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1989 Bounty Bowl: Revisiting One of the Greatest Moments in Cowboys-Eagles History

In a 1989 Classic, the were getting outplayed in . At halftime, they trailed the 10-0 as they had racked up only 91 total yards compared to the Eagles' 161. 's Cowboys, led by rookie , had to come back if they wanted to improve their 1-10 season with a win over their rivals. The Eagles, with Randall Cunningham at quarterback were looking for their eighth win of the season.

Judging by the fact that there was not much at stake, you could've guessed that this game was going to be easily forgotten. However, it found a way to become one of the most important games in the Cowboys-Eagles .

It all began with a hit on a .


Former made the news last week when he claimed to have received an envelope from after his infamous hit on Mohamed Massaquoi in 2010. Harrison's comments began discussions on on what the NFL should do. After all, they punished the for Bountygate around the same time.

Harrison has since denied the allegations made against him, laughing off people that made comparisons of his comments to Bountygate on his account.

But as we remember Bountygate, it's hard not to remember another “bounty” scandal in the NFL. It happened during the 1989 season, in a couple of games between the Cowboys and Eagles that will be remembered forever as “Bounty Bowl I” and “Bounty Bowl II.”


To start the second half, the Cowboys were set to kick the ball. It started off as a normal kickoff. After a return of 11 yards, the Eagles would start their drive about the 25-yard line. Things got interesting when the cameras turned to a stunned Luis Zendejas, the Dallas Cowboys kicker.

“I think he got knocked down!” John said on the broadcast.

Zendejas, walking toward the Eagles sideline, exchanged a few heated words with his opponents. Linebacker Jessie Small had tackled him hard in the play. The hit took place very far from the actual play. By then, the game had already featured a few skirmishes on the field.

But the hit on Zendejas is the reason we remember that 1989 game, and for good reason.

Luis Zendejas was born in City and his family moved to California when he was eight years old. In High School, Zendejas developed playing and football before receiving a scholarship from Arizona State, where he became a starter at kicker as a freshman. In his junior season, Zendejas earned All-American honors. He's currently in the Arizona State .

He was drafted by the Arizona Outlaws from the USFL in 1985. He played with the Cowboys to begin his NFL career but spent most of the 1988 season with the Eagles. A year later, Zendejas was released by Philadelphia in late October and returned to the Cowboys in time for the Thanksgiving game.

This is where things get interesting. Zendejas claimed that he had received two warnings that the Eagles were going after him. The first occurred during the week when Eagles Coach Al Roberts contacted Zendejas to warn him. The second one came from John Teltscik just before the game.

Allegedly, Head Coach Buddy Ryan had put out a $200 bounty on Zendejas and a $500 one on Troy Aikman. After the game, it led to one of Jimmy Johnson's most famous quotes:

“I have absolutely no respect for the way they played the game, I would have said something to Buddy, but he wouldn't stand on the field long enough. He put his big, fat rear end into the dressing room.” Jimmy Johnson

Ryan claimed that the allegations were ridiculous. But Zendejas insisted, going as far as saying that during his time in Philly, he had witnessed players getting paid for hitting rivals.

The NFL launched an investigation that found the Eagles innocent of all charges but questions remain to this date. The one that stands out the most might be, “Why the heck would Jessie Small have leveled Zendejas that far away from the play?”

Small ignored other Cowboys players on his way to the kicker. Did they consider Zendejas to be a threat in the tackling game? Of course not,

This set the stage for Bounty Bowl II, this time at Philadelphia. In that game, tempers were flaring as the game was heavily advertised with wanted posters by CBS. But most of the action took place in the stands.

Fans targeted players such as Cowboys Punter Mike Saxson, officials, and coaches. Even announcers Verne Lundquist and Terry Bradshaw were targeted by the fans, who had plenty of snowballs to throw thanks to the weather.

Things got so intense that the Eagles didn't even sell beer in their last home game. Jimmy Johnson was escorted off the field by Philadelphia Police once the game ended. The scoreboard read 20-10, Eagles.

The Cowboys season ended with a devastating 1-15 record in Aikman's rookie season. The Eagles went to the with an 11-5 campaign and lost in the round to the .

On paper, the Cowboys-Eagles series from 1989 might seem irrelevant. But in reality, it's one of the rivalry's greatest moments and one of the reasons fans from both teams wake up excited when Dallas and Philadelphia play a football game twice a year.

Mauricio Rodriguez
Mauricio Rodriguez
I love to write, I love football and I love the Dallas Cowboys. I've been rooting for America's team all the way from Mexico ever since I can remember. If you want to talk football, I'm in... You'll find me at @MauNFL.

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The Fan

People in Dallas don’t consider this a Rivalry, this is a fake Rivalry. I’m from Philadelphia…the true Rivalry for the Eagles is the Giants. The Cowboys and Washington that’s a Rivalry. The Eagle fans picking Dallas as some Rivalry is new… where was this in 60s and 70s?? Didn’t exist… you think Tom Landry got the Cowboys up for the eagles??? This Rivalry was born in 1989 In the eyes of Philadelphians with Buddy Ryan. Before Buddy this was a regular NFC East game…. and Philadelphia knows it… the last 32 years a generation was groomed to hate Dallas over the Giants…

Bryson T

That’s funny, because I remember working at DFW Airport in 2009 and security being called because some loud Eagles fans were about to get jumped. I grew up in Dallas a Cowboys fan and I can tell you, that rivalry – starting in 89 or 69 – is real down here. We hate all three NFCE teams, actually. So, I’m not sure what you’re even saying.

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