‘We want Dallas! We want Dallas!’

‘We want Dallas! We want Dallas!’

The Chicago Bears had everything to play for with a division title on the line. The Philadelphia Eagles had the bare minimum to gain—improved seeding in the playoffs, if they get in. Guess which team showed up?

The Eagles blew the doors off the visiting Bears 54-11 at Lincoln Financial Field in front of a national TV audience. Nick Foles was flawless. LeSean McCoy paced the running game to 289 yards. The defense and special teams shut down numerous Pro Bowl players. It was a complete effort in every phase, and the outcome was never in question.

Long before the final gun sounded, 70,000 Birds fans echoed the message the home team had just sent: bring on the Dallas Cowboys.

Throughout the second half, an energized South Philly crowd could be heard chanting, “We want Dallas,” as the Eagles continued pouring it on, using the Bears like a punching bag with a blue star on it. The Eagles head to Cowboys Stadium for their long-awaited Week 17 clash to decide the NFC East championship, just as it had been foretold way back at the beginning of September.

Frankly, the Cowboys should be scared after what they saw. Dallas is ranked dead last in total defense, 30th versus the pass, 27th against the run and 25th in points allowed. They barely knocked off the 3-12 Washington franchise earlier on Sunday, otherwise Philadelphia would’ve clinched the division with their decisive victory.

[Chip Kelly Video: "We're from Philadelphia and we fight."]

Nick Foles hit on 21 of 25 attempts (84.0%) for 230 yards (9.2 AVG) and two touchdowns, good for a 131.7 passer rating. Three of his four incompletions were throwaways, and the two sacks he took only lost five yards.

LeSean McCoy likely solidified himself as the NFL’s leading rusher for the year. He racked up 133 yards on 18 carries (7.4 AVG) with two touchdowns, and added six receptions for 29 yards. Bryce Brown also went over the 100-yard mark thanks to a 65-yard scamper for six, and Chris Polk punched one in as well to give all three backs scores.

[GIF: Shady McCoy's Madden-like spin move]

Brent Celek and Riley Cooper caught touchdown passes from Foles.

Meanwhile, the Birds’ defense recovered in a big way after allowing the Minnesota Vikings to post 48 points a week ago. Philadelphia was able to get tremendous pressure on Bears signal-caller Jay Cutler from the jump. Outside linebacker Trent Cole recorded three sacks, giving him eight in the last seven games, while Mychal Kendricks added two from his spot on the interior.

That helped the secondary immensely against perhaps the best wide receiving tandem in football. Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery were held to a combined 10 receptions for 112 yards and a touchdown, as Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher’s physical style of coverage really worked well against those big targets.

Brandon Boykin capped off the secondary’s big day with a 54-yard pick-six in the fourth quarter to finally end Cutler’s night.

Of course, some of the Bears issues were self-inflicted. For one thing, Matt Forte only got nine carries for 29 yards, in part because Chicago was trailing almost immediately. A back of Forte’s caliber still needs the ball more, although the run defense really came to play. Cedric Thornton tackled Forte for a safety in the third quarter and made a handful of big plays in the backfield.

Chicago’s special teams didn’t do them any favors, either. Adam Podlesh shanked a punt and Devin Hester fumbled a kick return—stripped by Fletcher, recovered by Williams filling on an injury-plagued kick coverage unit—to setup the Birds with great field position on their first two scoring drives.

Regardless, the Bears didn’t appear to have any answers for the Eagles this week. The question is will the Cowboys have better luck?

It’s worth pointing out Dallas did shut down the Philly’s bid for first place once before this season. It was the worst day of Foles’ career, as he struggled to complete 37 percent of his passes in a baffling performance, then exited with a concussion. Matt Barkley threw three interceptions in relief, as the Birds were held out of the end zone in the 17-3 loss.

Times have changed though. Foles still has occasional bouts of inconsistency, but by and large has developed into a steady leader for the offense.

With the win, the Eagles improved to 9-6, guaranteeing a winning season in Chip Kelly’s first year on the sidelines. The fun is just getting started though. It’s December, Week 17, and we want Dallas.

Phillies can exhale after bullpen nearly blows 10-0 lead

Phillies can exhale after bullpen nearly blows 10-0 lead

BOX SCORE

The moment when the ball struck first baseman Tommy Joseph’s glove for the final out of the Phillies 10-8 win over the Mets — dealing a major blow to their rival’s wild card hopes in the process — felt more like a collective exhalation than a moment of celebration (see Instant Replay).
 
Two days earlier, the bullpen faltered suddenly. A game-tying two-run homer by Jose Reyes in the ninth was the first body blow. The game-winning three-run homer by Asdrubal Cabrera was the knockout.
 
Saturday, the collapse occurred over the course of five innings as the Phillies let a lead that was once 10-0 slip away, one drawn-out at-bat after another.
 
Missing, of course, was the moment of impact in the proverbial slow-motion car crash, thanks to well-placed sinkers and four-seamers from Michael Mariot.
 
“The bullpen’s been sputtering,” manager Pete Mackanin said in an understatement.
 
Joely Rodriguez entered in the sixth inning with a 10-4 lead to face a string of lefties and it quickly became apparent that he did not have his fastball. A middle-in four-seamer that caught too much of the plate was slapped for a double by Mets shortstop Gavin Cecchini, his first major-league hit and a run. A second run scored when a little dribbler by third baseman T.J. Rivera died on the third base line, leaving Rodriguez with no play.
 
“He just didn’t throw quality strikes,” Mackanin said.
 
Even the normally-reliable Hector Neris struggled on Saturday. In his 77th outing of the season, Neris walked two straight batters and then surrendered an RBI double to Cecchini of his own which narrowed the lead to 10-7 and thrust the uncertainty of a save situation onto Mackanin.
 
Mariot was given first crack at the ninth inning one day after Mackanin said he would give Jeanmar Gomez a break from closing duties.
 
Mariot’s audition got off to a rough start. He gave up a pinch-hit solo home run to Jay Bruce — who had been mired in an 0-15 slump — with one out in the ninth and then walked Eric Campbell and Michael Conforto after a pair of grueling at-bats that lasted a combined 18 pitches.
 
The two hitters fouled off eight of Mariot’s pitches and took several four-seamers that just missed the plate.
 
“I was pretty upset about that,” Mariot said of the four-seamers that missed. “I was hoping to get at least a swing or maybe a call on those. Talking to [catcher] A.J. [Ellis], I think he said that they missed but I was hoping at least one of them to get called a strike.”
 
Gomez was up in the Phillies’ bullpen but Mariot ensured that Mackanin wouldn’t need to throw the recently-struggling closer back into the fire in a high-stress situation.
 
Mariot was able to locate his fastball when he needed to most. He fooled Lucas Duda with a two-seamer that the slugger popped out to Freddy Galvis and got Travis D’Arnaud to ground a four-seamer outside right back to him.
 
“I just told myself: ‘keep throwing strikes and good things will happen,’” Mariot said.
 
He threw just enough strikes to ensure that the Phillies didn’t end up on the wrong end of what would have been the Mets’ biggest comeback in team history.

Find great deals on Philadelphia Phillies tickets with TicketIQ. Buy cheap Phillies tickets with no hidden fees for all games on their 2016 schedule. 

College football wrap: Auburn upsets No. 18 LSU with controversial finish

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USA Today Images

College football wrap: Auburn upsets No. 18 LSU with controversial finish

AUBURN, Ala. -- Gus Malzahn was ready to try anything to get a win for his Auburn Tigers.

Malzahn relinquished offensive play-calling duties. Following his daughters' advice, he traded his usual game-day visor for a cap. And then, when the clock expired and LSU players were celebrating an apparent last-second win, the Auburn coach put all his faith in a ruling he couldn't control.

Daniel Carlson kicked six field goals and Auburn beat No. 18 LSU 18-13 on Saturday night after officials ruled Danny Etling's apparent last-gasp scoring pass came after time expired.

Malzahn said he knew there were only zeroes on the clock before the snap to Etling.

"I was pretty confident time had expired," Malzahn said. "It was just a matter of going to the booth and confirming it."

Etling rolled to his right and found D.J. Shark in the back of the end zone on a 15-yard pass, setting off a short-lived celebration by LSU players (see full recap).

Hornibrook proves he's ready in Badgers' win over Spartans
EAST LANSING, Mich. -- By the time Alex Hornibrook's first start was over, there wasn't much question about whether he could handle one of the toughest road tests in the Big Ten.

Hornibrook threw for 195 yards and a touchdown, and 11th-ranked Wisconsin turned its early-season showdown with No. 8 Michigan State into a rout, beating the Spartans 30-6 on Saturday.

"You've got to have respect for a guy whose first start is against a Michigan State defense," Wisconsin running back Corey Clement said.

"He's going to come out the next game and do even better. I think he's just getting his feet wet."

The freshman quarterback outplayed fifth-year senior Tyler O'Connor, his Michigan State counterpart. The Badgers (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) were the better team in the first half and then outscored the Spartans 17-0 in the third quarter (see full recap).

No. 23 Rebels find their rhythm, beat No. 12 Georgia 45-14
OXFORD, Miss. -- Mississippi quarterback Chad Kelly faked the handoff and then took off running toward the end zone. A few seconds and 41 yards later, the quarterback had cruised through the middle of the Georgia defense and into the end zone untouched.

It was pretty much that easy for the Rebels all afternoon. Ole Miss finally built a lead it couldn't give away.

No. 23 Ole Miss rolled to a 45-14 victory over No. 12 Georgia on Saturday, building a 31-0 lead by halftime and a 45-0 advantage by midway through the fourth quarter.

Kelly threw for 282 yards and two touchdowns. Ole Miss (2-2, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) broke a 10-game losing streak in the series dating to 1996 (see full recap).

Dobbs rallies No. 14 Vols to 38-28 win over No. 19 Gators
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- This time, Tennessee delivered the comeback.

And in the process, the Volunteers took out 11 years' worth of frustration on Florida.

Joshua Dobbs accounted for five second-half touchdowns Saturday and No. 14 Tennessee erased a 21-point deficit to beat No. 19 Florida 38-28 and end their 11-game losing streak in the annual series.

"I didn't see anybody blink," Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. "Nobody flinched. They just kept playing."

This marks the first time Tennessee (4-0, 1-0 SEC) has beaten Florida (3-1, 1-1) since 2004. The Volunteers had lost to Florida by one point each of the last two years despite leading in the fourth quarter of both games (see full recap).