Eagles-Cowboys: What we learned

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Nearly left for dead after a 3-5 start, the Philadelphia Eagles are now one of the NFL's hottest teams heading into the postseason.
Quarterback Nick Foles threw two touchdown passes, and the Eagles claimed the NFC East title with a 24-22 victory over the rival Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night at AT&T Stadium.
Philadelphia (10-6) will play at home next Saturday night against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC wild-card round. Thanks to the Eagles' 7-1 finish over the season's second half, first-year coach Chip Kelly has the team back in the postseason for the first time since 2010.
"They didn't flinch," Kelly said of a team that finished last in the division last season. "I expect this group to compete every day. It's the same as always for us. One down, one to go. One week at a time."
The Cowboys completed a third straight 8-8 campaign under coach Jason Garrett. Dallas has also played for the division title in the last game of the regular season in three consecutive years, losing in succession to the New York Giants, Washington Redskins and now the Eagles.
But unlike those previous two setbacks, the Cowboys went into this do-or-die without Tony Romo. The highly scrutinized quarterback underwent season-ending back surgery Friday and was replaced by journeyman Kyle Orton.
Orton, making his first start since 2011, did an admirable job in relief, throwing for 358 yards, but his interception with less than two minutes to go ended any shot of Dallas pulling out the win. Orton had two touchdown passes and two picks.
"I thought if he could play a game the way Kyle Orton played tonight, I thought we had a great chance to win it, especially backed up by the kind of defense we played," Dallas owner Jerry Jones said. "This is very disappointing. There's no feel good in this loss, because there was a lot at stake, obviously not the least of which is getting to come right back here next week and play.
"We're very disappointed. The team played well enough and our quarterback played well enough to put us in position to win the game at the end, and to their credit they made the play."
Foles, playing in the biggest game of his young NFL career, passed for 263 yards. He completed 17 of 26 passes, and overcame five sacks and a lost fumble.
"We kept fighting. We believed in each other," Foles said. "When the offense was struggling, the defense picked us up."
Running back LeSean McCoy, who made headlines last week saying the Eagles would "manhandle" the "Cowgirls," rushed for 126 yards, caught a touchdown pass and won the NFL rushing title. His 1,607 yards set a franchise record.
"For all the accolades and the stats, if we didn't win today, none of that means nothing," McCoy said.
The Cowboys opened the third quarter with two field goals to make it 17-16, but failed to take full advantage of a turnover deep in Eagles territory. Dallas couldn't do much after recovering a Foles fumble on the 20-yard line.
The Eagles ended the third by leaving points on the field. On fourth-and-inches, Foles was stuffed short of the goal line by Dallas linebacker Bruce Carter and defensive end DeMarcus Ware.
After stopping the Cowboys on fourth-and-1, Philadelphia went 60 yards to take a 24-16 lead with 6:09 remaining. Running back Bryce Brown went the final 6 yards on a sweep around the left side.
The Cowboys came right back and scored on Orton's 32-yard pass to wide receiver Dez Bryant on fourth-and-9. Bryant could have been stopped short of a first down, but broke a tackle from Eagles safety Patrick Chung.
Needing a 2-point conversion to tie, Orton's pass was short to Bryant near the goal-line pylon.
Dallas did get the ball back at its 32 with 1:49 left. On the first play, Orton's short throw to receiver Miles Austin was intercepted by cornerback Brandon Boykin. The Eagles were able to run out the clock from there.
"I just threw a bad pass," Orton said. "Miles ran a great route, same play we scored on the play before, just went to Miles this time and just threw it behind him and the guy made a nice catch on the ball."
Philadelphia took advantage of two Cowboys' turnovers to take a 17-10 lead into the locker room. Foles had two touchdown passes in the first half.

What the Eagles said
"This is a special group. They just work, and they bought in, and it's an awesome feeling to work that hard and then see the payoff." -- Coach Chip Kelly.

What the Cowboys said
"I'm not discussing that at all. I have spoken a little more appropriate time here, about three or four weeks ago. I said at that time that I was with Jason that I thought that his future and what he's going to be doing with us was good. But this isn't the time, and I don't even like the way it feels or looks to speak to anything about our coaches." -- Owner Jerry Jones, on future of coach Jason Garrett and his staff.

What we learned about the Eagles
1. Coach Chip Kelly's up-tempo offense can work in the NFL. Quarterback Nick Foles became one of the league's top passers, running back LeSean McCoy set a franchise record with 2,146 yards from scrimmage, and wide receiver DeSean Jackson had 1,332 yards receiving this season.
Even so, the Eagles didn't tear apart the woeful Dallas defense. Philadelphia managed only 366 total yards. A better offensive showing likely will be needed if the Eagles hope to knock off the Saints in the postseason.
2. Getting a home game should bode well for the Eagles, especially if the elements are at play next Saturday night in Philadelphia. The Saints were 3-5 on the road this season, and the Eagles won their final four home games after losing their first four.

What we learned about the Cowboys
1. With the season on the line, Dallas abandoned the run again. Running back DeMarco Murray finished with 17 attempts for 51 yards, with only six carries coming after halftime. Murray proved to be a solid workhorse when given the chance, running for 1,125 yards this season, but all too often he was forgotten in key games.
2. Jason Garrett saved his job ... probably. That the Cowboys had a chance to win the NFC East and get into the playoffs without quarterback Tony Romo likely means Garrett is back despite three consecutive 8-8 seasons. If anything, Cowboys fans can't blame Romo for this one.

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