Tafoya's Notebook: Week 17 - NBC Sports

Tafoya's Notebook: Week 17
December 30, 2013, 3:00 pm


Philly Defeats Dallas, 24-22, for NFC East Title

Michele Tafoya




I don't think the regular season could have ended with more drama.  Sunday was a white-knuckle day in the NFL, and Sunday Night Football was no exception.


LeSean McCoy was the story for Philadelphia, along with Brandon Boykin's game-saving interception. Shady simply carried his team to victory.


Here are some of the other tidbits that did not make air during the game:





In his two prior games in Dallas, Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson had a combined 300 yards receiving.  The Cowboys made sure that didn't happen Sunday night.  Jackson was held to 28 yards on 3 catches.


Before the game I asked Jackson to explain his previous big games against the Cowboys.


"I think it's the stage," the former Cal Golden Bear told me.  "They are America's team.  The Dallas Cowboys are a team I grew up looking up to:  Michael Irvin, Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman.  Something about this team always gives me chills.  Like, 'Wow!  I'm playing against America's team.'  So as long as I can do great things and put up big numbers and win the game the whole world will remember me."


No big numbers on Sunday Night, but he got the win.





Jackson is enjoying the new opportunities he's getting in Chip Kelly's offense.  "(Kelly) puts me in great positions to take advantage of the defense," Jackson told me.  "He puts me on mismatches with linebackers and safeties.  And throughout the game he figures out if there is a defender who is going to follow me.  And the biggest thing is that I'm in the backfield, I'm in motion and doing a lot of things that you don't usually see a wide receiver doing."





We were hoping to see more of Dallas CB Orlando Scandrick on DeSean Sunday.  The two Southern California kids have a lot of history together.


Jackson told me he and Scandrick were always the best players on their teams going back to their days in Pop Warner football.  Jackson (Long Beach Poly) boasts that he beat Scandrick (Los Alamitos) in their high school championship game. 


As far as bragging rights these days, Jackson told me "(Scandrick) is always trying to stick me, so I do everything I can to get in the end zone and mess with him that way.  He's been one of the best and I've been one of the best; so Sunday Night we get another opportunity to continue the story."


Bragging rights go to Jackson.





In our production meeting with Chip Kelly it was evident that the Eagles' head coach was not going to miss Dallas LB Sean Lee in Sunday's contest.


Kelly could only shake his head when recalling what a factor Lee was in their week seven meeting.


Cowboys CB Brandon Carr told me there was not one individual player who could replace the former Nittany Lion.


"It's going to take all eleven defenders to make up for his absence," Carr said.  He called Lee "The general out there.  The QB of our defense, our signal caller, our everything." 


But Carr also said Lee would contribute from the bench by helping make corrections and getting in the linebackers ears.


Indeed, Lee was joined at the hip with his replacement, rookie Devonte Holloman.  It paid off.  Holloman, who was making just his second NFL start, finished with a team-high eleven tackles and two sacks.





While Lee was out, CB Morris Claiborne returned after missing the previous four games with a hamstring injury.


When talking about Claiborne's return, Carr told me, "Mo brings some energy to the table.  And (After being out the last four games), he's like a kid in a candy store.  He's enthusiastic about everything.  He brings a different mentality. We have our three corners up and ready to rock and roll, and that's good for us."


Claiborne finished the night with just two tackles, Carr with one.





Carr told me because the Eagles offense is fast, Dallas could not afford mistakes.  He said, "Guys have got to be locked in on each and every play.  And when that play is over -- good, bad or indifferent -- you've got to get to the next one and reload."


The defense did just that.  The Cowboys loss could not be hung on Carr and Company.  The unit may have played its best game of the season.





John Kitna told me he wouldn't have contacted the Cowboys if they had had a third QB in the fold who knew the Cowboys system.  As Kitna put it "People don't know how hard it is to simply call a play in an NFL huddle!" 

So without telling his wife, the former Dallas back-up texted Jason Garrett offering his services as a back-up to Kyle Orton.  After Garrett showed interest, Kitna held a family meeting where he received universal support from his wife and four kids.


But Kitna told me he was only an emergency QB... He said if he actually had to play Sunday Night, "That wouldn't be good for anyone!"





Kitna was able to be away from his part-time job as a math teacher and football coach at Lincoln HS in Tacoma, Washington, because the school was on winter break.


Before the game I asked Kitna what he would do if the Cowboys won and needed him for the playoffs.  "My principal would understand," he answered with a smile.


Lincoln is the high school Kitna, his parents and grandmother attended.  It became a national story when word leaked that the QB planned to donate his $53,000 game check to the the "Fightin' Abes."


Kitna told me he first discussed the donation in what he thought was a private conversation.  He wasn't looking for publicity. 


But he said he doesn't need the money, and he's always had a heart for inner-city at-risk youth, which is why he's coaching and teaching at Lincoln.  (His son is a sophomore there).


Kitna said, "Of all the highs I've had in football, nothing compares" to seeing a young person improve and discover there is hope for the future.


Thanks to Kitna, and his wife -- who is head of the booster club -- many young lives at Lincoln are achieving more and flunking out less.


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