Reputations and eras usually change slowly in the National Football League, but the Eagles beat those odds and the hated Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night to finish off the regular-season portion of one of the most remarkable turnarounds in their, or any team's, history. Just one year after finishing the long tenure of coach Andy Reid with four measly wins and a dispiriting vantage on the future, the Eagles clinched the NFC East division title by barely outlasting the Cowboys, 24-22, and now move forward under new coach Chip Kelly with a home playoff game and a feeling that the best might be still to come. The Eagles open the postseason in Lincoln Financial Field against the New Orleans Saints on Saturday night. They haven't won a playoff game since 2008, but if all that happened this season is possible, continuing the current ride a little longer doesn't seem out of reach. Kelly, a New Hampshire native who made his name as a college coach at Oregon, has been embraced as the symbol of the local renaissance, a swaggering and fearless innovator who has replaced the listlessness of last season with a belief in the locker room that the franchise is not just smarter than the next guy now, but tougher, too. "Very simply, we're from Philadelphia and we fight. That's it," Kelly said last week when the Eagles didn't play it safe and rest their starters ahead of the Dallas showdown. If Kelly had run down the Parkway and climbed the Art Museum steps, he could scarcely have made more of an impression on a civic sports psyche that was so recently downtrodden by the failures of its professional teams. The Eagles, with a prolific offense and a much better defense than imagined, have more than just attitude, however. They needed the attitude more than ever, however, when what was supposed to be a mismatch turned into a steel cage match against the Cowboys. They gutted it out on a night when a lot went wrong to finish the regular season with a 10-6 record. That includes four wins from a division that looks ripe for domination for some years to come. Is this turnaround the harbinger of a dynasty on the rise, or a fortunate combination of circumstances that will be difficult to replicate season after season? That answer won't be known for a while, but the certainty is that the Eagles are back in the playoffs, football in Philadelphia is fun again, and the ride has been exhilarating regardless of the final destination. The clinching win was not without drama, even though the Cowboys were without starting quarterback Tony Romo and the oddsmakers felt the game might be one-sided. The Eagles began the night sticking to that script. They forced a fumble on the first Dallas possession, kicked a field goal, and then, after a Cowboys punt, drove the ball 88 yards to take a 10-0 lead. At that point, however, just when things were supposed to get even easier against a Dallas team of which nothing was expected, the Cowboys got themselves back into the game behind backup quarterback Kyle Orton. Dallas never took the lead, but Orton kept the game close, with the Eagles holding just a 17-10 lead at halftime. It wasn't necessarily an uncomfortable position, but it wasn't a blowout, either, and Dallas was moving the ball against them. Only the two turnovers had kept the Eagles ahead. Once into the second half, the game spun even faster. Eagles quarterback Nick Foles was harassed into taking sacks, fumbled the ball once and then, in a crucial spot near the end of the third quarter, was unable to sneak his way into the end zone on a fourth down play from the Dallas 1-yard line. The result of all that was two Dallas field goals in the quarter and an Eagles lead that had been cut to 17-16 entering the final period.
Eagles win NFC East with 24-22 win over Cowboys
Philly.com | Dec 30