Posted December 30, 2013

Eagles conclude impressive turnaround by grabbing NFC East title from Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles
Quarterback Nick Foles and running back LeSean McCoy celebrate the Eagles' NFC East title. (Tony Gutierrez/AP)

Quarterback Nick Foles and cornerback Brandon Boykin celebrate the Eagles’ NFC East title. (Tony Gutierrez/AP)

You’ll have to forgive Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones for feeling like he’s been transported to some sort of NFL purgatory resembling the movie Groundhog Day.

For the third straight season, the Cowboys ended the year at 8-8. For the third straight season, they were eliminated from the postseason in their last regular-season game. And for the third straight year, it was done at the hands of an NFC East opponent — the New York Giants in 2011, the Washington Redskins last year, and the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night, in a 24-22 game that might have gone Dallas’ way were it not for a few strange twists of fate.

With Tony Romo out for the season due to a back injury — a cataclysm announced on Friday — the Cowboys were left with the services of Kyle Orton, the veteran who had thrown just 15 passes in the last two seasons. He wasn’t bad under the circumstances, completing 30 passes in 46 attempts for 358 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. Of course it was the final interception Orton threw to Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin with 1:49 remaining that ended the game and provided yet another recurrent memory — Dallas’ quarterback giving the ball away late in the game to keep victory just out of reach.

Orton threw late to Miles Austin, and Boykin, who has played impressively most of the season, was there to make the play.

“It looked like the ball was behind Miles,” Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said. “Probably Kyle saw a little color in front — they had some guys up at the line of scrimmage in kind of a pressure look, and then they dropped those guys out. He didn’t really cut it loose and throw it in front of Miles. It looked from my vantage point like Miles won on the route, and the ball was just behind.”

“We knew it was do or die,” Boykin told NBC’s Michele Tafoya. “We knew they were in the red zone, and we had to get a huge stop. I was kind of baiting [Orton] — I knew they were going to try and get some quick things going early. Luckily, I was able to make a play — it’s a huge win for Philly, and it’s a huge win for us. Just a great moment.”

Indeed it was, but that great win didn’t come without some stress. Had Dallas made its two-point conversion after Orton hit Dez Bryant on a slant for a 32-yard touchdown on fourth-and-9, the Eagles would have faced a tie game. Philly went three-and-out after that conversion attempt and punter Donnie Jones booted the ball back to the Dallas 32-yard line, giving Orton  one chance to muster a charge to a field goal or touchdown, eliminating all of the late-game demons that had preceded him. It took exactly one play for everything to look the same as it’s been for many years.

One thing that’s new for the Cowboys, and it’s not pleasant at all — this marks the first four-year playoff drought for the franchise since Jones bought the team in 1989.

As for the Eagles, the win concluded the first phase of a thundering validation for an organization that blew up the coaching staff after 2012′s 4-12 season, replacing Andy Reid with Chip Kelly. It was thought that Kelly, the former Oregon mastermind, would bring a gimmicky pass-heavy game plan to the NFL, but he’s done exactly the opposite. In fact, Kelly’s systems and schemes allowed LeSean McCoy finish the season as the NFL’s leading rusher with 1,607 yards. He was the first Eagles player to do so since Steve Van Buren took the NFL title in 1949.

In addition, Kelly powered the Eagles to 10 wins by placing second-year quarterback Nick Foles in position to succeed, and for the most part, Foles did. However, Foles had his rough moments against the Cowboys — he was pressured frequently, and Dallas did a fine job of bottling McCoy up at the line of scrimmage to prevent screens. That said, when the Eagles needed him most, Foles came through once again. He finished the game with 17 completions in 26 attempts for 263 yards, two touchdowns and no picks.

“The guys believe,” Foles told NBC’s Michele Tafoya after the game. “We believe in each other. When the offense was struggling, the defense picked us up. It was another great team win, and that was Philadelphia Eagles football right there.”

McCoy was able to exploit Dallas’ leaky defense on the ground, though, gaining 137 yards on 20 carries.

“It’s amazing,” McCoy said. “Because for all the accolades and the stats and the records, if we don’t win today, none of that means [anything]. I’m just blessed to be with my teammates and go out here and win a big game, and now, it’s on to the playoffs.”

The Eagles will host the New Orleans Saints in the first round of those playoffs, and Boykin is part of a defense that will certainly be tested by Drew Brees, just as it was pushed to the limits by a Dallas offense that actually outgained Philly’s, 417-366. First-year defensive coordinator Billy Davis is starting to put his stamp on this squad at just the right time. It isn’t always pretty, but it seems to work at the right times — which seems to be a good encapsulation of the Eagles’ season to far.

“It’s gonna be a good one,” Boykin said. “They’ve got a lot of weapons, but we’re gonna be amped. We’re back at home … it’s gonna be one for Philly. We’re enjoying the moment, but we’ve gotta get back to work on Monday.”

At least the Eagles have a Monday to look forward to, and their first division title since 2010. For the Cowboys, this particular agony of defeat is all too familiar.

“Obviously, our goal is to make the playoffs,” Garrett concluded. “It was a great opportunity to win our division here. I thought our team really fought and battled hard and overcame a lot of different obstacles to get to this point, and within this ballgame. It’s a good football team we lost to, and we give them a lot of credit. Chip Kelly has done a wonderful job, and he’s got really good players, and they’re deserving of winning the NFC East.

“We had a great opportunity today, and we just came up short.”

Yet again. And after the game, Jones reiterated his support for Garrett to remain as the team’s head coach … which must seem to aggrieved Cowboys fans like more of the same.

39 comments
rustywellis@gmail.com
rustywellis@gmail.com

The issue with the cowboys is JERRY JONES. Jerry is all about keeping the spotlight on himself, not on success. At one time I was a huge cowboys fan; no more and not for the last 10-15 years. Hopefully Jerry's son/successor will be a little less self centered. Actually, it's too much work for Jerry anyway. To be the owner, G.M., head coach, offensive coach, defensive coach, talent evaluator, offensive and defensive play caller is just too much for someone Jerry's age.

fuggetaboutit909
fuggetaboutit909

accountability come from the fans and the media..... if you read the comments from the dallas fans and people who write about the cowboys it is clear they do not demand accountability from the team they care about.  so jerry do whatever you want... nobody but nobody is gonna call you on it at all.

fuggetaboutit909
fuggetaboutit909

for all those cowboys fans that said boy the 'boys are gonna get rocked sunday night and we are all gonna see how valuable tony romo is.... what I saw is that orton did exactly what romo always does and at 10% of the salary.

slickwilly
slickwilly

I'm picking the Eagles to go the NFC championship game. The Saints have lost 5 of out their last 11 and I'm not overly impressed by the Panthers. The buck stops there as I don't see the Eagles getting past either the Seahawks or more likely the 49ers in that game.

x72
x72

The disgraceful thing about the playoffs this season is that the Green Bay Packers made it but a great team like the Cardinals do not. All because the Packers play in the softest division in all of pro sports. Just last week AZ walked into Seattle and beat them down. A Green Bay at Seattle game would be a massacre.

6marK6
6marK6

Nothing for nothing, the Eagles won the east because somebody had to. That is as bad a conference as it gets. And the Eagles literally had to back through to get the win. Saints will own them, weather or not.

BillMcLaughlin
BillMcLaughlin

Just an observation, but, how many face lifts has Jerry Jones had!!

BillMcLaughlin
BillMcLaughlin

Great win for the Philadelphia Eagles Football Team, just awesome. So many people deserve credit for this amazing turnaround, especially to Coach Kelly. Of course Foles, McCoy, and just about everyone else has done excellent work this season in becoming a worthy team again to root for. I would like to say a few negatives here as every team has its problems. The main problem is Patrick Chung, the man is simply over-matched and/or is still too hurt to play. He has made numerous poor choices and other teams are just going right him constantly and he is either out of position, trailing his assignment,missing a tackle or getting run over and his mistakes are game changing type mistakes.  I would hope he is soon replaced with just about anyone, as he has looked that bad. Beside Chung most of the Eagles secondary played just ok, especially Boykin (good hands on a pass thrown behind Davis, but if the throw is in front of Davis who knows what happens) and Williams. However, Fletcher is another mistake ready to happen at any moment. On the offensive side of the ball DeSean Jackson continues to under impress, while Riley Copper makes tough plays and the Eagles TEs get better every game. Jason Avant is and always will be average, but still at least he tries his best and does make the occasional good play. The pass rush was non existent last night and that is worrisome, they played well enough against the run. I was surprised the O-Line got manhandled since Dallas is not that big along the D-Line, and if it wasn't for McCoy's evasiveness, they likely lose because the line generated few running holes. The Eagles D-Line did little in pressuring a rather average Dallas O-Line and that needs to change against someone of Drew Brees talent as he will pick that secondary apart given too much time. Foles held to the ball especially long last night which is ok as long as he doesn't turn the ball over and he did not throw an interception but was guilty of a couple of blatant intentional groundings and a fumble. Still he managed a nice game and came out on top in his biggest career game to date and for that he deserves a huge round of applause. Special teams is a major worry and the Eagles need to put some extra practice in this week to shore up that lot of average players. Make sure the PK Henery gets in lots of reps as he will be a huge factor in this game and IMO will be the difference between winning and losing when it comes down to it.

Richard--Ramirez
Richard--Ramirez

How bout them Cowboys??!!!!!!


Kyle Orton for mayor of the Big D. Nice pass.

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

And the beat goes on...and the beat goes on...

JoeMoon
JoeMoon

hey marcus...they call him "MR. FOLES"


ak_tatiracanal
ak_tatiracanal

A few weeks ago, I saw Stephen A. Smith of ESPN saying that Dallas started going downhill when they got rid of Terrell Owens.

No, I believe it was actually when they got rid of Bill Parcels.A coach who was a proven winner and seemed to have the team on the right track.

I believe Jerry Jones wants to win, but not at the expense of not getting the majority of the credit.

How much mediocrity does he need to go through to finally find a good strong coach and let him do his job?

I can't believe he's gone through this much.

mikalrod
mikalrod

Jerry's mad. Jerry's disappointed. He's going to fire the waterboy. 

John87
John87

Jones is cursed.  The Cowboy's, as long as Jones is there, are cursed.  To go along with that, he is a loser, who couldn't structure a team if he had to.  His silver spooned son is a Hillbilly.  They need much more than Jones can give.  Except a sell.  Dallas deserves it.

Perry E
Perry E

What a touching homage to Tony Romo! Orton throwing an Interception with the game on the line is such a nice way to honor Tony in his absence and is a very touching show of team spirit!! 

Dallas, the new name for mediocrity and heartbreak in the NFL! Captained by Jerry (Skeletor) Jones the wannabe GM, this team never disappoints to Disappoint!! Playing poor enough to make Must Win game17s every year for the last three years, and never failing to fail in that last game! Talk about consistency!! I mean, being that inconsistent while being so consistent at the same time! That takes Talent! Speaking of Talent, I believe Dallas has it's share of talent on the roster, Garrett just cannot seem to get them to perform to their abilities! Well, it is entertaining at least! 

When Al Davis was in his latter years, he played the NFL clown each year, and after his Death, it was a toss up between who would take over the Clown Crown. Snyder in Washington, Ford in Detroit, or Skeletor. 

Well, Jerry is the clear winner. Detroit finally seems to want to win, although they still need some consistency. Washington is a train wreck and always will be, but at least Snyder bowed out of football operations when he realized he should never have been there. That leaves the reigning idiot as Jerry, who thinks he "has what it takes" when in reality, he has NEVER HAD IT! Since Jimmy Johnson left and Emmet and company retired, we have seen a very consistently mediocre team under the Jerry GM years. 

Oh well, it is entertaining if nothing else. Jerry apparently does not mind playing the fool, and he even has his son as part of the act. Reminds me of Vaudeville! The whole family is getting in on the act... 

Well, I want to thank Kyle for his touching tribute to Romo with that last drive interception and for keeping what has become a Dallas Tradition alive!  "How 'bout them Cowboys????"

PhillyPhan
PhillyPhan

In the first photo it's Nick Foles and Brandon Boykin. Not LeSean McCoy.

rambler08
rambler08

@fuggetaboutit909 The Eagles need to send a late Christmas bonus to Tony Orton - or was that Kyle Romo?  It certainly was great to see Orton blow another game in the grand Romo style... after suffering through all those years with the Bears (while I lived there) and with the Broncos (also where I lived during those years).  Orton has always been overrated.  What else can you say about a QB who gets replaced by... Tim Tebow?

Oh yeah -  I forgot to say I'm a long-suffering Redskins fan also (since the 70s), so this was revengefully sweet.


fuggetaboutit909
fuggetaboutit909

@slickwilly true true... panthers defense is stout and if the eagles have to depend on the defense to win game then they may be in trouble unless kyle orton or tony romo is the QB on the other team.

PhillyPenn
PhillyPenn

@slickwilly i don't know bro, the Panthers defense is pretty good.  it's certainly better than the eagles

BillMcLaughlin
BillMcLaughlin

@x72Blame Bruce Arians, lost to Rams, twice to SF (at home yesterday when all the marbles are on the table), got stomped at home by Seattle, and beat almost no one decent outside of the one game in Seattle. They just aren't that great to be crying over.

PhillyPenn
PhillyPenn

@6marK6 They didn't "back through" they won it out right.  check the W/L columns

fuggetaboutit909
fuggetaboutit909

@6marK6 dont be so sure.... the saints away from the dome lost to the NY jets in a dominating fashion.

x72
x72

@6marK6 North is way more pathetic. Eagles at least have a respectable club.

6marK6
6marK6

@ak_tatiracanal Parcells had a lot of baggage. I think he certainly bragged a lot about the positive things he did, but he did a lot of negatives as well. Too big of ego for Jerry to have next to his.

BillMcLaughlin
BillMcLaughlin

@mikalrodI hope he is watching those Tony Sirigusa ads about wearing depends for men, since you know he crapped and peed himself once Boykins made that pick. Another facelift is all Jerry needs to keep that winning smile on his little head.

John87
John87

@Perry EThey should have been traded Witten, for Bradford first year, and backed that up by Dalton a couple of years later for Romo.  Should have traded Witten when he could have commanded two number 1's and a 2.  Could have gotten Bradford, Williams (T-Wash), and that tight end that's in Cincy now.  Maybe more!  And picked up a defense, like they've done.  It's over now.  (Witten might get a #2 )  Jones & Son are too stupid.  Cap would have been down and they could have afforded some impact players on D.

slickwilly
slickwilly

@PhillyPenn@slickwilly  Don't get me wrong, I think the Panthers are a very solid team. I just like the Eagles' chances against them is all. The Eagles are a very good 10-6 team in my opinion because Foles hasn't been starting the entire season.

fuggetaboutit909
fuggetaboutit909

@PhillyPenn @6marK6 cant stand anyone in the NFC East division aside from my beloved NY football Giants but eagles have been one of the hottest teams in the NFL and rightgully so.

fuggetaboutit909
fuggetaboutit909

@BillMcLaughlin @6marK6 @ak_tatiracanal Parcells brought 4"dead-as-doornail" teams back to respectability.... he is an NFL lazarus.  the giants the jets the pats and the cowboys owe alot to him and miami to a lesser degree so I dont know if you can call him pedestrian.