Philadelphia Eagles vs. Dallas Cowboys

Nick Foles of the Philadelphia Eagles celebrates a second-quarter touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys. (Ronald Martinez / Getty Images / December 29, 2013)

A nail-biter of a football game ruled Sunday night in TV ratings as the annual Kennedy Center Honors fell from last year. 

The Philadelphia Eagles beat the Dallas Cowboys 24-22, drawing plenty of viewers for NBC's "Sunday Night Football." According to preliminary numbers from Nielsen, the match-up attracted an average of 23.9 million viewers in prime time and a rating of 8.1 in the key 18-49 demographic, way up from last week. 

The contest earned a household rating of 16.8, the third-biggest number this season for the NBC Sunday night NFL package. 

GRAPHIC: Best of 2013 | Entertainment and culture

Going against the big NFL game from 9 to 11 p.m., the 36th annual Kennedy Center Honors on CBS drew a 0.9 rating among young-adult viewers and an average of 7.1 million people overall. In the 18-49 category, the gala fell 36% from last year's telecast. 

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts event in Washington, D.C., honored opera singer Martina Arroyo, jazz and pop music legend Herbie Hancock, singer-songwriter (and new Madison Square Garden franchise) Billy Joel, actress Shirley MacLaine and guitarist Carlos Santana

Fox had an NFL game running over into prime time, followed by repeats of its animated comedies, while ABC aired a rerun of "America's Funniest Home Videos" and the movie "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." The film drew 3.71 million viewers and a rating of 1.1 in the key demo. 

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ryan.faughnder@latimes.com