Eagles, Cowboys get resounding answers


PHILADELPHIA -- In the hush of a losing locker room, the Dallas Cowboys groped for a bottom line they could live with, a rationale they could accept. They did not find one after a 31-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

"We can look at it as another game," said Cowboys defensive tackle Tony Casillas, "but we all know deep inside it wasn't. There was a lot at stake."

What was at stake Monday night was first place in the NFC East, no small prize when you consider that the division has produced four of the last six Super Bowl champions.

Perhaps even more important, though, were the credibility issues. Are the Cowboys ready to make the quantum leap to Super Bowl princes three years after they were 1-15 frogs? And do the Eagles have enough offense to strike a serious playoff pose?

The answers came back resoundingly in front of a national TV audience: No and yes.

The 4-0 Eagles are unquestionably the team to beat in the NFC. The 3-1 Cowboys are still swallowing exhaust fumes today from a running back nobody wanted last winter.

Three years ago the downtrodden Cowboys made the blockbuster Herschel Walker trade with the Minnesota Vikings, a trade that filled coach Jimmy Johnson's cupboard with draft picks and potential.

Monday night, Walker came back to haunt his old teammates with 86 yards rushing and two touchdowns, one a marvelous, winding jaunt through the heart of the defense.

All told, the Eagles rushed for 160 yards against what had been the NFL's No. 2 rush defense. They passed for a net 106 yards. Even if quarterback Randall Cunningham had modest 11-for-19 passing numbers -- including his first interception of the season -- he was relieved to have some help from his friends.

"I didn't do anything," Cunningham said. "The offensive line did the job. Herschel did the job. Keith Byars did the job. They made it easier. The load isn't on me anymore."

For his part, Walker, who came to the Eagles in the off-season as an otherwise unwanted free agent, played down the revenge factor.

"I want every one [victory] real bad," he said. "This is a football game. The reason I came here is to help this team win. The Cowboys have a good team, but I haven't been there in four years. That's a long time."

His math may be faulty, but no one can say Walker hasn't carried his end of the load this season. He already has rushed for 100 yards twice, and the Eagles will need that kind of contribution to absorb the loss of All-Pro tight end Keith Jackson to free agency.

The Eagles' defense, meanwhile, was spectacular again Monday, forcing four turnovers, three interceptions and sending Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman into the night with a batch of angry welts and bruises.

It was a night of diminishing returns for Aikman, who was flagged for grounding the ball on his first play from scrimmage. His most ghastly play, though, was the interception he threw on the Philadelphia goal line early in the second quarter when the Cowboys were poised to take the lead.

"They're a great defensive football team," Aikman said later. "That's as good a defense as I've ever faced. Bud Carson [Eagles defensive coordinator] made the statement they're one of the great defenses of all time. I share those sentiments."

Two banners hanging in Veterans Stadium told the tale of Monday night's massacre.

One read, "Breaky Aiky's Heart," and the other said, "Jimmy, You Aren't There Yet."

There were no arguments in the Cowboys' locker room.

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