Belichick gets the best of Parcells

FOXBORO, Mass. -- True genius is not always easily quantifiable -- born out of a combination of factors: superior intellect, creativity and fearlessness -- but it's easily recognizable in any field. Plato. Mozart. Da Vinci. All reside in the pantheon of great minds, and in terms of football IQ, so do Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick.

They represent the cream of the current NFL coaching crop, and also share some history together. Belichick served as Parcells' defensive coordinator for 15 seasons with the Giants, Patriots and Jets -- winning two Super Bowls along the way. Belichick was Parcells' hand-picked successor to take over the New York Jets following the 1999 season. But Belichick spurned the Jets, ending up in New England and damaging the relationship between the two.

And for all Parcells' success, he has never won a championship without Belichick on his staff, while Belichick has won a Lombardi Trophy without The Tuna.

On Sunday night the two gurus found themselves matching wits from opposing sidelines for a fifth time (the other four were when Belichick was with the Browns and Parcells was with the Patriots) in the latest installment of "The dollar, dollar Bills."

Touted Tuna Bowl VII, Teacher vs. Student, the showdown between the Patriots and Cowboys lived up to its hype in one respect: by leaving points off the board.

Don't expect a replay of New England's 12-0 win on NFL Films anytime soon-- not unless it's a special program on the marvels of big penalties (17 total in the game), short-range field goals (two chippies for Adam Vinatieri), sub-par punting (15 combined by both teams for an overall average of 35.5 yards), turnovers (three Quincy Carter interceptions, one Patriot fumble) and scant offense (291 net yards for Dallas to 268 for New England).

It would better serve as a cure for insomnia.

The play of the game was a 57-yard pass completion from Tom Brady to David Givens in the second quarter that led to the only touchdown of the night, a two-yard run by Antowain Smith.

"It was kind of what we expected -- one of those hard-fought, physical games," said Belichick, who improved to 3-2 in head-to-head coaching duels with Parcells. "We did what we had to do to win."

And that's really all that counts. An ugly win is better than a pretty loss.

The Patriots now stand atop the AFC East at 8-2, tying their best 10-game start in franchise history (1978), though they aren't about to celebrate anything yet. "Being in position is good," said Belichick. "Doing something, that is something else."

Parcells agreed with his former assistant: "I'm not anointing them, but they've got a good team compared to what we've been playing against and what we've seen. I think they've got a good shot."

The Cowboys, however, are going to have to play a lot better, especially offensively, to have a shot at anything besides making tee times. The loss dropped them to 7-3 and into a tie with the Eagles in the NFC East. With an upcoming slate of strong opponents (vs. Carolina, vs. Miami, at Philadelphia in the next three weeks) on their schedule, a rematch between Parcells and Belichick likely won't happen this February.

Except in our dreams -- or maybe our nightmares.

Eric Ortiz is an assistant editor for ESPN.com.