The Bounty Bowl – Eagles Rough-Up Aikman, Zendejas In Turkey Day Beatdown
Jimmy Johnson’s Dallas Cowboys were a bruised and battered football team heading into their Thanksgiving Day matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1989. In addition to having dropped ten of the season’s first eleven games, seven Cowboy players, including wide receivers Michael Irvin and Kelvin Martin, were already out for the season with torn anterior cruciate ligaments.
There to add insult to injury was a head-hunting Eagles squad in seek of not only a blowout victory, but a knockout punch to their unsuspecting rivals.
The trouble started late in the first quarter of what turned out to be a 27-0 Philadelphia victory when Eagles linebacker Brent Hager tossed Troy Aikman to the ground, despite the play having been whistled dead due to a pre-snap infraction. Hager’s “over-zealousness” resulted in a hearty scrum at the back of the end-zone, and the eventual ejection of Philadelphia defensive tackle Mike Pitts, who had punched Dallas guard Kevin Gogan.
“I tell you what, this game has started off with some real high intensity,” noted John Madden in the CBS broadcast booth. Little did Madden know that the Turkey Day festivities were just beginning. Having roughed-up the franchise quarterback, the Eagles set their sights on Dallas place-kicker Luis Zendejas.
While running downfield just seconds after booting the second-half kickoff, Zendejas was inexplicably blasted in the head by linebacker Jessie Small. Upon getting to his feet, Zendejas staggered toward the opposing bench to voice his displeasure, before crumpling once again to the Texas Stadium turf.
Johnson came out onto the field with steam shooting from his ears, pleading for Small’s ejection. The game officials would have none of it, however, and duly sent Johnson back to his sideline.
But the Dallas head coach was not to be silenced forever. At his postgame news conference, Johnson claimed that the Eagles had placed a $200 bounty on Zendejas and a $500 bounty on Aikman. Zendejas also claimed that Philadelphia special teams coach Al Roberts and punter John Teltschik had told him before the game that Zendejas would be targeted.
Johnson tried to discuss the matter with Eagles head coach Buddy Ryan on the field after the game. “I would have, but he wouldn’t stay on the field long enough,” Johnson said. “He got his fat rear-end into the dressing room.”
Ryan’s insincere response to Johnson at a press conference the following day has engendered more than a few laughs for more than twenty-five years. “You don’t go around saying things like that, just like (Johnson) calling me fat,” Ryan said. “I’ve been on a diet. I lost a couple of pounds. I thought I was looking good, and he goes and calls me fat. I kind of resent that.”