SCHUYLER DIXON, AP Sports Writer
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Chip Kelly engineered a dramatic change in his first season as Philadelphia’s coach.
Nick Foles and Brandon Boykin made the plays to finish off the worst-to-first surge, and sent the Dallas Cowboys home with the same sickening feeling for the third straight year.
Foles threw two touchdown passes, one to NFL rushing champion LeSean McCoy, and Boykin had a game-sealing interception Sunday night to give the Eagles a 24-22 victory over the Cowboys, who lost yet another finale with the NFC East title and a playoff berth on the line.
Boosted by Kelly’s fast-paced offense that made Oregon one of the best teams in college football, the Eagles won the division for the first time since 2010, a year after they were 4-12.
“I thought the first time I met them I thought this was a special group,” Kelly said. “I can’t tell you how much they’ve made this transition coming for me from college to pros.”
Nobody could blame Tony Romo for Dallas’ latest crushing loss.
Kyle Orton, filling in two days after Romo underwent back surgery, had Dallas about 40 yards from field goal range with 1:49 remaining. But he threw behind Miles Austin on the first play, and into the arms of Boykin.
“We kept fighting. We believed in each other,” said Foles, who was 17 of 26 for 263 yards after throwing for only 80 in a 17-3 loss to Dallas at home. “When the offense was struggling, the defense picked us up.”
The Eagles (10-6) will host New Orleans in a wild-card game Saturday night, while the Cowboys (8-8) have now dropped successive finales to each division rival and have missed the playoffs four straight years. Dallas is 136-136 since the start of the 1997 season.
“It’s unthinkable, really, to me to be sitting here three years in a row and this game ends up putting us at .500 and this game eliminates us from going to the playoffs,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said.
Five things to consider after the Eagles beat Dallas in a winner-take-all finale for the second time in five years — they won 44-6 in 2008.
RUSHING CHAMP: McCoy, who had a 3-yard scoring catch, rushed for 131 yards to finish with 1,607 yards and become the first Philadelphia running back to win the rushing title since Hall of Famer Steve Van Buren in 1949. He had 134 yards from scrimmage and finished with 2,146 to break Brian Westbrook’s team record of 2,104 from 2007. “With the stats and the records, none of that stuff means anything, if you don’t win in the end,” McCoy said. “That’s the most important thing.”
COACHING FUTURE: For the third time since mid-November, Jones was emphatic in saying Jason Garrett would return. Garrett has 8-8 records in all three full seasons as coach. Dallas is just the third team in NFL history to have three straight 8-8 records, according to STATS. “I’ll give Jason Garrett a lot of credit for how we handled a lot of challenges throughout the year,” said Jones, referring to the late loss of Romo, along with the absence of defensive leader Sean Lee (neck) and a litany of injuries to the defensive line. Jones wasn’t as emphatic about defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin returning for a second season after the Cowboys gave up the most yards in franchise history.
LATE DRAMA: Dallas trailed 24-16 when Orton threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Dez Bryant. Orton went back to Bryant for the 2-point conversion, but Cary Williams dove to punch the ball away. But the Eagles, with the second-ranked offense in the NFL, couldn’t run out the clock against the league’s worst defense. Foles even tried to throw on third down, but had to slide short of the first down when nobody was open. Boykin took care of things after the punt. “It was happiness,” Boykin said. “Everybody jumped on top of me. I really just wanted to make sure the offense got back out there to take a knee.”
NOT GOOD ENOUGH: The Cowboys were down 10-0 early in the second quarter and never led, but still found a way to make it interesting without their top offensive and defensive players. “You feel a tremendous sense of pride about how the team played, how they fought, how they scratched, how they clawed, how they battled,” Garrett said. “But having said that, we didn’t get the job done.”
TEXAS CONNECTION: There will be plenty of talk all week about Foles facing Drew Brees, since both played for Westlake High School near Austin. Foles finished his college career at Arizona after starting at Michigan State, and Brees was largely overlooked by Texas schools before starring at Purdue. “When you grow up in Westlake, you know who Drew Brees is,” said Foles, who is 10 years younger. “But it’s about zoning stuff out. I’m focusing on their defense.”
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