLA quarterback would actually run the well-known risk of passing the football forward. And so Johnny Everything scored rather easily while the Eagles, for all intents and purposes as a result of the Packers’ unabated ineptitude, had essentially won.

Philadelphia Eagles defensive back ERIC JOHNSON (# 49), the second-year player out of Washington State University who recovered two fumbles during his rookie professional campaign the previous season, watches intently as butter-fingered Green Bay Packers punter DAVID BEVERLY (# 11) struggles mightily to cope with the situation during the National Football League contest at Veterans Stadium on November 5, 1978 …. (UPI photo/The Milwaukee Journal/11-06-78)

Veterans Memorial Stadium
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Attendance – 64,214

GREEN BAY …………. 3 … 0 … 0 … 0 = ….. 3
PHILADELPHIA …… 0 … 7 … 3 … 0 = … 10

1st qtr …….. GB : Marcol 42 FG
2nd qtr … PHIL : Sciarra 2 run (Mike-Mayer kick)
3rd qtr … PHIL : Mike-Mayer 27 FG

Game Statistics

rushing yards ….. Green Bay 174 (4.8 avg), Philadelphia 51 (1.7 avg)
passing yards ….. Green Bay 212 (18/33), Philadelphia 97 (13/20)

total yards ……….. Green Bay 386, Philadelphia 148

yards lost, penalty …….. Green Bay 74, Philadelphia 15

fumbles lost ……………….. Green Bay 2, Philadelphia 0
interceptions thrown ….. Green Bay 3, Philadelphia 1

Philadelphia Eagles rushing
Billy Campfield ………….. 34 yards …… 3.1 avg
Cleveland Franklin …….. 22 yards …… 1.5 avg
John Sciarra …………….. – 2 yards … – 1.0 avg
Ron Jaworski ……………. – 3 yards … – 1.5 avg

Philadelphia Eagles linebacker RAY PHILLIPS (# 52), who played his prep football at Milwaukee’s West High School in Wisconsin before going on to the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, recovers a pivotal second quarter fumble against the Green Bay Packers during the 1978 National Football League contest at good ole’ Veterans Stadium on South Broad Street in Philadelphia … (John Ernesto photo/Reading Eagle/11-06-78).


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