Cundiff's foot too much again


IRVING, Texas (AP) -- The first time Bill Parcells spoke to the
Dallas Cowboys, he told them to "get your expectations up."

After the Cowboys beat the New York Giants 19-3 on Sunday,
culminating a rise from four straight non-winning seasons to making
the playoffs, Parcells repeated his original message.

"That's where mine are," he said. "So get them up."

Question on the Giants: Would Tom Coughlin be a good fit for the Giants?
Coughlin is a no-nonsense coach who may be able to turn this team around. He'll be the exact opposite of what the Giants players are used to, and sometimes that's what a team needs. He'll fare well in this system because the players will want someone who will be more of a disciplinarian to lead them.

Question on the Cowboys: How will the Cowboys fare in the playoffs?
This is a scary team to face in the playoffs. It has an excellent defense, a very good running back and a dangerous set of receivers. If Troy Hambrick can play well in the playoffs, then the Cowboys may be able to go farther than most people expect.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

Behind an efficient game from Quincy Carter and another big
performance against the Giants by kicker Billy Cundiff, Dallas
(10-5) earned its first spot in "the tournament" -- as Parcells
calls it -- since 1999 and handed New York (4-11) its seventh
straight loss.

Where the Cowboys fit into the postseason bracket isn't
determined. They could still win the division, but are more likely
to get the top wild card. That would put them on the road against
the division winner with the worst record, probably Minnesota or
Green Bay.

"It feels good to know we're in the playoffs, but we've still
got to get better," safety Darren Woodson said. "The hottest team
in December usually wins it, so we're trying to get better."

Parcells has turned three previous losing franchises into
championship-caliber. But this is the first time he's made the
playoffs in his first season. The 10 wins in his debut year is
another first, and it's the most for Dallas since 1998.

The timing was nice, too. On the first anniversary of the day
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones admitted he'd talked to Parcells, they
celebrated the 27th -- and probably most surprising -- playoff berth
in team history.

"This season is beyond expectations," Jones said. "You have
to give credit to coach Parcells."

While Parcells will gripe about mistakes such as silly penalties
on Andre Gurode and Ebenezer Ekuban, players he's demoted in recent
weeks, he has to love the momentum Dallas is building.

Since giving up 76 points in consecutive losses to Miami and
Philadelphia, the Cowboys have allowed just three points in two
games, albeit against bad teams. Next up is New Orleans, which was
eliminated from the playoffs Sunday, giving the Cowboys another
chance to try getting sharp.

"This league is such that if you get things going, get the
right pieces at the right time and get a couple of breaks, you can
make some advancement," Parcells said. "But I didn't come here
just to do that."

The Giants are hoping a new coach will provide them the same
kind of turnaround. On Sunday, though, they still had to play the
second-to-last game under Jim Fassel, who was told Wednesday he
won't be back next season.

New York broke a streak of six straight games with just one
touchdown, although not the way it would've liked. In matching
their longest losing streak since 1994, the Giants hit a season-low
with three points.

"I don't care what the circumstances are or where in the season
we are," Fassel said. "We have to get better."

Quarterback Jesse Palmer, making his second career start, was
18-of-32 for 190 yards and was sacked five times. About the only
highlight for New York was three sacks by Michael Strahan, who has
17 this season.

Carter was 17-of-25 for 240 yards with one touchdown, no
interceptions and no fumbles. After opening the game with a 64-yard
pass to Joey Galloway, he avoided the impulsive decisions that
often land him in Parcells' doghouse.

In the final minute, he and Richie Anderson dumped ice water on
the coach. Then Carter savored joining the fraternity of
quarterbacks who've taken the Cowboys to the playoffs.

"You think about Staubach and Meredith and Aikman," Carter
said. "It's an honor."

Although the injury-ravaged Giants seemed to be playing out
their schedule, Parcells warned his players not to take them for
granted. He threatened that anyone not hustling wouldn't be back
next season.

The big opening play yielded only a 24-yard field goal, which
New York answered. A 36-yard pass to Jason Witten midway through
the first quarter put the Cowboys ahead for good.

Cundiff did the rest by making kicks of 21, 42 and 49 yards. It
was his most field goals since tying an NFL record with seven
against New York in September.

Game notes
Carter became the first Dallas QB to throw for more than
3,000 yards since Troy Aikman in 1997, his fourth-to-last season.
... New York goes into its finale trying to avoid its longest
losing streak since 1980 and most losses since '83, Parcells' first
season. ... The Cowboys became the final team to have a touchback
on one of their kickoffs. It came on Toby Gowin's 60th attempt and
was aided by a 5-yard penalty.