The Eastern Front: Westbrook Frustrated

The Eastern Front: Our look around the NFC East--Parcells tries to rally his troops after another stunning loss, Brian Westbrook's lack of carries has him concerned, and the Giants lose their founding father.

New York Giants


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Wellington Mara, 89, the President and co-CEO of the New York Giants, died Tuesday after a long battle with cancer.

He was 89 years old and had been associated with the team since 1925, when his father, Tim, purchased the franchise for $500. At the time, Tim Mara said, "Anything that is housed in New York City has to be worth $500."

Five years later, when Wellington was 14 and his older brother, Jack, was 19, they were made co-administrators of the team. Wellington immediately gravitated to personnel and on-field duties and Jack, who would become a practicing attorney, took over the business end of the team.

Through the years, Wellington became the patriarch not only of the Giants but the entire NFL, and was influential in making momentous decisions that changed the face of professional football.

In 1959 he openly campaigned for a young public relations man with the Los Angeles Rams to make the astonishing jump to NFL commissioner. It worked out fairly well - the guy was Pete Rozelle.

It was Mara who advocated the sharing of revenue among NFL teams, allowing smaller markets like Green Bay to compete.

But it was his humanity that superseded everything else he did. He paid medical bills for former players. He provided loans, solace and advice. He never turned down a request from a former player, saying, "They are all members of my family. When someone put on a Giants uniform, even once, I felt I owed him that respect."

The last game Mara saw was Sunday's thrilling 24-23 comeback victory over Denver, engineered by young quarterback Eli Manning. It included two fourth-quarter touchdown drives, and the winning points were scored with five seconds remaining.

"I spoke to one of his grandsons right after the game," Manning said, "and he told me that at the end of the game Mr. Mara woke up and saw us win and had a little smile on his face, and then he went back to sleep."

Somehow, that seemed fitting.

Wellington Mara is survived by his wife, Ann, whom he married in 1954. They have 11 children, the oldest of whom, John Kevin Mara, is executive vice president and chief operating officer of the team. Another son, Chris, is the team's vice president of player evaluation; a third, Frank, is director of promotions.

Mara also had 40 grandchildren.

Player Notes

--QB Eli Manning, trying hard to keep a low profile and a likeable personality, shrugged off his near-miraculous comeback efforts against Denver last Sunday. "It was just two drives," he said, "and just because we got them to work doesn't mean I'm there yet. I have a lot to learn." He completed 14 of 17 passes in the fourth quarter for 114 yards.

--RB Tiki Barber had all the Giants' carries in the game except for one end-around by WR Tim Carter. He carried the ball 19 times for 86 yards and scored a TD.

--WR Amani Toomer, who didn't have a single reception in the season opener to end a 98-game streak of at least one catch, was the receiving hero against Denver. He caught eight passes for 63 yards and the winning 2-yard TD with five seconds remaining. "I am not about individual statistics," he says. "We are winning and scoring more points than this team has scored in a long time, so what is there for me to complain about?"

--WR Plaxico Burress, who wasn't absolutely sure he'd play because of back spasms, did play and had six receptions for 84 yards and a TD. He has 37 receptions in six games for 481 yards and five TDs.

--TE Jeremy Shockey continues to fight his way out of last season's doldrums. He caught just three passes Sunday but one was a crucial 24-yard gain in the final winning drive on third-and-10. "I just don't know how a kid like Eli (who's 24) can be so calm and cool," said Shockey, who is an old man of 25.

--PK Jay Feely still hasn't missed this year. He now has 11 field goals in as many tries and has converted all 20 PAT attempts. "I guess I'm in a groove," he said, "and I hope I never get out of it."

--SLB Carlos Emmons was taken for an MRI exam Monday after perhaps tearing his right pectoral muscle in a diving attempt to tackle Denver's Mike Anderson. He missed, but both outstretched arms were wrenched when Anderson broke through.

--MLB Antonio Pierce leads the Giants with 49 tackles after a season-high 13 against Denver. "We are coming together as a defense," he said. "There were a lot of new faces here this year, including mine." Pierce also has half a sack, seven defensed passes and one interception.

--LCB Will Allen still hasn't managed to get an interception. He has five clear-cut drops in six games. It has been suggested that perhaps he should visit an eye doctor, since a similar situation was cleared up several years ago involving RB Joe Morris. Twice this season Allen has been in position and the ball sailed through his outstretched arms.

Dallas Cowboys

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No matter how painful Sunday's loss to the Seahawks was and still is, the Cowboys must move on.

They must find a way to put it behind them or the loss will beat them twice if they let it carry over into Sunday's game against the Cardinals.

Despite many players still losing sleep over the Seahawks game, the message of moving on is what coach Bill Parcells is preaching throughout the locker room.

The Cowboys entered the month of October hoping to make a statement about them being a contender for the long haul. A victory against Arizona would make them 3-1 for the month and 5-3 overall.

The one thing they can control is closing out the first half of the season strong and resting up during the bye week before staring the second half at Philadelphia on Nov. 14.

"The psychological approach they take is really going to determine what they do," Parcells said. "It's not that game anymore; it's where you go. We need to get back on track. This is a very important game for us."

Player Notes

--K Shaun Suisham took over kicker duties for the released Jose Cortez. He was on the Cowboys practice squad until last week. The Cowboys say they liked what they saw from him in practice. The question is: Can he carry it over into a game? He will not be given many chances to mess up. "We'll bring Scott in and see how he does," Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said. "I don't know that he'll do any better."

--CB Anthony Henry is not expected to be listed on the team's injury report. Henry left the Seahawks game briefly with a shoulder injury. Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said he expects Henry to be ready for the Cardinals game.

--LB Scott Fujita is gaining a larger role with the Cowboys. Fujita, who was acquired at the beginning of the season from Kansas City, played 50 snaps - 22 on defense and 28 on special teams last week against Seattle. He had six tackles in the game.

--RB Marion Barber led the Cowboys with 95 yards on 22 carries against the Seahawks, while doing a solid job filling in for the injured Julius Jones. He still has a ways to go to impress coach Bill Parcells. "I would like to see (Barber) do a better job with the ball," Parcells said. "But I think he's a pretty good runner and I think he's a pretty good pass blocker. And he can catch. So I'm hoping he comes along."

--RB Julius Jones has missed the past two games with an ankle sprain. Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said doesn't look good for Jones to be ready against the Cardinals on Sunday.

"I'm hopeful we'll get over this. I think that's why we're having a tendency to not really push it, because I don't want him to have a reoccurrence and have him be out for the rest of the year," Parcells said.

--QB Drew Bledsoe is second in the NFC (fifth in the NFL) in passer rating with a mark of 94.9. He leads the NFC (third in the NFL) in passing yards (1,799). Bledsoe also leads the NFC (second in the NFL) in average gain (8.2). Bledsoe is second in the conference (third in the NFL) in touchdown passes (12) and third in the NFC (sixth in the NFL) in completions (124). If Bledsoe were to maintain his current quarterback rating of 94.9, it would be a career-best mark, and the highest by a Dallas quarterback since Troy Aikman compiled a career-best single-season rating of 99.0 in 1993.

--WR Terry Glenn is currently third in the NFC (fifth in the NFL) in yards per catch with an 18.7-yard average. He is fourth in the NFL (third in the NFC) in receiving yardage (617).

--TE Jason Witten is third among NFC tight ends in receptions (fifth in the NFL) with 30. He is second among NFC tight ends (third in the NFL) in receiving yardage (364).

--LB DeMarcus Ware leads the Cowboys in sacks (4.0) and tackles for loss (four). But he saw his streak of a sack in four consecutive games snapped against the Seahawks.

Philadelphia Eagles

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After spending the first five games Inactive, rookie running back Ryan Moats finally got a chance to dress and play Sunday. But it remains to be seen what will happen this week.

Moats was activated against the San Diego Chargers to return kickoffs. But his debut didn't go so well. He fumbled both of his returns, returning them just 11 and 15 yards. On his second return, he was hit hard and left the game with a concussion.

The concussion probably won't prevent the third-round pick from playing this week. But his two drops might. Cornerback Rod Hood, who had been doing the majority of the kickoff returning in the first five games, replaced Moats after he got hurt.

Last year, '04 fourth-round pick J.R. Reed returned kickoffs for the Eagles and averaged a solid 23.1 yards per return. But he suffered a career-threatening leg injury in the off-season and will miss the entire year.

The Eagles have gotten little from their return game this year. They're averaging just 19.9 yards per kickoff return and just 4.4 yards per punt return. Starting cornerback Lito Sheppard replaced Dexter Wynn as the main punt returner last week, but had just one return for 1 yard along with two fair catches.

"We need to do a better job of blocking on kickoff returns," coach Andy Reid said. "And our (punt and kickoff) returners have to hit it up in there. Be a little more aggressive."

Player Notes

--QB Donovan McNabb, who is playing with a sports hernia, is feeling better this week than he has following the last few games, according to coach Andy Reid.

--QB Mike McMahon was the No. 3 quarterback Sunday. McMahon had had exploratory arthroscopic surgery on his knee two weeks earlier.

--RB Brian Westbrook had a season-high 20 touches Sunday against the Chargers, but 10 of them came on pass receptions. Westbrook continues to be frustrated by his lack of rushing attempts.

--FB Josh Parry got more snaps Sunday than he has all season as the Eagles tried to give injured Donovan McNabb extra protection. He'll probably play a lot Sunday against Denver as well. Parry had two receptions against the Chargers.

--WR Terrell Owens caught his 100th career touchdown reception Sunday, but had an otherwise uneventful day. He caught seven passes, but for only 53 yards. He'll probably spend a lot of Sunday going up against Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey.

--WR Greg Lewis has 25 catches, but hasn't been the vertical threat that injured Todd Pinkston was last year. Pinkston averaged 18 yards per catch. Lewis is averaging 10.8.

--WR Reggie Brown, the club's No. 3 receiver, may see his playing time reduced as the Eagles go with more two-tight end formations to protect the injured Donovan McNabb.

--TE L.J. Smith has become Donovan McNabb's go-to guy as defenses continue to focus on stopping Terrell Owens and Brian Westbrook. Smith already has 34 receptions, including six last week against San Diego.

--PK David Akers, who has missed the last three games with a torn hamstring, could play this week, but it's more likely he'll be held out until next week or the week after.

--DT Darwin Walker returned to the lineup Sunday after missing three games with a thigh injury. While the injury still is causing some discomfort, he was able to play with it and play well.


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