McNabb threw touchdown passes of 40 yards to Reggie Brown and 87 yards to Hank Baskett, and Lito Sheppard returned an interception 102 yards in the final minute to seal the Eagles’ 38-24 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.
As for T.O., the most overhyped homecoming in recent memory was totally ordinary: three catches, 45 yards, 0 on-field drama. In fact, a frustrated Owens might be closer to having one of his infamous sideline blow-ups than another provocative touchdown celebration.
Owens clearly was unhappy after quarterback Drew Bledsoe misfired on a few passes to the star receiver. At one point, Owens was screaming as he walked off the field and took a seat alone on the bench.
As he ran into the locker room, an animated T.O. was yelling and asking why the Cowboys bothered signing him in the offseason, according to a stadium employee who witnessed the tirade but didn’t want to be identified because he is not authorized to talk about team matters.
A short time later, Owens could be seen talking to team owner Jerry Jones, who appeared to be encouraging the player he personally brought to Dallas.
“I’m not going to sit up here and point a finger, so you guys can create a story,” Owens said later during the press conference, refusing to blame Bledsoe for the loss. “It’s not about that.”
Owens’ return to Philadelphia dominated the headlines this week, with Philly fans planning a hostile welcome. But Owens was merely a decoy for most of the game, and those fans were too dazzled by McNabb to fixate much on the erstwhile Eagles receiver who helped them reach the Super Bowl in 2004 before last year’s bitter departure.
“It’s frustrating,” Owens said. “Opportunities were there and we didn’t make them. I’m a competitor. I do not like to lose. Maybe I need to work harder.”
Not only did Owens not score, he didn’t catch a pass until the third quarter — then dropped the next one thrown to him, much to the delight of a frenzied crowd that showered Owens with derisive chants, insults and boos.
“I was surprised Terrell didn’t have more catches. That was not our plan,” Jones said.
The Eagles (4-1) took the lead for good when McNabb connected with Brown on a flea-flicker pass with 9:13 left that made it 31-24. Brown, a second-year pro who replaced a suspended Owens in the starting lineup last year, beat rookie safety Patrick Watkins and caught the ball deep in the end zone.
The Cowboys (2-2) drove to the Eagles 33 on the ensuing drive. But Sheppard intercepted Bledsoe’s badly underthrown pass—intended for an open Owens.
Owens angrily snapped at his chin strap, walked off the field and took his usual spot at the end of the bench.
The Cowboys had one more chance after a pass interference penalty on Michael Lewis allowed them to convert a fourth-and-18 from their 37.
But from the Eagles 6, Sheppard stepped in front of Bledsoe’s pass and raced the other way to put the game away. Bledsoe threw three interceptions and was sacked seven times.
For a while, the Cowboys were doing just fine without getting Owens involved. DeMarcus Ware scored on a 69-yard fumble return and Bledsoe ran in from the 7 to give Dallas a 21-17 halftime lead.
But Philadelphia’s struggling offense turned it around with one big play.
McNabb took a deep drop, eluded a sack, stepped up and heaved a pass downfield. Baskett ran past Watkins, caught the ball in stride, broke a tackle near the 30 and streaked into the end zone for his first career touchdown.
Baskett, acquired in a trade after he was signed by Minnesota as a rookie free agent, was starting for the injured Donte’ Stallworth. He finished with three catches for 112 yards.
Dallas tied it at 24 on a 39-yard field goal by Mike Vanderjagt early in the fourth quarter. Then McNabb took over.
“This is a total team game,” said McNabb, who was 18-of-33 for 354 yards and two TDs. “It’s not T.O. vs. Donovan. All of us play together.”
Owens was a non-factor in the first half as the Cowboys relied on their running game. Bledsoe finally looked Owens’ way on the Cowboys’ 17th offensive play, but he was hit on the throw and Brian Dawkins intercepted.
Owens’ first catch—on Dallas’ 41st play—was a short pass that he turned into a 9-yard gain. He then looked toward the Eagles’ sideline and spun the ball on the ground in their direction while gesturing.
Perhaps distracted by the Owens’ hoopla, both teams were sloppy at the start.
Eagles running back Brian Westbrook, who didn’t practice all week because of a knee injury, looked fine on a 24-yard screen pass on the first play from scrimmage. But he fumbled on the next play, giving Dallas the ball at its 38.
Darwin Walker sacked Bledsoe on Dallas’ first play on the ensuing possession, forcing a fumble Trent Cole recovered at the Cowboys 14. But the Eagles settled for David Akers’ 27-yard field goal that made it 10-0.
Marion Barber’s 2-yard TD run made it 10-7.
In the second quarter, Greg Ellis hit McNabb and the ball popped. Ware caught it and, with no one in front of him, raced 69 yards for a touchdown.
The Eagles answered quickly, taking a 17-14 lead on McNabb’s sneak from the 1. McNabb connected with L.J. Smith on a 60-yard pass to set up the score.
Bledsoe, not known for his scrambling, scored on a 7-yard run to give the Cowboys a 21-17 lead.
“We came out in the second half, showed a lot of character,” said linebacker Jeremiah Trotter. “I think we really took a great step forward.” ^Notes: Stallworth (hamstring) and CB Rod Hood (heel) missed their second straight game for the Eagles. … The Eagles snapped a seven-game losing streak against NFC East opponents.