Owens Story Takes Backseat

When the NFL set the schedule last spring, pitting the Cowboys against the Eagles on Christmas Day, it was looking for ratings.

Having Terrell Owens face his former team would surely draw a crowd.

But as the Cowboys get set for Monday's matchup against the Eagles, the T.O. part of the game has been reduced to a minor story line.

First of all, the much anticipated rematch was pre-empted by the Cowboys' visit to Philadelphia in October.

That game was all about T.O. facing nemesis quarterback Donovan McNabb and the Eagles for the first time since last year's very public divorce.

But there is more on the line Monday than revenge for Owens, as the NFC East title is on the line.

The Cowboys (9-5) could clinch the division title with a victory over the Eagles (8-6). A Cowboys loss would put the Eagles in first place in the NFC East with one game to go by virtue of their victory over the Cowboys earlier in the season.

"The last time it was all about T.O.," cornerback Aaron Glenn said. "This time it's about the division. It's a lot bigger than T.O. It's us trying to win the division. It's a big one. This is why you play the game for situations like this. Either you are going to do it or you are not. This is the game you love to be in."

"This is really one of our biggest games," linebacker Bradie James said. "We all knew the Colts game was big. But we had to get over the hump with that game. Now we are here playing for the division. We hadn't done that since I have been here, so that goes without saying."

Considering that the Eagles have been revived by quarterback Jeff Garcia, there remains an Owens story line to this game.

Remember, the week began with Owens being fined $35,000 for spitting on Falcons cornerback DeAngelo Hall. But Hall is just the latest person to be disrespected by Owens. As before Hall and before McNabb last year, there was Garcia, who played with Owens in San Francisco. Among other things, Owens questioned Garcia's sexuality in an interview.

So it goes without saying that Garcia would love nothing more than to beat Owens and the Cowboys on Monday.

Still, from the Cowboys' point of view, nothing can top the distractions of the first meeting between the two teams in Philadelphia. Eagles fans were so riled up that the NFL brought in extra security for the game. They had extra security at the team hotel and security stationed behind the Cowboys bench during the game.

"It was crazy the last time," James said. "I was so happy that the game was over so we can play another game because it was so many story lines that didn't have anything to do with the game. Now the biggest thing is playing for our division. Hopefully the talk will be us against the Eagles and the not the rest of the stuff."

SERIES HISTORY: 95th meeting. Dallas leads the series 53-41. Dallas has faced no team more than Philadelphia (94 times) and has defeated them more times (53) than all but two teams (Arizona, 56 and Washington, 55). Dallas and Philadelphia have met in two divisional playoff games and an NFC Championship Game. The Cowboys won 11 consecutive games over the Eagles from 1967-1972, marking the second-longest win streak over one opponent in club history. Dallas and Philadelphia have combined to win 21 NFC Eastern Division titles.

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