Philadelphia 36, Dallas 3

IRVING, Texas, Nov. 18 (UPI) -- Philadelphia returned two interceptions off Ryan Leaf for touchdowns Sunday, one of them produced by linebacker Jeremiah Trotter in the final moments of the first half, sending the Eagles to an easy 36-3 conquest of the Dallas Cowboys.

A bust since being taken with the second overall pick in the 1998 draft by the San Diego Chargers, Leaf signed with the Cowboys last month after being cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in training camp.


Leaf was efficient in his first start as a Cowboy in last week's 20-13 loss at Atlanta. On Sunday, however, Leaf went up against an Eagles defense that entered the contest tied with Chicago for the fewest points allowed in the NFC.

In the second quarter, Leaf fumbled a snap in his own territory for his first miscue on the afternoon.


But his major mistake came on the final play of the half. At his own 40 with seven seconds left before intermission, Leaf had his pass down the right sideline intended for Darrin Chiaverini intercepted by Trotter and returned 50 yards for a touchdown, giving the Eagles a 20-0 advantage.

Leaf also had an interception returned 33 yards for a score by William Hampton in the fourth quarter. He finished 11 of 26 for 102 yards.

"I'm not losing my confidence," Leaf said. "Today was tough and disappointing. It's tough to go out and battle when everyone works hard but you don't produce on the field."

"The first half interception was my fault. We had an oppotunity with 14 seconds left to get the ball into field goal range," Cowboys coach Dave Campo said. "I told Ryan to throw the ball deep."

Duce Staley rushed for 102 yards and David Akers kicked five field goals for the Eagles, who swept the season series from the Cowboys by a combined score of 76-21. Philadelphia has won four straight against the Cowboys for the first time since an eight-game run from 1987 to 1991.


Philadelphia (6-3) has won three straight and moved one game in front of the New York Giants in the NFC East. The Giants play at Minnesota on Monday night.

Jon Hilbert kicked a 30-yard field goal in the fourth quarter for Dallas (2-7), which suffered its third straight loss. Hilbert, who signed earlier this week after Tim Seder went on injured reserve, missed two field goals in the first half.

Dallas, which has been competitive for the most part this season despite its poor record, suffered its worst loss of the campaign at Philadelphia, 40-18, on Sept. 30.

The Cowboys dominated the Eagles in the opening quarter Sunday, holding a lopsided 102 to minus-2 advantage in total yards. But the game was scoreless as Hilbert had a 47-yard field goal partially blocked by tackle Jon Runyan.

Hilbert also missed a 41-yard field goal in the second quarter.

After those two early chances, it was all downhill for the Cowboys, who committed numerous blunders along the way.

Emmitt Smith, the NFL's second all-time leading rusher who had missed the last two games with a knee injury, made the first big mistake early in the second quarter.

Smith had the ball ripped out of his hands by Eagles cornerback Bobby Taylor, who also recovered the fumble at the Dallas 17.


Five plays later, Donovan McNabb found tight end Chad Lewis with a two-yard touchdown for a 7-0 lead. Staley kept the short drive alive with a six-yard run on a 4th-and-1 play from the 16.

On the Cowboys' next possession, Leaf fumbled a snap and Trotter recovered for the Eagles at the Dallas 33. After moving inside the 10, the Eagles' drive stalled when McNabb was intercepted by safety Darren Woodson at the goal line.

Philadelphia had been 25 for 25 in the red zone this season.

It was an unspectacular afternoon for McNabb, who completed 16 of 32 passes for 129 yards.

"We got the win. That's the most important thing," McNabb said. "We got some good drives going and controlled the clock. We knew it would be a dogfight. Their defense is playing very well. There's a reason they are top three against the run and top 15 overall. They have a scheme that makes the most of their talent."

Akers provided the Eagles with a 13-0 lead later in the second quarter, kicking field goals of 24 and 46 yards just over three minutes apart.

But the crushing blow came on the final play of the half, when Leaf's ill-advised pass was intercepted by Trotter and returned for a touchdown. Trotter also scored on an interception return here last season in a 40-14 victory.


"We watched a lot of film. We knew that Leaf tended to make that throw," Trotter said. "So we were prepared for it. I knew that time was running out and there wouldn't be enough time for the offense. So I knew I had to get it in the end zone."

"They played sound defense and didn't allow us to throw the ball down the field," Leaf said. "We didn't capitalize on opportunites early in the game. It demoralizes you when you put three good drives together like we did but come away with no points."

After building the big lead in the first half, the Eagles cruised over the final 30 minutes.

Akers continued to split the uprights, connecting from 26 and 28 yards in the third quarter and extending the margin to 26-0.

Hilbert and Akers traded 30-yard field goals over the first 11:47 of the fourth quarter before Hampton provided the final margin with his 33-yard return for a score with 2:51 remaining.

Staley delivered the yards in the second half and finished with his second straight 100-yard effort after gaining 146 in last Sunday's 48-17 rout of Minnesota.

"I think that's a sign that I'm working my way back," Staley said. "I feel like a part of the offense today. It was a good test for us. Their defense is much improved over the first time we played them."


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