Instant Replay: Eagles 24, Cowboys 22

Instant Replay: Eagles 24, Cowboys 22

December 29, 2013, 11:15 pm
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After their 24-22 win over the Cowboys Sunday night, the Eagles are NFC East champions and heading back to the playoffs for the first time since 2010. (USA Today Images)


ARLINGTON, Texas -- Almost everybody thought it would be a blowout.

They saw Kyle Orton instead of Tony Romo. They saw the league-worst defense against a scoring juggernaut. They saw a team lucky to escape FedEx Field with a comeback win over the sorry Redskins against a team that blew the doors off Chicago in an NFC North-clinching game for the Bears.

They saw the NFC East title hanging in the balance and the Eagles smelling blood.

Forty-four to six, right?

Well, not exactly. The Eagles didn’t roll through AT&T Stadium like tumbleweeds, but they still sunk Dallas, 24-22 on Sunday night to clinch the NFC East and secure the No. 3 seed for the playoffs.

With 1:49 to play in the game, the Cowboys had the ball at their own 32-yard line and needed just a field goal to send the Eagles home in a playoff elimination game. On their first play, Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin picked off Orton’s pass for Miles Austin, enabling the Eagles to kneel down and win their first NFC East title since 2010.

The Eagles, who haven’t won a playoff game since the 2008 divisional round, will play the sixth-seeded Saints at 8:10 p.m. Saturday night at the Linc on NBC (see story).

Chip Kelly joined Ray Rhodes as the franchise’s only coaches to make the postseason in their first year, and Nick Foles capped his dream regular season by exacting revenge against the same team that earlier this year handed him his worst loss as a pro.

The Eagles led by 10 early, but Dallas stormed back and whittled the deficit to one going into the fourth quarter.

Bryce Brown’s six-yard rushing touchdown put the Eagles up 24-16, but Dallas struck back with Orton’s 32-yard touchdown pass to Dez Bryant on a slant with 3:57 to play, cutting the Eagles’ lead to two. Eagles cornerback Cary Williams came up with a huge breakup on the ensuing conversion, knocking away a pass to Bryant in the right side of the end zone to preserve the two-point lead.

QB Report
Foles wasn’t spectacular, but he exacted revenge on the Cowboys after his clunker earlier this year at the Linc. He threw two touchdowns and passed for 264 yards, compiling a passer rating of 124.4, but he struggled after the break, with Dallas ratcheting up its pass rush. He passed for only 67 yards after the half and was sacked five times for just the second time this year.

Orton, who had one of the league’s lowest interception percentages during his best years as a starter, tossed two bad ones, the second of which cost Dallas its comeback. His pass to Austin over the middle was way behind the receiver, making it easy for Boykin to snag. Orton passed for 358 yards, his fourth-most ever, and threw two touchdowns. He made enough plays to keep Dallas in the game until his last pick.

Offensive hero
LeSean McCoy did it again, rushing for 131 yards on 27 carries.  He also caught a two-yard touchdown pass. His 16-yard run in the second quarter gave him 48 yards on his ninth carry, good enough to make him the new franchise leader in rushing yards for a season, ahead of Wilbert Montgomery, who held the record for 34 years. McCoy entered the game needing 37 yards to trump Montgomery’s total of 1,513 from 1979. He got it. McCoy also broke Brian Westbrook's franchise record (2,104 in 2007) for yards from scrimmage (see story).

Offensive zero
Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray ran for just 51 yards on 17 carries, averaging just three yards per carry. He also had a big fumble, taking away a scoring chance. Dallas needed way more from him.

Defensive hero
Boykin not only came up with the game-saving pick but also batted away a pass from Orton to Bryant in the end zone in the third quarter that would have been a game-tying touchdown if Bryant had caught it. On the play before, Boykin teamed up with Ced Thornton to drop Murray for a four-yard loss, setting up Orton’s 3rd-and-8 heave to Bryant against the blitz.

Defensive zero
Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Ware didn’t have a sack, and the Cowboys could have used the turnovers he used to create so often.

Veteran wideout Jason Avant left in the second quarter with a shoulder contusion but returned.

S Earl Wolff, S Colt Anderson, OG Julian Vandervelde, QB Matt Barkley, CB Curtis Marsh, RB Matthew Tucker, OT Dennis Kelly, .

Did you know?
The Eagles broke their team record for total net yards in a season, surpassing their total of 6,386 yards set in 2011.