Wasted opportunity for the Eagles

Eagles QB Donovan McNabb sits on the bench late in fourth quarter and watches his team's chance for a bye week slip away. ( Ron Cortes / Staff Photographer )

When the day began, the Eagles were in position for the No. 2 seed, which would have brought a first-round bye and a home game at the Linc in the divisional round.

As it ends, the Eagles find themselves facing the most difficult road to the Super Bowl of any team in the NFC.

The Birds were outplayed in every aspect today at Cowboys Stadium, falling 24-0.

Offensively, they turned in their worst performance of the year. A team that set a franchise record for points in a season was shut out for the first time since December 5, 2005.

Donovan McNabb was off-target. The receivers dropped balls. And the running game was non-existent.

Ten first downs. 37 yards on the ground. Three for 12 on third down. Ugly numbers all around.

And the defense wasn't much better. Sean McDermott's unit got no pressure on Tony Romo, who picked the Eagles apart right from the first offensive snap, setting the tone with a nine-play, 80-yard drive to open the game.

Romo was 24-for-34 for 311 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Three different Cowboys receivers (Miles Austin, Jason Witten and Patrick Crayton) had more than 75 yards.

On the ground, Dallas gashed the Eagles for 182 yards, averaging a ridiculous 6.3 yards per carry.

And so it's back to the drawing board for McDermott, Marty Mornhinweg and Andy Reid. Because in six or seven days, the Eagles will be back in Dallas to do it again.

The setup goes like this: The Eagles face the Cowboys in the first round. If they win, they'll go to New Orleans to take on the Saints in the divisional round. And if they somehow come out of that one, they'll go on the road against either Minnesota, Green Bay or Arizona in the NFC championship.

The road seemed much more simpler and promising when the day began.