Work in Sports
Duce is loose
Staley torches Cowboys for 262 total yards in 41-14 win
IRVING, Texas (AP) -- By opening the season with an onside kick, Philadelphia coach Andy Reid sent a message: Expect the unexpected from the Eagles.
Using repeated blitzes to knock out Troy Aikman, an endless dose of Duce Staley and pickle juice to fight the heat, Philadelphia showed all the signs of an up-and-coming team in a stunningly easy 41-14 victory against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.
"He's not holding anything back," said Staley, who ran for 201 yards and a touchdown. "He takes chances as a coach -- that's what you want as a player."
While Staley and quarterback Donovan McNabb provided a 1-2 punch on offense, the Eagles' defense had five sacks against a Dallas line that allowed the second-fewest in the NFL last season. Philadelphia also returned an interception for a touchdown.
But for all the offensive and defensive success, it was Reid's roll of the dice on special teams that set the tone.
Staley, the Eagles' first 200-yard runner since Steve Van Buren in 1949, then gained 45 of the next 58 yards. The drive was capped by a 1-yard touchdown pass to wide-open Jeff Thomason -- and the rout was on.
"I came up with it a month ago," Reid said of the onside kick. "We saw some things in their front where we thought it could work."
Some Eagles were as surprised as the Cowboys.
"It caught me off guard," Philadelphia linebacker Jeremiah Trotter said. "It was a great way to start the game off. It gave us momentum and we kept going from there."
The shock lingered for Dallas as it stumbled to its worst opening-game loss since falling 28-0 in 1989 and gave up the most yards rushing (306) in team history. The Cowboys also allowed a 200-yard runner for the first time since '84.
The embarrassing debut for coach Dave Campo and his new offense was made worse by Aikman's ninth concussion of his career. He was taken to a hospital for observation, then released.
Also hurt was Dallas' new $42 million receiver, Joey Galloway, who was carted off the field with a sprained knee in the game's final minutes. Earlier, he provided the Cowboys' lone highlight by catching a 4-yard touchdown pass.
"Everything good that could happen for them, did. Everything bad that could happen for us, did," linebacker Dat Nguyen said.
The game kicked off in 109-degree heat -- 171 on the artificial turf -- which would've seemed to favor the Cowboys. Reid, however, even had an answer for that: a combination of water and pickle juice, a cocktail suggested by an Iowa State trainer during training camp.
"We loaded them up last night, before the game and during the game," Eagles trainer Rick Burkholder said. "We don't know why it works, but we only had one cramp."
The juiced-up Eagles defense came out flying at Aikman, sacking him on his first two passing attempts and three of his first four. It's even more impressive considering he went down only 19 times all last season. The Cowboys did not give up a sack in their final 94 pass attempts of 1999.
Aikman finished 0-for-5 with an interception that Trotter returned 27 yards for a touchdown that put the Eagles ahead 21-0. Aikman left in the second quarter following his fourth sack and was replaced by Randall Cunningham.
Cunningham wasn't any better against the Philadelphia rush. His first two completions -- which took five pressure-filled attempts -- went a total of 2 yards and he threw an interception before getting a first down. He finished 13-of-26 for 135 yards and a touchdown.
McNabb was 16-of-28 for 130 yards and a touchdown and he ran for a 3-yard TD. He capped his score by dunking the ball over the crossbar. His celebration continued with an airborne chest-bump with Staley.
Staley's last run was his longest: a 60-yarder that set up Brian Mitchell's 6-yard TD, which put the Eagles ahead 41-6. Galloway's TD catch with 6:45 and a 2-point conversion pass to Raghib Ismail avoided the Cowboys' worst opening loss.
Notes: This was the second time in Aikman's 12-year career that he did not complete a pass. The other was in 1990. ... Philadelphia won at Texas Stadium for only the third time in 11 years. ... Dallas offensive lineman Erik Williams was ejected in the final minutes. ... This was the first time in Cunningham's career he played against the Eagles, his first team. He did not face them in three years with Minnesota. ... Both kickers were 2-for-2 on field goals. Akers made kicks of 33 and 37 yards and Dallas' teacher-turned-kicker Tim Seder hit from 34 and 38.