Eagles-Cowboys Postgame: Playoffs, Are You Kidding Me?
Well that was a heck of a lot closer than anyone thought it would be.
Don't get me wrong. I'm happy the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night, but the Eagles should have been able to crush a bad Cowboys team with a backup quarterback. As it was, they barely held on for a nail-biting 24-22 win to take the NFC East division crown and the home playoff game that goes along with it.
As I said, it's great that the Eagles won the game, but they did not look good doing it. Another team, with a better quarterback, probably would have beaten the Eagles on this night.
Nick Foles had a decent game, but certainly made his share of mistakes. LeSean McCoy ended up with 131 yards on 27 carries, but until the fourth quarter, it felt like the Cowboys were stuffing him for no gain on most carries (with the occasional burst to open space). The Cowboys were also obviously concentrating on not letting McCoy beat them in the screen game, as they sniffed out several early attempts by the Eagles. DeSean Jackson only had three catches for a measly 28 yards. The defense allowed a backup quarterback who hasn't started a game since 2011, throw for 358 yards and 2 TDs. And the Eagles offensive line got manhandled for 3 1/2 quarters while Foles was under constant pressure all game and got sacked four times. Yet somehow, the Eagles won the game.
They won the game mainly because the defense managed to force a fumble from a running back who hadn't fumbled all season and got two timely interceptions. DeMarco Murray was held in check on the ground by the Eagles, as they held the NFL leader in yards per carry (5.4) to 51 yards on 17 carries (3.0 ypc). And while Kyle Orton completed 30-of-46 passes for 358 yards and 2 TDs, they also managed to pick him off twice. The second interception sealed the victory as the Cowboys got the ball back on their own 32 yards line, after a 56 yard Donnie Jones punt, but Brandon Boykin jumped a slant route to Miles Austin. A couple of McCoy runs yielded a first down and the Eagles were able to kneel down and run out the clock for the win.
Of course, it got hairy before that sequence.
Foles 17/26 - 263 - 2 - 0
McCoy 27 - 131
Celek 3 - 71 - 1
Orton 30/46 - 358 - 2 - 2
Murray 17 - 51
Witten 12 - 135
Bryant 8 - 99 - 1
The Cowboys set the tone for the game early by taking the opening kickoff and driving right down the field. The drive was stopped when Mychael Kendricks forced Murray to fumble and Bradley Fletcher recovered on the Eagles 23 yard line. While the Eagles were building a 10-0 lead with an Alex Henery field goal and McCoy 3-yard TD reception, Orton was quietly completing his first 7 passes of the game to make Eagles fans nervous.
Luckily for the Eagles, the defense stepped up after letting the Cowboys close the gap to 10-7 on a 17-yard TD reception by Gavin Escobar. The defense couldn't cover Dallas TE Jason Witten all game, but Witten made one costly mistake. Witten caught 12 passes for 135 yards, but he let a ball go off his hands that ended up being intercepted by Kendricks. The Eagles quickly turned that gift into a scoring drive that consisted solely of two passes to TE Brent Celek, including a 14-yard TD. The Cowboys managed to add a Dan Bailey FG before the half to cut it to 17-10, though.
The problems for the Eagles offensive line continued in the second half. On the Eagles first possession, Foles was sacked and pressured into an incompletion on third down. For some reason, the Eagles simply could not block the Cowboys front seven in either matchup this season. Later, that led to a fumble by Foles, as he was sacked on his own 20 yard line. The Eagles defense held and Bailey knocked through his second field goal of the second half to cut the lead to 17-16. Then things got really crazy.
Can the Eagles beat the Saints in the playoffs
The Eagles drove down to the Dallas 6-yard line, but Chip Kelly decided to get cute. He calls for a trick play with a WR option pass that doesn't work, an incomplete pass and a pass to Jackson down to the 1-yard line. I was having Andy Reid-Marty Mornhenwig flashbacks and that's never a good thing. So then Kelly decides to go for it on 4th and goal from the one and Foles gets stuffed for no gain on a QB-keeper. Why he wouldn't give the ball to the NFL's leading rusher there is mind-boggling. In any event, I thought the Eagles had lost the game right there late in the third quarter. Luckily, the defense stopped the Cowboys on fourth down on the ensuing drive, when Connor Barwin knocked down an Orton pass on 4th and 1 at the 40-yard line.
Apparently, Kelly realized what an idiot he was before and was determined not to lose another game, like he did in Minnesota, because he wasn't running the football enough. The Eagles proceeded to drive 60 yards on 11 plays, 9 of which were runs, and ended up scoring on a Bryce Brown 6-yard TD run. McCoy got 7 carries on the most important drive of the Eagles season and that's why they will be playing again next week.
Unfortunately, the Eagles defense wasn't going to let this be an easy win. On 4th and 9, defensive coordinator Billy Davis somehow thought it would be a good idea to go with a Cover Zero, where he had single coverage on the receivers and blitzed the house at Orton. That strategy somehow left Patrick Chung alone on Dez Bryant (8-99-1). Not surprisingly, Bryant scored a 32-yard TD on the play and the Cowboys were about to tie the game with a 2-point conversion. But once again, the Eagles opportunistic defense did just enough to get the win when Cary Williams knocked the ball away from Dez Bryant in the end zone.
The Eagles didn't play a particularly good game against the Cowboys, but it was good enough to get the win and get them into the playoffs. Foles completed 17-of-26 passes for 263 yards and 2 TDs. He wasn't great, but he won in his first really big game in the NFL. McCoy ended up leading the NFL with 1,607 rushing yards and in yards from scrimmage with 2,146. Both figures also give him the Eagles franchise records for a single season. And while the defense was letting Kyle Orton look like a great quarterback most of the night, they came up with the key turnovers that ultimately helped to win the game.
The Eagles will need to play much better on both sides of the ball next week as they host the New Orleans Saints and Drew Brees in the first round of the playoffs, but that's a story for another day. For now, it's just time to marvel at what this team accomplished. Kelly obviously wasn't perfect in his rookie season coaching in the NFL, but he got his team into the playoffs and that's all that matters for now.