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Eagles defense only able to stop, beat Cowboys on five big plays

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The Philadelphia Eagles often won in spite of their defense before Dec. 29. The Eagles certainly won the NFC East in spite of their defense in Dallas, as the Cowboys picked them apart even with Kyle Orton in action. However, Philadelphia still won by 24-22 on the strength of five defensive plays, which was all that unit needed.

The first big play came on a forced fumble by DeMarco Murray, which led to the Eagles' first three points. Beforehand, Orton had started out hot and proved the Cowboys would still have a shot even without Tony Romo. Even after the turnover and after the Cowboys fell behind by 10-0, the Eagles couldn't cruise as expected.

With the Cowboys down by just 10-7, Orton and company looked poised to get a tie or halftime lead. However, Philadelphia's second big play came when Jason Witten couldn't hold onto a pass, which was taken by Mychal Kendricks. It led to another Eagles touchdown that upped the lead to 17-7, yet the Cowboys still drove down for a field goal before halftime.

After that, the Cowboys had their way with the Eagles for much of the third, closing within 17-16. The nadir came when they stopped the Eagles on a fourth-and-goal at the 1 and then drove down the field. But Dallas couldn't convert its own fourth-and-short play in Philadelphia territory, which was the third massive defensive stand of the night.

The fourth came after the Cowboys got within 24-22, thanks to a Dez Bryant fourth-down catch that became a touchdown. However, Cary Williams provided redemption for the defense by diving to block a two-point conversion. Yet when Dallas got the ball back with under two minutes left, only needing about 40 yards to kick a game-winning field goal, the odds were against a Philadelphia stop.

Brandon Boykin changed those odds, reading a poor Orton throw for his sixth and biggest interception of the season. With that, an Eagles defense that was an anchor around their neck for much of the game, if not a good part of the season, clinched a divisional title.

There were only five plays in which Philadelphia stood up to Dallas's short handed offense, when things should have been much easier. Nevertheless, five moments were all the Eagles needed to stuff the Cowboys and get away with the NFC East.

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