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Fan-Demonium: A Glorious Win To Relish

Posted Dec 31, 2013

Brent Celek caught the pass and ran 14 yards for a touchdown. That put the Eagles up 17-7 with 1:19 left in the first half. Life was good. I was starting to relax just a bit. I wasn't going to be totally calm until the game was clearly controlled by the Eagles, but being up 10 points felt pretty good.

The Cowboys, being the jerks they are, didn't like me feeling good. They moved down the field and kicked a field goal. The game was now 17-10 at the half. No big deal, I thought. The Eagles got the ball to open the second half and they had been good at scoring on those drives in the past month or so. Get a touchdown there and the lead jumps to 14. Instead, Dallas forced a three-and-out and the game was tight the rest of the way.

I didn't get to enjoy Sunday night's win until the final minute. Up to that point, I was on pins and needles. I simply couldn't bear the thought of losing to Dallas. That would have been an awful ending to a great season. I could have lived without the Eagles making the playoffs, but not if that meant Dallas getting in. No NFL fan wants to see that.

Thankfully, the Eagles were able to hold on for the win. That wasn't the prettiest game, but the team played hard and they made enough key plays to secure the victory. It was a bit of revenge in a couple of ways. Dallas stole the division title from the Eagles in the final game of 2009. The following week they won a rematch in the Wild Card round. It was fun to go down to their stadium and win the NFC East title on their field. That helped to make up for 2009.

The game was also revenge for the October loss in Philly. The Eagles played poorly that day, especially Nick Foles. He was so bad in that game that no one was quite sure what to make of it. Now, we can look back and see that it was simply a one-game anomaly. Foles has played at a Pro Bowl level in every other game this year.

Foles didn't have a great game on Sunday night, but he played well. He was 17-of-26 for 263 yards. He threw a pair of touchdowns. He did turn the ball over once on a fumble. The offense wasn't as crisp as it has been in some other games. They still managed to pile up 366 yards and 24 points. That's pretty good for an off-day.

Dallas had their defensive backs playing very aggressively. They were doing a lot of grabbing down the field. The officials didn't call it so that was smart on their part. The Dallas defensive line played very well and combined with the tight man coverage, that made life difficult for Foles and the Eagles receivers. The Eagles like to run deeper routes a lot of the time, so they can take longer to develop. Foles didn't always have enough time for his guys to get open. When they did, he got them the ball.

Foles made a pair of very impressive throws. The first was a downfield pass to Celek. This was a play-action pass where Foles had time to let the route develop. Celek was covered tightly by a linebacker, but Foles decided to give his guy a chance to make a play. He put the ball out in front of Celek and sure enough Celek made a tough grab for a gain of 35 yards. Huge play. Later on Foles faced a different situation. He was in the pocket and saw Jason Avant open down the right side. Foles didn't have great protection, but again decided to give his guy a chance. Foles took a risk by throwing this pass since a defensive back was right there, but the defender had his back to the ball. Avant went up over the defender and made a terrific catch. That put the Eagles inside the 10-yard line and set up the first touchdown of the game.

The one player Dallas couldn't handle was LeSean McCoy. He ran 27 times for 131 yards. Eighty of those yards came in the second half. McCoy really stood out on the final touchdown drive of the game. The Eagles got the ball near midfield and then moved it to the Dallas 41 with a pass to Riley Cooper. That's when McCoy took over. He carried six times for 24 yards. A couple of those runs came on third-and-1 situations. McCoy took the handoff and fired upfield for the first down. Bryce Brown ran twice for 11 yards. He scored the touchdown on a six-yard run to the left. That play showed good speed as he was able to get wide of the defense and then turn up the field.

The blocking on that drive was excellent. All five offensive linemen did a good job. Evan Mathis had a key block on the touchdown run. So did James Casey, who took out two Cowboys. Casey hasn't been the offensive weapon any of us expected, but he has been a good blocker. He's played more of late and has been a big help to McCoy and the run game. Avant was used as a blocker in the box on a lot of run plays. That shows you how tough he is. The Eagles would have him come close to the formation and seal a backside defensive end or linebacker. Normally, you would use a tight end for that. Avant did a good job of it on several run plays.

Lawlor

Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Discussion Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He is the Editor of IgglesBlitz.com and was a contributor to the Eagles Almanac.

One of the reasons that the Eagles run game was so effective is that they wore down the Cowboys. Chip Kelly has preached conditioning since his arrival in Philly. He pushed the Eagles to be in the best shape of any team in the league. The Eagles had 13 carries for 55 yards in the fourth quarter. They didn't get any big plays, but kept the chains moving. Dallas ran once for 2 yards. The Eagles put the game in the hands of the blockers and McCoy. Dallas relied on Kyle Orton. He threw a touchdown in the fourth quarter, but had two other drives stopped by the Eagles.

Kelly said in a press conference that he thought the defense had a good game. If you glanced at the stat sheet, you might wonder about that comment. I'm sure Kelly would focus on holding Dallas to 22 points, coming up with three takeaways and getting some key stops. You can live with giving up yards if you don't let them score points.

There were some big plays by the defense. Analyst Cris Collinsworth praised Mychal Kendricks early in the game. I thought he was over-hyping Kendricks and that would jinx him (yes, I'm a superstitious idiot for three hours on Sundays). Instead, Kendricks played the best game of his young career. He was in on 11 tackles, had an interception and a forced fumble. He made plays all over the field. Kendricks’ two takeaways led to 10 points for the Eagles.

Brandon Boykin had the key interception at the end of the game, but made some other noteworthy plays. He broke up two other passes, one of them in the end zone. He also played the run well a couple of times. He kept DeMarco Murray from getting wide. One of those plays set up the fourth-and-1 play where Connor Barwin batted down a pass from Orton to give the Eagles the ball near midfield.

Cary Williams played very well and had arguably the biggest play of them all. He knocked away a pass from Dez Bryant on a two-point conversion attempt that could have tied the game. Williams was very aggressive on the play. He helped limit Bryant all day long. The final stats show Bryant made eight catches for 99 yards and a touchdown, but it was safety Patrick Chung who was burned for the 32-yard score. The corners limited Bryant to seven catches for 67 yards. He was targeted 12 times aside from the Chung play, so the corners had plenty of chances to deal with him and they kept him under control.

The one concern I have coming out of the game is that the Eagles pass rush wasn't very effective. They had to blitz to get pressure on Orton and even then he still wasn't under regular duress. Orton wasn't sacked once and he threw 46 passes. The official NFL Gamebook only has Orton getting hit a couple of times. That might be off a little, but not that much. The Eagles aren't going to win in the postseason unless they can rush the passer.

One area that impressed me was special teams. Dallas had the advantage going into the game, but the Eagles won the battle. DeSean Jackson’s 23-yard punt return set up the offense with good field position. Alex Henery nailed a 47-yard field goal that proved to be crucial. Henery also had three touchbacks, which helped to neutralize Dwayne Harris, the Cowboys dynamic returner. Donnie Jones boomed the ball, averaging just over 47 yards per punt. He blasted a 56-yard bomb late in the game to push Dallas back on their final drive.

I will fully admit that I got real worried at that moment. Dallas got the ball back with 1:59 left in the game. The Cowboys only needed a field goal to take the lead. I hated the thought that the Eagles might lose by a single point to Dallas in the season finale. That might have been too much for my soul to bear. Luckily, Kyle Orton remembered he was Kyle Orton and Brandon Boykin remembered he was Brandon Boykin. Orton threw a pass behind Miles Austin and Boykin was there to snatch the ball and seal the game. Man, that was a glorious moment. I went from panic mode to having a three-mile smile. All was right with the universe. The Eagles were division champs. The Cowboys were left with an offseason full of tough questions.

Life is good.

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