Eagles coach Andy Reid and quarterback Donovan McNabb praised Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo for his play and leadership this season and take a veiled shot at former Cowboys and Eagles receiver Terrell Owens.
Reid said Romo has been more assertive as a leader this season because of the departure of a couple of distractions from last season.
Asked to identify the distraction, Reid backed off and said "the whole in the roof," resulting in uproar of laughter.
Certainly, the switch from Texas Stadium to the new Cowboys Stadium has been a big change for the Cowboys this season. But it's well documented that the departure of the divisive Owens has had a positive effect on Romo.
Remember, it was in the latter part of last season, which ended with the embarrassing 44-6 loss to the Eagles in the season final, that the feud between Owens, Romo and tight end Jason Witten reached it's zenith.
McNabb said Romo's growth as a leader since Owens was released in the offseason is very evident and telling in his and the Cowboys play of late.
"Last season was last season," McNabb said. "It's a whole different ballclub that I look at. Tony has played a whole lot different. It's Tony's team. People can talk negative about what Tony was doing last year or the year before, or earlier this year, it's Tony's team. The good thing about playing the quarterback position, when you have the reigns and you have command of the guys, and the guys are following along with everything they tell them and show them, good thigns can happen. You've seen in recent weeks, the team has really played well and Tony's played well as well. That's part of the difference you see on that whole ball team."
The Eagles had the same five offensive linemen the past six games, all victories. They will make a change this week, and Cowboys nose tackle Jay Ratliff could be the beneficiary.
Eagles center Jamaal Jackson, who had made 71 consecutive starts, tore an anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in Sunday's victory over the Broncos. Right guard Nick Cole replaced Jackson, with Max Jean-Giles replacing Cole at guard. Stacy Andrews could start at guard this week.
But Jackson will have his hands full with Ratliff, who has 71 tackles, six sacks and 31 quarterback pressures. Ratliff had eight tackles, two sacks and two quarterback pressures in the Cowboys' victory over Philadelphia earlier this year.
"I'm not worried at all," Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb said on a conference call with us today. "That's nothing to obviously his ability. He's a great player. He's made great plays. He has six sacks so far this season, and a guy who obviously is a Pro Bowler. But you know the thing about it is, you have to have confidence in the guys up front. Nick Cole is stepping into a center role, but he was our backup center as well as our starting guard anyway. He knows the calls. He knows what we have to do. I feel confident in our guys to be able to be on the same page."
The Cowboys ended up with six Pro Bowlers. They are: receiver Miles Austin, tight end Jason Witten, center Andre Gurode, guard Leonard Davis, nose tackle Jay Ratliff and outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware.
Ware, who made his fourth Pro Bowl, is a starter as is Gurode, who made his fourth team.
Austin, who leads the NFC with 1,230 yards and has 11 touchdowns, earned his first Pro Bowl berth as a backup.
Witten will be a backup in his sixth Pro Bowl. He made it over Philadelphia's Brent Celek, who has eight touchdowns, as well as Tony Gonzalez.
Ratliff made his second Pro Bowl as one of three defensive tackles. Davis made his third team.
The game will be played Jan. 31, the week before the Super Bowl, in Miami. The Super Bowl participants will not participate in the all-star game. So if the Cowboys make the Super Bowl, none of their players will play in the game. If they don't, they likely will have more players added the week before the game.
Cornerback Mike Jenkins and tackle Flozell Adams would be possibilities to join the Pro Bowl team as late additions.
Sources tell me Drew Brees, Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers are the NFC quarterbacks on the Pro Bowl team, which will be announced shortly. Not a surprise, but that means Tony Romo is not on the team.
Receiver Miles Austin, tight end Jason Witten, outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, nose tackle Jay Ratliff, punter Mat McBriar, center Andre Gurode, offensive tackle Flozell Adams, guard Leonard Davis, special teamer Sam Hurd and cornerback Mike Jenkins are possibilities based on the way they've played and/or who else in the NFC is available and/or better.
Ware is the only lock for the NFC's all-star team, but I expect the Cowboys to have five or six players. Of course, none of them will play in the game if they make the Super Bowl. This year's game will be played the week before the Super Bowl in Miami.
If the Cowboys don't make the Super Bowl, they will likely have more players added the week before the game.
The Cowboys can be seeded second, third, fourth or sixth. The Saints have the top seed locked up. The Packers will be the fifth seed if the Cowboys lose to the Eagles. That's because the Packers beat the Cowboys this season and hold the tiebreaker edge.
The Cowboys will play either the Eagles or the Packers in the wild-card round if they are the third or fourth seed. They would play the Vikings or the Cardinals, on the road, if they are the sixth seed. The Eagles would be the second seed with a victory at Cowboys Stadium.
For the Cowboys to get the first-round bye, they need to win and have the Vikings and the Cardinals lose. The Cardinals are playing the Packers, who essentially are playing a meaningless game with a possibility of playing in Arizona the following week, so the Packers could rest their top players. The Vikings play the Giants, who have nothing to play for except their pride.
Cowboys offensive tackle Flozell Adams was fined $5,000 for a facemask penalty against the Saints last week. Adams has been fined $80,000 for six offenses in five games. His biggest was a $50,000 for pushing Giants defensive end Justin Tuck.
Adams has 12 penalties, including three holds, and has allowed seven sacks.
Marion Barber has not been good on short yardage. He failed to pick up first downs on two fourth-and-one carries Sunday after being stopped three times from the 1-yard line against the Chargers two weeks ago.
For the season, Barber has had 17 carries on third-and-one or third-and-two. He has gained 66 yards and made 12 first downs. That means 70.6 of his third-and-short runs have been converted into first downs. On fourth-down runs, Barber is 0-for-3. That was the run on the goal-line against San Diego, and the two fourth-down runs Sunday against the Redskins.
Emmitt Smith questioned the fourth-down play calls Sunday, according to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who had Smith in his suite.
As a team, the Cowboys have converted 70.5 percent of their third-and-shorts (1-3 yards).
"We’re addressing that," Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said Monday. "We’ve played well on third-and-ones. ...We had some trouble on the goal line against San Diego, but that was goal-line offense and goal- line defense for them. They slanted everybody inside, and the plays that we’d run previously that were successful weren’t successful. I will say [Washington defensive tackle Albert] Haynesworth has a lot to do with that. He’s awfully strong, and he did a good job in there on us, but we’re addressing that to make sure it doesn’t happen again or the chance of it happening will be less. We need to make those kind of plays."
The Cowboys play the Eagles this week. The Packers play the Cardinals. There is a better-than-good chance those could be the NFC matchups in the wild-card round of the playoffs. The Jets and the Bengals also play this week, which could be a preview of an AFC wild-card game. (There is a very slim chance the Patriots and Texans could meet in back-to-back weeks. The Texans need two of three teams (Jets, Broncos and Ravens) to lose.)
Nine times in history have teams played each other in back-to-back weeks -- in the regular-season finale followed by a playoff game. Four times the same team won both games. Five times the teams split.
Owner Jerry Jones is 100 percent behind coach Wade Phillips.
Yes, Phillips is in the last year of contract. And no, Jones has not yet exercised the team option for 2010 or given Phillips a contract extension.
But following Sunday's 17-0 against the Redskins, which clinched a wildcard playoff berth for the Cowboys, Jones made it known that he does not want to replace Phillips as the Cowboys coach.
Jones didn't guarantee Phillips' return. He has said in the past that he will make a decision on Phillips' future after the season, while acknowleging how the Cowboys finish and do in the playoffs will be strong factors. The Cowboys (10-5) face the Eagles next Sunday for the NFC East title.
But Jones said that it's not in the Cowboys best interest to make a coaching change.
"I do not want to make a coaching change,” Jones said. “This is not the time with what we’ve got in place, with our personnel, with what we’ve got going with our schemes, with what we’ve got going with our staff. It’s not in the best interests of the Cowboys right now to make a change.”
Phillips is embattled despite three successful years as Cowboys, including a 32-16 record. He has now taken the Cowboys to the playoffs in two of his three years. The Cowboys are one win away from their second division title in three years under Phillips.
Jones said Phillips, long criticized for being soft and not winning when it mattered the most, has the Cowboys peaking down the stretch, especially on defense.
The shutout win against the Redskins came after two games in which the Cowboys held the Chargers and Saints to their lowest scoring out puts of the season.
Jones credited Phillips' defense and his steady hand of leadership for the way the Cowboys are playing and how they bounced back from their only two game losing streak of the season with victories of the previously undefeated Saints and Redskins.
“I don’t want to take anything away from our players, but I think what you’re seeing develop and evolve is 100 percent Wade Phillips,” Jones said. “I know how hard he’s working. When our defense is playing [well] and our team really realizes how much of him is involved in the defense, then it does give him huge credibility.”
Quarterback Tony Romo agreed that it's time to give Phillips his due.
“He kept a steady hand when outside forces try and make it seem as if your team is done or doesn’t have much of a chance,” Romo said. “Wade does a great job of letting the team know that’s not it. His demeanor, his approach, his style has worked great for this football team. He doesn’t deserve any criticism. You guys [media] need to start giving him some praise, because he’s been good.”
Jerry talked, and talked and talked after Sunday's game. Here are some of his pearls:
The way Romo is protecting the football: "I think it's the difference-maker. You take a game like we played tonight with our defense, just as dominant as it you could ever have thought. ...To his credit, and to his coaches, they've been able to make it Romo-friendly and keep Romo being Romo, and at the same time, protect the ball. That's walking that line, and that's accomplishing a lot. They've been able to do it, and of course his hard work, the awareness he needs to protect the ball."
On winning the game: "We saw today what happens. We saw Carolina beat the Giants at the Giants. There was nobody, I know that when we left, as proud as we were of Carolina, we know that could be waiting on you out here with the Redskins. The team didn't in any way take this game for granted. The team came out here and fight it all the way."
On possibilities going forward: "I look at Philadelphia as a playoff game. It's so meaningful to us. It could give us the chance to play at home, and that's a big deal. I was in the team meeting this morning, and Wade said one thing, and he said it real quick: 'This game's about the world championship.' That's all he said, and walked out. Said, I know you know that. His message was real simple and real easy for everybody understand. And all these games now, I think we need to feel the same way about Philadelphia as we do the first playoff game. It's almost go home if you don't get it. It's a good attitude."
On the defense the last couple of weeks: "I just think, tonight, would hardly let them breathe. They were stifling, our defense was. Had we been able to do a couple more things in the second half that we wanted to do, it would have reflected even more so on the scoreboard. When you play defense the way we're playing right now, and got a quarterback that's got the [performance] he's got, then you got the chance to do some really good things."
On 10 wins and in the playoffs: "I had Emmitt [Smith] sitting with me tonight. I didn't bother asking about his prediction. I'm sure he won't appreciate that. But he did sit with me tonight to watch the game. We both know that we shouldn't be walking back there and handing the ball 7 yards deep to make a foot. We both know that. It's great to point that out, coach Smith."
Update on Joe D: "I need the doctors to give that report to you. I know that he was ready to have surgery when they walked out for the game. We'll get a report on that. I'm sure he'll be glad when  is gone. He can't buy a break in , can he?"