Wow. What a way to end the NFL’s regular season. The Philadelphia Eagles (10-6) outlasted their rivals, the Dallas Cowboys (8-8), on Sunday Night Football 24-22. Thanks to big games from the secondary and LeSean McCoy (131 yards rushing, 1 receiving touchdown), the Eagles have won the NFC East crown and win host a playoff game next Saturday night against the Saints.
Here are the Eagles who had notable performances, both good and bad, against Dallas.
BALLED: LeSean McCoy
If it weren’t for Peyton Manning’s incredible 55-touchdown season, LeSean McCoy would be the NFL MVP. Securing the rushing title today (1607 yards on the season), McCoy was huge in crunch time for the Eagles. He had 131 yards rushing on 27 carries, and converted several key 3rd downs in the 4th quarter. McCoy also had a receiving touchdown in the second quarter.
While he struggled early on finding the holes, as the game went on the Eagles rushing game and McCoy really found their sea legs. He completely outplayed counterpart DeMarco Murray, and ends the season as arguably the league’s best running back.
STALLED: Pass Rush
After a big game against Chicago, sacking Jay Cutler five times, the Eagles front three/four really struggled tonight. The Eagles were unable to get any pressure on Kyle Orton all night, sacking him zero times and only recording two QB hits. Trent Cole was pushing Tyron Smith back all night, but was never able to finish a play. Cedric Thornton and Fletcher Cox were also silent in the pass rush.
If the Eagles want to be able to beat New Orleans at home next week, they need to get pressure against New Orleans’ porous offensive line. For now, however, they can just be happy with a win.
BALLED: Mychal Kendricks
After struggling early on the season, I told everyone to be patient with inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks, a 2012 2nd-round pick. Well, if you heeded my advice, you’ve been doubly rewarded by his recent stardom.
Kendricks led the team with 12 tackles today, forced a fumble, and picked off a Kyle Orton pass tonight to anchor the Eagles defense. In a game where DeMeco Ryans wasn’t at his best, Kendricks was all over the field making plays, proving that he can shine in a 3-4 defense. He is another player who has All-Pro potential on this team.
STALLED: Offensive Line
After stymying the Bears in every regard last week, the offensive line struggled mightily tonight. DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher had their way tonight, getting five sacks and 7 more QB hits.
Besides Jason Peters, tough game all-around in pass protection. Lane Johnson, Todd Herremans, and Evan Mathis were especially suspect, giving up bull rushes left and right. Foles definitely held on to the ball too long in certain situations, but he needs 5-7 seconds to run a lot of the plays Kelly is calling and the O-Line did not provide him with that tonight.
In terms of run blocking, they were good enough, but certainly not as consistent as they were during the five-game winning streak. McCoy had to generate a lot of his yards by bouncing it to the outside, turning nothing into something, and if the Eagles want to move on the playoffs they will need more consistent run blocking.
BALLED: Brandon Boykin
Wow. There is no single player on the defense who you can be more proud of than slot corner Brandon Boykin. He only plays 54% of snaps, and he was not even placed on the Pro Bowl ballot, but he is now tied for 2nd in the NFL in interceptions and has the highest tackling percentage among all NFL defensive backs according to Pro Football Focus.
Boykin kept up his great play tonight, making the key play of the game: intercepting Orton with under two minutes left in the game, sealing the deal and a NFC East title. But that’s not all. Boykin also saved a touchdown in the 3rd quarter in one of the most difficult situations possible: one-on-one against Dez Bryant on a fade route. He timed the jump perfectly and batted the ball safely to the ground, guaranteeing an Eagles lead heading into the final period. If he keeps this up, the Eagles will continue to be successful defensively against the NFC’s high-powered passing attacks.
STALLED: Nick Foles
Yes, the statistics say otherwise: 17-for-26, 263 yards, 2 touchdowns, 124.4 passer rating. Nick Foles was good tonight. But he left a bunch of plays out on the field, held the ball too long, and made a couple of poor decisions that should have/were intentional grounding penalties.
He even admitted as much in the post-game press conference, saying, “There are a still a lot of flaws in my game I need to fix.” It was great to see him buckle down in the red zone and make some key passes for touchdowns, but he needs to improve against the pass rush and make better decisions. I think Foles is the Eagles future at the QB position, and he could go a long way in cementing that next Saturday against the Saints.
BALLED: Tight Ends
They don’t put up gaudy stats on a weekly basis, but the Eagles tight ends always make the big catches when necessary. Brent Celek (3 receptions, 71 yards, touchdown) and Zach Ertz (3 receptions, 43 yards) made a bunch of very important catches tonight, converting 4 first downs/touchdowns. Foles always had one of them over the middle when nothing else was there, and all season these two tight ends have been making plays for the Eagles.
Against a Saints team that gives up big plays to tight ends, the Eagles will need Celek and Ertz to continue showing up like they have.