Cowboys 21, Eagles 20
Just when the Philadelphia Eagles seemed on their way to making life without Terrell Owens joyful and productive, at least for one night, their season came completely unraveled. They surrendered two late touchdowns to the Dallas Cowboys to lose, 21-20, Monday night and put their run of dominance in the NFC East perilously close to being ended.
The defending NFC champions lost their third straight game -- two of which have come without Owens, their banished wide receiver -- to drop their record to 4-5. They're in last place in a division they've won four straight seasons, and they looked like a bewildered and beaten team as their frustrating evening came to an end in front of a booing crowd.
"It fell apart," Eagles wide receiver Greg Lewis said. "It just came out of nowhere."
The Eagles led, 20-7, with less than four minutes remaining in the game. But the Cowboys got to within six points on a 20-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Drew Bledsoe to wide receiver Terry Glenn with 3 minutes 4 seconds to play.
The Eagles got the ball back but tried to throw on a second-and-seven play. Quarterback Donovan McNabb was on a different wavelength from with rookie wideout Reggie Brown, Owens's replacement. Brown took off up the field and McNabb threw short -- directly to safety Roy Williams, who hauled in the interception and ran 46 yards for a go-ahead touchdown with 2:43 left.
"I was reading Donovan's eyes," Williams said. "I didn't think he was going to throw it."
Eagles Coach Andy Reid said that McNabb, not Brown, made the mistake on the play.
"The right route was run," Reid said. "They just weren't on the same page."
McNabb, who's been playing with a sports hernia, limped off the field after being blocked on the return and, after participating in one more series and absorbing another hit, gave way to Mike McMahon on the Eagles' final possession. According to Reid, McNabb was experiencing abdominal and groin discomfort and will undergo an MRI exam Tuesday.
McMahon got the Eagles close enough for place kicker David Akers to attempt a 60-yard field goal as time expired, but the kick landed far short. The stunning victory improved the Cowboys' record to 6-3 and moved them into a first-place tie with the New York Giants.
"I feel fortunate," Cowboys Coach Bill Parcells said. "That's all I can tell you. I feel lucky to win."
The Eagles were in control most of the way, compensating for the absence of Owens by leaning on their running game more than usual. Tailback Brian Westbrook and McNabb provided first-half rushing touchdowns. Akers added a pair of second-half field goals, and the Philadelphia defense appeared to be in command after yielding a first-quarter touchdown run by Cowboys tailback Marion Barber.
The night felt like a last stand for the Eagles, and the parking lots outside Lincoln Financial Field began filling up more than four hours before game time. In one lot, a profane anti-Owens song blared from a loudspeaker, and a young entrepreneur was selling T-shirts with a derogatory slogan about Owens. Fans carried Owens-related signs into the stadium, including one that read: "There's No T.O. In Eagles." A local radio station staged a mock Owens funeral, complete with a casket, outside the stadium before the game.
That was in highly questionable taste, particularly given that Parcells had attended his younger brother's funeral that day in New Jersey. Don Parcells died last week of brain cancer. Bill Parcells made the approximately 90-mile drive back here and rejoined the Cowboys before the game.
The Cowboys got off to a fast start and never let up when they beat the Eagles, 33-10, at Texas Stadium early last month. This time, the Eagles got the ball first and grabbed the lead with an efficient opening drive for a touchdown.
McNabb scrambled for a first down on the game's second play, and the emotions of the evening were on almost-immediate display as players began shoving one another in a mini-fracas. Brown had his helmet ripped off, but no penalties were called. Eagles tight end L.J. Smith made a one-handed catch of a McNabb throw to move the ball into Dallas territory, and the Eagles uncharacteristically went to their running game on six of the drive's final seven plays. Westbrook made it work, sprinting into the end zone on a second-down play from the Cowboys 15.
The Cowboys went nowhere on their first drive but got even on their second possession. Bledsoe was given more than ample time to throw on a third-and-10 play, and found wide receiver Peerless Price open on a deep pattern in the middle of the field against safety Brian Dawkins. Bledsoe put his throw on target, and the 58-yard gain gave the Cowboys a first down at the Eagles 3. Barber finally crossed the goal line on a third-down carry from the 1.
The Eagles forced a mistake by Bledsoe late in the second quarter. Middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter went unblocked on a blitz, and pressured Bledsoe into an ill-advised throw-away attempt. Bledsoe flipped the ball over his shoulder -- but right to Eagles cornerback Lito Sheppard for an interception. That put the Eagles in business at the Cowboys 19, and McNabb cashed in by rolling to his right and jogging untouched into the corner of the end zone on a first-down play from the 2. His gleeful celebration included a moon-walking routine.