The Philadelphia Eagles won a tough game over the Dallas Cowboys to clinch the NFC East title and earn date with the Saints on Saturday night at the Linc. Much like the entire 2013 season, this game was a roller coaster ride that had most fans “white knuckling” it for three hours.
Dallas started the game with the ball and you would have never known Kyle Orton hadn’t played in two years. As was expected, they ran the ball and stuck with the short passing game and drove with ease down to the Eagles’ 28 yard-line.
They were already in field goal range but DeMarco Murray, who was running with a serious edge last night, fumbled the ball away after a hit by Mychal Kendricks. Bradley Fletcher recovered and just like that, their scoring opportunity was thwarted.
Nick Foles and the offense cashed in with a field goal off the turnover.
The game was kind of like that. Back and forth, with each defense coming up big at times and each offense coming up big at times. For Eagles fans, it was gut-wrenching because all week everyone was super confident for an Eagles victory that a win came to be almost expected.
Never at any time during the game was there a feeling of comfort in a “we got this” kind of way. Even with the Eagles having a 10 point lead at two different times, it just never felt comfortable.
On defense, this game epitomized the 2013 season: bend, don’t break, come up with a big play.
Turnovers were the real key to the game last night. After the Murray fumble set up a field goal, a Kendricks interception set up a quick touchdown before half time. That’s 10 points off of turnovers in a game the Eagles won by two.
The defense kept bending all night to the tune of allowing an Orton-led Cowboys offense a total of 417 yards and 22 points. Sure, they forced a few punts (three to be exact) but it seemed that every time Dallas had the ball, they were able to drive it.
Dallas had five scoring drives on the night. Luckily, the bend-but-don’t-break defense held them to field goals on three of them. At times there were Dallas receivers just wide open in the middle of the field and I often wondered if anyone was going to cover Jason Witten at some point.
Dallas’ final score came on a 4th and 9 play where Orton hit Bryant over the middle. Bryant caught the pass one yard short of the first down but Patrick Chung, who was in position, couldn’t make the tackle.
At that point, the wind was taken out of my sails.
However, Cary Williams made a key play on Dallas’ two-point conversion attempt when he deflected a pass intended for Bryant again. That was a huge play because otherwise the game would have been tied.
And that’s what this game was about for the defense…they made game-altering plays throughout the contest.
Kendricks’ forced fumble and interception. Connor Barwin’s pass deflection on a fourth-down play early in the fourth quarter. Cary Williams’ pass defense on the two-point attempt. Then, ultimately the biggest play of the game, Brandon Boykin’s game-clinching interception at the end.
The Eagles’ defense is like Rocky Balboa. They get beat up a lot, but land timely big blows to their opponent that directly contributes to a victory.
The offense last night was a little less frustrating overall, but they certainly had their moments.
They had much more success in the first half than they did in the second half. Foles completed 12 of 16 passes for 197 yards and two TDs in the first half, but only went five of 10 for 66 yards and a fumble in the second.
There was a bad sequence in the red zone near the end of the third quarter when the Eagles had a first and goal at the six. For reasons I never understand, Chip decided to get cute and try a hand off to Brad Smith, who was to throw back to the QB.
It failed, and to me it was simply a wasted play.
Then came the big decision to go for it on fourth and goal at the one. The Eagles had a one point lead at the time and the prudent thing to do was just kick a field goal to make Dallas have to score a TD for the lead.
Nope. Chip, in his aggressive ways, decided to go for it. Foles’ QB sneak couldn’t get it in the end zone and that was it. No points and a serious confidence booster for Dallas.
The Cowboys proceeded to drive from their own one yard line all the way to the Eagles’ 40 before one of those aforementioned big plays by the defense stopped them (Barwin’s fourth down batted pass).
However, the next possession by the offense was their best of the night. After the failed fourth and goal, Chip Kelly decided to do what he should have done much earlier in the game: pound the rock.
They went on an 11-play, 60 yard touchdown drive that consisted of mostly runs by McCoy and Brown. It ate 5 and a half minutes of game clock and put the Eagles up by eight.
After Dallas scored their late TD to come within two, the Eagles’ offense had another chance to make a statement at a crucial time. With 3:50 left in the game and clinging to a two point lead, the offense needed to either eat the clock or get at least a field goal.
They did neither. It went: two yard run, four yard run, sack, punt.
At that point, Dallas had the momentum and plenty of time to get into field goal range for the game-winning score. The Eagles’ offense came up small in a big spot.
Thankfully, Boykin bailed them out.
Overall, while the offense is generally regarded as “explosive”, I find them frustrating at times.
I don’t like the trick plays in the red zone. I don’t like the quick three-and-outs. The offensive line looks good for the most part, but they also give up pressure at key times. And Foles came dangerously close to being called for multiple intentional groundings last night.
Speaking of Foles in this regard, is it me or does he look completely awkward in the pocket when things start breaking down around him? It seems like he isn’t sure what to do…take off, try to maneuver within the pocket, throw it away or take the sack.
He just seems confused at these times.
But anyway, back to the offense in general. They can score fast, but they can exit the field just as fast. They can light up the scoreboard, but sometimes they can’t form drives or get points at key times in a game.
They seem to do most of their damage in the first half but for some reason stall in the second half.
The defense gives up a ton of yards, are vulnerable against the pass and continue to give up big plays on third and long (as well as fourth and long last night). They also can’t get consistent pressure on the QB from game to game.
Yet, they haven’t given up a ton of points (sans the Vikings game) and continue to make big plays in the form of turnovers.
This is our 2013 Eagles…frustrating at times, spectacular at times. Every game is an adventure!
For now, let’s relish in the fact they are NFC East champs and have at least one more week of football.