The Philadelphia Eagles said all of the upbeat, confident things in the wake of Terrell Owens’ right ankle sprain on Sunday, but one scene inside the tunnel at Lincoln Financial Field gave a hint of what was to come.
Having just limped off the field after being injured on a tackle by Dallas safety Roy Williams, Owens collapsed into the arms of Eagles trainer Rick Burkholder and a security guard.
On Monday, Philly’s championship hopes might have taken a similar fall. Owens, the star wide receiver and MVP candidate, is out through the entire NFC playoffs with a fractured fibula that will require surgery. There is a small chance he could play in the Super Bowl if the Eagles get there.
“For all of us, it’s kind of a wake-up call, obviously,” quarterback Donovan McNabb said. “One thing we have to understand is we have been to three (straight) NFC championship (games) without T.O.”
This year, the Eagles are thankful that their 13-1 record enabled them to clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs already. And with the level of play in the NFC, the Eagles could go to the Super Bowl without Owens (77 receptions for 1,120 yards and a team-record 14 touchdowns).
Still, the NFC playoffs have just gotten a lot more wide open.
“What can you do?” cornerback Sheldon Brown said. “You can’t make any excuses. You just have to move on.”
Philadelphia’s offense did move on against the Cowboys — and it looked a lot like the pre-2004 unit without Owens’ big-play ability.
The wide receivers did not catch a pass after Owens left on Sunday, with tight ends Chad Lewis and L.J. Smith and running back Brian Westbrook getting the ball. The Eagles needed two scrambles by McNabb on their go-ahead touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.
“It was up to everyone else to pick it up,” Smith said. “T.O. and Donovan, they are the guys who make it happen, but we showed that we could do it. Situations like this make heroes out of some people.”
LET IT SNOW!
As if the AFC playoffs didn’t figure to be competitive enough, the beach boys from San Diego and Jacksonville showed that they will not be intimidated by cold weather in Pittsburgh and New England.
The Chargers won the AFC West by shutting out Cleveland in the snow, while the Jaguars went into winter football’s holy grail, Lambeau Field in Green Bay, and won.
Jacksonville’s 28-25 triumph was the first for a Florida team at Green Bay in December since Miami won there in 1985.
“To play well in the cold on the road against a quality opponent bodes well because if we make it into the (playoffs), we’re certainly going to find ourselves in this type of environment,” Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said.
Could Jake Plummer be wearing out his welcome with another NFL team? The Denver quarterback, an Arizona State product and former Cardinal, has nine interceptions in his last four games as the Broncos have faded from the playoff chase.
“Wish I had an explanation,” Plummer said after throwing for 292 yards, no touchdowns and two picks in Denver’s blowout loss at Kansas City. “I don’t know what you guys (reporters) want me to say, man.”
If the Broncos decline to pick up a $6 million option for 2005, Plummer becomes a free agent.
As of Monday afternoon, 59 percent of those responding to a Denver newspaper Internet poll selected “Turn him loose; Jake’s a mistake waiting to happen.” The undecideds accounted for 26 percent.
Even the selection to keep Plummer — which 15 percent chose — was not exactly a vote of confidence. It read: “Pay Plummer; Learn to live with Jake being Jake.”