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The Pro Football Notebook


December 20, 2010 7:54 AM

Eagles Run To The Top Of NFC East

JacksonPuntReturn.jpgThe race for the NFC East title became crystal clear. The race for the AFC South got more muddled. And the AFC West still holds the possibility for a changing of the guard thanks to three key games early on Sunday.

No finish was more stunning than Philadelphia-NY Giants, and I'm not sure I can really add anything to the replays I would imagine most of you have seen. The Eagles trailed 31-10 with 7:28 left, rallied to tie it and then won it on the final play of the game when DeSean Jackson ran a punt back 65 yards for a touchdown. I didn't see the game live, only on the highlights, but I'm just trying to figure out why Tom Coughlin kicked the ball to the explosive Jackson. Perhaps he was concerned a shank sets the Eagles up at midfield with time for one desperate pass into the end zone, one that has a higher prospect of success than a punt return to the house. If that's the case, I can see the logic, but I wouldn't want to be the one explaining to the New York fan base why they've now all but lost a division title to Philadelphia right on the heels of the Yankees losing Cliff Lee to the Phillies. And NYG now has a real problem when it comes to making the playoffs--if they don't win at Green Bay next week, they'll lose control of their destiny for a wild-card.

Indianapolis had its back to the wall against Jacksonville and came up big with a 34-24 win in the RCA Dome. The biggest difference in this game was not Peyton Manning--though he played well--nor was it the pass-rushing combo of Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney. The difference was...hold your breath...the Colts' running game. Donald Brown ran for 129 yards and counterpart Maurice Jones-Drew was shut down. Coming up with a big performance like this in a big game, in an area that's been a liability all year long is the sign of a team that still has a champion's heart and whatever the future for Indy holds, there's no heart lacking. They hold control of the AFC South tiebreaker situation with both teams locked up at 8-6.

Kansas City also came up clutch, going into St. Louis and coming home with a 27-13 win that keeps them one game up on San Diego in the AFC West, a race where the Chargers hold the tiebreakers if they catch the leader. The Chiefs also did it by the running game, although for the league's premier running team, that was a little more predictable than Indy's success. Jamaal Charles rushed for 126 yards and the KC defense shut down Stephen Jackson. Coming off his appendectomy, Matt Cassell was coolly efficient, while Sam Bradford completed less than 50 percent of his passes, only got 181 yards out of his 21 completions and threw two interceptions. The Rams, at 6-8, are still tied for first in the NFC West since Seattle lost to Atlanta. In the pregame discussion of KC-St. Louis on Friday, I said one of Cassell's targets would have to be tight end Tony Gonzalez. The veteran tight end was a non-factor in this game for the very good reason that he's been playing in Atlanta for two years. In my own weak defense I really did know this, as previous discussions of the Falcons and Chiefs will bear out. One of the many dangers of writing a post when you're only on your second cup of coffee.

Image from sportsillustrated.cnn.com

Dan Flaherty is the editor of the Sports Notebook Family, published through the Real Clear Sports Blog Network, offering daily commentary in the NFL, coverage of college basketball.  and bowl commentary in college football. He is the author of The Last New Year's, a book that revisits the historic high points of college football's New Year's Day bowl games.

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