The second-year cornerback intercepted a pass from Kyle Orton with under two minutes to go in Sunday night’s game against the Dallas Cowboys to preserve a tense 24-22 win in a game that decided the NFC East title.
It came just after the Eagles (10-6) were forced to punt from the shadow of their goal line after surviving a failed two-point attempt following a Cowboys touchdown that would have tied the game.
The Eagles will host the New Orleans Saints in the wildcard round next Saturday night at 8:10. If they win, they will go to Carolina for a divisional round game.
Though the Cowboys (8-8) never led, they appeared poised to drive for a winning score after forcing a three-and-out.
But on the first play after the two-minute warning, Boykin stepped in front of a short pass intended for Miles Austin and sealed the win with his team-leading sixth interception of the season.
The Cowboys appeared to steal the momentum of the game late in the third quarter with a goal-line stand, stopping Nick Foles on a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line. But the Eagles were able to stop them on downs and follow it up with their final score — a 6-yard run by Bryce Brown with 6:09 remaining.
It turned out to be just enough, as the Cowboys responded with an 80-yard drive capped by a 32-yard pass from Orton to Dez Bryant for a TD.
When they missed on the two-point conversion, they still had a chance to steal the game if they held Philadelphia to three-and-out, which is exactly what they did.
Boykin ended their dream, however, which began with the Cowboys playing seriously shorthanded from the start. Not only was quarterback Tony Romo finished for the season by back surgery two days earlier, but middle linebacker Sean Lee also was unable to go due to a neck injury.
Foles was 17 of 26 for 263 yards and two touchdowns. Running back LeSean McCoy again fueled a potent ground game, finishing with 131 yards and setting the franchise single-season rushing record.
The Eagles made good on their first offensive series, but were limited to a field goal after Lane Johnson was flagged for holding that took an 11-yard run by McCoy and a first down at the Dallas 25 off the board.
Their defense forced a turnover on the Cowboys’ first series to set that field goal up — Mychal Kendricks jarring the ball loose from DeMarco Murray and Brandon Fletcher recovering at the Philadelphia 23.
Penalties plagued the Eagles throughout the contest. They finished the third quarter with six, for 50 yards. The Cowboys had none.
But an intentional grounding penalty on Foles near the end of the first quarter did not prevent the Eagles from scoring their first touchdown, when Foles hit McCoy with a 3-yard pass to finish off an 88-yard drive.
Orton’s longest pass completion of the evening, 39 yards to Terrance Williams over Boykin, set up their only TD, which came three plays later on a pass to Gavin Escobar in the right flat that Escobar took 17 yards to the end zone.
The Eagles turned a second Cowboys turnover into another score later in the second quarter, after Kendricks picked off a pass thrown behind Jason Witten and returned it just past midfield.
From there, tight end Brent Celek first made a spectacular circus catch of a 35-yard bomb from Foles, then caught a 14-yard touchdown pass on the next play.
But the Cowboys were able to get some momentum going into halftime by responding with a quick 54-yard drive that resulted in a field goal in the closing seconds.
The second half began ominously for the Eagles, with Foles getting sacked on the first play from scrimmage of what would be a scoreless third quarter for them.
In the meantime, the Cowboys began chipping away with a pair of field goals, the second of which was set up by a strip-sack of Foles by Jason Hatcher.
Before the game, NBC aired an interview of McCoy with Bob Costas. Here are some highlights:
- On the deck being stacked in the Eagles favor for tonight’s game: “That’s why we play the game. We’re approaching the game the same way, as if he [Tony Romo] was playing. We’re preparing and practicing hard. We like it like this. The stakes are up. One game, we’ve got to win to get in.”
- On if he grew up a Steelers or Eagles fan having grown up in Pennsylvania: “Not really, just a fan of the game. I was a huge fan of Barry Sanders.”
- On comparisons to Barry Sanders: “I’m confident in my game, but watching Barry for so long, the comparison’s crazy. He’s done so many amazing things with those type of runs that there’s even times before the game when I’ll watch some clips to just try and take some different things he did. You really can’t compare us. I’m nowhere near Barry Sanders, and I’m fine to say that.”
- On playing for a long time, given that he is only 25: “I want to. That’s kind of the reason why maybe I’m so elusive and don’t take those extra shots because I have dreams to play a long time. I think in this game, half the battle is just being healthy.”
- On if the Eagles are peaking: “I think so. I think this season we’ve played so well for away games, and, late in the year, we’ve played very well at home. Right now, this is where we want to be, at the right time, peaking.”