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Garcia claims battle of backups

By Jaime Aron

Associated Press

IRVING, Texas — The Philadelphia Eagles were supposed to get buried by December road games against three division foes, especially with retread backup Jeff Garcia running the offense.

Turns out, that challenge was exactly what they needed to grab control of the NFC East.

After close calls in Washington and New York, Garcia and the Philadelphia defense made it a clean sweep with a surprisingly easy 23-7 victory over Dallas on Monday.

Garcia led the Eagles (9-6) to scores on four of their first five drives, and the Cowboys set a season-low for points by 10 and yards by 119.

The victory clinched a wild-card berth for Philadelphia and moved it into first place in the division with one game left in the season.

“We took a situation where things weren’t looking good with some major hurdles to overcome, and we found a way to win,” said Garcia, who improved to 4-1 since replacing an injured Donovan McNabb. “It’s this playoff mentality we’ve had over the past month that’s carried us.”

The Eagles can win the division for the fifth time in six years by beating Atlanta at home Sunday. Philadelphia also could clinch if Dallas loses its finale to Detroit.

The only way the Cowboys (9-6) can win the NFC East is by beating the Lions and by the Falcons knocking off the Eagles. Dallas no longer has a shot at the conference’s No. 2 seed and a first-round bye; this game clinched that for New Orleans.

“We were noncompetitive,” Dallas coach Bill Parcells said. “There’s nothing good to say. We just didn’t make any plays at all, either side of the ball. Just awful.”

Worse yet for Dallas: T.O. is unhappy.

With a somber tone contrasting the goofy Cowboys-branded Santa hat on his head, Terrell Owens griped: “I need to be more involved in the offense” at least three times in a news conference.

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