American Football: McNabb's mauling for Owen thrills Eagles fans

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The Independent Online

As grudge matches go, much was expected when the Philadelphia Eagles entertained the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night, as there was sufficient bad blood between the two protagonists to make the build-up sound like one of Don King's more extravagantly hyped boxing promotions.

In the blue corner for the Cowboys, the gifted but garrulous receiver Terrell Owens, who had worn the green of Philadelphia last season, only to be suspended and ultimately sacked for his histrionic behaviour and relentless personal denigration of the Eagles' quarterback, Donovan McNabb.

For his part, McNabb had tried to play down the confrontation, insisting the game was about two teams, not two individuals. However, the personal animosity between the players made this compelling viewing.

However, it was a one-sided battle, with, the Philadelphia man having his hand raised in victory at the final bell. The Eagles won 38-24, McNabb enjoyed his most productive day of the season, and Owens finished with a mere three catches for 45 yards, a scowling presence on the sidelines for much of a second half of Philadelphia domination.

Owens, booed relentlessly by an Eagles crowd who blame him for destroying their team's morale from within last year, also dropped two passes, and for once, seemed prepared to accept some of the blame for his side's shortcomings.

"Opportunities were there, but we didn't take them - it is frustrating," he said of his return to Philadelphia. "I'm a competitor and I don't like to lose. Maybe I need to work harder. I need to do whatever it takes to help these guys win ball games."

Owens was certainly not at fault for his side's inability to contain McNabb, who threw for a season-high 354 yards, including long touchdown passes to Reggie Brown and Hank Baskett.

Nor was he to blame for the Cowboys quarterback, Drew Bledsoe, throwing three interceptions and suffering seven sacks as the Eagles defence threatened to run riot. Fittingly, the last play of the game saw Bledsoe's third interception returned 102 yards by Lito Shepherd for the game's final score. On that play, and indeed for most of the contest, Owens was simply an innocent bystander.

Elsewhere, another much-hyped player, Reggie Bush of the New Orleans Saints, scored his first NFL touchdown on a 65-yard punt return to help his side defeat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 24-21. Bush is no Owens, however. Modest and respectful, the rookie is quietly going about the business of learning his trade, but his versatility and productivity have helped the Saints enjoy one of the best starts to a campaign in the franchise's 40-year history.