The Eagles' loss in Week 1 of the season feels like it happened a lifetime ago, but the image of Jordan Matthews kneeling on the Atlanta turf, hands covering his face after a must-score drive for Philadelphia ended with an intercepted pass that bounced off his outstretched hands is one that has been engrained the minds of Eagles fans ever since. Matthews has spent the entire year trying to exorcise the demons created that day, and in Week 9 he may have finally done it.
After a 44-yard Dallas field goal that bounced miraculously off the left upright and beyond the crossbar sent Sunday night's game into overtime, the Eagles won the toss and started at their own 20 with a chance to win the game with a touchdown. After quarterback Sam Bradford and the Philadelphia offense worked the ball into Dallas territory, head coach Chip Kelly put the game in the hands of Matthews.
"'Hey, get open, I'm coming to you,'" Matthews remembers Bradford telling him in the huddle before the final play of the game from the Dallas 41-yard line. "It kind of felt like, 'Oh, I've done this before. This is college, go up and make a play.' He trusted me, he gave me a chance to catch and run, and it was game over."
Matthews lined up on the left side of the field and beat his man on a shallow crossing route across the field, catching a perfectly placed ball from Bradford and beating safety J.J. Wilcox in space to take it across the goal line untouched for the walk-off touchdown. He ran to the back of the end zone and chucked the ball into the stands before Bradford and the rest of his teammates engulfed him and gleefully celebrated the victory.
The Eagles and Cowboys met for the second time this season in Dallas during Week 9. View the full gallery here...
Matthews isn't typically isn't one for theatrics – he says Josh Huff was the one who told him to throw the ball into the stands and that he'll be passing along the bill should the NFL decide to fine him for it. Even in college, when he regularly put up record-setting performances while an upperclassman at Vanderbilt, he typically never let himself get too caught up in his success. Instead, he tried to remain focused solely on his next challenge.
"When games like this happen, it's not like it's the greatest thing in the world. It's, 'Okay, I did my job ... I did what I was supposed to do,'" he said. "Hopefully 20 years down the road, I'll look back be like, 'Okay, that was a good catch,' but right now I have to flip the page and go back to work."
Next up for the Eagles is a home meeting with the 3-5 Dolphins. A win and a loss by the 5-4 Giants to the undefeated Patriots later in the day would give Philadelphia the lead in the division. The Eagles return to practice on Tuesday to prepare for Miami, and that's where Matthews' attention is focused.
"At this point in the season, I don't even think it's cliché to say that every single game is important," he said. "To kind of set ourselves up to make a playoff run late, we've got to do the things every single day necessary to make that happen."
If Matthews and Bradford can continue to hook up the way they did on Sunday night – nine catches for 133 yards and the game-winning touchdown – that late-season run will be made a whole lot easier. The 23-year-old pass-catcher is confident in his own ability to step up down the stretch and has continued to heap praise upon Bradford all season long.
"I don't really think it's me defending (Bradford). I was just telling the truth," he said when asked after the game about whether the veteran quarterback's performance justified his support. "Sam's been playing great for us all season, and we were able to come out here today and actually make the plays for him that we're supposed to make. ... We couldn't ask for a better guy back there behind center."