NFC East: rapid reaction 14

Rapid Reaction: Steelers 20, Cowboys 13

December, 7, 2008
Posted by's Matt Mosley

PITTSBURGH -- The Cowboys survived a four-turnover first half and seemed poised to pull off the upset with a 13-3 lead midway through the fourth quarter. But the Steelers erupted for 17 points in the final 7:15 of the game to escape with a 20-13 win.

The Steelers (10-3) tied the score with 2 minutes left and then cornerback Deshea Townsend picked off Tony Romo and brought it back 25 yards for the game-winning touchdown. It appeared that tight end Jason Witten was taking the blame for cutting off his route on Romo's interception. It was a stunning turn of events in a game that the Cowboys appeared to have under control.

It also wasted a strong performance from rookie running back Tashard Choice, who accounted for 166 total yards. The Cowboys fell to 8-5 with the loss and they're tied with the Falcons (8-5) in the race for the final wild-card playoff spot. But the loss means the Cowboys only have a half-game lead on the Eagles (7-5-1). Washington could also pull into a tie with the Cowboys if they beat the Ravens later tonight.

Romo was 19-of-30 for 210 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions. He turned the ball over three times in the first half alone, but he led the Cowboys on a game-tying drive at the end of the half to make it 3-3. From the first possession of the second half, it looked like the Cowboys would take over the game. And when the defense had a goal-line stand against the Steelers early in the fourth quarter, a Pittsburgh comeback looked improbable.

For now, the Cowboys can forget about the possibility of meeting this team again in the Super Bowl. They're in a fight for their playoff lives. Throw in a couple of late special-teams miscues and you have the makings of a remarkable fourth-quarter collapse. Now an angry Giants team that lost to the Eagles today is heading to town.

If the Cowboys don't make the playoffs, this will be the one that got away.

Rapid Reaction: Eagles 20, Giants 14

December, 7, 2008
Posted by's Matt Mosley

Shame on you guys for giving up on the Philadelphia Eagles. At 6-5-1, they didn't appear to be in the wild-card playoff picture, but with a dominating 20-14 win over the Giants in the Meadowlands, the Eagles served notice that they -- and quarterback Donovan McNabb -- aren't done yet.

The Giants will now field another round of questions regarding the fallout from the Plaxico Burress incident. Were they distracted by the huge amount of media attention or did they simply have a bad day?

Well, it may have been a little bit of both. Handed larger roles in the offense, young receivers Steve Smith and Domenik Hixon shrunk to the occasion. Hixon dropped a certain touchdown and Smith didn't fare much better.

But make no mistake, the Eagles were the best team on the field Sunday. This didn't resemble anything close to a fluke. In fact, it took a blocked field goal return for the Giants to even make the game interesting. Running back Brian Westbrook, who has been hampered by injuries throughout the season, had one of the best games of his career. He finished with 131 yards and a touchdown on 33 carries. He also caught six passes for 72 yards.

At 7-5-1, the Eagles deserve to be in the playoff conversation. They still have games against the Redskins and Cowboys that would open the door for a late playoff run. Depending on what happens over the next few weeks, there's a chance the Eagles and Cowboys could square off in Philly for the last wild-card spot on the final day of the regular season. And the Saints helped the Redskins, Eagles and Cowboys with their 29-25 victory over the Falcons (8-5).

Eli Manning was 13-of-27 for 123 yards and a touchdown, but he almost doubled his yardage on a late scoring drive that turned out to be meaningless.

Westbrook's 40-yard touchdown reception put the Eagles on top, 17-7, in the fourth quarter. McNabb (19-30, 191, 1 TD) stepped away from pressure and found Westbrook on a circle route. Middle linebacker Antonio Pierce, who was interviewed by police Friday in relation to the Burress incident, was burned on the play.

The Giants (11-2) are still a win away from clinching the NFC East, but they look vulnerable as they prepare for another division showdown in Dallas next Sunday. All the talk will center around the Burress distraction after this game, but the Eagles deserve a lot of credit for a tremendous effort.

Philly's defense didn't sack Manning, but it did a great job in coverage. And the fact that the Giants had a subpar day on the ground put more pressure on players such as Smith and Hixon, who combined for seven catches and 77 yards, but didn't take advantage of key opportunities.