It's Another Big Big Game

Though Bill Parcells would prefer to ignore it, this week's matchup against the Patriots is chock full of sexy subplots. Playing the a team he coached to a Super Bowl berth in 1996 and walked away from a couple of months later after a spitting match with owner Bob Kraft -- is still big news for him.

Cowboys receiver Terry Glenn, a former Pat himself who is still bitter about how things ended in New England, is bigger news. Coaching against Bill Belichick, his longtime defensive coordinator and friend until Belichick turned on his mentor and failed to follow through on a promise to replace him as Jets coach, instead signing on to coach Kraft's team, is the biggest news.

Parcells will talk about it. He just won't say much.

"I'm not going to characterize it," Parcells said of his relationship with Belichick. "So it's not worth talking about, really."

Parcells has done this seemingly a million times. He has returned to coach against teams he turned into champions. He has already done it twice this season. And this week he is doing what he always does: he's downplaying it.

He characterized his time spent with the Patriots as good. He brushed aside questions about whether he and Belichick hated one another. "Hate," he said later, "is a strong word. He said this game is just about football, about two 7-2 teams trying to get to 8-2 and that much closer to a playoff berth. And next Monday, he said, "We'll be sitting here talking about the next opponent and so will they."

He is right. Sort of. Next week it will be all about something else. But this week is just getting started.

"I just know it is going to be a testy ballgame, just like the Giants and Jets were," quarterback Quincy Carter said. "(Cowboys offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon) has a little history with this team, Terry has a little history; not just Bill."

Carthon has a little history. Glenn has a book.

He came to the Patriots amid a little invented controversy. Parcells called him "she," which everybody took to mean they hated one another. Glenn left amid a real controversy. His last season in New England, 2001, was marked by a drug suspension and what Glenn believed was the Patriots organization turning its back on him.

"I just hate everything about everything over there," Glenn said. "I can't wait to get up there. I hate everything about New England."

There is that word again. Hate. It keeps cropping up, preventing Sunday's game from being just another stop on Parcells' Magical, Mystical Reunion Tour.

"I don't know how he is feeling about this particular situation, but he's done it a lot of times before," fullback Richie Anderson said. "I don't know if this one particularly strikes him different or not."

Anderson was with Parcells with the Jets. He was there when Parcells left. He was there when Belichick took the job. He was there when he gave it back a day later. Parcells barely talks about Belichick. Belichick flatly refuses to talk about Parcells.

"It was strange," is all Anderson wants to say.

And, as if all this was not enough, the Cowboys have a few distractions of their own.

There is the Adrian Murrell-Troy Hambrick question at running back. Parcells is saying Hambrick is the starter but he wants to keep Murrell involved. Murrell is running better. Hambrick is confused. There is the slumping offense, which did not play well enough to beat the Bills. The defense had to beat the Bills.

"When you look at the way our defense is playing, it is kind of one of those things: 'Our defense can't keep doing this.' But, you know what? Our defense keeps doing it," tight end Dan Campbell said. "I think we would all like to score a few more points to feel more safe. But, at the same (time), our defense is kind of like, 'Hey, you guys score 10; that's all we need.'"

Which is why Parcells says coaching successful teams is harder than coaching unsuccessful ones.

There are more distractions. There is more at stake. There is more to lose. There are more subplots.

"It seems every time I go up there we play at night, either on Monday or Sunday. I don't know what the reason for that is." Parcells said.

Yes, he does. And there are plenty of them this week.

SERIES HISTORY
9th meeting. The Cowboys lead the series 7-1. The Patriots won the last meeting 13-6 in 1999. The last Cowboys win came in 1996, 12-6.

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