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Game Notes: Tough Day For Safeties

PHILADELPHIA - The last time the Cowboys played at Lincoln Financial Field, Roy Williams capped a furious fourth-quarter rally by intercepting Donovan McNabb and dashing 46 yards for the game-winning touchdown against Philadelphia on Nov. 14, 2005.

McNabb was the second-half hero this time around. The Eagles' quarterback threw two touchdown passes to erase a four-point halftime lead and lift Philly to a 38-24 victory.

Both scores came at the expense of Cowboys safeties Roy Williams and rookie Pat Watkins, who was replaced by Keith Davis later in the fourth quarter. The struggles at safety might cause the Cowboys to seriously consider adding veteran safety Marcus Coleman to the 53-man roster.

Coleman is eligible to return to the Cowboys this week after serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. The Cowboys can utilize a one-week roster exemption come Monday when Coleman is released from reserve/suspended. That would allow him to resume practicing with the team without counting against the Cowboys' 53-man roster.

If they decide to add him to the roster at any time next week or after the exemption expires, the Cowboys would have to release a player to make room. If they decide against retaining Coleman, they could simply release him.

Coleman has played both cornerback and free safety, and could give the Cowboys another alternative back there after their struggles here on Sunday.

With the Eagles backed up on their own 13 midway through the third quarter, Dallas sent Anthony Henry on a cornerback blitz which left Watkins alone in coverage against wide receiver Hank Baskett.

Baskett beat Watkins down the left sideline on a little stop-and-go move for an 87-yard score, giving the Eagles a 24-21 lead.

"We called the defense specifically for that play," Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells said. "And we blitzed our corner and the tackle went off to our corner, and that left our outside linebacker (Greg Ellis) free and he just missed Donovan. And he was able to get the ball out. You can't count on that. That was the perfect call for the play that was run."

McNabb targeted Watkins again in the fourth quarter, throwing a perfect 40-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Reggie Brown, who got behind Watkins and Williams in the back of the end zone of a perfectly-executed flea-flicker.

The Eagles took a 31-24 lead and never looked back.

"I felt like I should've made the play," said Watkins, a fifth-round pick out of Florida State. "I was running with him in stride and I think he out-witted me a little bit. He made it seem like the play was going away and at the last second he put his hands up.

"A couple rookie mistakes. I know I'm better than that."

Said Williams: "We just gave up a big play. Like I said, we're not going to point any fingers. It wasn't miscommunication. We just gave it up as a whole unit."

Davis, who started 15 games at free safety last season, entered the game at free safety with 7:23 left the fourth quarter and finished with one tackle.

"You've got to pick your head up and go on to the next play," Davis said of Watkins, who was starting the fourth game of his NFL career. "But he'll be fine. He'll bounce back."

Watkins started three of the Cowboys' four preseason games and eventually beat out Davis for the free safety job. The Cowboys are impressed with his range and ball skills despite his unusual 6-foot-5 frame.

But Parcells has said Watkins still makes him a little nervous because of his inexperience.

"I realize that every game that I play is not going to be a great game," Watkins said. "What I need to do now is just not hold my head and get ready for next week."

The problems the Cowboys experienced at safety in the game might cause them to seriously consider adding veteran safety Marcus Coleman back to the 53-man roster.

Gurode OK

One week after needing 30 stitches to close multiple facial lacerations around his left eye, Andre Gurode started at center and said he didn't have any problems with his vision or scars.

"I prayed about it at night, prayed with my pastor, and just went out there and had fun," said Gurode, who expected to have his stitches removed Monday.

Last Sunday, Gurode left in the third quarter of the Cowboys' win over Tennessee after Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth kicked him twice in the head, the second time scraping his cleats across the left side of Gurode's face.

Haynesworth received an unprecedented five-game suspension from the NFL. Gurode, who returned to practice Wednesday, decided not to press charges against Haynesworth.

Two's Company

For the second time in four games, Parcells split kicking duties between Mike Vanderjagt and Shaun Suisham.

Vanderjagt, who was inconsistent on kickoffs last Sunday against Tennessee, kicked extra points and made a 39-yard field goal which tied the game at 24-24 in the third quarter. Suisham kicked off five times to the Philadelphia 2, 10, 25, 13 and 1 - the one landing at the 25 having been kicked from his own 15 following a 15-yard end zone celebration violation on the Cowboys following DeMarcus Ware's 69-yard fumble return for a toudchdown.

The Eagles' average starting field position after kick offs was their own 31. Vanderjagt's kickoffs against Tennessee weren't always attractive, but the Titans' average start was their own 25 last Sunday - though he got to kick one from the Titans 40 following the double personal foul assessed Haynesworth.

With two kickers active, Parcells was only able to take two tight ends to the game (Ryan Hannam inactive) and only seven offensive linemen once again.

Banged Up, But Effective

Brian Westbrook didn't need to practice after all.

Westbrook, who sat out Wednesday, Thursday and Friday with a bruised knee, started at running back for the Eagles and scored the game's first touchdown on a five-yard run.

Westbrook, considered one of the league's most versatile backs, rushed for only 33 yards on 11 carries but had a team-high five catches for 53 yards.

Eagles cornerback Lito Sheppard, who missed the last three games with a sprained ankle, practiced all week and finished with two interceptions, including a 102-yard return for the game-sealing touchdown.

Game Points

  • Punter Mat McBriar's day didn't start well. He fumbled his first snap and was tackled at the Eagles' 12-yard line once he recovered, which set up Westbrook's touchdown run. McBriar said he should've caught the snap, but he settled down and finished with a 41.0 net average on six punts (two touchbacks, two inside the 20), including a long of 61.
  • Patrick Crayton and Terence Newman each returned three punts against the Eagles. Crayton averaged 5.3 yards per return and Newman averaged 0.7 yards.
  • The Cowboys and Eagles had seven combined fumbles, four of them lost. Three of the Cowboys' four fumbles came in the first half.
  • Inside linebacker and first-round pick Bobby Carpenter was active for the second time this season but did not record any statistics.
  • McNabb's 354 yards passing was an all-time high against the Cowboys, bettering the 345 he passed for in 2004.

Short Shots

The Eagles only converted 2-of-12 third down attempts (17 percent) but had more total yards (383) than the Cowboys (320) . . . Drew Bledsoe's 7-yard touchdown run was the ninth of his career. The 34-year-old didn't have a rushing touchdown for the first seven years of his career, and his 24 rushing yards against the Eagles was just short of his career-high 30 Tampa Bay in 2000 . . . Eagles defensive end Trent Cole made plays all over the field, finishing with nine total tackles, one sack, two quarterback hurries, a forced fumble and a special teams stop . . . Sheppard now has two of the four longest interception returns against the Cowboys in club history. His 102-yard return Sunday ties for the second-longest return against the Cowboys with Erich Barnes (NY Giants) in 1961. Sheppard also had a 101-yard return against the Cowboys in 2004. Eagles defenders James Willis and Troy Vincent teamed up for a 104-yard interception return against the Cowboys in 1996 for the longest . . . With DeMarcus Ware's 69-yard fumble return against the Eagles and Bradie James' interception return last week against the Titans, the Cowboys have scored defensive touchdowns in consecutive weeks for the first time since 2003. The defense did have touchdowns in two straight games last year, although with a bye week in between . . . With 151 kickoff return yards on five attempts (30.2 yard average), running back Tyson Thompson set a career-high for most yards in a game. Thompson had 143 yards last season against the Rams . . . Entering Sunday's game, the Cowboys' defense had yet to allow a 100-yard rusher or receiver. While Westbrook led the Eagles with just 33 yards, Baskett had 112 yards on just two catches, including his 87-yard touchdown in the third quarter.

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