When these teams last met on Dec. 19, Owens left the game in the third quarter after making a catch and being taken down from behind by Dallas safety Roy Williams. Owens landed awkwardly after being grabbed around the collar by Williams and getting dragged to the ground.
The Pro Bowl wideout did not return to the game and suffered what turned out to be a broken leg and severely sprained right ankle, injuries that forced Owens out of action all the way until the Super Bowl. That play was the biggest reason the NFL implemented a new rule during the offseason outlawing ‘horse collar’ tackles.
Owens and McNabb are sure to consistently attack Williams and the Dallas secondary, considering the Eagles have thrown the ball more this season than any other team in the league.
While Owens tops the NFL with 32 receptions and 506 yards, McNabb leads the league in passing yards and touchdowns.
Despite battling a sports hernia, chest injury and shin contusion, McNabb is on pace to throw 696 passes this season, which would break the NFL record of 691 set in 1994 by current Cowboys quarterback Drew Bledsoe. Of Philadelphia’s 269 offensive plays, just 69 have been rushes by the running backs despite having Pro Bowler Brian Westbrook in the backfield.
“I think the important thing is finding a way to win the football game,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said. “I really think, when it is all said and done, that people really don’t care whether you ran or threw the ball. They care about winning and losing. We are going to try to do what is working for us and do the best we can.”
It worked last week as Philadelphia overcame an 18-point deficit in Kansas City to win 37-31. McNabb threw for 369 yards and three touchdowns, becoming the first player in team history with 300 yards passing in three straight games.
“I’m willing to do whatever it takes in order to help this team win games,” said McNabb, who has won his last 10 division games. “I try to prepare myself throughout the week so I won’t have to sit back and even think about the injuries.”
The win over Dallas in December was Philadelphia’s ninth in the last 10 meetings. Dallas’ only victory in that span came on Oct. 12, 2003, and marks the last time the Eagles lost a regular-season game to an NFC opponent.
Unlike Reid and the Eagles, Bill Parcells and the Cowboys have gone with a conservative approach on offense. Dallas is averaging 31.5 rushing attempts per game, seventh-most in the NFL.
However, only five teams have a worse rushing average than the Cowboys’ 3.3 yards per carry. Julius Jones hasn’t had a run of longer than 13 yards.
“It seems like we’re a little reactive right now,” Bledsoe said after Sunday’s 19-13 loss to Oakland. “We need to be more proactive in our approach.”
Still, this might not be the week for Bledsoe to air it out. He’s facing a Philadelphia secondary that includes three Pro Bowlers.
Considering the last nine losses to the Eagles have been by an average of 22.1 points, Dallas might not mind continuing its trend of playing close games. All four of the Cowboys’ games have been decided by six points or fewer.
“We’ve certainly had our opportunities to win and lose all these games,” Parcells said. “If you let them go to the wire all the time and have the pressure on you to try to score or protect the lead every time, it’s not going to work out. The law of averages catches up with you.”