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Dallas Is Too Much For Philly To Handle
PHILADELPHIA — I was at Lincoln Financial Field Sunday night to experience the most heated rivalry in Philadelphia sports as Terrell Owens and the hated Dallas Cowboys came to town. I was joined at the game by 67,688 rabid Eagle fans.
Pregame Notes: Sunday Night Football is back in Philly in a game I am calling “Show me something” as the Eagles have a chance to get back into the division race with a win and the Cowboys want to prove they are now the kings of the NFC East.
The 6-1 Cowboys, coming off their bye, start a three-game NFC East swing, with the first two on the road while the Eagles (3-4) are trying to get to the elusive .500 mark. Growing up in Philadelphia, this was the only game on our calendar every year and this one is no different.
The hated Cowboys will be bringing public enemy number one (Terrell Owens) and you better get your popcorn ready for a slugfest. Cowboys TE Jason Witten said it best about the tough battle that awaits against the Eagles, “We know the challenge that’s ahead of us”. This match-up has gotten better each week as Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb has gotten stronger and the ‘Boys keep winning under America’s new golden boy quarterback Tony Romo (recently signed a six-year, $67 million deal that includes $30 million in guaranteed money).
The seemingly rejuvenated Eagles always seem to turn it up a notch at this time of year (Philly has the NFL’s second-best November-to-season’s end record since 2000, 43-18, .705), but the game comes after a tumultuous week for Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid as he missed practice Thursday to be in court with his two oldest sons. A judge sentenced Reid’s sons to prison and quotably called the coach’s home a “drug emporium.”
The Cowboys lead the all-time series, but the Eagles have won their last two meetings including a 23-7 victory on Christmas Day 2006 in Dallas. Statistically the two teams seem to be evenly matched with the Cowboys holding an edge offensively, both try to lean on their passing game and an attacking defense.
There are always players to watch in each game and this one is no different. The Cowboys marquee players are WR Terrell Owens, TE Jason Witten, QB Tony Romo, and RB Marion Barber offense and on defense athletic LB DeMarcus Ware is the lynchpin.
The Eagles will counter with RB Brian Westbrook on offense (2nd in NFC with 670 scrimmage yards (411 rush, 259 rec.) and on defense they welcome back Pro Bowl corner back Lito Sheppard, plus watch for high energy sack man Trent Cole (36 TKLS, 9 Sacks to lead the NFL). Also watch for the emotional return of the Eagles heart and soul, Safety Brian Dawkins (5 games missed, neck stinger).
First Quarter: Eagles 7, Cowboys 14. Emotion was definitely in the building as the Eagles won the toss and elected to receive the ball. After a 26-yard Correll Buckhalter return, the emotion left as quickly had assembled — took all of 13 seconds — as QB Donovan McNabb fumbled on the first snap from scrimmage.
On the play, McNabb was trying to make something happen by moving around the pocket and possibly looking to scramble when Cowboys defensive end Marcus Spears chopped the football loose and Linebacker Bradie James recovered at the Philadelphia 37-yard line.
After the fumble recovery, the Cowboys went on a six-play three minutes forty-seven second scoring drive mainly encompassed by a 23-yard catch and run by Terrell Owens. The drive ended with a Julius Jones 2-yard touchdown run. The Eagles responded by going on a 75-yard, 8 play, 3:55 scoring drive of their own, which ended with a 2-yard Brian Westbrook touchdown run. The biggest play on the Birds drive was a 45-yard catch and run from McNabb to WR Reggie Brown.
The Cowboys calmly took the field after the Eagles score looking for more of their own. QB Tony Romo then engineered a 9 play, 72 yard, 5:24 minute drive ending with a short 1 yard Romo to Curtis touchdown pass making the score 14-7 Dallas.
The touchdown was set up by Cowboys RB Marion Barber catching two short screen passes and then running for 22 and 14 yards respectively. The tough University of Minnesota back also had a 16-yard run to the Eagles 1. The quarter ended with the Eagles having the ball in a drive that would end at the Dallas 36 yard line with a Sav Rocca punt.
Second Quarter: Eagles 7, Cowboys 21. This quarter was mostly filled with punts back and forth between Australian punters, the Eagles Rocca and the Cowboys Matt McBriar. The quarter did get exciting near the end as the Eagles seemed to be poised to tie the game after a big interception by CB Lito Sheppard at the Eagles 8-yard line.
But on the ensuing series McNabb threw two incompletions and then set the Cowboys up for the kill with a bad interception by Ken Hamlin at the Eagles 28 yard line that was returned to their 14-yard line.
After the interception, Barber carried the ball three times in 49 seconds ending with a 5-yard up the middle touchdown run making the score 21-7. At this point the Cowboys gleefully ran to the locker room knowing they were in control.
Third Quarter: Eagles 10, Cowboys 35. This quarter was fun for the Eagles nemesis Terrell Owens. On the Cowboys opening drive, Owens and Romo beat an Eagles blitz with T.O taking a pass over the middle forty-five yards for a touchdown making the score 28-7.
Owens punctuated the score with his old Eagles wing-flapping dance as Eagles’ fans lamented about how times had changed. The Eagles tried to get back in the game, but their next drive stalled at the Dallas thirty-six yard line and they settled for a David Akers field goal.
The Cowboys answered with a 10:32 minute drive ending with a 20 yard Romo to Witten touchdown making the score 35-10 that made many of the Birds fans leave. Also on this drive there was a scary moment that NFL officials will definitely look into as Eagles DT LaJaun Ramsey hit Dallas running back Julius Jones helmet to helmet as the running back was sitting on the ground.
The play drew a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty, but Ramsey could have been ejected. The quarter ended for the Eagles with another drive ending punt by Rocca after McNabb was sacked and they stalled at the Dallas 43 yard line.
Fourth Quarter: This quarter was played in a near empty stadium as the two teams played out the inevitable ending as everyone knew the Eagles could not come back. The Cowboys began the half with the ball and continued on their romp through the Eagles scoring on a 10 play, 5:50 minute, 85 yard drive that ended with a Nick Folk 22-yard field goal making the score 38-10.
The drive was helped by maybe the highlight of the NFL weekend as Cowboys TE Jason Witten absorbed a helmet flying hit and then raced 53 yards without it into Eagles territory.
The Eagles then operating in the no-huddle scored a meaningless touchdown on a 10-yard McNabb to Baskett with a little under six minutes remaining in the game making the score 38-17. The team left the field to a smattering of boos and catcalls from the few Eagles fans that stuck around.
Final Analysis: Cowboys 38, Eagles 17. To me the games was an eye opener as through out the Andy Reid era the Eagles were solid against the Cowboys and in night games. But this horrible loss was totally different as the Eagles were dominated in every facet of the game.
The Eagles usually stout defense — no team had scored more than 21 points in the first seven games and they only allowed eight touchdowns in 77 possessions — looked tentative as the Cowboys marched to 38 points in three quarters.
Dallas racked up 437 total yards (Eagles 316), won the turnover battle (3 to 1), held the ball longer, and were an incredible 8 for 12 on third downs. All those positive numbers were to the delight of Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens (appointed as captain before the game), who embarrassed the Eagles secondary producing 10 catches for 174 yards with a touchdown, which is a far cry from his Parcells numbers where he only caught five passes for 68 yards in the two meetings with the Eagles last year.
This truly could be a season threatening loss as the Eagles are now 0-3 in the NFC East and 3-5 at the season’s halfway point. The lone bright spot for the Eagles was the continued quality play of running back Brian Westbrook who had 65 yards rushing with a touchdown and tied a team record with 14 catches for 90 yards — Don Looney also had 14 receptions for Philadelphia at Washington on Dec. 1, 1940.
The loss was particularly hard on quarterback Donovan McNabb as he was 27-for-46 for 264 yards, one TD, two interceptions and he was sacked three times. After the game McNabb said “There’s no room for error,” and “We have to win these next couple games. Our mind-set can’t be what’s going to happen when we get to the playoffs. We just have to focus on winning the next couple games.” The Eagles travel next to the 5-3 Washington Redskins (won 23-20 over the Jets in overtime) in a game where they truly do have their backs against the wall.
– T.O. moved into 12th place ahead of Jimmy Smith on the all-time receiving yardage list with 12,445 yards.
– Cowboys tight end Jason Witten looked like a boxer that just finished a heavyweight bout with a bloody nose late in the 4th quarter, but he said of his hatless 53-yard run, “Hurt a little bit, but didn’t really feel it until afterward”. He added “Helmets fall off sometimes, but not when it’s snapped off by the guy. Never had it and kept going. Probably just reaction.”
– Eagles veteran safety Brian Dawkins seemed tentative in his return from a neck stinger producing 2 tackles in the loss and admitting that the T.O touchdown was his fault.
– Eagles CB Lito Sheppard was injured in the third quarter (sprained knee) after trying to provide a shadow on Terrell Owens.