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Eagles defense halts lackluster Cowboys in Big D

Brian Westbrook had a tough choice: score the easy touchdown to give the Philadelphia Eagles a big, late lead over the Dallas Cowboys, or stop just short and secure a 4-point win. He gladly took the victory.

IRVING, Texas -- Brian Westbrook had a tough choice: score the easy touchdown to give the Philadelphia Eagles a big, late lead over the Dallas Cowboys, or stop just short and secure a 4-point win.

He gladly took the victory.

Westbrook's maneuver with a little more than two minutes left seemed bizarre, but was brilliant strategy. With Dallas out of timeouts, all Donovan McNabb had to do was take a knee three straight times to give the Eagles a 10-6 victory Sunday.

Westbrook gained 24 yards, then stopped inside the 1. He wasn't rubbing it in, just running out the clock.

"It was brilliant," Philadelphia coach Andy Reid said. "He used that Villanova education and transferred it to the football field."

Westbrook's play was a fitting finish for a bizarre game that didn't have the excuse of bad weather so many others had Sunday. Other oddities included the Eagles' lone touchdown coming from a guy who a few minutes earlier found himself stuck inside a giant Salvation Army red kettle, and the Cowboys' first scoring drive going minus-1 yard, set up by the recovery of a fumbled interception return that started 8 yards deep in the end zone.

The bottom line is that Philadelphia (6-8) ended a three-game losing streak, kept alive hopes of snagging a wild-card playoff berth and avenged a nationally televised blowout loss to Dallas six weeks ago. The Eagles also ended the Cowboys' seven-game winning streak and prevented them from tying the franchise record for wins in a season.

As bad as it sounds for Dallas (12-2), the Cowboys knew before kickoff they'd secured a first-round bye -- and that they couldn't lock up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. So the stakes were pretty low. And they played like it.

Dallas had its fewest yards of the season (240) and didn't score a touchdown for the first time since November 2004. It was the Cowboys' second straight lousy outing, and they came away with a bunch of injuries, starting with the thumb area on Romo's throwing hand.

X-rays showed no break, but it's at least bruised. Romo had it wrapped and iced during his postgame news conference and insisted, "I'll be fine."

Dallas center Andre Gurode and defense end Chris Canty went out with left knee injuries. Gurode is having an MRI Monday, but is expected to be OK. Canty should be fine. Backup safety Pat Watkins sprained his left ankle, and tight end Anthony Fasano sustained a mild concussion.

Then there's Terrell Owens, whose ego has to be smarting after waiting until the fourth quarter for his first catch against his former team. He had only two after having only three last week. Worse yet, three passes Romo threw to him were caught by Philadelphia, including what turned out to be Dallas' final offensive snap. T.O. slipped on the play, ending the locals' hopes of seeing the kind of last-minute rally Romo pulled off in Detroit last week and Buffalo in October.

"We came out flat. We just couldn't get anything going offensively," Owens said. "Maybe this is good for us -- a gut-check."

McNabb was 23 of 41 for 208 yards and a touchdown, which he celebrated with the kind of spread-armed, arched-back gesture Owens used when he played for the Eagles. He also ran nine times for a season-high 53 yards, with a season-best 28-yarder. He was hardly dominant, getting sacked four times and failing to convert on several third-and-shorts. Then again, he also overcame the first-quarter loss of tight end Matt Schobel (concussion) and right guard Shawn Andrews (knee).

McNabb denied borrowing a page from T.O.'s celebration manual.

"I've been through a lot this season, so I was just giving thanks to the man upstairs," McNabb said.

Philadelphia's defense was out to save face after giving up 38 points and 434 yards last time against Dallas. The Eagles proved their point right away, preventing the Cowboys from getting a first down in the first quarter. Romo started 0-for-6 after having only five incompletions last time.

This is special," Philadelphia defensive coordinator Jim Johnson said.

Romo finished 13 of 36 for 214 yards, with a career-low rating of 22.2. It came in front of his parents and his newest A-list girlfriend -- Jessica Simpson, who tugged the front of her pink No. 9 jersey, then mouthed the word "Romo!" when cameras spotted her. For what it's worth, Romo's previous worst rating came last December against Philadelphia when then-girlfriend Carrie Underwood was here.

"If we go on and win the Super Bowl, the loss is a good thing," Romo said. "If we lose first round of the playoffs, the loss is not a good thing."

Westbrook gained 81 yards on 18 rushes and 63 yards on nine receptions.

Witten, coming off a team-record 15 receptions, caught eight passes for 113 yards, including a 53-yarder that made him the first Dallas tight end to go over 1,000 yards receiving in a season.

Reggie Brown had Philadelphia's touchdown and the venture into the kettle after an incompletion.

"I was running too fast to slow down," he said. "I about bowled over a cheerleader. There was a big red bowl there. I was happy there wasn't any presents in there. I didn't want to squish anyone's presents."

Notes: This was the first game Romo's father attended since undergoing prostate cancer surgery. His parents accepted the Bob Lilly Award on his behalf at halftime. ... Eagles kicker David Akers missed a 47-yarder in the first quarter. He had been 12 of 12 in seven career games at Texas Stadium. His 21-yarder in the fourth quarter made him the franchise scoring leader with 884 points.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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