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Lions-Eagles: What we learned

The SportsXchange

PHILADELPHIA -- Jason Kelce can pinpoint the exact moment when he knew his Philadelphia Eagles were going to beat the Detroit Lions. It had been a hard-fought game in a driving snowstorm and the Lions had the lead, but the Eagles were starting to crank up their running game against one of the best run defenses in the NFL.

"We were moving the ball on the ground and we were starting to enforce our will on them," said Kelce, the Eagles' starting center. "You could see their defensive guys getting frustrated, then you could hear them start yelling at each other, and that's when I knew we were going to win this game."

The Eagles won 34-20 on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field, even though they trailed 14-0 late in the third quarter and the field conditions were terrible. That's when the Eagles offense and especially running back LeSean McCoy took over the game.

McCoy scored on fourth-quarter runs of 40 and 57 yards en route to a record-setting day -- he rushed for 217 yards to break the Eagles' single-game record of 205 yards, set by Hall-of-Famer Steve Van Buren against Pittsburgh in 1949.

"The guys up front gave me a chance to go one-on-one with some defensive guys, and if I get somebody one-on-one I'm usually going to win," McCoy said. "But it all starts with those guys up front -- they gave me so much room and all credit goes to those guys."

The victory gives the Eagles (8-5) a half-game lead over Dallas in NFC East, while the Lions (7-6) are a half-game ahead of Chicago in NFC North. So, both teams will be tuning into "Monday Night Football" tonight to watch the Cowboys play the Bears on another frozen field.

McCoy's two long TD runs offset two long TD returns by the Lions' Jeremy Ross, who scored on a 58-yard punt return to give Detroit a 14-0 lead in the third quarter and a 98-yard kickoff return to give the Lions a 20-14 lead in the fourth quarter.

But the Lions' offense went into hibernation in the second half and their defense got worn down by the Eagles' relentless pressure and frustrated by McCoy's elusive moves.

"We made some plays, but we didn't make enough of them in the second half to win the game," Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford said. "And we can't use the snow as an excuse -- they had to play in it, too."

Detroit took a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter on a 2-yard run by running back Joique Bell, although Bell -- subbing for injured starter Reggie Bush (calf) -- also fumbled the ball away twice inside the Eagles' 20 in the first half and those mistakes would come back and haunt the Lions.

That was all the scoring in the first half, before Ross broke free on his 58-yard punt return to make it 14-0 with 6:37 left in the third quarter.

That's when the Eagles' offense snapped out of its funk. They scored their first touchdown on a 19-yard pass from quarterback Nick Foles to wide receiver DeSean Jackson and McCoy's 40-yard TD run tied it.

Ross then stunned the Eagles' special teams again, this time with a 98-yard kickoff return, but after that it was all Eagles as they kept handing the ball to McCoy and he kept gaining yardage against the Lions' defense, which came into the game ranked third in the NFL against the run.

What the Lions said

"We didn't make any tackles. I don't really know what was going on -- they just kept running the ball. The first half, we were getting stops in the run game, then in the second half they were breaking out.'' -- Cornerback Chris Houston on the Lions giving up 299 rushing yards.

"It definitely was a special honor to do something like that. But it's very bittersweet. It felt good to contribute and help my team, but it stinks to lose and not come out with a victory.'' -- Wide receiver Jeremy Ross, who returned a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns.

What the Eagles said

"That's why you've got to play a full 60 (minutes). Our guys understood that. There was no panic or anything at halftime. We just came in and made the necessary adjustments.'' -- Coach Chip Kelly on turning game around in second half after being dominated in the first half.

"I've never played in anything like that. I've never seen anything like that.'' -- Wide receiver and California native DeSean Jackson on playing in blinding snowstorm.

What we learned about the Lions

1. Granted, Detroit plays its home game in a dome, but quarterback Matthew Stafford has to do a better job dealing with the elements. He fumbled four snaps and only completed 10 of 25 passes and it was obvious the bad weather affected him.

2. It's becoming more apparent that the Lions need wide receiver Calvin Johnson to have a big game if they're going to win big games. Granted, weather conditions made it difficult for both teams to pass the ball well, but when Johnson wasn't involved in the offense -- he had three catches for 49 yards -- the Lions' offense ran in place.

What we learned about the Eagles

1. The offense of new coach Chip Kelly gets most of the attention, but the Eagles' defense has put together a string of good games. Right now the defense is playing better than the offense. The defense only gave up one touchdown on Sunday and has allowed 21 points or fewer in the last nine games.

2. The Eagles have had trouble finishing games recently and they made that a priority coming into this week. Mission accomplished: The Eagles finished with a bang on Sunday, scoring 28 points in the fourth quarter. That ties a franchise record for points in the final period, set in 2010 against the New York Giants.
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