Parcells' Cowboys vs. Belichick's Patriots


Friday, November 14th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


FOXBORO, Massachusetts (AP) _ Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick share two Super Bowl championships, one public breakup and no interest in the hype over their upcoming meeting.

So don't expect Parcells to glare from the Cowboys' sideline at his counterpart across the field Sunday night. And Belichick will be too busy telling the Patriots what to do to mutter epithets about his mentor.

``I am a coach,'' Belichick said. ``I am not going to make any tackles. I am not going to throw any passes.''

He spent 15 seasons as an assistant to Parcells, who coached the Patriots for four seasons. That adds to an already potent mixture: Two division leaders with surprising 7-2 records, plus the return to New England of wide receiver Terry Glenn, Dallas' leading pass catcher.

But just as Glenn went from 90 catches as a rookie with the Patriots in 1996 to a career marred by injuries and suspensions, the teams' fortunes can change dramatically.

``I'm happy that we're in a good position, but it doesn't mean anything right now,'' Patriots cornerback Ty Law said. ``We're 7-2, but it's just as easy if you don't focus to go 2-5 the rest of the way.''

Belichick and Parcells keep pressure on players to avoid complacency, and are the masterminds behind their teams' rise to division leaders after season-opening losses.

``We are really inexperienced in a lot of respects. I'm not crying wolf here at all. I'm just telling you that this is a work in progress,'' Parcells said.

He joined a team that went 5-11 the past three seasons and added a demanding style. Belichick overcame numerous injuries to starters by changing schemes and plugging in substitutes.

Even some players are surprised by the success.

``Honestly, yes,'' Dallas strong safety Darren Woodson said.

The last time they faced each other, in 1995, Parcells coached New England and Belichick led Cleveland. They're 2-2 in head-to-head matchups and both took the Patriots to the Super Bowl; Parcells lost in 1997 and Belichick won in 2002.

But there is more at stake Sunday than coaching bragging rights.

The Patriots, coming off a bye week, must stop the NFL's seventh-ranked rushing attack and beat the league's top defense that held its fourth opponent below 10 points last Sunday with a 10-6 win over Buffalo.

The Cowboys must handle Tom Brady, who has thrown six touchdowns and one interception in the current five-game winning streak, and must exploit a defense that has allowed an NFL-low four touchdown passes.

``As an offensive group, we don't just take punches and just lay there and look for the next blow,'' Dallas running back Tony Hambrick said. ``We try to throw one back.''

The Patriots, hoping to neutralize the Cowboys' blitzing and defensive speed, want to grind out yardage and avoid third-and-long plays.

``The best way to counteract speed is to just play powerball against them,'' guard Damien Woody said.

Belichick was Parcells' defensive coordinator with the New York Giants in the 1986 and 1990 seasons when they won Super Bowls. On Jan. 3, 2000, Parcells stepped down after three years as coach of the New York Jets and was succeeded by Belichick _ for a few hours.

On Jan. 4, Belichick resigned amid uncertainty about the pending sale of the team and Parcells' presence in the front office. Belichick, still under contract to the Jets at the time, lost a lawsuit seeking his freedom from the pact. A deal involving draft choices was worked out that allowed him to coach the Patriots in 2000.

``I have no hard feelings about anything,'' Parcells said. ``I know it has been characterized otherwise, but that's not the case at all. I do wish him well.''

Belichick said all the right things about his former boss.

``The thing I appreciated the most about working for Bill was the fact that, as a defensive coach, he gave me the latitude to put together game plans, utilize personnel and coach defense,'' he said.

Parcells spent four seasons as coach of the Patriots, ending with their loss in the Super Bowl after the 1996 season. During that season, he had disagreements with owner Robert Kraft.

``He put a lot of work into building New England's franchise up. I'm sure it is going to be a little of a grudge match,'' Dallas quarterback Quincy Carter said.

For Parcells, a win would make him 3-0 this year against his former teams. For Belichick, it would make him 3-2 against Parcells.

More importantly, for their teams, it would get them closer to the playoffs.

``We're not concerned about the Bill thing,'' Woody said. ``To us, it's just another game.''