The Cowboys signed veteran linebacker Mike Barrow to a one-year deal Monday and placed linebacker Dat Nguyen on injured reserve.
Nguyen, who led the Cowboys in tackles the past two seasons, has been bothered by neck and knee injuries for much of 2005. He missed three games earlier this year with a strained neck, snapping his 43-game starting streak. He returned to the lineup four games ago but played primarily as a reserve on the nickel defense.
Still, Nguyen hadn't played like his old self and he didn't feel right. Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said Nguyen might call it a career. Nguyen has 421 career tackles since being picked in the third round of the 1999 draft.
"He doesn't feel like he can play up to his standard now," Parcells said. "I think he's going to consider retirement. I think it's an accumulation of things at this point.
"I just think he's worn out. The first month he felt all right. It's been downhill from there."
Barrow, a 12-year veteran, will take his roster spot and provide some experience to what is a youth laden linebacker corps.
Barrow has not played football since 2003 when he was with the Giants. He signed a free agent contract with the Redskins in 2004 but was unable to play because of a tendinitis in his knee. Barrow says he's healthy and ready to go. He could even see action against the Giants on Sunday.
Barrow, who has 153 career starts, began his career with the Oilers in 1993 before signing with the Panthers in 1997. He joined the Giants in 2000.
--Typical Billy Cundiff.
He was the team's inconsistent kicker the last three years.
Cowboys coach Bill Parcells fired kickers coach Steve Hoffman in the offseason because he felt he coddled Cundiff too much.
He wanted Cundiff to show more mental toughness.
The irony this season has been that it was Cundiff who Parcells thought the Cowboys needed most.
Cundiff was injured and released in training camp. The Cowboys began the season with the inconsistent Jose Cortez, who missed two makeable field goals which would have proved to be the difference in losses to the Redskins and Seahawks earlier in the season.
The Cowboys released him and signed Shaun Suisham, a rookie from Bowling Green. Suisham was 2-for-2 on field goals during his time with the Cowboys but he was shaky on kickoffs and the Cowboys didn't trust him to make the tough kicks down the stretch.
With the team in the playoff chase and facing critical games over the last half of the season, the Cowboys re-signed a now healthy Cundiff.
He rewarded them in his first game back with a team-record 56-yard field goal against the Lions.
But much to the Cowboys' dismay, Cundiff proved to be his same old inconsistent self against the Broncos on Thanksgiving Day.
He missed a 34-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter which would have given the Cowboys their first lead of the day.
The Broncos went on to win 24-21 in overtime.
"A 34-yarder I should have had," Cundiff said of his kick with 7:42 remaining in regulation. "It's very humbling. Obviously, I cost our team the game. I take full responsibility for it. A lot of guys put it on the line, and for me to come up short on a 34-yard field goal is just ... I just feel bad for them."
A frustrated Parcells said that was precisely the situation the Cowboys brought Cundiff back for.
"We had our chance there at the end of regulation, but we couldn't make a play and missed a kick," Parcells said. "Missed it. What do you want to do?"
Cundiff's teammates remained supportive after the game.
"When you are a kicker, you're either a hero or the loneliest guy," Cowboys quarterback Drew Bledsoe said. "We just got him back, and we know he is an outstanding kicker, and we know he is going to have to make big kicks for us down the stretch if we're going to do what we want to do."
The question is how long Parcells will stay supportive.
Cundiff has connected on 74 percent of his kicks during his career. Parcells wants his kickers at 85 percent. He definitely wants them to make kicks under 40 yards with the game on the line.
Cundiff knows he could be gone as fast as he returned, though he wants another chance.
"I've been around long enough to know if you see me on Sunday, then you'll see me on Sunday," he said. "Until then, hopefully, I'll be in practice. Hopefully, I'll get another chance."
Quotes and Notes
--The Cowboys continue to struggle on the ground no matter who is running the ball. They managed only 85 yards on 32 carries Thursday. Julius Jones had the worst day of his two-year career as a starter. Jones rushed for 55 yards on 20 carries. Marion Barber rushed for 28 yards on nine carries.
Jones is still seeking his first 100-yard game this season. The Cowboys' inability to run led to a season-high 44 pass attempts by quarterback Drew Bledsoe.
"We just didn't run it well," Cowboys tight end Dan Campbell said. "They moved a lot of their fronts and blitzed us a lot."
--The Cowboys allowed just 149 yards passing against the Broncos. It was the fourth consecutive game that the Cowboys have allowed fewer than 200 yards passing. However, the Cowboys defense had no reason to celebrate. After also containing the Broncos' vaunted ground game for four quarters, they allowed Ron Dayne to gash them for a 55-yard run in the overtime which set up the game winning field goal.
"I know that run cost us in overtime, but that is a real great running team and we had them at 89 yards at the end of regulation," Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said."I thought we played pretty solid on defense until that last play."
--TE Jason Witten appears to be back in the Cowboys offense. Lost for much of the season, at least in comparison to last year's Pro Bowl season, Witten caught a career-high nine passes for 82 yards and a touchdown Thursday.
"We felt early on there were opportunities, and we wanted to take advantage of them," Witten said. "It was a timing thing and we were running good routes."
--P Matt McBriar posted a season high 42.0 net punting average on five kicks against the Broncos. He also downed two inside the 2.
--WR Keyshawn Johnson had six catches for 59 yards. He has recorded at least one catch in all 146 games of his career. His first quarter touchdown against the Broncos was the 60th of his career.
--DE Greg Ellis recorded his eighth sack of the season and 52nd of his career. He now has at least a half sack in nine of the Cowboys' 11 games. He has recorded a sack in four consecutive games.
--CB Anthony Henry and linebacker Scott Shanle were inactive for the Broncos game. Henry aggravated an already ailing groin injury in practice on Wednesday. Aaron Glenn replaced him in the lineup. Ryan Fowler started in place of Shanle, who was hobbled by a sprained ankle.
Report Card vs. Broncos
PASS OFFENSE: D -- Denver took a page from recent opponents who have slowed the Cowboys offense with heavy blitzes. Blame the protection breakdowns and blame quarterback Drew Bledsoe, who threw two interceptions against the Broncos.
RUSH OFFENSE: F -- They managed only 85 yards on 32 carries. Julius Jones had the worst day of his two-year career as a starter. Jones rushed for 55 yards on 20 carries. Marion Barber rushed for 28 yards on nine carries.
PASS DEFENSE: B -- The Cowboys allowed just 149 yards passing against the Broncos. It was the fourth consecutive game that the Cowboys have allowed fewer than 200 yards passing. Terence Newman had an interception -- the first for Jake Plummer in 230 throws -- and a fumble recovery.
RUSH DEFENSE: C -- The Cowboys held the Broncos' highly rated running game to 89 yards through four quarters. The Broncos came in averaging over 160 yards per game on the ground. They couldn't enjoy their effort because they allowed Ron Dayne to gash them for a 55-yard run in overtime, setting up the game winning field goal.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- Matt McBriar was great on punts, averaging a season-high 42 yards on five punts. The coverage teams were solid as well. But Billy Cundiff's missed 34-yarder field goal was unforgivable as it likely cost the Cowboys the game. He was brought back last week to make these kinds of kicks.
OVERALL: D -- The Cowboys know they are good. They know they can play anybody. In fact they should have defeated a strong Broncos team that is widely considered a Super Bowl contender.
Eagles coach Andy Reid said he will not be making a quarterback change for Monday night's must-win game against the Seattle Seahawks.
"Right now, it's Mike's position," Reid said. "We'll see how he does here. He did some good things (against the Packers). He took a couple of steps forward. Now we need to get him started a little faster than we have in the last couple of games."
McMahon completed just four of 12 passes for 27 yards in the first half of the Packers game. The week before, in a 27-17 loss to the New York Giants, he completed just five of 15 passes for 81 yards in the first half.
McMahon played better in the second half of both games. On Sunday, he completed three of four passes on the Eagles' game-winning drive. He also didn't throw an interception and rushed for 29 yards. The week before, he had 31 rushing yards and a touchdown against the Giants.
"I like his mobility," Reid said. "He saw he was in trouble a couple of times Sunday and was able to get out of trouble with his legs. Not only running the ball, but throwing the football down the field. He made a couple of throws there at the end that were big throws."
Koy Detmer is the team's backup quarterback. The Eagles currently aren't carrying a No. 3 quarterback.
Quotes and Notes
--Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb had surgery on his abdomen and groin Monday to repair his sports hernia. The recovery time for the surgery is about three months. The team fully expects him to be ready for the club's spring minicamps. "The doctor felt it went well," coach Andy Reid said of the surgery. "He felt real good about it. They repaired the torn groin muscle on the right side and sewed up the abdominal area."--Lamar Gordon's first-quarter fumble Sunday was the first lost fumble by an Eagles running back on a rushing attempt in 799 carries covering 41 games. The last one: October 26, 2003, by Correll Buckhalter against the New York Jets. Gordon's fumble came in the red zone and cost the Eagles a scoring opportunity. "It's disappointing," offensive coordinator Brad Childress said. "Particularly where it occurred. You take care of the football, you're going to be in good shape most games. They had five turnovers today, we had one. But that one probably cost us points." The Eagles have lost just six fumbles in 11 games
--QB Mike McMahon has run for 60 yards in his two starts. That's 5 yards more than Donovan McNabb's rushing total in the Eagles' first nine games. Coach Andy Reid said he doesn't try to discourage McMahon from running any more than he did McNabb. "You run the offense," he said. "If you don't have the throw that's there, you go through your progressions and then take off and go."
Report Card vs. Packers
PASSING OFFENSE: F -- Mike McMahon completed three of four attempts on an important fourth-quarter scoring drive, but he mostly was ineffective through the air. He completed just 12 of 28 passes. His wide receivers caught a total of three passes for 19 yards.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A-minus -- For the first time all season, the Eagles ran the ball more than they threw it. With a makeshift line that included three guys with a total of two NFL starts, they rushed for 180 yards against the Packers. Brian Westbrook notched just the third 100-yard game of his career and scored the Eagles' only touchdown on a 27-yard cutback run.
PASS DEFENSE: A-minus -- The Eagles didn't blitz much, but they still got good pressure on Brett Favre. The much-maligned secondary turned in a solid effort, holding Favre to 15 completions in 33 attempts while picking him off twice.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A-minus -- David Akers bounced back from his 38-yard miss against the Giants and made all four of his field-goal attempts. The coverage units played well and forced two fumbles on kickoff returns.
COACHING: B-plus -- Without Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens and three-fifths of his starting line, Andy Reid wisely went heavy with the run. Defensive chief Jim Johnson cut down on the blitzes and got a solid effort from his much-maligned unit.
New York Giants
Having played their best game of the season, the Giants are trying to deal with the fact that they also lost.
They dropped a 24-21 overtime decision at Seattle, and they had every chance to win the game before doom finally struck.
Jay Feely, who had made 23 of 25 field goals to that point through 10 games, missed three in a row -- including two in overtime. Any one of the three would have won the game and sent the Giants home with an 8-3 record and a growing reputation as one of the best teams in the NFC.
"I think they are just that," Seahawks defensive end Grant Wistrom said. "I don't know of another team that played us so hard. It was a great game, and we just happened to win it. I have a very strong feeling we're going to see them in the playoffs."
The Giants did play with an intensity that was unfamiliar to the team the past few years, but there were more mistakes than had been present in that span as well.
Try an NFL-record 11 penalties for false start (five by left tackle Luke Petitgout, a veteran of six years). The missed field goals were, in the end, forgivable, but even they seemed to be a part of the overall destiny, at least for this one game.
Now the Giants, who are 7-4, return home to host the 7-4 Dallas Cowboys in the battle for NFC East supremacy. Washington and Philadelphia are all but out of the running, and with the Cowboys holding an earlier victory over the Giants, this is not only for the division lead but to eliminate one of Dallas' tiebreaker edges.
"I can't say that this was a game lost by one person," coach Tom Coughlin said in defense of Feely. "We all made mistakes, and we were able to get past them and create several chances to win the game. We didn't. That's on all of us."
Quotes and Notes
--The Giants had 16 penalties at Seattle, their highest total since 1948. The 11 false-start flags were a team high, and no one in team history ever had five before, so give that record to left tackle Luke Petitgout. "It was embarrassing to me, to my family and to my team," he said, while admitting that "a certain percentage" of the reason was the incredible noise generated by the Seattle home fans, which has become a trademark whether they play inside (Kingdome) or outside.
--With all the penalties, it comes as a mild surprise that only two of the offensive linemen were flagged at all. In addition to Petitgout's five false starts, left guard David Diehl had three plus a holding call. Right tackle Kareem McKenzie, right guard Chris Snee and center Shaun O'Hara played flawlessly.
--The Giants became the third team in the NFC East to play an overtime game Thanksgiving weekend. Dallas previously lost to Denver, and Washington lost to San Diego. The Eagles were the only division team to win.--Running back Tiki Barber on the Seahawks: "If that is the best the NFC has to offer, what does it say about us?"
--RB Tiki Barber gained 151 yards at Seattle, moving his season total to 1,118 and putting him within range for a personal season high. He needs slightly more than 80 yards in each of the next five games to surpass last year's 1,518.
--DE Osi Umenyiora continues to become a Pro Bowl player in progress. He had eight tackles against Seattle and two sacks, giving him 10 for the season. He also forced a fumble.
--Rookie CB Corey Webster, who started at Seattle for ailing (and less than outstanding) RCB Curtis Deloatch, led the team with 10 tackles and batted away a deep pass to WR Bobby Engram. But he did give up a touchdown toss to 6-foot-6 WR Joe Jurevicius (Webster is barely 6 feet) on the goal line.
Report Card vs. Seahawks
PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus -- Second-year QB Eli Manning is becoming more and more proficient in an almost unbelievably short amount of time. He completed 29 of 53 passes for 344 yards and a pair of TDs, and according to several in the huddle -- like RB Tiki Barber -- "He is more of a leader than he was at the start of the season; he is in charge of the huddle, absolutely." Manning is also making stars out of his receivers (and they are doing that for him, too). TE Jeremy Shockey caught 10 passes for 127 yards and a TD as well as a pass for a two-point conversion. WR Plaxico Burress had six catches for 109 yards. Amani Toomer, the slotback receiver, caught six for 62 and an acrobatic touchdown grab. The offensive line, when it wasn't busy with false starts, provided Manning with more than sufficient time to throw.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- The Seahawks were difficult to run against for the first 10 games of the season, but the Giants managed 166 yards on the ground. All but 15 of them belonged to Barber, who carried 26 times for 151 yards. It was his second-highest production of the season, behind only the 206 he gained last month against Washington. The line blocked exceptionally well for the running game (again, discounting the inordinate number of false-start flags), and much of the straight-ahead blocking plaudits must go to the right side of the line, RT Kareem McKenzie and RG Chris Snee.
PASS DEFENSE: B-minus -- The Seahawks were allowed to complete 21 of 37 passes for 249 yards, and QB Matt Hasselbeck threw 14 completions to his pair of Penn State wideouts, Joe Jurevicius and Bobby Engram. Jurevicius, a former Giant, had eight catches for 137 yards and both TD passes. Engram added six catches for 34 yards. The Giants got one interception, by FS Brent Alexander, but there were too many incidents of missed coverage and late-arriving defenders, especially on a key 38-yard completion to WR D.J. Hackett in overtime that led to the winning field goal. Rookie RCB Corey Webster, in his first NFL start (for Curtis Deloatch) led the team with 10 tackles and a pass defensed. LCB Will Allen played his best game of the season with nine tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a pass defensed.
RUSH DEFENSE: B -- It is said that San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson and Seattle's Shaun Alexander are the two best running backs in the NFL. The Giants probably would vote for Tomlinson. He had 196 yards and three touchdowns against them earlier in the season, but Alexander, the league's rushing leader, was "limited" to 110 yards on 31 carries -- and had just 16 yards on seven carries in the first half. "I got hit harder than any time this season," he said after the game. The defensive ends, Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan, were focused on Alexander all day. Umenyiora had eight tackles, Strahan six. MLB Antonio Pierce rushed the gaps for most of the game and walked away with five tackles (of Alexander) and a 9-yard sack. He also caught Alexander in the backfield three times for minus-4 yards.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Of course, the rating goes down due to PK Jay Feely's three missed field goals, any one of which would have won the game. His misses came from 40, 54 and 45 yards, and he called two of them "absolutely possible" and the longest one "one that I could have made." His kickoffs, as well, were not sailing into the end zone with the frequency he had established earlier in the season. Six of them were returned for 118 yards by Seattle's Josh Scobey. P Jeff Feagles appeared in his 283rd consecutive game, breaking the NFL record held by Minnesota's Jim Marshall. He punted seven times for a 37.3 average (34.4 net). Chad Morton took back four kickoffs for 101 yards (25.3 average) and returned six punts for 50 yards.
COACHING: B-minus -- The team was prepared to play the Seahawks, and coach Tom Coughlin's usual game-starting goal was met -- stop the opponent's rushing game regardless of the proficiency of the passing game. Alexander was, by and large, held harmless. That was a plus. But the often shoddy pass coverage led to a few Seattle drives that hurt, including the pass to Duckett that set up the winning field goal.