Cowboys beat playoff-bound Eagles 6-0

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) Healthy? Yes. Sharp? Not quite.

The Philadelphia Eagles are heading into the playoffs with no further injuries after playing it safe in a 6-0 loss to Dallas on Sunday.

Dak Prescott tossed a 20-yard touchdown pass to Brice Butler early in the fourth quarter and the Cowboys denied the Eagles a franchise-record 14th win.

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The Eagles (13-3) rested several starters on a frigid day and played others briefly after securing the NFC’s No. 1 seed last week. They’ll have two weeks to work on a slumping offense before hosting a playoff game on Jan. 13 or 14.

“I’m not concerned,” coach Doug Pederson said. “I have confidence in our guys.”

Nick Foles struggled in one quarter, going 4 of 11 for 39 yards with one interception. Foles was excellent in his first start after Carson Wentz went down for the season, tossing four TD passes in a 34-29 win at the Giants on Dec. 17. But he has followed up with two poor performances.

“I feel great and I know what I can do,” Foles said. “I know the guys are confident in me. We expect to execute better. This wasn’t acceptable. We know how talented we can be. We can do special stuff.”

Second-year pro Nate Sudfeld replaced Foles and was 19 of 23 for 134 yards in his first career game. He was tackled inside the 5 after catching a lateral on a desperation play to end the game.

“Pretty solid for the most part in terms of efficiency and everything,” Sudfeld said. “But I felt there were some plays that we weren’t able to finish.”

The Cowboys (9-7) earned their second straight winning season for the first time since five in a row from 2005-09. That’s little consolation for Dallas, which was eliminated from playoff contention in Week 16.

“I’m sad the season is over,” Ezekiel Elliott said. “I wish we were playing in the playoffs. I’m going to use that as fuel for next year.”

The Cowboys drove 99 yards for the first score. A holding penalty on Rasul Douglas on an incomplete pass on third down extended the drive and Prescott connected with Butler on a slant on third-and-7. Dan Bailey hooked the extra point wide left, only his second career miss in 278 tries.

Bailey also missed a 23-yard field goal wide left with 13 seconds remaining.

Elliott ran for 103 yards, falling 17 short of 1,000 in only 10 games. He was the first player to reach 100 against the Eagles since Washington’s Matt Jones ran for 135 yards in Week 6 last year.

The teams were 0 for 12 on third and fourth down before the Cowboys converted on third down late in the second quarter. The Eagles got their first third-down conversion midway through the third quarter. Sudfeld then ran 22 yards on another third down and the crowd roared.

Philadelphia’s best drive with Foles was the game opener. The Eagles drove to the Cowboys 39 before Torrey Smith dropped a pass on third-and-7. Foles was hurried and threw an incomplete pass on fourth down.

Foles underthrew Alshon Jeffery and was picked by Chidobe Awuzie at the Cowboys 48 on Philadelphia’s third possession. It was Awuzie’s first career interception. The offense went three-and-out on the first unit’s fourth and final series.

DEZ SAYS

“Wherever they want me to be,” Dez Bryant said when asked about his expected role for next year. “I just want to win. That’s all I care about.”

SCORELESS HALF

This was the first NFL game to be 0-0 at halftime since the Bears-Broncos in Week 14 of 2011. It was the first time in a Cowboys-Eagles game since the series began in 1960.

LAYERING UP

Eagles P Donnie Jones ran onto the field for a punt with his warmup pants still on and had to rip them off before the snap. He pinned the Cowboys inside the 5 with his punt and later placed one at the 1.

SID’S DEBUT

Eagles rookie CB Sidney Jones, a second-round pick, played his first game. Jones ruptured his Achilles tendon before the draft.

RESTING UP

Five of Philadelphia’s defensive starters – LB Nigel Bradham, DE Brandon Graham, DT Tim Jernigan, S Rodney McLeod, CB Jalen Mills – and one regular – DE Derek Barnett – were inactive. DT Fletcher Cox and S Malcolm Jenkins played one series. RB Jay Ajayi also was inactive.

INJURIES

Cowboys: Awuzie left the game with a shoulder injury.

Eagles: Graham (ankle) and Mills would’ve played if the game mattered.

UP NEXT

Eagles: A first-round bye followed by a home playoff game on Jan. 13 or 14.

Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AP-RobMaaddi

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Jags ‘threw a tantrum’ when Marrone started making changes

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Jacksonville’s locker room was abuzz late last season. Four guys played table tennis while others crowded around a small table for dominoes. Two 80-inch televisions were tuned to a sports highlight show, and music blared from one corner of the room.

Doug Marrone, the team’s offensive line coach at the time, walked through and shook his head.

“Can you believe this?” Marrone whispered.

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The Jaguars were in the middle of a nine-game losing streak that would ultimately cost coach Gus Bradley his job. Marrone had watched from afar for two years, witnessing an atmosphere he felt was too loose, too laid-back and too lenient amid losing.

So when Marrone was hired to replace Bradley last January, high on his to-do list was to change the culture in Jacksonville. His success is one reason the Jaguars (12-6) are in the AFC championship game against New England (14-3).

The ping pong table was the first to go. Dominoes followed. The locker room stalls were overhauled, too, with Marrone mixing and matching position groups and putting certain players next to veteran leaders and/or NFL role models.

“We definitely threw a tantrum,” Pro Bowl defensive tackle Malik Jackson said. “Went in there and talked to him about it. Definitely wasn’t happy. I learned just to be quiet, you know, and go with the flow. He’s been at it longer than I have, and I’m just the football player. He says do this and I go do it. Just learn to follow him, and I’m glad I did.”

Marrone saved the most significant changes for the practice fields.

Marrone, top executive Tom Coughlin and general manager Dave Caldwell wanted a much tougher and more physical team. They drafted bruising running back Leonard Fournette and fiery left tackle Cam Robinson to complement a defense that was significantly beefed up in free agency with the addition of All-Pro pass-rusher Calais Campbell, Pro Bowl cornerback A.J. Bouye and veteran safety Barry Church.

They also designed an offseason program that was more grueling than most players had experienced. Marrone’s message was clear: Go hard or go home.

“You remember guys in camp talking about this took a few years off their lives,” Jackson said. “It’s pretty funny just to see us now. I guess he does know what he’s doing.”

The Jaguars were in full pads nearly every day during training camp, a tortuous stretch in draining heat and humidity that left rookies and veterans questioning the process and wondering if it would pay off. It was the NFL’s version of boot camp. Break them down, then build them up.

It ultimately brought players closer, making them accountable to each other and causing them to care more for each other. Winning was the final piece, and thumping Houston 29-7 in the season opener was all the proof players needed.

“It was the toughest training camp I’ve ever been a part of,” said linebacker Paul Posluszny, in his 11th season. “Coach Marrone would talk to us and say, `Listen, I have a plan and you have to trust me.’ With that, guys were able to say, `OK, we haven’t gotten what we wanted in years past doing things a certain way, so we have to buy in, trust the head man and know that that’ll bring us success when it’s time.’

“It was difficult just because of so many changes from what we were used to. I think the most important thing is we always said, `Well, if it helps us win, then it’s all good.'”

Jacksonville had lost 63 of 80 games over the previous five seasons – the worst record in the NFL during that span – and had been through two coaching changes.

Coughlin’s return was a key part of the team’s revival, and although the two-time Super Bowl-winning coach with the New York Giants gets much of the outside credit for the team’s turnaround, the reality is Marrone was the one pushing all the right buttons.

Marrone has been other places where players resisted, prompting personnel moves that would slow progress. That wasn’t the case in Jacksonville, and he credited his players for being open to change.

“They gave our staff the opportunity to say, `This is what we want to do. This is what we believe in as coaches or as an organization. This is how we want to handle ourselves,”‘ Marrone said. “We are still working toward that. It is not perfect by any means.”

It’s clearly working, though. The Jaguars are in the title game for the third time in franchise history, one victory away from their first Super Bowl appearance.

“They say (stuff) rolls downhill,” Jackson said. “Well, the good stuff rolls downhill, too. … It’s all worth it when you win.”

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Jaguars’ Jalen Ramsey tells fans ‘we’re going to Super Bowl’

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey did pretty much the same thing that upset his Jacksonville Jaguars teammates last week.

He started looking ahead.

Ramsey told thousands of fans awaiting the team’s return from Pittsburgh late Sunday that the Jaguars “are going to the Super Bowl and we are going to win that (expletive).”

Jacksonville (12-6), of course, has the AFC championship game at New England remaining before even getting to the Super Bowl. The small-market franchise is winless in seven games in Foxborough, Massachusetts, and 1-10 all-time against the Patriots (14-3).

Ramsey’s comments surely will find their way north.

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“You come back and you’ve got all the fans here and things of that nature,” Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said.

“Obviously that’s something that everybody, they want to do when you get close. Whether you have to say it or not? The one thing I do know is the road to it always leads through New England.

“Our focus isn’t on anything else but the New England Patriots. It will be a great challenge for us obviously.”

The Jags took exception to the Steelers talking about facing the Patriots instead of them, and used it as motivation in a 45-42 victory Sunday.

Nonetheless, they stood behind their outspoken and ultra-talented defender.

“To me, it’s just a man that has confidence in his team,” defensive tackle Abry Jones said. “What’s he going to say? He knows what we’re going up there to do. It’s not like he ain’t saying nothing that’s not true.”

Fellow defensive tackle Malik Jackson said the difference between Ramsey’s remarks and comments from Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, running back Le'Veon Bell and safety Mike Mitchell is the timing.

“We’re so close that I think it’s OK to say, `Hey, we’re going to do this,”‘ Jackson said. “It’s one of those things that I think he believes in himself after the game he just had, locking down one of the best receivers in the game.

“He’s pretty hyped and he wants to let everybody know he’s hyped, so I think he’s just happy and he understands that we have a giant in front of us and we’ve just got to pay all the attention to this team.

“We don’t even know who’s going to play in the Super Bowl because we’re not looking ahead to that.”

Ramsey was unavailable during the team’s open locker room session Monday.

“He’s going to talk, but we’re going to show up,” defensive end Yannick Ngakoue said. “I just don’t like when people talk all week. You talk reckless and you lose.”

The Jaguars voiced their displeasure with being overlooked by the Steelers last week and were really vocal after the victory at Heinz Field. Players yelled, “Where’s Mike Mitchell at now” as they came off the field.

“I feel like they took us lightly. I don’t know why because we whooped them the first time,” Ngakoue said. “You’ve got to respect all your opponents. That’s why we’re not big in trash-talking. We’re big in playing on Sunday.

“Real guys, real people don’t talk. We throw the first punch. We threw the first punch and we got the victory.”

And now they have a matchup against the NFL’s most successful franchise over the past two decades.

The Jaguars are 1-3 against New England in the postseason, with the lone victory coming after the 1998 season – before coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady teamed up to take five Super Bowl titles.

Jacksonville’s win came against coach Pete Carroll and backup quarterback Scott Zolak.

The Jags are 0-7 against the Brady-Belichick combination.

“We’re not going to go out there like the Steelers the week before and talk about people in a bad way and give them bulletin board news,” Jackson said.

“We just continue to work and earn respect. … We just keep proving people wrong. (Blake Bortles) keeps proving people wrong, and we just keep going on it and pounding people. It’s just awesome to see and awesome to be a part of.

“We understand we have to do what we have to do or we’ll be watching the Super Bowl at home like everybody else.”

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