By Kevin McGuire
The Philadelphia Eagles clinched the NFC East Championship Sunday night on the road against the Dallas Cowboys. The Eagles never trailed in the game, but it was full of tense moments with the division title on the line. The team that had learned to win as the season unfolded proved to be up to the challenge with everything at stake.
Here’s how the Eagles grades were turned in for the regular season finale.
Sunday night may not have been the best game of the year for Nick Foles, but despite being under pressure for most of the night Foles avoided tossing an interceptionand he had two touchdown passes and 263 yards. He did lose a fumble and was called for an intentional grounding during some of the more frustrating moments in the game. The Eagles got exactly what they needed from Foles to win this game though. He made some good passes and took advantage of the tight ends in open space. He did miss some open receivers during other moments, but on this night he delivered a quality performance. Grade: B
The Eagles turned in a decent outing on offensebut it was a battle for most of the night against a Dallas defense that was aggressive all night. Running back LeSean McCoy capped his NFL rushing championship status by rushing for 131 yards while breaking the franchise single-season rushing record previously held by Wilbert Montgomery. The tight end duo of Brent Celek and Zach Ertz accounted for 114 yards and a touchdown. The only turnover of the game was a Foles fumble under pressureand the Eagles converted five of 13 third down attempts. It was not a great performance by the Eagles against the NFL’s worst defense, but it all worked out this week. Grade: B
Watching the game it felt as though the Eagles defense was struggling just enough to let one slip away. While the Cowboys were showing an ability to move the football well at times, the Eagles defense came up with three turnovers, including what turned out to be a game-clinching pick by Brandon Boykin. While the Eagles did hold the Cowboys to just three of 11 third down conversions, slips in coverage proved to be costly with Gavin Escobar and Dez Bryant each scoring touchdowns on busted plays. When the defense needed to make a play though, they did so twice in the final minutes of the game. First a two-point conversion attempt by Dallas was broken up by Carey Williams to keep the Eagles in front by two points. Boykin later came up with an interception by stepping in front of a pass by Kyle Orton. Mychal Kendricks had another great outing by leading all players with 12 tackles and an interception. Grade: C-
While Alex Henery was only called on for one field goal, he came through with a 47-yard conversion on the first offensive drive of the game for the Eagles. He later added three extra point conversions. The special teams star of the game for the Eagles though was punter Donnie Jones, who punted five times for an average of 47.4 yards per punt, including a monster 56-yard punt late in the game to put the Cowboys in a more difficult situation. The return game lacked much production, which has been a weak spot for the Eagles recently. DeSean Jackson had just 24 punt return yards on two attempts. Grade: A-
Few saw this season as an NFC East championship season, but the Eagles proved they were capable of adapting and adjusting as the season progressed. With a spot in the postseason on the line on the road, the Eagles shined under pressure. It was not a great overall performance, but in a de facto playoff game nothing should have been easy. If nothing else, going through this road challenge may serve this team well as the postseason begins. Chip Kelly took some chances and may have wanted some of them back, but much of the play calling worked well. The offensive line had a long night against the Dallas defensive line and the Eagles were called for some silly penalties, so there will be work to be done in preparing for Saturday night’s home game against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Wildcard playoffs. Grade: B
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Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.