Eagles, Cowboys playing for 1st in NFC East

BY foxsports • November 8, 2009

They have played each other with both a Super Bowl and a playoff spot at stake.

There was the "Bounty Bowl," Emmitt Smith getting stuffed, Eagles fans cheering for a motionless Michael Irvin, and Terrell Owens stoking controversy for each side.

Dallas and Philadelphia have lined up against each other 99 times in games that have forged one of the most heated rivalries in the NFL. Somehow it seems fitting the 100th meeting would have something significant on the line.

With the Phillies' run in the World Series over, all eyes among the city's sports fans are on one game - one sport, really - this weekend.

Win Sunday night in Philadelphia, and the Cowboys (5-2) are alone atop the NFC East.

Knock off the Cowboys, and the Eagles (5-2) move into first as the only NFC East team unbeaten in the division.

"I know the crowd is going to be out of their minds," Eagles coach Andy Reid said.

The fans are always hostile when the Eagles and Cowboys play, especially when more than just bragging rights go to the winner.

Last season was no exception. The finale turned into a do-or-die game for the final NFC wild-card spot and the Eagles thumped the Cowboys 44-6 to earn the right to play in the postseason - and they eventually reached the NFC title game.

The Cowboys left Lincoln Financial Field in shambles.

They return on a three-game winning streak and playing their best football of the season. The Cowboys haven't forgotten how they were thoroughly dominated in the second series game last year, and - though its only the halfway point of the season - wresting the division lead away from the Eagles would help put that unpleasant memory behind them.

"We're going to watch it on tape, we're going to correct the things we didn't do well and come up with a way to attack these guys," Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo said. "We're going to go out there and be a better football team than we were that played that day. I don't know about the rest of the stuff that people use as motivation. There's motivation in the sense that is an important game."

Romo has thrown eight touchdowns without an interception over the last three games and has put aside Roy Williams' grumbling to find a favorite target in wide receiver Miles Austin. Austin has 21 catches for 482 yards and five TDs during the winning streak. Oh, and those games have represented his first three NFL starts.

"He's been waiting for his opportunity, and when it came along he's done some really good things," Romo said.

The Eagles want to end that hot streak - and keep theirs going.

They have rolled to victories the last two weeks over division rivals Washington and New York. Philly will have running back Brian Westbrook in the lineup after he sat out last week because of the lingering effects from a concussion.

"I am excited to get to play again. It really doesn't matter at this point who we are playing against for me," Westbrook said. "It means a little bit extra because it's Dallas, but I just want to be able to go out there and play a football game."

The game means extra to almost any player who was ever worn the Dallas star or Eagles wings on his helmet.

Reid recalled how the magnitude of the series truly hit him his first season in Philadelphia in 1999 during a stop at a fast food restaurant for breakfast.

"There was this little old lady, she had to be 80 years old, and she came up and she said, 'Hey, make sure you kick their ... and she threw a few out there. This looked like everybody's grandma," Reid said. "I just went, 'Whoa, this means a lot.'

"That's the way it's been. I think the fans here are passionate about playing and welcoming in the Dallas Cowboys, and I know the players feel that way and the coaches feel that way. I know it's the same way on their side."

Dallas and Philadelphia have split the season series the last two years, with the Cowboys winning both early-season games and the Eagles taking both rematches.

With a national TV audience watching, this game could have a hard time matching some of the great contests over the first 99. The Cowboys lead the series 55-44 and once won 11 consecutive games over the Eagles, from 1967-1972.

For most Eagles fans, beating the Cowboys is second only to winning a Super Bowl.

Of course, that's a feat the Eagles have never accomplished, while the Cowboys have won five Super Bowls. The Eagles won the last of their three NFL championships in 1960.

One of the Eagles' biggest wins in team history came at the expense of Dallas in January 1981, when they beat the Cowboys 20-7 to advance to the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history.

Eagles fans once cheered the ambulance that drove Irvin off the field after he went down with a career-ending neck injury.

Any die-hard Eagles fan surely remembers the "fourth-and-1" game in 1995 when former Cowboys coach Barry Switzer ran Emmitt Smith into the line on consecutive plays in Dallas territory late in the fourth quarter, only to get stopped both times as the Eagles went on to win 20-17.

Now it's time for Romo and Donovan McNabb, Austin and DeSean Jackson to make No. 100 a game to remember.

"It's a nice rivalry to have," Reid said.

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