While it definitely wasn’t pretty, the Eagles defeated the Cowboys 24-22 to win the NFC East Championship and advance to the playoffs as the 3rd seed in the conference. While the Eagles were always winning, they never had more than a 10 point lead and often let the Cowboys get dangerously close to taking the lead. The Cowboys actually gained more yards by the end of the game, but the Eagles’ ability to stop the run forced backup QB Kyle Orton to pass a lot and give the Eagles the win. They didn’t play anywhere near their usual ability, but as they always say, a win is a win.
The Eagles committed to the run early and never let up, feeding LeSean McCoy the ball 27 times on the ground for 131 yards. He also had a TD on his only catch, which went for 3 yards. Bryce Brown only got 2 carries out of the night, but he scored on one of them from 6 yards out on a pivotal drive in the 4th quarter of the game (shout out to James Casey who had a great block on two guys at once to allow Brown to score. What a blocker that man is). Nick Foles was definitely not needed to run, although he didn’t get many opportunities to do so anyway after getting rushed all night. The offensive line failed to give Foles a sufficient pocket for a lot of the night, and it led to 5 sacks for the Cowboys defense. But, Foles was still extremely efficient, going 17/26 for 263 yards and 2 TDs. He didn’t have any TDs, but he did have a bad fumble. Despite this, his passer rating was 124.4, meaning he will finish first in the league in the category.
For the second week in a row, DeSean Jackson was scarcely used, going for only 3 catches for 28 yards on 4 targets. But Foles made sure to spread the ball around, giving no receiver more than 5 targets in the game. And even though the Cowboys’ pass defense is the worst in the league, they didn’t need to throw much since they were always winning. Brent Celek, Jason Avant, and Zach Ertz all stepped it up when they did decide to pass though, each grabbing 3 passes. Celek had a nice 14 yard TD grab towards the end of the second quarter just one play after picking up over 30 yards on another reception.
The Eagles defense mainly came to play, although in the same way that they always seem to: don’t give up a lot of points, but give up a ton of yards. Orton had a very nice day for just getting stuck in there, throwing for 358 yards and 2 TDs. The Eagles also didn’t get a single sack on Orton. But, his 2 INTs were a killer to Dallas, especially the one at the end of the game by Boykin that sealed the game. The Eagles were largely unable to stop Jason Witten and Dez Bryant, but that was okay considering they’re both very talented players.
The main reason the Eagles D deserves credit though is for stopping DeMarco Murray. The Cowboys were 12-0 when giving Murray 20+ touches, and he finished the game with 22, dropping them to 12-1 in that situation. On those 22 touches he only picked up 90 yards, including a measly 3.0 YPC. Murray also fumbled early in the first quarter, giving the Eagles quick momentum. Had Murray been more of a threat, this game could’ve had a much different outcome.
Going back to Boykin, he had a terrific game. He had 3 tackles, 3 passes defensed, and had the key INT at the end of the game to give the Eagles the win. This guy finished the regular season with 6 INTs on the season, tied for 4th in the league. That’s extremely impressive, and yet he wasn’t even on the Pro Bowl ballot. That sure doesn’t make sense…
This game was in no way pretty, but the Eagles managed to get it done. If they play like this in the playoffs though, they’ll be one and done. There’s no way they can falter on offense as much as they did considering that’s what drives their wins. The Eagles host the Saints next week on Saturday night, and it’s definitely a winnable game. But, since the Saints are also a high-scoring team and the Eagles D is less than average, I’m guessing that they’ll need to put up around 30 points if they want to win. I know the Saints aren’t as effective on the road, but this is a playoff atmosphere and changes everything. I’m quite happy with the 10-6 finish by Chip Kelly in his first season here, but the season is not over yet. Time to focus on the playoffs.