The Philadelphia Eagles came into their NFC East title game with the Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 29 after their most dominant performance. But would the Eagles team that destroyed the Chicago Bears on Dec. 22 show up, or would the Eagles that collapsed against the Cowboys on Oct. 20 return? As it turned out, it was something in between -- yet the better Philadelphia team finally won out in a 24-22 victory.
The good Eagles showed up at first, as they forced a fumble and interception from Kyle Orton to score 10 key first half points. However, the bad Eagles allowed Orton to carve them up even more than Tony Romo did in October. With Orton largely left alone and the Philadelphia secondary unable to cover anyone, Dallas only trailed by 17-10 at halftime.
Although the second half was the biggest 30 minutes of the season, the Eagles didn't rise to the occasion for a while. The Cowboys could only muster two field goals to close within 17-16, but with Nick Foles coming out flat and the Eagles unable to punch in a fourth-and-goal at the 1, it seemed like a matter of time before all was lost.
Yet the good Eagles reemerged to stop the Cowboys on their own fourth-and-short, before LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown drove Philadelphia down the field for an insurance touchdown. The Eagles needed it when Dez Bryant turned another fourth-down play into a touchdown, but it wasn't enough to save the Cowboys when a two-point conversion failed.
Nevertheless, Foles couldn't give the Eagles a clinching first down, giving the Cowboys less than two minutes to get a winning field goal. Given how they had run down the field, only a turnover seemed likely to stop them -- which is what Brandon Boykin got by picking off Orton on Dallas's first and final play of its final drive.
That one last moment came from an Eagles team that won six of their last eight games, took their last two in December and finished with 10 wins under a rookie coach and second-year quarterback after a four-win season.
It was just enough to erase the memories of an Eagles club that could barely stop Orton, had several inexplicable losses to push them to the brink, and now has to put a shaky defense up against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints on Jan. 4.