Phillippi Sparks Postgame Comments

Dec. 20, 2000

Below is a summary by Ron SpainDallas Cowboys Weekly Staff WriterDecember 18, 2000 3:17 AM (CST)

Phillipi Sparks Post-Game Interview--12/17/00

Detailed game reports after each of the Cowboys games this season are by Dallas Cowboys Weekly editor Ron Spain. He has been a writer-broadcaster in the Dallas-Fort Worth area since 1967, and with the DCW since 1979. Throughout his five decades of covering the Cowboys, Spain has been in the press box for over 400 of the team's games.

While the Cowboys are one week away from packing their bags for the offseason, the New York Giants can start making postseason plans.

Although Dallas put up a valiant fight, the Giants (11-4) clinched their first NFC East title since 1997 with a 17-13 victory over the Cowboys (5-10) on Sunday night at Texas Stadium.

The Cowboys led for the first 51:45 of the game, before falling behind for the first time, 14-13, on Tiki Barber's 13-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

The game began to slowly unravel for the Cowboys early in the final half. Jason Tucker fumbled the second-half kickoff, the Giants turned up blitz pressure on first-time starting quarterback Anthony Wright, Emmitt Smith couldn't run against eight- and nine-man fronts and the Cowboys began losing their composure.

Twice there were skirmishes between the two teams. Unnecessary roughness penalties were handed out to Erik Williams and Darren Hambrick, while Ebenezer Ekuban was ejected for kicking.

'It did get kind of out of hand,' said Emmitt. 'Guys have got to understand that it's going to hurt the team to get ejected from the game or if you get a 15-yard penalty.

'You've just got to contain yourself, although I understand there might be times when it's a little more heated than you really want it but you've got to let it go.'

Coach Dave Campo said it was 'a real physical game but we can't lose our composure like that. It's something the young players we have on the field can learn from.

'This was a good defensive performance by our guys. I thought we played well enough defensively to win... pretty darn well. They'd been averaging 24 points a game for the last seven or eight games.'

***For the second consecutive week, these were not the same old Cowboys. The Cowboys rode a spirited defensive effort to a near upset, while the Giants displayed a lackluster effort in a game that meant so much for them.

Dallas was in control early, jumping out to a rare first-quarter lead behind Wright, who completed four-of-five passes for 59 yards in the quarter. Emmitt scored on a one-yard run to end Dallas' wildly successful opening possession.

The Giants didn't look like a division leader for most of the night. Dallas owned a 13-0 halftime lead, led by a defense that held the visitors to 27 yards rushing on 12 carries.

Particularly telling was the Cowboys' defensive effort deep in their end of the field early in the third quarter. The Giants let two huge scoring opportunities slip away. The first came after they recovered Tucker's fumble on the second-half kickoff, and the other after Wright failed to handle the snap from center Ben Fricke at the 20.

While Troy Aikman was sidelined after sustaining a concussion against Washington, Wright was auditioning for the future with his first start.

After getting little opportunity to use his arm in his first two appearances with the Cowboys, the game plan was opened up for Wright and he responded with 13 completions in 25 attempts for 119 yards.

'I though Anthony did what he had to do in the first half, and was fairly effective,' said Campo. 'In the second half, we had too much pressure and it was kind of hard to evaluate him.'

Once the Giants started blitzing, the blocking fell apart. Left end Michael Strahan had 2.5 sacks, finding it easy to escape blocking by tight ends David LaFleur and Jackie Harris.

'They began to figure out our protections to get back to me,' said Wright, 'and cause a little confusion back there as far as me trying to read my patterns.'

Wright said the biggest positive for him was coming out of the game 'knowing that I can play at this level. We went out and competed hard and should've come away with a victory.'

Wright said it was important to get some tips on the sideline from Aikman and Randall Cunningham. 'Randall told me to stay focused and to keep doing what I was doing,' said Wright.

Wright's most costly mistake came midway through the final quarter, when Nickel corner Emmanuel McDaniel intercepted a pass and returned four yards to Dallas' 13. Tiki Barber's TD run on the next play was a back-breaker.

Meanwhile, the Giants' run defense clamped down on Emmitt, holding him to 46 yards on 24 carries by bringing one or two safeties into the box � preventing him from becoming only the second player to rush for 100 yards against them. Emmitt only had four runs that were longer than two yards, and nine carries that lost yardage.

***The Giants assembled an opening 11-play drive from their 22-yard line that ended with tackle Brandon Noble blocking a 45-yard field goal attempt by Brad Daluiso. He had made 12 in a row before the miss. New York's first possession included only one long gain � an 18-yard toss from Kerry Collins to Amani Toomer.

Dallas responded with a crisp 65-yard scoring drive behind Wright's sharp passing and timely running by Emmitt. On the opening play of the Cowboys' first drive, Emmitt took a pitch around the left side and followed Larry Allen's block for a 15-yard gain to midfield. Operating out of the Shotgun, Wright displayed remarkable poise on third-and-six with a 30-yard completion to James McKnight. Allen had two blocks on the play and cornerback Jason Sehorn was guilty of a missed tackle to allow McKnight to gain 14 additional yards to the 16.

Wright flipped a 10-yard pass to Wane McGarity to the seven. Then, Emmitt went inside behind Fricke and right guard Solomon Page for seven to the one. He got the touchdown on the next play, stiff-arming safety Shaun Williams away.

Dallas' TD was its first in the opening quarter since Oct. 29 against Jacksonville. The Cowboys only first-quarter points in the previous six games had been a trio of field goals.

The Cowboys were also sharp on their second drive. On play-action, Wright was on target with a 17-yard completion to Harris at Dallas' 46. A missed tackle by linebacker Jessie Armstead contributed to the gain.

After a third-down holding penalty on cornerback Dave Thomas on a pass intended for McGarity moved the ball to the Giants' 43, Emmitt took a carry to the right side. He broke a tackle attempt by safety Sam Garnes and gained 11. When the drive stalled, Tim Seder came on to split the uprights on a 47-yard field goal with 12:37 to play in the half.

The Giants showed a little offensive spark, picking up 30 yards on a screen pass to Barber. Ekuban helped quell the mild uprising by catching Ron Dayne from behind for a one-yard loss.

Ekuban was at it again on New York's next possession. He chased Collins down for a 14-yard sack at the three after all of his receivers were covered. Dimitrius Underwood was also closing in on Collins.

The Cowboys got marvelous field position on the Giants' 44 after a punt. Wright found McKnight for 15 but two carries by Emmitt gained nothing and soon enough it was Seder connecting on a 43-yard field goal. With 2:16 to play in the half, the lead ballooned to 13-0.

The Giants had been unaccustomed to trailing at the half, outscoring opponents 118-19 in the opening 30 minutes of their 10 wins.

***New York got an outstanding break to begin the second half when Tucker fumbled the kickoff after a 30-yard return. Jack Golden recovered at Dallas' 27.

The Cowboys allowed only four yards, and Daluiso failed again on a 40-yard field goal attempt. New York got the ball back at the 10 on Wright's fumble and an unnecessary roughness penalty on Erik Williams After Armstead recovered the fumble, he threw a punch at Williams. When Williams retaliated, it was the offensive tackle drawing the penalty yardage to the 10.

The Giants faltered once more against a pesky defense. Ekuban pressured Collins into throwing an wobbly pass that Phillippi Sparks intercepted at the goal line. Ekuban was ejected on the play for kicking.

Dallas lost its shutout with 2:29 to go in the third quarter when Collins lofted a pass in the end zone that Toomer caught over Ryan McNeil. The 33-yard scoring toss brought New York within 13-7. Putting them in good position was Barber's 25-yard punt return to the Cowboys' 48.

Meanwhile, Dallas' offense was being controlled. Included was Wright throwing over the middle for McGarity on the next series and finding McDaniel there to intercept it at the Cowboys' 17.

It took Barber only one play to cover 13 yards, putting the Giants ahead, 14-13, with 8:15 to play. It helped Barber when cornerback Kareem Larrimore missed a tackle at the 10.

Meanwhile, the Giants defense was relentless in shutting down Emmitt while putting tremendous pressure on Wright, who was sacked five times in the game.

The Giants added Daluiso's 44-yard field goal with 1:49 to play. Their defense limited Dallas to only 27 yards in the second half and 145 in the game. New York has allowed only three touchdowns in its last 17 quarters.

***If the Giants claim a season-ending win over Jacksonville, they will earn a first-round bye. The Giants have won four straight games while making good on coach Jim Fassel's promise last month that his team would reach the playoffs.

On Christmas night, Dallas concludes a disappointing season at Tennessee

'You've just got to contain yourself, although I understand there might be times when it's a little more heated than you really want it but you've got to let it go.'

Coach Dave Campo said it was 'a real physical game but we can't lose our composure like that. It's something the young players we have on the field can learn from.

'This was a good defensive performance by our guys. I thought we played well enough defensively to win... pretty darn well. They'd been averaging 24 points a game for the last seven or eight games.'

***For the second consecutive week, these were not the same old Cowboys. The Cowboys rode a spirited defensive effort to a near upset, while the Giants displayed a lackluster effort in a game that meant so much for them.

Dallas was in control early, jumping out to a rare first-quarter lead behind Wright, who completed four-of-five passes for 59 yards in the quarter. Emmitt scored on a one-yard run to end Dallas' wildly successful opening possession.

The Giants didn't look like a division leader for most of the night. Dallas owned a 13-0 halftime lead, led by a defense that held the visitors to 27 yards rushing on 12 carries.

Particularly telling was the Cowboys' defensive effort deep in their end of the field early in the third quarter. The Giants let two huge scoring opportunities slip away. The first came after they recovered Tucker's fumble on the second-half kickoff, and the other after Wright failed to handle the snap from center Ben Fricke at the 20.

While Troy Aikman was sidelined after sustaining a concussion against Washington, Wright was auditioning for the future with his first start.

After getting little opportunity to use his arm in his first two appearances with the Cowboys, the game plan was opened up for Wright and he responded with 13 completions in 25 attempts for 119 yards.

'I though Anthony did what he had to do in the first half, and was fairly effective,' said Campo. 'In the second half, we had too much pressure and it was kind of hard to evaluate him.'

Once the Giants started blitzing, the blocking fell apart. Left end Michael Strahan had 2.5 sacks, finding it easy to escape blocking by tight ends David LaFleur and Jackie Harris.

'They began to figure out our protections to get back to me,' said Wright, 'and cause a little confusion back there as far as me trying to read my patterns.'

Wright said the biggest positive for him was coming out of the game 'knowing that I can play at this level. We went out and competed hard and should've come away with a victory.'

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