IRVING, Texas -- The four-game winning streak is nice. So is being first in the NFC East.
Still, the strongest proof yet that the Dallas Cowboys are a completely new team under coach Bill Parcells lies in beating the Philadelphia Eagles and how they did it: with big plays from the opening kickoff to the closing minutes.
Dallas snapped a six-game losing streak against its division rival Sunday with a 23-21 victory over Philadelphia on Billy Cundiff's 28-yard field goal with 1:11 left.
The Cowboys started as well as possible, when Randal Williams foiled an onside kick by returning it 37 yards for a touchdown. Dallas was ahead after just three seconds, the fastest score to begin a game since the NFL began using a scoreboard clock in 1970.
Dallas (4-1) hadn't just been losing often to the Eagles (2-3) it had been losing by a lot, an average of 25 points. The Cowboys hadn't even scored an offensive touchdown in the team's last three meetings.
This time, when Dallas trailed for the first time with 4:14 left, the special teams and offense responded with the go-ahead points, then the defense protected that edge.
"I thought we'd be well-prepared," Parcells said. "I could tell. We did a lot of film work and our players were very attentive. ... I'm real happy about my team."
This victory adds legitimacy to the Cowboys' start, their best since 1995. Dallas next plays at Detroit with a chance to match its win total from each of the last three seasons.
"This is a new era," Dallas quarterback Quincy Carter said. "This is a new football team. Coach Parcells has brought a whole new toughness to this team."
Carter offset shaky numbers -- 14-of-25 for a season-low 146 yards -- with a blitz-beating, third-down pass to Joey Galloway that kept alive the winning drive.
"It was the best feeling in the world," Glover said.
McNabb struggled all game, often overthrowing his targets. He had only 53 yards passing midway through the third quarter, then threw a 52-yard touchdown pass to Duce Staley.
"I hope we'll get better," said McNabb, who was 11-of-26 for 126 yards, his lowest total in a mediocre season. "We have to play our season and see what happens."
Coming off two wins since an 0-2 start, the Eagles tried generating early momentum with the surprise onside kick. It worked three years ago, setting the tone for a 41-14 win in Dallas' first game under then-coach Dave Campo.
"We thought we saw something during the week that we could take advantage of," Philadelphia coach Andy Reid said. "It just didn't work."
Dallas special teams coach Bruce DeHaven told Williams to be ready for it. DeHaven hadn't said that before any other game.
"I watched the kicker's approach. It was a little weird, so I knew it was coming," Williams said.
The Eagles still could have taken control -- their first four drives started near midfield. But they didn't even get a first down the first three tries.
Philadelphia finally scored on the fourth, with Brian Westbrook going in from the 5. He had only one more carry before leaving with a bruised hip.
Cundiff hit a 51-yarder just before halftime to put Dallas ahead 10-7, then Troy Hambrick upped the lead with a 1-yard run late in the third quarter. A 37-yard pass from halfback Aveion Cason to Galloway set it up.
Philadelphia answered with Staley's TD pass to get within three. Dallas came back, though, with Carter throwing a 49-yard pass to Antonio Bryant on the next snap. But the drive stalled at the 4, and instead of a potential putaway touchdown, Cundiff hit a 22-yard field goal that made it 20-14.
The Eagles capitalized with a long, slow drive that ended with a spinning, juking, 20-yard TD run by Correll Buckhalter.
- Williams had the shortest kickoff return for a TD since Buffalo's Henry Jones went the same distance in December 1999.
- Philadelphia CB Troy Vincent, out since the opener with a hamstring injury, returned and had an interception.
- Eagles WR Todd Pinkston injured his knee and will have an MRI test.
The Associated Press News Service
Copyright 2003, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved