The Eagles made the entire NFL doubt their worthiness of a playoff spot, then closed a three-touchdown gap, and then committed a pair of costly turnovers in a nearly epic comeback that never was, a 38-27 defeat in Philly Sunday.
The Birds closed their home regular season schedule by furiously scoring 24 unanswered points to come back from a 21-0 deficit to take the lead in front of a prime time audience.
But for every improbable play — like Josh Huff’s 44-yard rabbit-like run after the catch to abait several Cowboys defenders, or Jeremy Maclin’s 72-yard reception that was nearly a touchdown — there was a turnover that gave the Cowboys new life.
In a heated battle for supremacy in the NFC East, it was Dallas and their mammothwideout Dez Bryant who proved, at least Sunday night, who deserves a home game come playoff time.
Mark Sanchez had a Mark Sanchez-like game, throwing for 252 yards, but also for two costly interceptions (the Eagles lost the turnover battle 4-1). On the other hand, Tony Romo racked up 265 yards passing with 22-for-31 accuracy and three touchdown passes, all to Bryant (116 yards on six receptions).
The running game emerged, though not overpowering, with the three-headed monster attack once again, with Chris Polk scoring two touchdowns, Darren Sproles scoring one more and LeSean McCoy adding 64 rushing yards to his Eagles-best total.
The Birds came out in the second half with fire, shaking off a double digit lead and building off a defensive stop. Maclin’s 72-yard reception led to a Polk poke into the end zone (his second touchdown of the game) to make it a game again, 21-17.
Deep in the Dallas zone a few minutes later, Cedric Thornton mauled Romo in the backfield, knocking the ball loose for Fletcher Cox to recover and setting up a Darren Sproles one-yard scamper. And just like that, the Eagles led, 24-21.
It was too good to be true.
The Cowboys battled back for seven points of their own with their next possession to flip the see-saw in Dallas’ favor again. Sanchez threw an interception to set up Bryant’s third touchdown grab to put the lead back to 11 for the Cowboys. A field goal and defense stop gave Philly a chance, down eight with eight minutes remaining.
But a Brent Celek fumble all but ended the Eagles’ second comeback attempt as Dallas was able to turn it into three points to preserve a two-possession lead.
With their last possession gasping of desperation, Sanchez fell victim to the Dallas defense, pressuring for a pair of sacks to clinch the ‘W.’
Dallas opened the game with what was technically a squib kick–but since no Eagles offensive player touched the ball it was in reality a 50-yard onside kick. The Birds’ bad fortune continued as they defended with their backs to the end zone, relinquishing an early touchdown to dig a 7-0 hole.
The Cowboys converted their first four third downs and as a result were able to drive down the field on a tired and frustrated Birds’ defense on an 88-yard touchdown drive (aRomo fade pass to Bryant).
Looking like the defense would finally get off the field on Dallas’ next possession (following yet another Eagles three-and-out), Cary Williams was called for illegal contact on a third down sack, giving the Cowboys new life and leading to another Romo-to-Bryantscoring strike. With just under 12 minutes left in the second quarter, the Eagles nightmare was becoming a reality as they trailed 21-0.
Then, finally, after hanging a big zero in the first quarter (in both points and yards from scrimmage), the Eagles put things together when Polk found the end zone to cap off an 11-play, 84-yard drive. Another sustained drive a few minutes later resulted in a 47-yard field goal for the Birds, cutting the Dallas lead to 21-10.