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  • Paul Coppola

Flashback Frenzy: " The House of Pain Game"

In 1991, a new regime had begun in Philadelphia and things were looking up as the new head coach (former offensive coordinator) Rich Kotite began to take over for his predecessor Buddy Ryan, who was fired after five seasons with the team. The Eagles had Randall Cunningham leading their offense, and the defense was the best in the league at the time.

Fans were determined that this was the year the Eagles would finally win a Super Bowl. Then, Bryce Paup quickly crushed the hopes and dreams of every single fan. Randall Cunningham had suffered a knee injury in Week One and would be out for the entire season. Now fans had to hope backups Jeff Kemp, Brad Goebel, and Jim McMahon could fill the void.


The defense, however, was determined to make sure there was as little scoring as possible. The line, anchored by Reggie White, and including Jerome Brown, Clyde Simmons, and Seth Joyner was the key to the defensive success they were having. By the end of the 1991 season, the Eagles defense would win the triple crown, finishing first in (least) rushing yards allowed, passing yards allowed, and yards allowed. The defense was so good that they were able to prevent much scoring and allowed the team to keep winning even without Cunningham.


The Houston Oilers were unstoppable in 1991 and just like the Eagles fans, they were confident their team was going to win the Super Bowl that year. But unlike the Eagles, their star quarterback was not injured and was tearing it up. Future Hall of Famer Warren Moon was having his best season and the fans could not be more ecstatic about it. The offense averaged 400 yards per game with their "Run and Shoot" offense. They had dubbed the Astrodome the “House of Pain” due to the beatings they were giving to their opponents. They were beating each team by a large margin and were undefeated at home….until Gang Green showed up.

On December 1, 1991, this primetime matchup was something to see because it was the best offense going up against the best defense, and football fans across the country were excited. The Eagles were on a little bit of a winning streak, winning four in a row leading up to Houston, and the fact that they were so good at home did not frighten them one bit.

The national audience was settled in to watch a great game, but little did they know the brutality that was about to happen on the field. Bud Caron's defense ended up sacking Moon four times, they had forced five turnovers and limiting the Oilers to two field goals. The most remarkable story in this was that Seth Joyner had been playing with a 102-degree fever and was still able to record eight solo tackles, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and two sacks. That performance alone was what ended up helping him get selected to his first-ever Pro Bowl that season. The defense's approach to their opponent was simple: jam the receivers, take away Moon’s quick throws, and blitz off the edges.

The Eagles ended up defeating the Oilers 13-6, but that score does not compare to the beating that the Oilers took that day. If it weren’t for the great defense, the Eagles probably would have been added to the list of victims to come through the Astrodome. By the end of the game, Moon had only one healthy receiver because the "Gang Green Defense" took out the others. Wes Hopkins leveled receiver Ernest Givens, breaking his nose and sidelining him for the remainder of the game. Otis Smith and Andre Waters took out receiver Drew Hill and forced a fumble in the process. Jerome Brown who was known for being a bit of a trash talker ended the night with the memorable quote “They brought the house and we brought the pain.”

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