Eagles are in; Cowboys are down and out
PHILADELPHIA - Donovan McNabb flexed his muscles, seemingly mocking Terrell Owens. The always stoic Andy Reid played cheerleader, encouraging the crowd to make noise.
Many fans may not want the quarterback or coach back for another season. But they'll be here for at least one more game - a playoff game.
The Philadelphia Eagles overcame daunting odds to capture an NFC wild-card spot with a dominating 44-6 victory over the Cowboys yesterday. So much for all that preseason Super Bowl hype in Dallas - America's Team can start its vacation plans early.
The Eagles (9-6-1) will play at NFC North champion Minnesota (10-6) next weekend.
"A lot of people counted us out and said it was over," McNabb said. "We continued to stay focused on what the plan was."
Surely, it'll be a drama-filled offseason for the Cowboys, as owner Jerry Jones has to answer more questions about Wade Phillips's job security and perhaps consider a major overhaul.
"There will not be a new head coach," Jones repeated several times in a somber Cowboys locker room.
In a game that became do-or-die for both teams shortly before kickoff, the Eagles thoroughly outplayed the error-prone Cowboys (9-7) in every facet. McNabb threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score, and Brian Dawkins forced two fumbles that were returned for TDs.
Of all the teams that remained in contention for a playoff berth entering the final weekend, the Eagles had the lowest odds. Meanwhile, Dallas knew all week it just had to win to get in.
Tony Romo came up way short in another crucial game, dropping his record to 5-8 in December. The Cowboys fumbled on three straight possessions in the third quarter that led to 17 points. Romo fumbled on the third possession and was left kneeling on the grass, his helmet buried in his hands.
Right from the start, the Eagles played with more urgency. McNabb scored on a sneak from inside the 1 to put Philadelphia ahead, 10-3, in the second quarter. Then the Eagles scored 17 points in the final 2:03 before the half. McNabb tossed a 4-yard TD pass to Correll Buckhalter to make it 17-3, Sheldon Brown intercepted Romo to set up McNabb's 1-yard TD pass to Brent Celek - leading to McNabb's flexing toward the Dallas sideline - and the Eagles forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and tacked on a 50-yard David Akers field goal for a 27-3 halftime lead.