Behind Enemy Lines: Around the NFC East

The rest of the NFC East didn't have laughers yesterday as the Eagles and Giants won in the late going and Dallas dropped from first to last in the division with a stunning, last second loss in Seattle.

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DALLAS COWBOYS

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HOT TOPIC

They Cowboys had hoped to make a huge statement in Seattle.

A win would have given them a three-game winning streak over the impressive likes of the Eagles, Giants and Seahawks.

It also would have served notice that they would be in contention for the long haul.

While the Cowboys proved that they could play with anybody, they left with a loss as disappointing as any in recent memory.

After dominating the Seahawks and the league's top-ranked offense for much of the game, the Cowboys watched in horror as the Seahawks scored 10 points in the final 40 seconds to steal a 13-10 victory.

"This was as tough a game to lose as any we've ever had," said Jerry Jones, who has owned the Cowboys since 1989. "I hate it for the players. I hate it for the coaching staff. I hate it for our fans."

The Cowboys (4-3) moved out of first place into last place in the NFC East, falling a half-game behind the Eagles (5-2), Giants (5-2) and Redskins (5-2).

The Cowboys also were denied their first three-game winning streak since 2003.

They play the Cardinals on Sunday at Texas Stadium to close out the first half.

The Cowboys have a bye Nov. 6 before resuming the second half with a crucial division matchup at Philadelphia.

The Cowboys believe they are good. But the Seahawks game will be tough to get over, as the Cowboys know they missed out on a big opportunity.

"We know that they are going to be contenders at the end of the year," tight end Jason Witten said. "We wanted to see where we matched up. This one hurts. We can't let it linger."

The Seahawks game was second time this year the Cowboys wasted a dominant defensive effort with a fourth-quarter collapse.

They led the Redskins 13-0 before allowing two touchdown passes in the final three minutes of a 14-13 loss.

A Seahawks offense that came in averaging 407.2 yards per game was held 118 yards below its average. League-leading rusher Shaun Alexander rushed 21 times for just 61 yards, yet Seattle escaped with the win.

REPLAY

The Cowboys dominated the game for the better part of 59 minutes, but it wasn't enough.

The Seahawks scored 10 points in the final 40 seconds to escape with the victory.

Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who had been harassed and hurried all day by the Cowboys defense, tossed a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Ryan Hannam with 40 seconds left.

After getting a 39-yard kickoff return from Tyson Thompson, the Cowboys tried to win the game in regulation instead of playing for overtime.

Cornerback Jordan Babineaux, however, stepped in front of an errant throw by Cowboys quarterback Drew Bledsoe. Josh Brown nailed 50-yard field goal as time expired to give the Seahawks the victory.

PLAYER NOTES

--LB Dat Nguyen missed his third straight game with a stinger, raising concerns that his injury is more serious than the Cowboys are letting on.

--RB Julius Jones missed his second straight game with an ankle injury. Jones did not even make the trip to Seattle. Anthony Thomas started in his place, but Marion Barber carried the bulk of the load, rushing 22 times for 95 yards.

--QB Drew Bledsoe passed for a season-low 136 yards and two touchdowns. His interception in the final minute set up the Seahawks for the game-winning field goal.

--LB Bradie James notched his first sack of the season against Seattle.

--DE Marcus Spears got his second start of the season after Kenyon Coleman was deactivated for the Seattle game.

--WR Peerless Price caught one pass for 19 yards and returned five punts for 17 yards against Seattle in his first extensive action of the season.

 

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NEW YORK GIANTS

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HOT TOPIC

Coming off their last-second victory over Denver, the Giants are now preparing for a first-place battle with NFC East rival Washington on Sunday in Giants Stadium.

The victory moved the Giants' record to 4-2, equal to that of the Redskins and the Eagles, while the Cowboys are 4-3 following a loss in Seattle.

The Giants defense, which has been porous all season, cannot afford another setback next week since the Redskins have become offensively potent, putting up 52 points against hapless San Francisco on Sunday.

The Giants managed a few strong stands, including the one that forced the Broncos to attempt a 49-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. It was wide right and gave the Giants a chance to finally win the game and snap Denver's five-game winning streak.

But the Giants struggled offensively, and if not for young Eli Manning's heroics at quarterback, the game almost certainly would have been lost.

"We need Eli to keep doing that," defensive end Michael Strahan said. "He is coming along faster than anyone can believe."

Tight end Jeremy Shockey asked an interesting question: "How can he be doing all this when he's so young? It's just a little scary, you know?"

REPLAY

The Giants were on their own 17-yard line with 3:29 remaining against Denver. They were behind 23-17. It took 15 plays to navigate the 83 yards, and with five seconds remaining, Eli Manning threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Amani Toomer. The subsequent extra point gave the Giants a 24-23 win.

"It was a great and glorious comeback," defensive end Michael Strahan said, "and it was great to see The Goat catch the winning pass."

He was referring to Toomer, the 10-year veteran, but the use of the word should be G.O.A.T. "It stands for Greatest of All Time," with regard to his career receiving records, Strahan said. "I tell him that each week, that he's our Goat."

Manning threw 23 completions in 42 attempts for 214 yards and a pair of TDs, hitting Toomer eight times for 62 yards. Plaxico Burress caught the other touchdown pass and had six catches for 84 yards. Running back Tiki Barber had six receptions for 24 yards, and tight end Jeremy Shockey caught three for 44 yards, including a key 24-yard gain in the final drive on a third-and-10 situation.

PLAYER NOTES

--WR Amani Toomer, who caught the winning TD pass with five seconds to play against Denver, knew he was the primary receiver. "When they called the play in the huddle," he said, "I was really excited. I had an opportunity to make a big play. It was one we had just put in last week, and it worked just the way it was designed."

--Head coach Tom Coughlin said he was pleased to provide the victory over Denver for the team's two owners, Wellington Mara and Bob Tisch. Both are suffering from forms of cancer, and in Mara's case, the end is reportedly near. "I talked to Connor, one of Mr. Mara's grandsons," said Manning. "He said at the end of the game he woke up and saw us win and had a little smile on his face and then went back to sleep."

--TE Jeremy Shockey on Sunday's win over Denver: "We always wait until the last minute. We have to work this stuff out so we can win earlier."

--LG David Diehl on the final play that beat Denver: "I saw Amani (Toomer) catch the ball, and it was like we all lost our minds for a few minutes. There were guys grabbing and hugging and yelling and screaming. Definitely, it was the most exciting game I have ever been involved in, ever."

--The Giants are 3-0 at home and 4-0 in Giants Stadium this season. Their game with New Orleans in Week 2, scheduled to be played away, had to be moved to Giants Stadium because of Hurricane Katrina but it was technically a Saints "home game."

 

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PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

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HOT TOPIC

The Eagles threw the ball a season-high 54 times in Sunday's win over the Chargers and ran it just 14 times.

In their first six games, 296 of their 383 offensive plays, or 77.3 percent, have been pass plays.

Eagles coach Andy Reid continues to make no apologies for his heavy reliance on the pass.

"We'll see," he said. "(San Diego) had one of the toughest run defenses in the National Football League. We'll see how it all works out. We're going to do what we think will get us a win."

The curious part about all of this is that Reid's quarterback, Donovan McNabb, is playing with a painful sports hernia. The more the Eagles throw the ball, the more often McNabb gets hit. So far, though, he is holding up.

"We tried to run the ball (against the Chargers)," said McNabb, who completed 35 of 54 passes for 287 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. "But we just weren't able to get big plays when we ran it.

"When you're in a groove in the passing game, you kind of want to mix it up a little bit. But you also want to stay with (the pass)."

The Eagles had just one rushing first down against the Chargers and have only eight in their last four games. In six games this season, they have just 20 rushing first downs.

At one point Sunday, McNabb threw 25 straight passes between runs.

"Can we win (this way)?" running back Brian Westbrook said. "I guess so.

"Coach Reid and his staff do a good job of deciding when to run and when to pass. But as a running back, I always want to run the ball more."

REPLAY

The Eagles defense, which has been oft-criticized for its ability to stop the run, held Pro Bowl running back LaDainian Tomlinson to a career-low 7 yards on 17 carries in a 20-17, come-from-behind win over the Chargers.

Tomlinson came into the game as the NFL's third-leading rusher. But six of his first eight carries went for negative yards. Just three of his carries went for more than 2 yards.

The Eagles forced three turnovers in the win, including two interceptions. Trailing 17-13, the Eagles' Quintin Mikell blocked a Nate Kaeding field-goal try and teammate Matt Ware picked it up on one hop and returned it 65 yards for the game-winning touchdown.

PLAYER NOTES

--RB Ryan Moats, who made his debut as the Eagles' kickoff returner, fumbled twice and suffered a concussion.

--PK David Akers still is at least a few weeks away from returning. He's out with a torn hamstring.

--PK Todd France has made five of six field-goal attempts in David Akers' absence, including both of his tries in Sunday's 20-17 win over the Chargers.

--DT Darwin Walker returned to the lineup Sunday after missing three games with a thigh bruise. His return helped the Eagles hold Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson to 7 yards on 17 carries.

--LB Jason Short, a member of the Eagles' special teams, didn't play Sunday against the Chargers. He is nursing an ankle injury. His status for next week's game is uncertain at this point.


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