From now on, Eagles are in win-or-else mode

PHILADELPHIA -- A 2-4 start put the Philadelphia Eagles in a must-win mode before the midpoint of the season.

Aware there was no margin for error, the defending NFC East champions won 23-16 at Minneapolis on Sunday, and avoided having to adopt a "wait till next year" mentality.

In a mediocre conference, one more win gets Philadelphia (3-4) back in the mix. It won't be easy, though, because the Dallas Cowboys (6-1) are coming in for a Sunday night matchup.

A loss to the Vikings would have crippled Philly's chances to do anything this season. Now, there's more at stake this week than just trying to stick it to Terrell Owens and the Cowboys.

Donovan McNabb took a major step in his return from a knee injury, throwing for 333 yards against the Vikings and having his first designed run of the season. McNabb led the offense into the end zone more than once for only the second time in seven games, showing signs of the potent attack that put up 56 points against Detroit in Week 3.

"For us, we take a one-game-at-a-time approach," McNabb said. "In the second part of the season, you want to continue to win games no matter how you win, whether it's by a field goal, 10, 20, it doesn't matter."

The Cowboys are well-rested following a week off, making it even tougher for the Eagles. However, Dallas is just a 3-point favorite, meaning oddsmakers don't think it would be that much of an upset if Philadelphia found a way to pull it off.

"When you're playing against a team who is on a roll coming off a bye week, you want to do whatever it takes to win," McNabb said. "I know it's going to be a tough game and we're going to be fired up and the most important thing for us is to prepare well throughout the week and just try to secure a win."

The Eagles need more efficiency inside the red zone, especially when they're facing better teams. They were 2-of-5 against Minnesota and are 8-of-25 this season.

On the other side, no team has scored more than 21 points against Philadelphia and the defense has allowed only eight TDs. But the Eagles have just eight turnovers, so they'll need to create more against superior opponents.

The schedule doesn't get any easier after Dallas. Six of the remaining nine games are against teams currently above .500. One of the other games is against New Orleans, which has won three in a row after an 0-4 start.

Last year, the Eagles were 5-6, had lost McNabb for the season and faced the daunting task of playing three straight road games against division opponents in the final month. They didn't lose again behind Jeff Garcia until the second round of the playoffs.

It is a scenario they need to repeat this season.

"We need to rack them up," cornerback Lito Sheppard said. "We can't really go on winning one, losing one, especially with the situation that we're in."

Notes: LB Matt McCoy, a second-round pick in 2005, was released. McCoy committed a personal foul on Vikings punter Chris Kluwe on Sunday. ... LB Akeem Jordan was promoted from the practice squad to take McCoy's spot. ... All-Pro FS Brian Dawkins could play against Dallas for the first time since sustaining a neck stringer in Week 2. "Unless something crazy happens here in the next day or two, he'll start off with the defense and start working with them," Reid said. "Then, it's just a matter of having no setbacks."

Copyright 2007 by The Associatd Press

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