PHILADELPHIA - Looking for a hero from the Cowboys' 21-20 comeback victory over the Eagles Monday night?
Roy Williams is an obvious candidate. His 46-yard interception return in the final three minutes gave the Cowboys the lead for good.
Drew Bledsoe would be an understandable choice. The quarterback always gets some credit for a win, and his 20-yard touchdown pass to Terry Glenn certainly gave the Cowboys a chance here at Lincoln Financial Field.
But from the first whistle to the last, it would be hard to find anyone who played better than Cowboys inside linebacker Bradie James.
The inside backer, who is starting to take over as a defensive leader, especially with Dat Nguyen still playing in a limited role after suffering a neck injury earlier in the season, arguably had his best game of his three-year career, which was said the last game and maybe even the game before that.
James led the Cowboys defense with 12 tackles, twice as many as DeMarcus Ware and Scott Fujita, both tying for second on the team with six tackles each.
But James wasn't just making tackles. He also recorded another sack, now giving him 2½, along with deflecting two more passes.
And while it won't show up on the stat sheet, James also made one of the game's biggest blocks, decking Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb to allow Roy Williams to complete his 46-yard, game-winning interception return for a touchdown.
On that play, McNabb was slow to get to his feet and eventually sat out the final Eagles offensive drive and his bruises were compounded by a Greg Ellis sack to close out the very next drive.
"I was just trying to get him down," James said of McNabb. "I wasn't trying to hurt him. But I knew we had to get (Williams) him into that end zone."
James' performance was reminiscent of his college days at LSU, where the Tigers' defense was simply called the "James Gang" in reference to the team's defensive captain.
James is now the Cowboys' leading tackler, having entered Monday night's game tied with Anthony Henry, who was inactive because of a groin injury, with 42 tackles.
And he's even sounding like a leader as well.
"We know we didn't play that well tonight," James said of a defense that allowed a season-high 181 rushing yards to the Eagles. "We've got to play better than that. But I think we did just enough to keep us in the ball game and give us a chance to win."
The defense did just enough.
James, however, did more than enough.
The Cowboys played their first game without cornerback Anthony Henry, who was inactive Monday because of a groin injury suffered against the Cardinals on Oct. 30.
The Cowboys didn't miss him too much on the standard defense, with veteran Aaron Glenn filling in on the right side. But where the Cowboys struggled was in the nickel defense.
In that defense, the Cowboys kept Terence Newman in the slot and brought in second-year corner Jacques Reeves to play the other cornerback spot.
Reeves nearly gave up a huge play on the Eagles final drive, but rookie receiver Reggie Brown dropped a pass that would've given Philadelphia a first down inside the Cowboys' 25-yard line.
The Cowboys are hoping Henry, who returned to practice on Friday and Saturday, can play next week against the Lions, who pose a talented and physical receiving corps which includes Roy Williams, Charlie Rogers and Mike Williams.
Reversing the Run
When the Cowboys dominated the Eagles for a 33-10 victory back on Oct. 9, there was quite a difference in the way both teams ran the ball.
The Cowboys rushed for a season-high 167 yards, while the Eagles went for a season-low 19 yards.
But things certainly changed this time around. Philadelphia had its best rushing-performance of the season Monday night against the Cowboys, piling up 181 yards, the most given up by the Cowboys all season. In fact, since allowing 126 to the Raiders on Oct. 2, the Cowboys had not allowed more than 91 yards rushing in a game, despite facing premiere backs such as Shaun Alexander and Tiki Barber.
Not only were the Cowboys giving up running yards, but they weren't getting much done with their own running game.
Despite the return of Julius Jones, who didn't start but rotated with rookie starter Marion Barber, the Cowboys had just 58 rushing yards, with 34 of those coming on the final two drives.
"I can't remember a game where we were pushed around so much on both sides of the ball . . ." Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said, "and still found a way to win."
Several hundred Eagles fans brought their Terrell Owens jerseys to the game to be buried in a casket, thanks to a promotion by a local Philly radio station.
Regardless if Owens' suspension is the best thing for the Eagles overall, they certainly missed him on the field Monday night.
Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb found tight end L.J. Smith for six receptions (56 yards) and hit running back Brian Westbrook five times (32 yards) as well. But the Eagles wide receivers caught just seven passes. Rookie Reggie Brown caught three for 15 yards, although he had several key drops. Greg Lewis caught three for 42 yards and Billy McMullen had one catch for five yards on the game's final drive.
The Eagles suspended Owens for four games, although the NFL Players Union is trying to reduce the suspension, possibly to only two games. Monday night marked the second game Owens has been suspended for conduct detrimental to the team.
However long the suspension turns out to be, it appears the Eagles will keep Owens deactivated for the remainder of the season.
The Cowboys wouldn't dare expect a warm greeting from the Philly fans, but even some of the veteran players seemed a bit surprised when their team bus was pelted with eggs thrown by tailgating Eagles fans in the parking lot more than three hours before the game.
But despite all the dramatics that occurred during the game, even Williams didn't forget the rather rude-welcome into Lincoln Financial Field.
"We were able to (take the lead) and quiet those Eagles fans up," he said. "And that's something we wanted to do because they egged our bus. And that was disrespectful. So I'm really glad we got the win here."
- The Cowboys went through a game without a single botched snap, a reoccurring problem that the team worked on during the bye week. Bledsoe said he lowered his stance a bit to get a better grip on the ball. In fact, the Eagles fumbled a snap, although Donovan McNabb did recover his own fumble with new center Jamaal Jackson playing and starting his first NFL game.
- Now it took an attempt from 60 yards, but an opposing kicker finally missed a field-goal attempts against the Cowboys this season. After David Akers connected from 48 and 20 yards, opposing kickers were a perfect 15-for-15 against the Cowboys. Akers miss came as time expired.
- After eight straight games of winning time-of-possession, the Cowboys held the ball for just 24:15 Monday night, while the Eagles had it for 35:45.
- The Cowboys had just four penalties for 31 yards, while the Eagles were flagged 14 times for 95 yards.
- Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb had a 57.1 passer rating after completing just 19-of-34 passes for 169 yards and one interception. McNabb did rush for 22 yards, including a 2-yard touchdown run, his first this season.
- Greg Ellis padded his team-leading sack total with his sixth sack of the season, dropping McNabb late in the fourth quarter and forcing a fumble Eagles tackle Jon Runyan recovered. Ellis has recorded at least a half-sack in all but two games this season.
For just the second time in his young career, Cowboys running back Julius Jones was active for a game, but did not start. Rookie Marion Barber took the first two series for the Cowboys. The last game Jones played but didn't start was his debut against Cleveland last year (Sept. 19) . . . Drew Bledsoe's 58-yard pass in the first quarter to Peerless Price matched the team's third-longest play from scrimmage this year. Bledsoe's 70-yard pass to Terry Glenn against Washington and his 63-yard strike to Patrick Crayton against Oakland were the only longer plays. Bledsoe also had a 58-yard pass to Glenn against the 49ers . . . For Price, it was his longest reception since hauling in a 73-yard pass from Bledsoe when the two played in Buffalo . . . The Cowboys have scored defensive touchdowns in consecutive games for the first time since the 2001 season when linebacker Dexter Coakley returned interceptions for touchdowns in two straight games against Arizona and then at the Giants the next week, along with Mario Edwards pitching in a 71-yard pick for a touchdown. Anthony Henry had a 58-yard interception return for a touchdown against Arizona the Cowboys' previous game this year.