Monday, December 30, 2013

Nick Foles And Eagles Fly Into Dallas, Win NFC East Division Crown & Soar Into Playoffs

                                                                               Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

     For the third straight season the Dallas Cowboys had a chance to win the NFC East and clinch a playoff berth and the regular season finale, and for the third straight season, failed to do so.

     Dallas started on offense for the game's first series. The Cowboys were leading a good drive and got into Philadelphia territory, until DeMarco Murray, who had been effective on Dallas'  opening drive, coughed up the ball that was recovered by the Eagles at the Philadelphia 23. Following the turnover, Philadelphia converted points off the turnover with an Alex Henery 47 yard Field Goal (FG) to put the Eagles up 3-0. Key play from the drive came when Quarterback (QB) Nick Foles hit Riley Cooper for a 16 yard pick up on 3rd and 19. Although short of the first down, the completion put Philadelphia in FG range.

     The Cowboys offense once again moved the ball efficiently on its second drive and got into Philadelphia territory, but on 3rd & 2 QB Kyle Orton threw an incomplete pass behind his intended receiver Dez Bryant, forcing Dallas to punt. Nick Foles and LeSean McCoy marched Philadelphia down the field and completed four passes that went 10 yards or more, including a huge 22 yard jump ball reception before finally hitting LeSean McCoy (who had a big 20 yard run during the scoring drive) for a 3 yard TD Pass to put the Eagles up 10-0!

     Both team exchanged punts, before Dallas got the ball back once more, and this time, put together a drive the produced points! On 3rd & 12, Orton hit Terrance Williams deep down field for a huge 39 yard pickup down to the Philadelphia 29. Three plays later, Orton hit Gavin Escobar for a reception. Escobar, (who only had one catch prior for the entire season) leaped into the end zone for a 17 yard TD reception, and suddenly the Cowboys had new life cutting the Eagles lead down to three.

     Dallas again forced Philadelphia to punt, and had a chance to go into the half with a lead. After an 11 yard reception by Tight End Jason Witten on 3rd & 9, Orton went back to Witten on the very next play on 1st down. Witten had the ball in his grasp, but mishandled it and Mychal Hendricks (Who forced the fumble on Dallas' first drive) came away with an interception. The Eagles did not take long to capitalize as Foles hit Celek on back to back plays for 35 and 14 yards, the latter play going for a TD, giving the Eagles a 17-7 lead. Dallas would get some of those points back with a Dan Bailey Field Goal, and headed into the locker room down 17-10.

     After forcing the Eagles to a 3 and out, the Cowboys opened the second half scoring with another Dan Bailey FG to cut the lead to 17-13. The Dallas defense came up huge again when Jason Hatcher stripped sacked Foles and DeMarcus Ware recovered the loose ball. Dallas had now put itself in great position to take the lead following the turnover, starting at the Philadelphia 20!

     Dallas could not cash in for a TD off the turnover and had to settle for another FG, but were now within one of Philadelphia. Both teams would force 3 and outs on each other's next possessions. The Eagles looked to to finally score it's first points of the second half. With 1st & Goal at the Dallas 6, Nick Foles threw two straight incompletions before hitting DeSean Jackson for a 5 yard gain, just short of the goal line. Instead of going for the FG, the Eagles opted to go for it from the one on 4th & Goal, but the Dallas defense came up big once again and stopped Nick Foles from diving across the plane of the goal line to force a turnover on downs. The Cowboys held the Eagles high octane offense scoreless in the 3rd Quarter!

     Dallas would start the 4th Quarter at its own 19 after Orton hit Dez Bryant for an 18 yard pass on the final play of the 3rd Quarter.The Cowboys drove the ball past midfield to the Philadelphia 40 and faced a 4th and short of their own and elected to go for it.Orton rolled out and had Murray in the flat for what would have been an easy 1st down until Connor Barwin batted down the pass and forced a huge turnover on downs!

     After being held scoreless in the 3rd Quarter, the Eagles finally put together a scoring drive in the second half. After 24 rushing yards put together by LeSean McCoy in the duration of the drive, when Bryce Brown took it in from six yards out for a TD, putting the Eagles up 24-16. Just when it seemed like Dallas was out, they come up big once again. Orton hit Witten in stride for a pick up of 35 yards. Facing a 4th & 9, Orton hit Bryant on a slant pattern and broke away from the defender for a 32 yard TD Reception and the Cowboy were now down only two, with a chance to tie the game on the 2 point conversion. Orton appeared to have Bryant again, but Cary Williams with good coverage, broke up the play and the Cowboys still trailed.

     Philadelphia got the ball back, but the Dallas defense once again forced another 3 and out and got the ball back with 1:49 remaining at their own 32 after an Eagles punt. But on the first play of the Cowboys ensuing possession, Orton was picked off by Brandon Boykin, and the Eagles prevented any hopes of a comeback by Dallas. Philadelphia would kill the clock with runs by LeSean McCoy before eventually kneeling down burning out the clock, giving the Eagles the NFC East Division Title as well as a playoff appearance. It only seems fitting that the Dallas Cowboys season ends this way, as mentioned, it was the third straight season they were in position to win their division and make the playoffs. The Eagles return to the playoffs for the first time since the 2010 season (also won the NFC East that year). Philadelphia finishes the season 10-6 and will be hosting Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints in the Wild Card Round. For the Cowboys, they finish 8-8 for the third straight season.

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