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Dallas wins game played at 78 RPM

September 16, 2008|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

IRVING, Texas -- The last time Dallas played host to Philadelphia, the teams slugged it out for a combined 16 points.

Sixteen points would have hardly raised an eyebrow Monday night.

In a historic home opener -- the Cowboys' last at outmoded Texas Stadium -- the NFC East foes played one for the history books. They combined for a series-record 78 points and seven lead changes, with Dallas taking control in the fourth quarter for a 41-37 victory.

"To have the energy going back and forth like it was, you're almost a fan," Cowboys tight end Jason Witten said. "You get out there and just want to do your part. It's one of the most emotional games I've ever been a part of."

Trailing, 37-31, early in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys (2-0) finished with a flurry, putting together clock-eating drives for a field goal and a touchdown. A key to the impressive ending: After a first half in which quarterback Tony Romo had a fumble and an interception, Dallas played turnover-free football.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said "resilient" is the word that best describes his team.

"It's a team that's not looking through rose-colored glasses," he said. "They've had a marriage go bad, they've had some hard times paying their bills, however you want to say it. . . . And I think you're seeing them play through some of those hard times. Last year maybe they couldn't have done it."

Terrell Owens, once a star receiver for the Eagles (1-1), burned his old team by catching both of Romo's touchdown passes, the first coming on a 72-yard bomb in the opening quarter.

"It's what you expect from 'Monday Night Football,' " Owens said. "I'm sure a lot of people around the nation had their popcorn popped, and I gave them something to munch on."

The Eagles did their part, too, with the versatile Brian Westbrook scoring three touchdowns: two rushing and one receiving.

The last time he played Philadelphia, Romo was sacked four times and three of his passes were intercepted. The Eagles didn't sack him this time, however, and Romo finished with an impressive stat line: 21 for 30, 312 yards, three touchdowns, one interception.

His counterpart, Donovan McNabb, completed 25 of 37 for 281 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. He was sacked four times.

"He played his heart out," Eagles Coach Andy Reid said of McNabb.

Philadelphia's defense also put points on the board when, in the second quarter, Romo dropped back in the end zone and was stripped of the ball by Brian Dawkins. Linebacker Chris Gocong pounced on the fumble for an easy touchdown.

Even though Texas Stadium is on its way out -- the Cowboys will move next season to a $1 billion-plus mega-palace now under construction -- this game wasn't necessarily about nostalgia. In fact, some of the most memorable moments involved first-year players.

The Cowboys' second touchdown, mere minutes after the long-bomb reception by Owens, was a 98-yard kickoff return by Felix Jones, one of the team's two first-round picks last spring. Jones dashed through the coverage team and was almost untouched.

"Somebody got their fingertips on me," he said.

Soon after, fellow Cowboys first-round pick Mike Jenkins used his fingertips to make a big play. He swatted away a third-down pass to end a scoring threat on Philadelphia's next possession.

But not every rookie play was a gem. Midway through the second quarter, Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson streaked downfield, got behind a pair of defenders and appeared to score a 61-yard touchdown -- emphasis on appeared.

A half-step before he crossed the goal line, Jackson celebrated by casually flipping the ball back in the direction of the defenders giving chase. Unbeknown to the rookie, who had already started to dance in the back of the end zone, he never broke the plane of the goal line with the ball.

After reviewing the replay, officials gave the Eagles the ball on the one, and a sheepish Jackson watched from the sideline as Westbrook somersaulted into the end zone.

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sam.farmer@latimes.com

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