PHILADELPHIA (AP) -The Eagles have absorbed their share of tough-luck losses, yet Philadelphia's setback to Dallas last month was anything but a near-miss.
At least five of the Eagles' eight losses this season have resulted from an unlucky turn, from a mishandled punt, to a last-minute comeback, to squandered late scoring chances and, most recently, a potential tying field goal deflecting off the upright.
But make no mistake, the Eagles were soundly beaten by the NFC-leading Cowboys on the first Sunday in November. Dallas manhandled the Birds on both sides of the ball, dropping them to 3-5, the team's worst start since Andy Reid became coach in 1999.
``It was probably our worst defensive game,'' defensive coordinator Jim Johnson said Thursday.
The Eagles have something to prove and plenty to play for when the teams meet Sunday in Texas Stadium. Losers of three straight by a total of just 10 points, the Eagles (5-8) are still holding slim hopes for qualifying for the postseason. While not mathematically eliminated, the Birds need to win their last three games and hope for plenty of help to have a chance at a wild-card spot.
The Cowboys (12-1) also have a bit at stake. Dallas claimed the NFC East last week and can secure home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs with a win and a Green Bay loss.
Even with all their forgettable losses, the Eagles sure do remember when Dallas came to town.
Tony Romo completed 20 of 25 passes for 324 yards and three touchdowns, with half his passes going to former Eagles standout/troublemaker Terrell Owens, who finished with 174 yards and a TD. Dallas also displayed a solid running game with Julius Jones and Marion Barber sharing the load.
But it was Romo and Owens who caused the Eagles fits. Seemingly every time Philly pressured Romo, he'd dump it off to a running back, avoiding the sack. It was Owens' TD on the first drive of the third quarter that gave the Cowboys an insurmountable 28-7 lead.
Romo's play has caught the eye of Johnson, who said the quarterback has been as good as anyone he has seen in the nine years he has been with the Eagles.
``He's probably a guy who has much better vision this year than last year,'' Johnson said. ``If the first receiver's not there, he goes to the second. If the second's not there, he goes to the third. He's been very effective on check downs, when people take away their main receiver.
``I see a guy who's getting rid of the ball. Not just throwing it away, but going to the second, third and fourth receivers.''
Linebacker Takeo Spikes echoed Johnson.
``He's a guy where he may not throw off the front foot, he may not step into every throw, but he's very football savvy,'' Spikes said.
While Johnson talked about Romo's maturation, Pro Bowl safety Brian Dawkins said the Eagles need to capitalize on the QB's inexperience - when he shows it.
``He's played in a lot of games, but he's still a young quarterback, so he's going to make some mistakes,'' Dawkins said. ``You just have to capitalize on the mistakes.''
One player benefiting from Romo's success has been Owens, who has 74 receptions for 1,270 yards and 14 touchdowns.
The Eagles know they need to do a better job stopping Owens this time. Philadelphia might look back to its performance against unbeaten New England to solve Romo, Owens and the rest of the Cowboys.
Against the Patriots, the Eagles hit QB Tom Brady early, and Spikes believes that might be the key against Romo.
``You want to do some things that other people haven't been able to do,'' Spikes said. ``That's something that has not shown up on film, defense's not being able to get him.''
Johnson said the Eagles plan on being more physical with Owens, just as they were with Patriots standout receiver Randy Moss.
``We have to make sure we're in the right combination coverage, depending on where he is,'' Johnson said.

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