Dallas trying to keep a lid on the hype for Cowboys-Eagles II Aikman says it's just another game


IRVING, Texas -- There definitely is a nonchalant attitude around Valley Ranch these days.

PTC Philadelphia Eagles? Yawn.

Randall Cunningham? Yeah, he's good.

The Eagles' execution-style defense? Often lucky.

You would never know this is the game of the season in the NFL. The battle for control of the NFC East. A possible mid-season preview to the NFC Championship Game.

Why would you think this is just another game in the schedule?

"That's all it is," said Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson. "Nothing more or nothing less. Whatever happens, we'll take it in stride."

That's how Johnson has his team approaching today's game here: ignoring the pre-game hype and concentrating on the work to be done. Just another day at the office, he said.

Never mind that the numbers tell the story of a game needing some serious hype, maybe even a blimp.

The NFC's top-ranked defense (Philadelphia) vs. the No. 3-ranked offense (Dallas). The NFC's second-ranked defense (Dallas) vs. the No. 7-ranked offense (Philadelphia). The NFC's first- and third-ranked rushers -- Emmitt Smith and Hershel Walker, respectively. Two of the best records in the conference -- Dallas at 6-1, Philadelphia 5-2.

"It's important, sure," said quarterback Troy Aikman, who was pounded by the Eagles' defense in Philly's 31-7 rout earlier this season. "I think it gets even more important in terms of tiebreakers. But really, it is just another game."

Aikman pointed to the buildup surrounding the first matchup when both teams came in 4-0.

"Everybody made that out like it was the last game of the season," Aikman said. "It was the game of the year. And look what happened. They lost their next two and we won our next three. Either way it goes, there's still a lot of football to be played."

But as low-key as the Cowboys are playing it, there is no doubt they want to win this game.

"Sure, we want to win," said offensive lineman Kevin Gogan. "And I think we will. But you've got to remember they are one of the best teams in the league."

With that said, Gogan took his next breath to scoff at the Eagles' position atop the NFL's defensive standings.

"There's no question they have a fine front," he said. "But they're also very lucky. They're always in the right place at the right time, and I guess you could attribute that to great 'D', but there has to be a lot of luck in there as well."

If the Cowboys are to win, to a man they agreed they must play a flawless game. The three-interception, one-fumble performance in the first meeting will not do.

"I had a long return in the first game that should have been a touchdown," said wide receiver/kick returner Kelvin Martin. "If we're to win, we have to score on those kinds of plays."

And keep the Eagles' offense off the field.

"We can't let them have a short field," Aikman said. "We can't turn the ball over and make the field any shorter."

Said Johnson: "We'll have to avoid the turnovers and keep the intensity up for the entire game. I don't think we'll have a problem doing that."

Deep snapper Dale Hellestrae summed up the Cowboys' mood.

"We didn't give a very good accounting of ourselves the last time," he said. "I hope we can pick it up a notch this time around."

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