Despite a sluggish performance against the Detroit Lions, the Cowboys (7-3) have won three games in a row for first time since 2003. They remain in a first-place tie with the Giants atop the NFC East.
Coach Bill Parcells believes this can be a special season.
That's why he was less than pleased with the team's play against the Lions, the Cowboys' second straight poor effort in victory.
"I can't get things quite the way I want them yet," Parcells said. "They still don't all get it. Don't worry, it's not them. It's me. Our standards are just different. I want them to play up to my standards."
Parcells refuses to be satisfied because he knows the Cowboys can play better.
And with an increasingly tougher schedule, he knows they must play better if they hope to continue to win and reach their full potential.
The Cowboys face the Broncos (8-2) on Thursday and then have a 10-day layoff before the final push. That stretch begins with the Giants and includes the dangerous Chiefs and Panthers. In fact, only one of the Cowboys' remaining opponents has a losing record.
"He has high expectations," safety Roy Williams said of Parcells. "We have to meet those high expectations. We are in this to do great things at the end of the season. We can't think of short-term goals. We have to think big. He is."
Those big thoughts start Thursday against the Broncos in what is a measuring stick game for the Cowboys.
"This is a fun time," receiver Keyshawn Johnson said. "You got a (Denver) team that is probably the best in the league. With all due respect to the Colts, the Broncos have played superior opponents. They have an excellent coach. They have a quarterback on fire and a running game that has always been one of the best. We will have to have our A game. You can't come in with your B game and expect to win."
Credit new-old kicker Billy Cundiff, who connected on two field goals, including a team-record 56-yarder, in the 20-7 win over Detroit.
Rookie running back Marion Barber added touchdown runs of 6 and 4 yards, and Julius Jones had 92 yards.
But also thank the Lions, who were most charitable in a flag day for the ages.
The Lions were flagged a team-record 17 times for 129 yards, including nine that resulted in Cowboys first downs.
No Cowboys opponent has ever been more charitable, as the Lions threatened the NFL record for flags in a game of 22 set by three different teams.
--K Billy Cundiff, who was with the Cowboys the past three seasons before being injured and released in the preseason, was re-signed on Saturday. Kicker Shaun Suisham was released. Coach Bill Parcells said he needed a kicker he could trust down the stretch. Cundiff gained a lot of trust in his first game back with two field goals, including a team-record 56-yarder.
--WR Keyshawn Johnson led the Cowboys in receptions with five for 37 yards against Detroit. He now has caught a pass in all 145 games of his career.
--TE Brett Pierce suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Lions.
--DE Greg Ellis recorded his seventh sack and the 51st of his career Sunday against Detroit. He has at least a half-sack in eight of the Cowboys' 10 games. He also forced a Detroit fumble.
--QB Drew Bledsoe passed for a season-low 110 yards against Detroit. He did not throw a touchdown pass for the first time all year, snapping a string of nine straight games with a TD pass.
The Eagles will find out this week whether injured quarterback Donovan McNabb will play again this season. One specialist already has recommended that he shut it down for the season and have his sports hernia surgically repaired.
He aggravated the injury two weeks ago in the Eagles' Monday night loss to the Dallas Cowboys. He didn't play in Sunday's 27-17 loss to the New York Giants. McNabb is expected to make a decision this week after getting at least one more opinion.
There is little reason for him to come back. For starters, he wasn't playing very well anyway. And after the Eagles suffered their fourth straight loss Sunday, they are essentially out of the playoff race at 4-6.
Backup Mike McMahon played pretty well in McNabb's absence. He completed 13 of 24 passes for 217 yards in the second half against the Giants, throwing for one touchdown and running for another.
--Arbitrator Richard Bloch was expected to rule on wide receiver Terrell Owens' four-game suspension this week. Bloch's decision will have no bearing on whether Owens ever plays for the Eagles again. He won't. Even if Owens' suspension is shortened or wiped out, the team plans to deactivate him for the rest of the season.
It remains to be seen what would happen if Owens decides to make a pest of himself and show up at the Eagles' practice facility.
--The Eagles defense continues to struggle. It gave up three more touchdown passes Sunday against the Giants. That's 17 in the past eight games. In the past five years, Philadelphia has never given up more than 18 in a season.
Despite an impressive second-half performance by quarterback Mike McMahon, the Eagles lost their fourth straight game, a 27-17 decision to the New York Giants. It's only the third time since Andy Reid became coach in 1999 that the Eagles have lost four games in a row. The two other instances came in his first season.McMahon finished 18 of 39 for 298 yards. But the Eagles defense gave up back-to-back fourth-quarter touchdowns that sealed their doom.
--CB Lito Sheppard suffered a high ankle sprain in the second half against the Giants that probably will end his season. He was replaced by nickel back Rod Hood.
--QB Donovan McNabb didn't play against the Giants and likely will have season-ending surgery on his sports hernia.
--DE Jevon Kearse missed a good portion of the second half against the Giants with a shoulder injury. He still managed to notch three sacks. He returned to the game and is expected to play Sunday against Green Bay.
--LT Tra Thomas had back spasms that kept him out of the lineup much of the second half against the Giants. He is expected to play this week.
--P Reggie Hodges' job could be in jeopardy. He had a punt blocked and had a 27.2-yard net average against the Giants.
New York Giants
The New York Giants, still tied with Dallas for first place in the NFC East at 7-3, fly across the country this weekend to take on the Seattle Seahawks, first place in the NFC West.
The Giants, who have made a practice of shutting down most of their opponents' rushing game (with the glaring exception of San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson, who got 196) will have another major test when they attempt to slow Seattle's Shaun Alexander.
And that will be the key of the game for them, because if they can hold Alexander to less than mind-boggling numbers, they should be able to curtail the Seahawks' passing game.
"If you make a team one-dimensional," Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said, "you put them under pressure, you make them do things they don't want to do. And that usually works to your advantage."
This will be the third of four cross-country trips for the Giants, and so far they are 1-1, having lost to the Chargers and beaten San Francisco. They have one more remaining after the Seattle game, a New Year's Eve affair in Oakland.
The Giants are now one of only three teams in the history of the NFL to have won 600 games (Chicago and Green Bay are the others) and their victory over Philadelphia gave them one more than they had all last season with six games still to play. Beating Seattle would send them home to play Dallas in a showdown division game, with the Cowboys coming off their Thanksgiving home game against Denver.
The Giants won their 600th game since joining the NFL in 1925, won their first game after the death of co-owner Robert Tisch, extended the defending NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles' losing streak to four and finally gave up a defensive touchdown for the first time in more than 16 quarters.
They won 27-17 as the defense once again made good on its stated intent -- to stop the other team's running game. In this case, it was somewhat easier, since with the loss of quarterback Donovan McNabb and wide receiver Terrell Owens, there isn't much air under the Philadelphia aerial game.
Star running back Brian Westbrook was held to 66 yards in 16 carries, but he did add four receptions for 57 yards. Reserve quarterback Mike McMahon completed 18 of 39 passes for the Eagles for 298 yards and a touchdown, and also scored on a 1-yard run.
The Giants' Tiki Barber carried 21 times for 112 yards and pushed his season total to 967 yards rushing in 10 games. Wide receiver Plaxico Burress caught six passes for 113 yards, including a 61-yarder for the Giants' final points. Eli Manning, still struggling at times in his second season, completed 17 of 26 passes for 218 yards, but he threw three touchdown passes and wasn't intercepted (he threw four picks last week). His QB rating for the game was an astounding 130.Tight end L.J. Smith, a teammate of McMahon at Rutgers, led Eagles receivers with seven catches for 84 yards, but his failure to catch a touchdown pass prevented the NFL's first-ever Rutgers-to-Rutgers touchdown.
--OLT Luke Petitgout left the Eagles game at the end of the second quarter with what was described as "an injury to his knee." There was no detailed information available, but he was more than adequately replaced by veteran free agent Bob Whitfield, in his 14th season.
--C Shaun O'Hara, a teammate of Mike McMahon at Rutgers, left the game with 6:47 left in the third quarter with a sprained ankle. He was replaced by Jason Whittle.
--WR Amani Toomer, who had six catches for 56 yards and a TD, smiled at his locker after the game. "I know teams go into our game saying that they have to double-team (WR Plaxico) Burress and they have to double-team (TE Jeremy) Shockey, so they decide to let Amani beat 'em. I'm up to that challenge."
--Coach Tom Coughlin said that the Giants began to come out of their doldrums because of Robert Tisch's death, which came three weeks after the passing of the other co-owner, Wellington Mara, and that the end of the week was marked by intensified enthusiasm to win, "to do what we did for Mr. Mara."
The Giants won their first game after Mara's death, a 36-0 shutout of the Washington Redskins.--WR Plaxico Burress was heavy on the praise for QB Eli Manning. "He never gets down," he said after the win over Philadelphia. "When a play doesn't work, he rushes back to the huddle as if it never happened. He's learning from game to game and getting better each week."