The Philadelphia Eagles are headed home—to host a playoff game against the New Orleans Saints.
In a thrilling winner-take-all matchup against the Dallas Cowboys, Nick Foles threw for 263 yards and two scores and LeSean McCoy secured the NFL rushing title with 131 yards on the ground, as the Eagles booked a spot in the postseason with a 24-22 win.
Kyle Orton, filling in for the injured Tony Romo, threw for 358 yards and two touchdowns, but a late interception sealed the victory for the Eagles.
The scintillating first half couldn't have been much closer in the box score. The Eagles entered the locker room with 238 yards (188 passing, 50 rushing), while the Cowboys notched 234 (183 passing, 51 rushing). Philadelphia had 11 first downs to the Dallas' 13. The Eagles controlled the ball for 14:19, and the Cowboys held it for 15:41.
The story of the half, however, was turnovers.
DeMarco Murray coughed up a fumble on Dallas' opening drive and Jason Witten bobbled a pass, allowing Mychal Kendricks to come away with an interception late in the second half.
Those two giveaways led to 10 points for Philly, giving it a 17-10 lead at the break despite a lack of discrepancy in terms of offensive production.
Both defenses woke up in the second half.
The Cowboys managed a field goal on the opening drive, got another one following a sack and forced fumble by Jason Hatcher and stuffed the Eagles on 4th-and-goal from the one, making it 17-16 heading into the final quarter.
Philadelphia responded with a fourth-down stop of its own, however, and immediately turned to the run game. After netting just 58 total yards on their first four drives of the second half, the Eagles, on the backs of McCoy and Bryce Brown, went 60 yards in 11 plays on the next possession.
Brown capped that drive with a six-yard touchdown run, pushing Philly's lead to 24-16 with 6:16 remaining.
That would hardly be the end of the drama, though. The Cowboys, despite a clock malfunction that led to an unfair delay of game penalty, drove right back down the field, and Orton found Dez Bryant for a 32-yard score on four-and-nine:
The ensuing two-point conversation was no good, but a quick three-and-out delivered the ball back to the Cowboys with just under two minutes remaining.
On the first play of the drive, Orton fired behind Miles Austin and Brandon Boykin came away with the game-winning interception.
After the game Chip Kelly summed up the contest well:
Coach Kelly: That's the beauty of this game. You can't script it. #FlyEaglesFly— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) December 30, 2013
LeSean McCoy expressed his excitement after the win on Twitter:
Great win , great team win..... We fly high— Lesean McCoy (@CutonDime25) December 30, 2013
Nick Foles, Eagles: A-
Last time Foles faced the Cowboys, he completed 11-of-29 throws for 80 yards. This time around, he looked much better.
Granted, he struggled when Dallas was able to get pressure and make him uncomfortable in the pocket, but thanks to a dominant run game that kept the Cowboys defensive line at bay, Foles sat back and moved the ball effectively.
Foles was up and down tonight, but still ended up 17/26, 263 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) December 30, 2013
He finished with 10.1 yards per throw and zero interceptions.
Kyle Orton, Cowboys: B
Twitter and social media provided a never-ending stream of jokes mostly about Orton's hair (and then comparisons to Romo after his final interception), but when it comes down to it, the veteran played well.
While there were times when he missed on deep throws and made some questionable decisions, Orton kept it simple, and it worked wonders.
I feel bad for Orton. He played well and gave them a chance. Sports can be cruel sometimes— Dirk Nowitzki (@swish41) December 30, 2013
He stood confident in the pocket, got his throws out quickly, found his stars (Witten had 12 catches for 135 yards, Bryant had eight for 99) and picked apart the Eagles defense underneath and in the middle of the field.
His first turnover wasn't a great throw, but it wasn't completely his fault. In the end, he completed 65.2 percent of his throws, tallied a solid 7.8 yards per throw and finished with a 85.2 QB rating.
The throw everyone will remember was bad, but this loss isn't completely on Orton.
Mychal Kendricks, Eagles: A
The Philadelphia Enquirer's Jeff McLane sums it up well:
First a forced fumble, now an interception. Mychal Kendricks has been the #Eagles defense in the first half.— Jeff McLane (@Jeff_McLane) December 30, 2013
The 'Boys were moving the ball extremely efficiently in the first half, and if it weren't for Kendricks' forced fumble and interception, it's likely the Eagles would have given up a lot more than 10 points.
The ever-improving second-year Cal product also finished with a team-high 12 tackles, and it's difficult to imagine where this defense would have been without him making plays all over the gridiron.
DeMarco Murray, Cowboys: B+
His early fumble was costly, sure, but on his way to 90 total yards (51 rushing, 39 receiving), Murray ran extremely hard all night.
While not all of his runs finished with explosive "truck-stick" hits quite like that one, Murray—in addition to his typical elusiveness—never shied away from contact and the end of his runs and consistently pushed forward for extra yardage.
There's no questioning his talent or effort after this one.