Dallas had no answer for the Eagles’ Bradford to Matthews connection — nine catches for 133 yards.
By Mary Cunningham
No Eagle had a longer two weeks than second-year receiver Jordan Matthews.
He was correctly skewered in the media and by fans for his numerous drops of Sam Bradford passes in the Birds’ 27-16 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Oct. 25.
So, Matthews had 14 days to stew about it and do something about it in last night’s vital victory over the dreaded Dallas Cowboys.
And Matthews did just that — his 41-yard touchdown reception with 10:59 left in overtime sent the Eagles to a 33-27 win over the Cowboys.
“When games like this happen, it’s not like it’s the greatest thing in the world,” Matthews said. “It’s like, ‘OK, I did my job.’ It’s not like some miraculous thing happened. I did what I was supposed to do today.”
Matthews finished with nine catches for a season-high 133 yards and the game-winning touchdown. But really, it was the culmination of a game in which the Eagles and Cowboys engaged in a wild shootout as both teams scored on seven consecutive possessions.
That included Caleb Sturgis’ 53-yard field goal with 1:46 left in regulation to give the Eagles a three-point lead, only to be matched by Dan Bailey’s 44-yarder with 2 seconds left that hit the left upright and bounced through. The field goal followed two dubious pass interference calls on Byron Maxwell.
“The last few minutes, the pass interference [calls], some people thought it was questionable and I’m on the sidelines just wanting to puke,” left tackle Lane Johnson said.
The Eagles improved to 4-4 and remained one-half game behind the Giants for first place in the NFC East. The Cowboys fell to 2-6, losing their sixth straight game since quarterback Tony Romo went down with a broken collarbone in the first meeting between the two teams.
Both teams were desperate, and they played that way.
There was the 67-yard interception return for a touchdown by rookie linebacker Jordan Hicks to start the fourth-quarter frenzy, followed by a 79-yard kickoff return by Dallas’ Lucky Whitehead to set up the tying touchdown.
For Hicks, it was his first-ever interception return for a touchdown and it came in front of several college friends from the University of Texas.
“I just stayed flat-footed, trusted my eyes and went,” Hicks said. “It felt real good. I hit the goal line and I was really feeling good.”
There was strong running by DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews, who split the carries more evenly than they had all season. Murray had 83 yards on 18 carries and Mathews 65 yards on 10 carries. But Murray had 78 yards receiving on 6 catches.
For Murray, it was a far cry from his first game against his former Cowboys teammates when he had 2 yards rushing on 13 carries. He insisted that he didn’t have any extra motivation to play better against the Cowboys in his return to Dallas.
“I approached it just like any other game,” Murray said.
But the two teams didn’t.
There was Cowboys wide receiver Cole Beasley running through the Eagles’ defense, making him much more menacing than Dez Bryant, who still hauled in a 51-yard pass in the first quarter and an 18-yard touchdown pass in the fourth.
Beasley had 9 catches for 112 yards and two touchdowns. Bryant, still recovering from a broken foot, had 5 catches for 104 yards. And Matt Cassel, filling in for Romo, also had a big game.
The Eagles were able to overcome all of it, led by quarterback Sam Bradford, who completed 25 of 36 passes for 295 yards and the touchdown to Matthews.
“I think Sam is continuing to improve,” Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. “I thought he was really accurate in his throws. He put the ball on guys in the right spot. You look at the play with Jordan, and it was a heck of a throw.”
For Matthews to get his chance, however, the Eagles had to overcome their familiar pattern of starting slowly on offense and defense. The Eagles have been outscored 40-10 in the first quarter this season, including 7-0 on Sunday.
The Eagles tied it up with 9:01 left in the second quarter behind the running of Mathews, who had a 21-yard run, and Murray, who ran it in from the 1 on 4th-and-goal. In the third quarter, Murray added a 44-yard reception on a wheel route where he got behind the Cowboys’ linebacker and caught the pass up the sideline. Matthews’ 28-yard reception got the Eagles to the 6 and Mathews ran it in from there, giving the Eagles their first lead of the game.
It was short-lived as the Cowboys came right back with a long drive of their own to tie the game with 2:04 left in the third quarter. Beasley had four receptions on the drive, which included the 17-yard TD catch, his second of the game.
And then things really got crazy, before Matthews put an end to it in overtime. One play after Mathews converted 4th-and-1 from the Dallas 43, Bradford hit Matthews over the middle. Then Matthews explained what happened next: “Right when I caught it, I saw daylight. I saw [Josh] Huff actually look at me and go, ‘Oh, I better block my guy.’ [After that], I knew we were scot-free.”
Matthews threw the ball into the stands in euphoria as his teammates rushed onto the field to celebrate.