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Now, you might think someone would have better things to do with their time than defend the Dallas Cowboys' honor in what passes for the sporting press these days. Well, unfortunately, in my case you'd be dead wrong. Turning to Peter King's Tuesday Morning Quarterback column on SI.com, I should have known better than to expect a storyline involving something along the lines of the Cowboys winning the last MNF game played at Texas Stadium, the highest scoring game in the 98-game rivalry. Nah, that's too pedestrian an approach for the clever King; instead, he goes all Bizarro World and raves about how great the gritty Eagles looked while losing! It's a totally slanted article, but by now no one should be surprised by Peter King making excuses for Andy Reid. King starts with a pro-Philly agenda early and never lets up. Johnny Donovan, the excerpts please:
> "The Eagles were tremendous last night. All that stood between them and beating the best team in football on the road was a botched Donovan McNabb-to-Brian Westbrook handoff with nine minutes left at the Dallas 33, trying to expand on a three-point lead. That's a once- or twice-a-year event, that kind of stupid play, and it shouldn't take away from what the Eagles showed the country in a scintillating football game."
Yes, there was that fumbled exchange on the Eagles' third-to-last drive of the game. But Philly got the ball back 2 more times! The drive after the fumble the Eagles were forced to punt, and the next time they had the ball, McNabb was sacked twice as the Eagles ran out of downs. So the Eagles had TWO MORE CHANCES to scintillate America some more by driving for a winning score. I guess they had demonstrated their "tremendousness" enough already by that point; by then there was no reason to show everything in the arsenal to the largest cable TV audience since they began tracking such things.
An impartial writer might balance out his piece by including some of the botched plays by the Cowboys in the first half that all but gift-wrapped not one but two Eagles touchdowns. I don't know how "once or twice in a lifetime" those plays were, but they were major factors in the Eagles comeback nonetheless. An ill-advised pass by Romo led to an Asante Samuel INT, his return gave Philly the ball at the Cowboys 33 yard line; the next play was a make-believe pass interference call on CB Anthony Henry that set Philly up at the Dallas 1. Brian Westbrook scored on the next play. Then came the drop by Romo in his own end zone. That act of self-destruction was set up by another: a badly muffed kickoff return by Isaiah Stanback forced Dallas to start the drive on their own 5 yard line, a false start moved it back inside the 3, and then came Romo's fumble. That sequence gave Philly 14 points in 14 seconds -- suddenly turning a 14-6 deficit into a 21-14 lead -- which some might even call a once-in-a-generation happenstance.
Next, the deluded King lists three reasons why the Philadelphia Eagles just might prevail over the Cowboys and Giants after all in the tough NFC East division: 1, Philly can really play the run; 2, Donovan McNabb is back and better than ever; and 3, Brian Westbrook is Brian Westbrook. That's what I mean by having an agenda. Sure, all these things are true, and Philly will probably be in the division race all year, but was this the time and place to pontificate to his readers about it? The Cowboys won 41-37 in thrilling fashion, and yet in King's column we find no mention of the electrifying rookie Felix Jones, who set a Dallas franchise record for kickoff return yardage. No mention of Romo's performance, who by the way managed to outplay McNabb when it counted most -- 21-30 for 312, 3 TDs (123 QB rating) versus 25-37 and 281 and 1 TD (99 QB rating).
In the first half Eagles sold out to stop the run, pinching their LBs tight between the defensive ends. In the second half Marion Barber churned out enough first downs to seal the game, scored on a rushing TD, and also caught a 17-yard TD pass, but King never cares about numbers or facts when they don't work to prove a point he's intent on making:
> "I don't care about Westbrook's stats; don't even tell me what they were. The great thing about this guy is he can get splattered like a squirrel in the road by a Hummer on one play, then he's back to make a play the next. What must he feel like the day after a game? Remember Larry Brown, the old Redskins running back? You couldn't believe the abuse Brown took on Sundays, and then he'd be back, fresh, the next week, running over somebody."
Just a pointless anecdote by Uncle Peter. Westbrook for the record was 18-58 rushing in the game, Barber 18-63. And this is the time he picks to make his stretch of a case that with "LaDainian Tomlinson getting nicked, Westbrook, right now, is the best all-around back in football for my money. He's what Tiki Barber was for the Giants for the last three years of his career -- an indefatigable runner and receiver you could build an offense around." Westbrook is a dynamic player, but it's not like he was close to being the best player on the field Monday Night. So put away your hero worship, King, and instead maybe some insight into the game that was just played, if you even watched it. Predictably, Clueless Pete sets up the choice Andy Reid quote:
> "As Reid said after the game, the Eagles just looked tougher last night. "We're a tough-minded football team, and that's important, Reid said. "I'm proud of the guys, man.
That's not bias, though, to single out the Eagles supposed toughness in a game where TE Jason Witten separates a shoulder but misses just one series, when S Roy Williams fractures a forearm on a special tackle teams and is lost for a month. I'm sure Wade Phillips was just disgusted with his own team's effort on Monday night. King concludes with his pseudo justification for the Eagles losing and Dallas winning. No mention that the Cowboys defense clamped down, holding the Eagles to just 7 points after halftime. Or how, say, Marion Barber playing with bruised ribs gutted out some tough yardage down the stretch. No, it's a case of the Eagles sort of overlooking a specific part of the game that you just know Reid & Co. will fix by the time they meet Dallas again.
> "The Eagles lost this game because they couldn't get pressure on Tony Romo. Period. They've got the terminally underrated Trent Cole and Chris Clemons to fix that, and it must be better. But I wouldn't worry. Cole's not going to be as invisible as he was last night."
I searched that paragraph in vain for any praise or credit given to the Dallas O-Line -- superbly coached by Hudson Houck -- for keeping thosee mighty Eagles away from Romo and for giving up no sacks in 31 pass attempts. But I guess Flozell Adams, Leonard Davis and Marc Columbo had nothing to do with Cole and Clemons looking invisible; they must have stopped themselves all night. Rest assured, if Dallas loses this week at Green Bay, you won't see Peter King writing about how noble they were in defeat.