Game SnapShot: Eagles (2-2) at Cowboys (3-1)

<b>KICKOFF:</b> Sunday, 1:00 ET<br> <b>GAME DATE:</b> 10/12/03<br> <b>SURFACE: </b>Sportfield Real Grass<br> <b>TV:</b> FOX, Sam Rosen, Bill Maas<br>Philadelphia Eagles (2-2) at Dallas Cowboys (3-1)<br> <br> <b>SERIES: </b>88th meeting. Cowboys lead the series, 50-37. Eagles have won the last six meetings, the last three by a combined score of 107-19.

Last December, the Eagles defense forced three turnovers and sacked quarterback Chad Hutchinson seven times in a 27-3 win. 2003 RANKINGS: Eagles: offense 28th (10th rush, 29th pass); defense 14th (1st rush, 31st pass). Cowboys: offense 1st (7th rush, 7th pass); defense 3rd (2nd rush, 14th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: Running the ball will be at a premium against the top two run defenses in the league. The Cowboys are expected to bring their safeties up in run support until Eagles QB Donovan McNabb proves he can throw the ball accurately and consistently. If Dallas RB Troy Hambrick doesn't have success early, Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson will send a slew of blitzes at QB Quincy Carter. Philadelphia has dominated this series the past three seasons by forcing turnovers, so Carter has to settle down, make good decisions and avoid the erratic throws that can surface when he gets too excited. Eagles CB Troy Vincent is expected back, but CB Bobby Taylor and FS Brian Dawkins are likely out against one of the league's most dangerous receiving trios.

Eagles: They have won the past six meetings. ... The defense has not allowed more than 90 rushing yards in a game. ... The team's 19-6 road record since 2000 is the best in the NFL.

Cowboys: The team has won three consecutive games for the first time since 1999. It hasn't started a season 4-1 since 1995. ... The defense has not allowed a 100-yard rusher in nine consecutive games.


* CB Troy Vincent practiced for the second straight day and said he definitely will play Sunday against Dallas. Vincent missed last week's game with a hamstring injury.

* CB Bobby Taylor, who has been out since Week 1 with plantar fasciitis, still hasn't practiced and is expected to miss his fourth straight game Sunday.

* CB Lito Sheppard, who has started the last three games in Bobby Taylor's absence, will make it four in a row Sunday against Dallas. He'll start at right cornerback.

* CB Sheldon Brown, who started last week when Troy Vincent was out with a hamstring injury, will be the club's nickel corner Sunday against Dallas.

* RG Jermane Mayberry, who is nursing a sprained elbow, didn't practice Thursday, but is expected to start Sunday against Dallas. If he can't go the entire game, Bobbie William's replace him.

* CB Derek Ross is physically capable of playing Sunday against the Eagles. What the Cowboys' cornerback has not proven is if he is men-tally ready.

He has not played since a knee injury in preseason required surgery.

He had been expected to return against the New York Jets on Sept. 28.

"He has to be in the frame of mind. Me challenging him is not going to do any good at this point," Bill Parcells said. "He's got to go back in the arena himself, and he's going to have to find that out himself. He's just got to be able to play with confidence. If he can demonstrate that in practice that he can do it, then we'll play him in the game. If he can't, then we'll make him inactive again."

The Eagles are having their own cornerback woes because of in-juries. Although Troy Vincent practiced Wednesday and is expected to play, Bobby Taylor is still questionable.

* QB Chad Hutchinson almost got on the field in garbage time of Sunday's 24-7 victory against Arizona. Coach Bill Parcells just didn't want to give the wrong impression.

His decision had nothing to do with not creating another Chad-Quincy debate. He didn't want to create an impression the game was over. What he wants to do is see if what Hutchinson is learning in practice is translating on the field. Because if something were to hap-pen to Quincy Carter, how Hutchinson would play remains an unknown for Parcells.

"I don't have one," Parcells said when asked what his comfort level with his backup is. "He's improving as well as [third quarterback] Tony [Romo]. Hopefully, they will be prepared when they are asked to play. I keep on them about being ready. I hope he's doing that."

* TE James Whalen not only stars on the special teams units but also is a utility tight end capable of filling in for either Dan Campbell or Jason Witten. With Witten listed as doubtful after breaking his jaw against the Cardinals, Whalen would be up for a bigger role against the Eagles. "Unfortunately, this is a kink in that plan and a big reason why Tony McGee is here," Whalen said. "They don't know how this is going to respond and react."

"This" is Whalen's strained hamstring and why he is listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Eagles. The Cowboys on Tuesday re-signed McGee, who was in training camp with them but did not survive the final roster cut.

"I certainly wouldn't re-sign a player if we didn't have some intention of maybe having some role for him," Bill Parcells said. "If Whalen were healthy, it would help our situation. But now I've got a problem on whom to get into the game."

* RB Troy Hambrick has rushed for 299 yards in four games but now goes up against an Eagles defense that has allowed just 222 rushing yards in four games. The Cowboys need to be able to run to help slow down the blitz and its up to Hambrick to make that happen.


The Eagles will have one-half of their Pro Bowl cornerback tandem back Sunday when they take on the Dallas Cowboys and their sixth-ranked passing attack.

Cornerback Troy Vincent, who sat out last week's 27-25 win over Washington after suffering a hamstring injury the week before against Buffalo, will play against the Cowboys. The Eagles' other starting corner, Bobby Taylor, likely will miss his fourth straight game with plantar fasciitis.

"It's feeling pretty good. I'm moving around well," said Vincent after practicing Thursday for the second day in a row. "I'm looking forward to getting back in the lineup. I'm playing. No question about it." The Eagles will need Vincent against the Cowboys' talented wide receiving corps, which features three players that are averaging 18-plus yards per catch.

Second-year man Lito Sheppard will start at Taylor's right corner-back spot. The club's other second-year corner, Sheldon Brown, will be the nickel corner. But since the Cowboys frequently line up in three wide receiver formations, Brown will be on the field almost as much as Sheppard and Vincent.

Rookie Roderick Hood, who was the nickel corner last week, will be the fourth corner in the club's dime package this week.

The Philadelphia Eagles are old school, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink blitzers.

They come upon you wave upon wave. Play upon play. Quarter upon quarter.

"If you are not effective in stopping it, they will storm the castle on every play. If you can deal with it, I think they will try to do it less," Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said. "You are eventually going to have to prove to them that they can't be effective with it. There isn't any doubt about it. With that in mind, you have to be prepared to deal with it. And, if you can't deal with it, they beat you."

The Cowboys could not deal with their blitz last season and lost both meetings with the Eagles by a combined score of 71-16. The scary thing was how quickly those games spiraled out of control. The Eagles' defense did not let the Cowboys' offense come up for air, which led to two games that were basically over by halftime. The Cowboys know they have to do better against the Eagles' blitz Sunday to avoid a repeat.

"It is up to us to keep them off of Quincy [Carter]," tight end Dan Campbell said.

If they don't, they will not be able to claim they weren't prepared. Parcells dedicates plenty of practice time to blitz pickup, not simply walking through what the Cowboys might see but banging on each other. And unlike last year, when mistakes did not force do-overs, Parcells makes them practice picking up the blitz until they get it right. "When it comes to the blitz, we get in the huddle and we are going to do all 12 things correct," running back Troy Hambrick said. "We're going to start this thing over until we get it right."

With a win Sunday over Philadelphia the Cowboys would improve their record to 4-1 for the first time since 1995, the year they last won a Super Bowl. The Cowboys' three-game winning streak is the longest since opening the 1999 season 3-0, only to lose to the Eagles the next week.

The Cowboys haven't won four straight games during the regular season since 1998, when they defeated the Eagles, Giants, Cardinals and Seahawks to improve to 8-3. Of course, they lost the next three games, but still managed to finish 10-6 and win the NFC East.

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