Eagles Notes

Look at its body of work this season, and you'll see at least some reason for optimism about the Eagles' defense.

Nine of the Eagles' 13 opponents have scored below their season average against them, and eight have gained fewer yards than their average.

Only once this season has the Eagles' defense been truly embarrassed.

That was Nov. 4 in their first meeting with the Dallas Cowboys, who clinched the NFC East title last week with a come-from-behind win over Detroit. The Cowboys will get a chance to improve to 13-1 Sunday at Texas Stadium against the 5-8 Eagles.

"It was probably our worst defensive game," defensive coordinator

Jim Johnson

said yesterday.

There was no "probably" about it.

The Eagles surrendered a season-high 434 yards in the 38-17 rout and had no answers for the Cowboys' balanced attack, led by quarterback

Tony Romo

and that guy who goes by the initials T.O.

Terrell Owens

had season highs of 10 catches and 174 yards and scored a touchdown on a play when the Eagles barely covered him.

"We weren't as good as far as playing man coverage on him," Johnson said. "I think we'll be better in that. We had some blown coverages. It came down to that. We gave up big plays."

On Owens' touchdown, safety

Brian Dawkins,

in his first game back after a neck injury, started to blitz, a mistake that gave the star receiver a chance to run an uncontested slant pattern.

"We just made too many mental mistakes," Dawkins said. "Against a good team, you can't do that. I don't see us letting that happen again this game."

Johnson said it was Romo's work that really impressed him.

"He is a guy that probably has much better vision this year than last year," Johnson said. "If the first receiver is 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."

Heading home

Eagles quarterback

Kevin Kolb

, a native of Stephenville, Texas, played his last high school game at Texas Stadium, he said, and he expects to have plenty of family and friends in attendance Sunday even though he doesn't figure to play against the Cowboys.

"I played there quite a few times," he said. "My last memory is not very good there. We got knocked out of the playoffs my senior year. We were in the second round. We got our butts kicked. The team that beat us went on to win the states by a large margin and sent about 11 guys to Division I schools. There was a reason they beat us. They were better."

Kolb said that "95 percent" of his friends were Cowboys fans, and that he took his fair share of abuse about playing for the Eagles.

"They are bigger 'me' fans, so they switched over to the green once I got drafted," Kolb said.

Extra points

Johnson was asked when it would be time to start looking at his younger players on defense, such as linebacker

Stewart Bradley

. "Not yet," he said. In all likelihood, Bradley will be back as a reserve next season. . . . Running back

Correll Buckhalter

(concussion), Dawkins (back), offensive tackle

Jon Runyan

(knee), and tight end

L.J. Smith

(knee) did not practice yesterday. Running back

Brian Westbrook

(knee) was limited in practice.

- Bob Brookover