Football doesn’t have to be that hard.
The Eagles came into the final game of the season with the league’s leading rusher, against one of the league’s worst defenses, so they ran.
And for the most part, it worked.
The Eagles used a playoff-worthy rushing game to beat the Cowboys 24-22 Sunday night, winning the NFC East title and earning a chance to host the Saints next Saturday night in a Wild Card game.
With LeSean McCoy’s 131 yards and Bryce Brown’s fourth-quarter touchdown, the Eagles were able to grind away at the Cowboys defense over the course of the night, and it paid dividends late.
While so much attention has been paid to their fast pace and the exploits of quarterback Nick Foles, the Eagles have been best when they’re lining up and running.
With an athletic offensive line that can get to the second level and create big plays, the Eagles are built to run, even if it doesn’t fit the cloud-of-dust profile.
That could serve them well next week if the weather gets dodgy, as the Saints have shown time and again they’re built to play indoors on carpet.
Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:
1. Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin didn’t always have the best luck with Chip Kelly’s teams when he was at USC and Kelly was at Oregon.
But in two games this year, the 73-year-old has held up pretty well, or at least wasn’t the problem.
The Cowboys were able to frustrate Foles throughout the game with pressure up the middle, and playing with a degree of discipline on the edges.
After holding the Eagles to three points earlier this season, it’s a bit of redemption for Kiffin for some of the strafings he’s taken.
2. Speaking of that Cowboys defensive line, it’s hard to wrap your mind around it, but they might have had a Pro Bowl snub.
Defensive tackle Jason Hatcher got to double-digit sacks for the season with a pair, with a forced fumble thrown in for good measure.
The 31-year-old will be a free agent this offseason, and should draw plenty of attention on the market, as the Cowboys still won’t be in position to spend heavily.
His disruptive play in the middle has been lost in a sea of ineptitude, but if they’re not able to pay him, somebody will.
3. The Eagles were willing to single-cover wide receiver Dez Bryant for most of the night.
That was crucial to their plan, but it backfired in the fourth quarter.
Bryant’s fourth-quarter touchdown, which got them to within two, came when the Cowboys used Miles Austin in motion to get Bryant singled up on safety Patrick Chung. It was a mismatch, and Bryant had to only keep from tripping over his own feet to get into the end zone.
Bryant may have also saved the skin of the poor play-clock operator, who jammed the Cowboys earlier in the drive.
4. The Dallas offensive plan was evident, as the Cowboys wanted to keep things close and clutch and grab and hope for a chance.
That’s often easier said that done.
Too often in the past, the Cowboys bailed on the run game too soon, but even after running back DeMarco Murray fumbled a reception early on, they went right back to him on the next play.
He continued to run physically, flattening Eagles defensive end Damion Square in a play that will live on in the highlight shows for weeks.
Then again, they wouldn’t hand it to him on a fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter.
Along with quarterback Kyle Orton’s killer interception, it took them right back to the roots of their problems all year, even when Tony Romo was healthy.
5. On a day when perhaps the best pass-catching tight end (Tony Gonzalez) called it a career, Cowboys tight end Jason Witten proved he’s not far off that status.
Witten had a season-best 12 catches for 135 yards.
It was the kind of performance that will get lost in the wake of the big-picture failings of the Cowboys, but it shouldn’t be.