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Eagles Show Mettle To Clinch East

Posted Dec 29, 2013

ARLINGTON, TX -- Why would it be easy after a season of thrill rides? The Eagles earned this one on Sunday night by turning away a spirited Cowboys team to win the NFC East and the right to host New Orleans on Saturday night …

Aided by two Nick Foles touchdown passes, some tough running by LeSean McCoy, a defense that produced three takeaways and a special teams that delivered in the clutch, the Eagles did at AT&T Stadium what they’ve done all season: They won a game by doing it the team way and everyone contributed to the victory.

“That’s just the kind of team we are,” said tight end Brent Celek. “We’ve learned to win together. That’s been so beneficial to us this season. Everybody has been a part of this. We have a locker room that has come together and that believes in each other.”

Dallas came to play, no question about that, as backup quarterback Kyle Orton steadily moved the Dallas offense with a series of short throws and quick drops – he completed 30 of 46 passes for 358 yards and two touchdowns – but in the end the Eagles made the play that counted.

On first and 10 from the Dallas 32-yard line with 1 minute, 49 seconds remaining after a Donnie Jones 56-yard punt bailed the Eagles out of poor field position, cornerback Brandon Boykin made another sensational play. In coverage against wide receiver Miles Austin, Boykin was tight on Orton’s target as Orton threw to the left side of the offensive formation for Orton. The pass was thrown behind Austin and Boykin made the interception, his sixth of the season.

That started a celebration that continued as the Eagles gained a first down on two LeSean McCoy runs that gained 11 yards to lead to the victory formation and the team’s first division title and playoff appearance since the 2010 season.

“Oh, it’s been so much fun seeing all of this come together,” said linebacker Connor Barwin, who made a tremendous play to end a Dallas drive early in the fourth quarter when he knocked down an Orton pass as the quarterback bootlegged right and looked for running back DeMarco Murray on a fourth-and-1 play at the Philadelphia 40-yard line. “Everybody steps up at the right time. That’s the mark of a great team. It was a fight. Dallas played a great game. We just were able to make enough plays to come away with the win.”

No question the Cowboys were geared for this game, particularly the defense. A Cowboys pass rush that generated just 29 quarterback sacks in 15 games got to Foles five times and limited the big plays down the field. The Eagles had five plays of 20 or more yards to set an NFL record with 98 for the season (breaking the record of 96 set by the 2001 St. Louis Rams), but the Eagles were unable to get anything going on a consistent basis.

With an offense functioning just below the level it played a week earlier against Chicago, the defense made the big stops when needed. Barwin’s huge play ended a drive that started when the Dallas defense stopped the Eagles on four plays inside the 10-yard line, including a Foles sneak from the half-yard line. The Cowboys moved from their 1-yard line to the Philadelphia 40 before Barwin stopped the drive.

Earlier, linebacker Mychal Kendricks had a direct hand in two takeaways that led to 10 points – forcing a Murray fumble that cornerback Bradley Fletcher caught to end Dallas’ first drive and intercepting an Orton pass intended for tight end Jason Witten – but Dallas did not go away.

Finally, Boykin ended the game, just as he did against Washington earlier in the season.

And the Eagles celebrated. And the fans dressed in green in Texas went berserk. And the players and coaches whooped and hollered and had some fun in the post-game locker room.

And then they looked ahead, not satisfied with just making the playoffs. There is more to accomplish.

“That’s how everyone feels,” said LeSean McCoy, who ran for 131 yards and set franchise records for most rushing yards in a season and most yards from scrimmage in a season, as well as becoming the first Eagle since 1949 (Steve Van Buren) to lead the league in rushing. “We have more to go. We have a lot of football left in this season.”

We sure hope that’s the case. New Orleans, of course, has its high-powered offense and a team that has playoff experience. Most of the Eagles are new to this kind of stuff. Then again, they won a playoff game on Sunday night to move into next weekend’s fun.

And, “fun” is the key word here. This team is all about enjoying itself, enjoying each other and playing a fantastically enjoyable brand of football.

“We’re going to keep this going, keep it rolling and enjoy every day,” said Foles. “That’s what we’ve been doing all season. We’re not going to stop now.”

Nobody wants them to stop. Please, no. The Eagles have won games of every variety this season – blowouts, comeback wins, harrowing games in the fourth quarter – and they’ve grown together through the tough times. They were 1-3 and then 3-5, battling injuries at the quarterback position. 

Yet here they are, with so much more to play and a path to the ultimate goal in front of them.

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