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(Sunday, December 27th)
Final Score: Philadelphia 30, Denver 27
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - David Akers nailed a 28-yard field goal with four seconds left in the game, as the Eagles overcame blowing a 17-point lead in the second half to hold off Denver, 30-27, in a matchup packed with far-reaching playoff implications.
Donovan McNabb passed for 322 yards and three touchdowns with an interception, completing 20-of-35 throws.
Brent Celek caught four passes for 121 yards and a touchdown, while DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant also had receiving scores for Philadelphia (11-4), which secured an invitation to the playoffs with last Sunday's victory over San Francisco.
The Eagles could have clinched the NFC East with a Dallas loss to Washington in Sunday's nightcap. But the Cowboys thoroughly dominated the 'Skins in a 17-0 final to set up a winner-take-all scenario for the division title next Sunday in Dallas. Philadelphia can also clinch a first-round bye with a single Minnesota loss and a victory over the Cowboys.
Kyle Orton threw three touchdown passes and an interception during a 189-yard passing effort. He finished 27-of-41 passing, with two of his scores going to Jabar Gaffney, who made seven grabs for 69 yards.
Knowshon Moreno had the other receiving touchdown, and Brandon Marshall caught eight passes for 39 yards for Denver (8-7), whose playoff chances diminish with each passing week. Losses in seven of the last nine games have placed the Broncos' once-certain chances of reaching the playoffs in clear jeopardy.
The defeat further muddled the AFC's wild card picture; Denver is now tied with the Jets, Houston, Pittsburgh and Baltimore at 8-7 with two spots up for grabs.
The Broncos will need help next week, as they no longer control their own destiny. Miami and Jacksonville remain a game back and are still in mathematical contention heading into the final week of the regular season.
The game also featured the return of an Eagles icon to Philadelphia, as Brian Dawkins faced his former team for the first time since signing to anchor Denver's secondary in the offseason. The seven-time Pro Bowl selection logged a team-high eight tackles in the loss.
"It was real-real nerve-racking. I was trying to control my emotions -- it was real tough for this game," said Dawkins. "Once the ball was snapped, it was about football. Period."
After Denver completed its comeback from down 27-10 to tie the game at 27 on a Matt Prater field goal with 6:05 remaining, the Eagles defense forced a Denver punt and got the ball back on the Denver 42 with 1:41 to play. McNabb completed a key 27-yard pass along the left sideline to Jeremy Maclin on second down to gain the Broncos' 13-yard line. The play was initially ruled incomplete, but a review overturned the call with 59 seconds to go.
"It was a great throw and an even better catch -- a phenomenal catch," Eagles coach Andy Reid said of McNabb and Maclin's crucial connection. "I was standing right next to it. That's a tough, tough call there. But that's why we have the replay."
Philadelphia then ran three plays to position Akers, who split the uprights to give the Eagles their sixth straight win. Philadelphia last won six a row from November 15-December 19 of its NFC Championship campaign of 2004.
A McNabb interception to start the second half led to Denver points, as Prater was true from 33 yards away less than five minutes in for a 20-10 game.
Undeterred, Philadelphia answered with an 80-yard scoring drive that was kept alive by two Denver penalties on third down. The latter of those set up the Birds at the Broncos' 15, where Avant hauled in a tipped pass while falling across the goal-line for a 27-10 lead with about seven minutes to go.
"It seems like we are going through growing pains at the wrong time of the year," said Dawkins. "Too many mistakes. At the end of the day it's a loss and we handed them a lot of things."
Denver's next drive was cut short when Asante Samuel undercut Orton's deep ball up the right sideline and returned the pick to midfield. However, an unnecessary roughness infraction was levied on Philadelphia during the return, placing the ball at the one.
Three plays went nowhere, and the Broncos' turned good field position into a quick seven points on Orton's seven-yard TD strike to Gaffney. Denver turned the game on its head by adding a second touchdown inside a minute to get to within three at 27-24.
Macho Harris was hammered on the ensuing kickoff by Darrell Reid and coughed it up to the Broncos at the 16. Orton wasted little time in hitting Moreno on a short pass over the middle, and the rookie back scampered into the end zone just before the close of the quarter.
The Eagles offense continued to sputter with a pair of three-and-outs to begin the fourth quarter. Denver also had trouble moving the ball early on but did enough to get Prater in position for a 46-yard field goal on its third turn with the ball -- tying the game at 27 with close to six minutes remaining.
The Broncos survived an overturned Eagles defensive touchdown on their opening offensive series. It was initially ruled Orton threw a backwards pass behind the line of scrimmage, with Dimitri Patterson scooping it up for a 23- yard score.
The play was reversed after an official review, but Denver still found themselves down 7-0 shortly thereafter. McNabb was sacked and fumbled it away to the Broncos on Philadelphia's first series, but the visitors did nothing with it.
On their next possession, however, the Eagles marched 61 yards in six plays, with McNabb finding Jackson for a two-yard TD across the middle. Philadelphia then drove down to the Denver 21 just before the end of the quarter, and Akers made it a 10-0 game on a 39-yard field goal.
Denver shaved nearly six minutes off the clock with a solid 70-yard scoring drive to start the second quarter. The Broncos converted a 4th-and-1 at the Eagles' 16 and three third downs -- including Orton's 11-yard scoring strike to Gaffney on the 12th play of the series.
The Eagles came right back with a quick score to make it a 17-7 contest, with McNabb connecting with Celek for a 47-yard touchdown. Philadelphia again drove deep into Denver territory at the close of the quarter, and Akers' 45-yard boot gave the hosts a 20-7 lead at halftime.
The Eagles are now an impressive 15-3 in December games since 2006 and 32-13 all-time for the month under Reid's direction...Brian Westbrook returned from a five-game absence due to concussion symptoms and ran nine times for 32 yards. He added two catches for five yards...Running back Correll Buckhalter, who spent eight seasons with the Eagles before also joining Denver in the offseason, had 42 yards on five carries along with two grabs for 12 yards in his return...Jackson and Celek both had four catches, while Maclin had a team- high six receptions for 92 yards...Samuel logged his ninth interception of the season, the most by a Philadelphia player since Bill Bradley in 1971...Gaffney caught his first two TDs of the year...Elvis Dumervil recorded two sacks to set a Broncos' franchise record with 17 this year...Eagles center Jamal Jackson sustained a knee sprain and will have an MRI exam on Monday.
12/27 23:52:13 ET
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