By ERNEST HOOPER
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 5, 2000
The Philadelphia Eagles were undoubtedly the biggest surprise of the opening weekend, and they may it owe it all to pickle juice.
The Eagles absolutely throttled the Cowboys in a 41-14 victory that was even more dominating than the score may indicate.
Dallas was limited to 67 yards rushing and 167 total yards. Philadelphia recorded five sacks and two interceptions, gave Troy Aikman the ninth concussion of his career and ended Joey Galloway's season with a knee injury.
On the offense, Duce Staley rushed for 201 yards and was pulled early in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Donovan McNabb threw for 130 yards on 16-of-28 passing, but his most amazing play was a reverse dunk of the football after scoring on a 3-yard run in the fourth quarter.
It was amazing because McNabb appeared fresh in what was reportedly the hottest game in NFL history. The Cowboys and Eagles played in 109-degree heat, but the Philadelphia players seemed more energized. The players are crediting pickle juice, which trainer Rick Burkholder recommended to combat the heat.
"I may start drinking pickle juice when I'm just sitting home chilling," defensive end Hugh Douglas said.
Jeremiah Trotter said if the Eagles reach the Super Bowl, they may have to celebrate with pickle juice instead of champagne.
Super Bowl talk might be premature, but Philadelphia will be improved and the doubts about its ability to win on the road -- the Eagles were 1-22-1 in road games before Sunday -- have been shelved.
The Giants may pose a challenge this weekend, but the Oct. 8 game against Washington will be the Eagles' first real test. And they don't have many. Philly has five games against 1999 playoff teams on its schedule, and two are against Dallas.
TESTAVERDE'S TEARS: Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde said he was a little embarrassed by the tears he shed in front of his teammates after Sunday's 20-16 victory over Green Bay, but he should not worry. If you spend any time with the Jets, you discover the players have an incredible amount of admiration for Testaverde.
"He just had his head down a little bit," backup quarterback Ray Lucas said. "He had a picture of his dad up in his locker before the game. I know it meant a whole lot to him."
It was the first complete game for Testaverde since his father, Al, died in 1999. He dedicated this season to his father's memory, as he did in '99 when he ruptured his Achilles' tendon in the season opener.
DAUNTE'S SPIRIT: Much has been written about the physical skills of Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper, but his leadership also is drawing raves. In a 30-27 win over Chicago, Culpepper had a pass intercepted when Cris Carter let the ball slip through his fingers and into the hands of cornerback Jerry Azumah.
Culpepper didn't get upset. He ran over to Carter clapping his hands and blurting words of encouragement. Then he got him a cup of water and patted him on the back.
THE FUTURE: If you want to get an idea of what quarterbacks of the future will be like, consider this: Eight quarterbacks rushed for more than 20 yards Sunday, led by Culpepper (13 carries, 73 yards), Chicago's Cade McNown (10-for-87) and Buffalo's Rob Johnson (6-for-60).
IS IT OVER?: Bill Cowher has had an impressive run as the Steelers' coach, but his tenure may end on a sour note if he doesn't get things turned around.
With their putrid 16-0 loss to Baltimore Sunday, the Steelers have lost 16 of their past 22 games and nine of their past 11. The problem, inept play at quarterback, has been so prevalent the players sound like they're stuck in a bad version of Groundhog Day.
"This is starting to get to be the same thing every week," safety Lee Flowers said. "You might as well keep the same quotes from last year."
GAME OF THE WEEK -- JACKSONVILLE AT BALTIMORE: The Jaguars have not lost to a team other than Tennessee since the AFC Divisional Playoff in 1998, and they are 10-0 against the Ravens/Browns franchise. But five of the past eight have been decided by three points or fewer, and Jacksonville appears vulnerable because of a rash of injuries. With the Jags offensive line missing some key players, protecting quarterback Mark Brunell will be difficult. The Ravens may find a way to snap the losing streak and show their playoff hopes are legitimate.
- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.