Game Notes: Eagles Wear Down Cowboys With Balance

IRVING, Texas - The Philadelphia Eagles didn't have to rely on Donovan McNabb's arm this time.

McNabb shredded the Cowboys' defense for 354 passing yards and two touchdowns back in October, but his replacement, Jeff Garcia, simply managed Monday's game with the aid of a solid ground attack led by Brian Westbrook.

Westbrook ran 26 times for 122 yards - a season high against the Cowboys, who allowed more than 200 yards passing and rushing for the first time this year in a surprising 23-7 defeat at Texas Stadium.

Some Cowboys defenders sat at their lockers after the game, seemingly searching for answers on Christmas night.

"I'm really worried," cornerback Terence Newman said. "Teams have three straight game tapes to look at and say 'Hey, this is exactly what we're going to do.' And it's not going to take four quarters worth of game film to look at it."

The Cowboys' defense yielded big pass plays the last two weeks against New Orleans and Atlanta, but the Eagles produced several methodical scoring drives - the last a 12-play, 80-yard series capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Correll Buckhalter.

Aside from his first-half interception, Garcia controlled the game's tempo and finished 15-of-23 for 238 yards and a touchdown. He led a balanced attack featuring Buckhalter and Westbrook, who had just 33 yards on 11 carries in the Eagles' 38-24 win over Dallas on Oct. 8.

The Eagles ran the ball 16 times in the fourth quarter, including 10 times on their 12-play scoring drive.

"We got out-muscled tonight and they wanted it worse than we did," Newman said. "We had something to play for and we out there and acted like it was just another game.

"We've just got to go back to playing together. Everybody's doing so much talking. Everybody's loose and everything - you want everybody to be loose - there comes a point where you got to go out and play."

The Cowboys entered Monday's game with the NFL's seventh-ranked run defense, which had allowed only two 100-yard rushers to date. Westbrook became the third.

"We've got to dig deep and figure this out so we can get this thing back on track the way it was," nose tackle Jason Ferguson said. "We've got too many weapons on offense not to get off the field when we need to."

Taking Advantage

The Eagles beat the Cowboys in October thanks largely to five takeaways that resulted in 17 points. This time, they scored 10 of their 23 points off four Cowboys turnovers - two interceptions by quarterback Tony Romo, a fumbled kickoff return by rookie Miles Austin and a turnover on downs.

In the second quarter, Philly stuffed running back Marion Barber on three consecutive goal-line runs and took over on downs. Garcia then led them to an eventual 25-yard field goal.

"They're a very good goal-line defense," Romo said. "They've been all year and we knew that coming in. That was obviously a big possession in the game when you look back now."

Romo's first of two interceptions in the fourth quarter led to another score, this time a 1-yard touchdown run by Correll Buckhalter which gave Philly a commanding 23-7 lead.

Romo finished with his lowest passing total (142 yards) and passer rating (45.5) of the season.

"Give them credit, they did a good job," Romo said. "We really had become one-dimensional in the second half and in this league it's tough to come back when you get down two scores and you know they're going to pass."

Be-Ware

Somewhat lost in the Cowboys' defensive struggles was another strong performance from DeMarcus Ware.

The second-year outside linebacker recorded one sack, giving him a career-high 8 ½ for the season and tying the second-highest total in franchise history for a linebacker. Anthony Dickerson finished with 10 ½ sacks in 1983.

The Texas Stadium crowd held its collective breath in the second half when Ware lay on the ground for several seconds after trying to make a tackle. Ware walked off under his own power and quickly returned to the game. He said he only bruised his shin when he collided with a player's knee.

High Noon

Several Cowboys games have had altered kickoff times due to the NFL's "flexible scheduling" initiative, but next Sunday's New Year's Eve game against Detroit will start at noon (CST) as originally scheduled.

The Cowboys can still clinch the NFC East title with a win and a loss or tie by Philadelphia.

Game Points

  • Cowboys defensive end Jay Ratliff left the game with a shoulder injury in the third quarter.
  • The Cowboys had just two penalties for 10 yards, which tied their second-lowest total of the season.
  • Cornerback Anthony Henry prevented another potential Eagles scoring drive when he picked off Jeff Garcia, offsetting Miles Austin's fumbled kickoff return in the first half.
  • Inactives for the Cowboys included safety Tony Parrish, cornerback Jacques Reeves (elbow), linebacker Junior Glymph, defensive tackle Montavious Stanley, guard Joe Berger, guard Cory Procter, defensive end Stephen Bowen and offensive tackle Pat McQuistan.

Short Shots

Tight end Jason Witten tied his single-game, season-high with six receptions, giving him 60 this year and his third consecutive 60-catch season. He's the first tight end in club history to record 60 or more receptions in three seasons . . . Witten now joins Terrell Owens (79) and Terry Glenn (64) as the third Cowboys receiver to record at least 60 catches this year. This is the fourth time in club history the team has had three players record at least 60 catches in a season . . . Punter Mat McBriar now has 210 consecutive punts without a block, the third-longest streak in club history.

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