No quit in Steelers

KEN FIDLIN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:49 AM ET

It may not have been a Super Bowl preview but the Super Bowl itself will have to be some kind of classic to get the best of yesterday's Dallas-Pittsburgh slugfest.

Well into the fourth quarter, the Cowboys looked like they had earned their ninth win of the year, leading the Steelers by 10 points with just over seven minutes to go.

Then Jeff Reed's field goal cut the lead to seven. After the Steelers defence held, Ben Roethlisberger marched the Steelers 67 yards in eight plays to tie the game on the first play after the two-minute warning.

On the next Dallas series, Tony Romo threw a pass toward Jason Witten, his tight end, but Pittsburgh defensive back Deshea Townsend snatched it away and ran it into the end zone to send the stunned Cowboys to a shocking defeat.

Now, the Steelers are on easy street, almost assured of the AFC North Championship and are probably one more win away from guaranteeing themselves a bye in the opening round of the playoffs.

The Cowboys? The fourth-quarter collapse yesterday opened up a whole can of worms and they now will be fighting for their playoff lives. If they don't make it, this debacle in Pittsburgh will haunt them all winter.

A complication for the Cowboys was yesterday's loss by the New York Giants against the Philadelphia Eagles because the Giants will be coming to Dallas next weekend in a very angry mood. As if the 'Boys didn't have problems enough with their December record, which is 17-29 since 1996.

THANKS, PLAX

Maybe the Eagles should thank Plaxico Burress for this one. Teams never will admit that off-field distractions affect their game preparation but it's hard not to imagine that Burress' legal problems didn't divert the Giants just a little bit.

Perhaps enough to account for the Eagles winning this vital grudge match 20-14 at the Meadowlands, keeping a glimmer of playoff hope alive in Philadelphia.

"It's tough to say," Philly tight end L.J. Smith said. "That's one of those 'How many licks does it take to get to the centre of a Tootsie Roll?' (questions). Who knows if all the distractions hurt them and helped us?"

Brian Westbrook had a huge day for the Eagles, who got run over by the Giants in their first meeting in Philadelphia. This time the Eagles grabbed the early lead and never trailed.

With three games left, Philly probably has to win out to grab a wild-card berth but if they do, they will have an edge on every other 10-win team because their winning percentage will reflect a rare tie, giving them the nod.

This wasn't some sort of freaky result. The Eagles were dominant throughout and this is the kind of team that, if they do get a playoff chance, they're the kind of team no one will want to face.

NOT SO FAST, BRETT

When the New York Jets rattled off five straight wins, capped by handing the Tennessee Titans their one and only defeat so far this season, there were a lot of people quick -- too quick, as it turns out -- to anoint them Super Bowl contenders.

The reality of the past two weeks, losses to Denver and San Francisco, have had a sobering effect on that kind of talk. The Jets will have to get their sorry act together just to make the playoffs.

CARDS COME UP ACES

It may have gotten lost in the shuffle yesterday but the Arizona Cardinals, long the laughing stock of the National Football League, quietly clinched the NFC West title with a 34-10 romp over the Rams.

With just one winning season in the past 24 years, the Cards will now host their first playoff game since 1947.


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