by Justin Henry (@cynicjrh)
NFC East Beat Writer/10 Million Views from Catching Psy
The New York Giants needed a victory to maintain their barest-of-threads hold on the NFC East lead.
The Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys each needed a win on Sunday to keep pace in the wild card race, and also to also keep a chance at the NFC East title within arm's reach.
The Philadelphia Eagles were all but eliminated even heading into the week (a Giants victory sealed their fate), but would have liked to have young Nick Foles to get his first career victory, and prove that he can be the franchise leader for years to come.
In this holiday season, all four teams got their wish.
For the first time since Week 8 in 2008 (October 26), each NFC East team won their game in the same scheduled week.
It took four different results, including a blowout and 3 different times of narrow wins (overtime, last second field goal, and last second touchdown), but the four squads indeed came out on top in the season's homestretch.
For the top 3 teams, the dance of death continues, whereas the Eagles will ask themselves, "Crap, did we just cost ourselves Manti Te'o?"
1. Rookie Wilson Slams Saints, Helps Giants Retain East Lead
Rookie running back David Wilson found himself running afoul of Tom Coughlin earlier this season, stemming from some undisciplined play (read: fumbles).
On Sunday, against the staggering New Orleans Saints, Wilson redeemed himself with a performance not seen by the Giant faithful in quite some time.
Wilson became the first Giants rookie since 1971 (Charlie Evans) to score 3 touchdowns in a game, providing 327 all-purpose yards, as well as the spark that led New York to a 52-27 pasting.
Down 7-0 after Eli Manning threw a pick-six to Elbert Mack, Wilson responded with a 97-yard kickoff return to even the score.
New Orleans would never regain the lead.
Coming out of the half up 14-13, the Giants quickly drove down the field, and Wilson added his second score on a 6-yard touchdown run. This would be Wilson's first rushing score since October 7, in a victory over Cleveland.
Wilson iced the game with a 52-yard scamper late in the fourth, capping off a 21-point quarter for the defending champions.
Wilson never had more than 7 carries in a game before Sunday, but took 13 carries for 100 yards and the three combined touchdowns.
With Andre Brown out for the year, and Ahmad Bradshaw experiencing his own pains (he left the game at one point early, but came back), perhaps Coughlin will have a restoration of faith in Wilson at just the right time.
2. Cousins Completes Redskins Rally over Ravens
Redskins fans are used to their heroic rookie quarterback making the big plays needed in order to garner a win.
This time, a different rookie would play the role of hero.
Kirk Cousins would insert himself after Robert Griffin III went out late in the fourth with a gruesome-looking knee sprain. Despite not having the celebrity, prestige, or early success of RG3, he would prove himself capable of saving the day.
Griffin exited with under a minute to go against the Baltimore Ravens, who led 28-20. A 15-yard gain to Leonard Hankerson was followed by an 11-yard corner strike to Pierre Garcon for the touchdown. Cousins evened the score at 28 by ambling in for the 2-point conversion.
Into overtime the game ventured, and the Ravens went 3-and-out after winning the coin toss. Richard Crawford would return the ensuing punt 64 yards, allowing Kai Forbath to nail a 34-yard field goal, giving the Redskins a 31-28 win.
Alfred Morris was another rookie who cashed in for the Redskins, running for 122 yards and a touchdown, despite some fumbling issues that kept the Ravens as the aggressors.
That rushing total brings Morris to 1228 yards on the year, tying him for twenty-second all time with Chris Johnson for rushing yards in a rookie season. Doug Martin of Tampa Bay posted 128 yards against the Eagles Sunday, and is just ahead of Morris and Johnson's marks with 1234 yards.
3. Emotionally Charged Cowboys Win on Final Play
Less than 36 hours after the senseless accident that involved defensive tackle Josh Brent and now-departed practice squad member Jerry Brown, the Cowboys found themselves matched up with the Cincinnati Bengals, with both teams looking to sustain their playoff hopes.
Riding a wave on heavy hearts, Dallas was able to eke out a 20-19 victory in the final seconds, as Dan Bailey booted a 40-yard field goal to claim victory.
The Bengals had held a 19-10 lead since midway through the third quarter, but could not slam the door on the Cowboys.
After Josh Brown hit a field goal with 6:45 remaining in the third, Cincinnati gained only 66 yards of offense on their ensuing 3 possessions, getting no further than Dallas' 49 yard line on any of those drives.
Dallas, meanwhile, was able to make the most of Cincinnati coming up short. The first heavy-handed response was a 68-yard drive that ended in a Dez Bryant touchdown of 27 yards, chewing up just 3 minutes of clock in the fourth.
Cincinnati killed about 3 minutes of clock after that, but the Cowboys used the remaining 3:44 to set up Bailey's icer.
The Cowboys completed 57.9 percent of their third down attempts (11 of 19), a far cry from the Bengals' 37.18 percent season average on defense, one of the few defensive areas where Cincy proved weak.
4. Eagles Finally Victorious After 70 Day Drought
Eagles fans and local prognosticators were so used to Philadelphia getting blown out, outplayed, and making maddening mistakes over the past 2 months, most of them didn't think they had a chance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the road.
On the other hand, the very composed and gamely Nick Foles had to get his first career win sometime.
But with Tampa Bay up 21-10, and about 7 minutes left in the fourth quarter, it seemed like another day, another loss for Gang Green.
Foles had other plans.
Without LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Brent Celek (injured with a concussion on the first play), and most of the original offensive line, Foles engineered two touchdown drives in the final seven minutes to give Philly the 23-21 win.
The first drive took 3:20 off the clock, and ended with a Clay Harbor touchdown. The two point conversion failed, so 21-16 it was.
After using all their timeouts during the stonewalling of Tampa on the next drive, Foles used the final 2:44 to drive his Eagles 64 yards, get to Tampa's 1-yard line with 2 seconds left, and throw the winning score to Jeremy Maclin, winning 23-21.
Foles set an Eagles record for most passing yards by a rookie with 381, surpassing the 338 thrown by replacement player Scott Tinsley in 1987.
Not bad for the leader of a time that isn't supposed to win.
5. The Playoff Picture
Unfortunately for the Eagles and their feel-good Sunday, they will be omitted from this section, as their 4-9 record excludes them from postseason talk.
The Giants remaining opponents are Atlanta (11-2), Baltimore (9-4), and Philadelphia (4-9), who boast a .615 winning percentage. New York currently holds the fourth seed by virtue of their division lead, and are still a game out of the second seed, owned by the 9-4 Packers.
The Redskins have Cleveland (5-8), Philadelphia (4-9), and Dallas (7-6), whose winning percentage averages out at .410. The Redskins rank seventh (beating Dallas head to head), and need Chicago or Seattle to slip and fall for them to have a chance at an in.
The Cowboys will face Pittsburgh (7-6), New Orleans (5-8), and Washington (7-6), with a combined winning percentage of .487. They're eighth in the NFC, behind Washington. They need both Washington and one of Chicago/Seattle to stumble in order to possibly get in.