PHILADELPHIA -- It was always coming down to the season finale in Dallas. No matter what the Eagles or Cowboys did over the last two months, they were always on a collision course that would decide the NFC East title in Week 17.
And yes, it was more than a little anticlimactic when Dallas quarterback Tony Romo’s back injury knocked him out of the game.
The Eagles still had to win, though. And they did, in a game that featured a number of unforgettable and season-defining plays. Choosing just one was the hardest part of doing this entire season. But here we go:
The Eagles defense made a couple of other big plays. Connor Barwin batting away a pass on fourth down was a huge moment. And of course Brandon Boykin made an interception that ended the Cowboys’ last chance to drive for the game-winning score. It doesn’t get much bigger than that.
But the momentum belonged to the Cowboys when, on a fourth-and-9 play, Kyle Orton found Bryant for a 32-yard touchdown right through the heart of the Eagles’ secondary. That made the score 24-22 with only 2 minutes, 19 seconds left in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys lined up for the two-point conversion and a chance to tie the game.
Maybe the Eagles would have driven to a game-winning field goal or touchdown if the Cowboys had tied the game there. Maybe they would have won in overtime. But maybe not. For certain, that two-point lead put all the pressure on the Cowboys in those final minutes.
A week earlier, the Eagles had beaten the Chicago Bears, 54-11. The Bears scored just one touchdown in that game. It was a 6-yard throw from Jay Cutler to Brandon Marshall. Williams was the cornerback beaten on the play.
As he lined up across from Bryant, Williams thought of that play. He knew the Cowboys coaches had studied that game tape. He said he expected Dallas to try to get the ball to Bryant the same way Chicago had gotten it to Marshall. He guessed right, diving to slap the ball away and preserve the lead.
The Cowboys got another chance, but Boykin ended that with his interception. The Eagles celebrated the NFC East title on the Cowboys’ home field. It was the highlight of an exciting first season under coach Chip Kelly. And the defining play was Williams’ desperate swat at a pass that would have tied the game.
On Friday, we’ll take a look at the last of the 10 plays that defined the Eagles’ 2013 season.