Eagles eager to play Dallas for division title

Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles have come a long way

since the previous time they played Dallas.

Now, they have to tie or beat the Cowboys to complete a

worst-to-first journey.

The NFC East title is at stake when the Eagles (9-6) play at

Dallas (8-7) next Sunday night. These aren’t the same teams who met

in Philadelphia in October.

Both teams were 3-3 when the Cowboys came to town and became the

first defense to shut down Chip Kelly’s high-flying offense. Foles,

making his second start for an injured Michael Vick, struggled

before suffering a concussion in a 17-3 loss.

The Eagles followed that up with a 15-7 loss to the New York

Giants. But Foles returned the next game, tied an NFL record with

seven touchdown passes in a win at Oakland and has led Philadelphia

to a 6-1 record in his past seven starts. He has 25 TD passes and

only two interceptions.

”I think his confidence is a byproduct of his experience,”

Kelly said Monday. ”You have to be able to learn from your

mistakes, and I think that’s one thing that Nick does a really,

really good job of is he’s very analytical of himself.

”He’s very critical of himself in a really constructive way. I

think that shows up in terms of the little teeny details that I

think separate from being good and going to great is he’s willing

to work at that, and that’s something that as a coach you really

love having a guy that can take that in a constructive

manner.”

The Eagles are heading to Dallas off an impressive 54-11 win

over NFC North-leading Chicago in a game that didn’t matter much in

the standings for Philadelphia.

The Bears (8-7) could’ve clinched a division title and a No. 3

seed in the conference with a victory over the Eagles, but were

thoroughly dominated from start to finish.

Kelly chose to play his starters instead of resting them, and

they delivered their best all-around performance of the season.

The offense racked up 514 total yards while the defense limited

Jay Cutler and his dynamic receiving duo of Brandon Marshall and

Alshon Jeffery to 196 yards passing.

”We have evolved quite a bit from that point on,” defensive

coordinator Billy Davis said of his defense’s progression since the

first game against Dallas.

”We have evolved every week. I think the guys really understand

the (defense) now. The guys are executing at a high level right

now.”

The Eagles might face a team missing its starting quarterback.

Tony Romo injured his back rallying the Cowboys to a season-saving

win at Washington.

He hasn’t been ruled out for Sunday’s game, but it’s possible

backup Kyle Orton could make his first start since the final game

of the 2011 season.

That’s not necessarily great news for Philadelphia. Romo is 0-3

in regular-season finales with the NFC East title on the line. The

Cowboys lost to the Redskins in 2012, the Giants in 2011 and Eagles

in 2008.

The Eagles already were three-point favorites before news of

Romo’s injury. The line jumped to seven points in some sports books

before it was taken off the board Monday night.

”I’m always on what you did last, and what he did last was

pretty special,” Kelly said, referring to Romo’s game-winning TD

pass to DeMarco Murray against the Redskins.

”I think he’s a talented a quarterback as there is in this

league. Any time with that position, sometimes I think you get

probably too much credit and too much blame. But he’s one of the

really, really, really good quarterbacks we’ve seen, and I said

that the first time we played him. If you’re a fan of just

quarterback play, he’s pretty special.”

There won’t be a letdown for the Eagles if Romo doesn’t play.

They learned a lesson in a 48-30 loss at Minnesota in Week 15.

The Vikings were missing Adrian Peterson, his backup, their top

three cornerbacks and started backup quarterback Matt Cassel.

Yet the Eagles came out flat and never recovered.

That’s why Kelly never considered resting his starters against

the Bears. They wanted to erase the memory of the loss to Minnesota

and be at their best when they face Dallas for the division

crown.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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