ARLINGTON, Texas -- Throughout the season, Chip Kelly insisted he would pick his head up on Dec. 29 and see where the Eagles stood. So when Kelly picked his head up late in the Eagles' 24-22 win over the Dallas Cowboys, he saw cornerback Brandon Boykin jump in front of a pass to Miles Austin for an interception that clinched their first NFC East title since 2010.
The victory came with tense moments, but the Eagles did enough to ensure a postseason bid in Kelly's first season in Philadelphia. The Eagles host the New Orleans Saints at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday at 8:10 p.m.
To secure that date, they needed to get past the undermanned Cowboys. The Eagles led throughout the game, although Dallas had the ball late in the fourth quarter with a chance to win. But for the third consecutive season, the Cowboys could not beat an NFC East rival in a Week 17 win-and-in situation. This time, Kyle Orton's interception was the defining play a loss.
The key for the Eagles was three forced fumbles. Nick Foles finished 17 of 23 for 263 yards and two touchdowns. LeSean McCoy rushed for 131 yards in the victory.
The first big play came when Cowboys drove the ball into Eagles territory to begin the game before linebacker Mychal Kendricks knocked the ball loose on a DeMarco Murray run. The Eagles recovered the ball at the Cowboys' 23-yard line, and drove 48 yards on seven plays to set up Alex Henery's 47-yard field goal. The key play on the drive was a 34-yard pass to Chris Polk on third-and-3.
The Eagles continued to control the game when they went 88 yards on 10 plays on their ensuing drive. Foles completed 6 of 7 passes on the drive, including a 3-yard touchdown pass to McCoy to take a 10-0 lead.
After again stopping the Cowboys, the Eagles could not maintain the offensive momentum. A three-and-out gave Dallas the ball back, and this time, they found the end zone. Orton found Terrence Williams for a 39-yard pass on a 3rd-and-12 from the Cowboys' 32-yard line. That conversion was followed three plays later with a 17-yard touchdown to Gavin Escobar to cut the Eagles' lead to 10-7.
The teams traded possessions before Kendricks made another game-changing play. Orton threw a pass behind Witten that the tight end bobbled into Kendricks' hand. Kendricks returned the ball to Cowboys' 49-yard line, and the Eagles needed only two plays to make it a 17-7 game. Both plays were passes to Brent Celek -- a 35-yarder down the right sideline before a 14-yard touchdown pass.
The Cowboys added a field goal before halftime, but the Eagles entered halftime a seven-point lead.
The break did not help the Eagles. They opened the third quarter with a three-and-out, and the Cowboys kept the Eagles off the board throughout the period. Dallas connected on two field goals, one of which came after Foles fumbled the ball on the Eagles' 20-yard line.
Clinging to a 17-16 lead, the Eagles started a drive late in the third quarter 52 yards from the end zone. It took four plays to set up first-and-goal from the Cowboys' 6-yard line. The Eagles scored touchdowns on 71 of their goal-to-go situations entering the game.
Not this time.
The first play was a handoff to receiver Brad Smith, who failed tried throwing for a touchdown. After a Foles incompletion, he hit DeSean Jackson for a 5-yard gain to just short of the goal line. Instead of sending his field goal unit onto the field, Kelly lived up to his reputation and kept his offense on the field for fourth down.
The Cowboys called a timeout and stacked their line, keeping Foles from penetrating into the paint. He was stuffed for no gain, and the Eagles left points on the board.
The Eagles defense bailed out the offense with their own fourth-and-1 stop. The Cowboys brought the ball to the Eagles' 40-yard line, a 59-yard march on which the Eagles struggled to stop Dallas' crossing patterns. Yet on fourth-and-1, the Cowboys eschewed a handoff to Murray and instead tried a passing play. Connor Barwin followed Orton and deflected the pass to get the Eagles' offense back on the field.
Kelly committed to the rushing attack on the ensuing drive, calling for a run on nine of 11 plays. The offensive line opened space, and McCoy and Bryce Brown led the Eagles to the end zone. Brown's 6-yard score gave the Eagles a 24-16 lead.
Trailing by eight points, Dallas drove to the Eagles' 32-yard line before being stopped for fourth-and-9. Yet the Eagles could not force them off the field. Orton found Dez Bryant across the middle. Bryant wrestled away from Patrick Chung and raced for a 32-yard touchdown. But the Cowboys needed the 2-point conversion to tie the game, and Cary Williams deflected a pass to Bryant to preserve the Eagles lead.
The Eagles could not wear the clock away, though. A three-and-out gave Dallas the ball back. They had their chance to win before Boykin made the decisive play to extend Kelly's first season in Philadelphia at least one more week.
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