PHILADELPHIA (AP) – The Dallas Cowboys always brought out the best – and worst – of Terrell Owens.

In eight games against Dallas while with San Francisco and Philadelphia, Owens has 39 receptions for 537 yards and seven touchdowns. But the extracurriculars often overshadowed his performance.

There was T.O.’s infamous touchdown celebrations on the Cowboys’ star logo at the center of Texas Stadium in 2000. That led to a one-game suspension from then-49ers coach Steve Mariucci.

Last year, Owens drew criticism for a “Monday Night Football” promo in which actress Nicollette Sheridan, a star of ABC’s “Desperate Housewives,” dressed only in a towel, asked him to skip the game, then dropped the towel and jumped into his arms.

When the Cowboys (5-3) play the rival Eagles (4-4) in an important NFC East matchup on Monday night, Owens could be watching from his home in Atlanta, or his front lawn in Moorestown, N.J. The All-Pro wideout won’t be on the field for this game or any the rest of the season after being told not to return to the Eagles.

It’ll be the second straight game Philadelphia plays without its top playmaker – Owens was suspended for last Sunday’s 17-10 loss at Washington – and the first since the soap opera ended with Eagles coach Andy Reid deciding to deactivate Owens for the final five games after his four-game suspension is up.

What’s the team’s psyche after a turbulent few weeks?

“They have been strong and they are ready to move on and concentrate on football,” Reid said. “I think they are as tired of the questions as you are of asking them.”

The Cowboys are wary of facing the Eagles after such an emotional week, figuring the rest of the team is eager to prove it can win without Owens.

Philadelphia went to three straight NFC championship games before acquiring Owens and finally won the conference title last season while Owens was sidelined with an ankle injury that, coincidentally, he sustained in Week 15 against Dallas.

“Those guys are champions,” Cowboys tight end Dan Campbell said. “They’ve done this for five, six years now. They’ve got guys that are not used to losing. They’ve got champions on their team.

“Anytime you’ve got champions on your team like that, those guys are not going to go down easy. Those guys are going to be ready to go. They’ve got too much pride.”

In their first meeting this season, the Cowboys completely dominated the Eagles in a 33-10 victory a month ago. Before that, Philadelphia had won nine of the previous 10 games against Dallas, with seven of those victories by at least 22 points.

The Cowboys proved they can play on the same level as the Eagles. Now they’re looking to put the four-time NFC East champions in a deeper hole at the bottom of the division standings.

“They feel they have something to prove,” Cowboys cornerback Terence Newman said. “The fact we beat them earlier in the season and the fact they’re trying to salvage the team, we’re definitely going to get their best shot.”

Dallas defensive tackle La’Roi Glover put it best:

“They still got No. 5,” Glover said, referring to five-time Pro Bowl quarterback Donovan McNabb.

Now that Owens is gone, McNabb, the main target of Owens’ criticism since Philly lost the Super Bowl to New England, can concentrate on simply playing the game.

McNabb has been bothered by injuries this season, including a sports hernia that will require surgery. He was the NFC offensive player of the month in September, but has struggled badly at times over the past month.

Overall, he leads the NFL in yards passing with 2,338, is second in TDs passing with 16 and third n completions with 192.

“This particular game is going to be more like a playoff atmosphere. It’s a game that we definitely got to have and a game that we want and look forward to,” McNabb said. “We remember what happened down in Dallas. It’s going to be a tough game, but we’ve got to be the ones who come out on top.”

Dallas is coming off a bye week following an easy win against Arizona. The Cowboys won eight straight games after a bye from 1993-99, but are 2-3 following a week off since 2000. They’ve lost two games by a total of four points this season, and won three others by a combined margin of 10 points.

Quarterback Drew Bledsoe has revived his career in Dallas following three subpar seasons with the Buffalo Bills. Bledsoe has thrown for 2,019 yards, 13 TDs and his quarterback rating of 97.4 is fourth in the league.

“They’ve got a good offense and a lot of weapons,” Eagles linebacker Jeremiah Trotter said. “Bledsoe is playing better than I’ve seen him play in a long time. It’s going to be a challenge.”

AP-ES-11-10-05 1948EST


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