Eagles 20, Dallas 7… but no ticket to the Dance….

Reality bites… and it bit the Eagles and their fans hard in the gluteus maximus as the Birds actually played a tough and gritty game to defeat the Cowboys 20-7 in Dallas on Christmas Eve.

TE Brent Celek was on his game… Vick was on it too… 90,000 Cowboys fans went home for Christmas knowing we are the better team…and relieved they will not have to face us in the playoffs.

What you gonna do? We ran out of numbers… and time.

It was a day to awaken old painful memories. Granted, we’re not in the business of saving lives here… but we are in the business of saving Philly SOUL… Elimination from the playoffs is a blow to the ego. The team that was “all in” is now officially “all out”… The Giants’ victory over the Jets in the 1:00 PM game eliminated the Eagles from the playoffs and turned the Dallas-New York Giants game next weekend into a showdown to decide the NFC East title.

Philadelphia (7-8) won its third straight, giving the Eagles a chance to break even if it can beat the Redskins at home in its finale next weekend. The Eagles also swept the season series against the Cowboys for the first time since 2006, having clobbered Dallas 34-7 in October.

“If we had gotten into the playoffs we would have definitely done some damage,” Vick said. “It’s unfortunate we didn’t. That’s the game of football. We made some mistakes early (this season) and got behind in the win-loss column. But we’re just happy we’re finishing strong.”

The Eagles defense is improving. Philadelphia has allowed just 36 points and 683 yards over the last three games, with 16 sacks. It has become more of a swarming-to-the-ball and a better tackling machine than it was in the first half of the season.

Sadly, the improvements have come too late to overcome the Eagles’ horrific start to this 2011 season.

“I think it took a little time to jell,” said defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins, one of the offseason additions whose arrival raised expectations. “I guess it took longer than we anticipated. We just didn’t get the job done. You can make all the excuses in the world, but they really don’t mean anything. At the end of the season when you look at our final record, there’s not going to be an asterisk by it. You just have to own up to it. We let a lot of opportunities get away from us early. All we can do now is control what we do in the future.”

Vick was 18 of 32 for 293 yards, with the touchdowns going to Jeremy Maclin and Brent Celek. Jason Avant nearly had another TD, but fumbled inches before touching the pylon, resulting in a touchback for the Cowboys.

DeSean Jackson caught five passes for 90 yards, and ran for 27 yards on two end-arounds, both on consecutive plays.

Alex Henery kicked field goals of 43 and 51 yards for the Eagles’ only points in the second half.

“They’re disappointed we don’t have a shot at the playoffs,” coach Andy Reid said. “At the same time I was pleased with the energy they brought to the football field. They wanted to dominate and play aggressive football. Nobody was hanging their heads.”

When this game kicked off, the Giants were up by only six points midway through the fourth quarter, so the Cowboys and Eagles still had a lot to play for.

Philadelphia got the ball first and Vick picked up where he left off the last time these teams met, cruising 80 yards in eight plays for a 7-0 lead. Then the Eagles snuffed Romo, forcing a punt from around midfield. On the final play of that series, Romo rushed a third-down pass to avoid a sack. On his follow-through, he smacked his passing hand on Jason Babin’s helmet. That’s when things got about as interesting as they’d be the rest of the afternoon.

The drama began with Dallas GM Jerry Jones leaving his midfield viewing booth to chat with head coach Garrett. He returned to his booth about the same time Romo returned to the sideline. Romo couldn’t grip the ball or take a snap, so he got his hand and wrist wrapped and iced. While he was trading his helmet for a baseball cap, team vice president Stephen Jones arrived on the sideline and spoke with trainers. RB Felix Jones then also joined Romo on the sidelines as being done for the day.

The executive order was given: pull Romo and Jones from the game and save them for the Giants showdown next week.

Stephen McGee, moved up from third-stringer to backup when Jon Kitna went on injured reserve, took over for Romo and went 24 of 38 for 182 yards, with four runs for 28 yards.

McGee beat the Eagles in last season’s finale, but he struggled to even sustain drives this time. It didn’t help that his running backs were Sammy Morris (pulled from retirement before last week’s game) and Chauncey Washington (signed off the street this week).

“It took me a little while to get comfortable,” McGee said. “I don’t get very many reps, basically never in a real game. I felt like I made progress through the game.”

McGee appeared to have overseen Dallas’ first shutout since November 2003, and first at home since September 1991, also against the Eagles, when a fourth-down pass from the Philadelphia 18 fell incomplete in the end zone with 2:13 left. But the Dallas defense forced a punt and rookie Bruce Carter blocked it, giving McGee one last drive. He started on the 16 with 19 seconds left, running for 12 yards, then hitting Miles Austin for a 4-yard touchdown pass.

M. Vick 18/32 293 2 0
L. McCoy 13 35 0 11
R. Brown 8 33 0 10
D. Jackson 2 27 0 18
M. Vick 3 10 0 10
Receiving REC YDS TD LG
D. Jackson 5 90 0 33
J. Maclin 5 72 1 22
B. Celek 2 52 1 39
J. Avant 2 35 0 27
R. Cooper 1 28 0 28
L. McCoy 1 10 0 10
C. Harbor 1 9 0 9
C. Hall 1 -3 0 -3
S. McGee 24/38 182 1 0
T. Romo 0/2 0 0 0
S. Morris 13 29 0 9
S. McGee 4 28 0 12
F. Jones 4 24 0 10
T. Fiammetta 1 1 0 1
C. Washington 1 -1 0 -1
Receiving REC YDS TD LG
D. Bryant 6 62 0 14
M. Austin 4 40 1 19
M. Bennett 3 28 0 14
J. Witten 4 24 0 10
C. Washington 2 13 0 15
S. Morris 4 10 0 9


Thomas Jackson

About Thomas Jackson

Jax Sports Media has been reporting on NFL teams in the mid-Atlantic region since 2006. Thomas Jackson is its senior writer. Tom started covering the Philadelphia Eagles for the MVN Network in 2007. In 2009 he joined the Bloguin Network. He now also covers the Baltimore Ravens.