Eagles make Cowboys pay, 36-10

8th straight win gains revenge for Week 6 loss, proves NFC East point

December 08, 2003|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

PHILADELPHIA - Vindication gets better and better for Donovan McNabb. His horrid, early-season slump? A faded memory in fanatical Philadelphia these days. The quarterback's October promise that the NFC East title still would pass through here? Sheer prophecy.

McNabb's Eagles dispatched yet another would-be threat to their NFC East throne yesterday. They hammered the NFL's No. 1 defense for 403 yards, turned quarterback Quincy Carter into a jittery apprentice and shoved coach Bill Parcells to the edge of tolerance.

More significantly, the Eagles' 36-10 rout of the Dallas Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field clinched a playoff berth and left them wanting more.

"I think what you saw today is a team that obviously wants to defend its territory and move on," McNabb said after throwing for 248 yards and three touchdowns in freezing temperatures and 33-mph winds.

The victory - their eighth straight - re-established the Eagles as the NFC East's dominant team. At 10-3, they are dueling the St. Louis Rams for home-field advantage in the conference. The Rams (9-3) will play in Cleveland tonight.

A week after the Eagles whipped the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, they settled an old score against the Cowboys. After Dallas beat the Eagles, 23-21, in Week 6, McNabb refused to concede anything and said, almost tauntingly, that the division title still would come through Philadelphia.

Yesterday, he backed it up.

"He was just speaking truthfully," Eagles defensive tackle Corey Simon said. "We're champions of the NFC East. To win the NFC East, you have to beat the champs. Donovan was just quoting facts."

"When I said it two months ago," McNabb said, "it was [because of] the confidence I had and everyone had."

The Eagles exposed the Cowboys (8-5) as pretenders on a bitterly cold afternoon, breaking a 10-10 tie with 26 unanswered points in the second half. The avalanche started with a Carter interception on the third play of the second half.

On a sprint-out to his right, Carter threw behind intended target Terry Glenn and hit cornerback Sheldon Brown instead. The Eagles capitalized with a go-ahead touchdown on a 5-yard shovel pass from McNabb to Duce Staley, but not without help from the officials.

Dallas cornerback Mario Edwards, a target in his own right, was flagged for pass interference in defending Todd Pinkston at the goal line. It was the most borderline of three penalties called on him.

What followed for the Cowboys was a center snap that sailed past Carter into and out of the end zone for a safety in the third quarter. Then came a lackluster effort in the fourth quarter. That's what bothered Parcells, the Cowboys' first-year coach, the most.

He stopped just short of saying the team quit in the fourth quarter, when the Eagles scored 17 points, including a 64-yard touchdown run by Correll Buckhalter. But the indictment was implied.

"No, I wasn't happy with the effort in the fourth quarter," Parcells said. "I absolutely wasn't happy with it."

The Cowboys have lost two straight games for the first time under Parcells and three of their past four. What appeared to be their reclamation has become a tenuous playoff run.

"I am as upset at the team as I've been," Parcells said. "I hate to keep using [the excuse] we're young - and we are - but you only get so many chances.

"We'll see where we go. I don't know where we're going now."

McNabb knows where the Eagles are headed and it's largely because of his rejuvenated passing game.

He has thrown just one interception in the past six games, with nine touchdown passes. For anyone paying attention, he had another observation yesterday that bears watching.

"I wouldn't say that we are at our peak right now," he said. "I would say that we are just getting better."

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