The Philadelphia Eagles lost to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football, 27-20. Here are some thoughts on this highly disappointing defeat.
1 - The Eagles’ season is probably over
Sad to say, but it’s probably true.
We knew the stakes coming into this game. A win meant a 70% chance at the playoffs. A loss meant dropping to 35%.
Well, the Eagles lost.
Philadelphia is now third in the NFC East and 11th overall in the NFC playoff picture.
They’re not mathematically eliminated, no. But let’s be real. It’s Week 10 and this team hasn’t been able to string together back-to-back wins all season. What’s the likelihood they’re going to get hot down the stretch and make a run?
Not saying you have to give up on the team. Stranger things have happened. Still seven games left, with four against divisional opponents.
But the odds are certainly not in their favor. More likely than not, they’re done.
The Eagles are very much staring 4-6 in the face with a road game against the juggernaut Saints up next.
2 - Doug Pederson deserves a lot of blame
The Eagles had no great reason to lose this game.
They were coming off their bye. The Cowboys were coming off a short week after playing on Monday Night Football.
The Cowboys were 0-4 road and averaging 13.5 points per game in those four losses.
And yet the Eagles lost.
The offense struggled out of the gate, going three-and-out on their first drive of the game. This didn’t look like a team ready to make a statement that they’re back.
For a team that’s talked a lot about getting off to fast starts, the Eagles only put three points in the first half. And it took a 56-yard field goal to get those three points.
The Eagles obviously improved in the second half by scoring 17 in the final two quarters but the overall output just isn’t enough in today’s NFL.
The team’s offensive struggles and lack of urgency ultimately do not reflect well on Pederson.
I’m not even going to get into nit-picking specific play calls. The overall theme is that the offense is just not good enough. It’s not inspiring. It feels like the Eagles have to work so hard to generate their offense. It’s hardly as effortless as other teams in the league (Saints, Rams, Chiefs, etc.). A team that was so good at moving the sticks last year only managed to convert four of 12 combined third/fourth down attempts on Sunday night.
The struggles really make you wonder about Pederson. I think it’s too much to say he’s a total fraud who was only propped up by Frank Reich and/or John DeFilippo. He was ultimately the one calling plays during the Eagles’ Super Bowl season in 2017.
But with Reich and Flip now gone, it’s hard to ignore how the offense has lost its’ luster. The truth is the Eagles were always due for some offensive regression because they were just so good in key areas last year. But the regression has been compounded by the absence of good coaches.
I can’t help but wonder if the Eagles were a little too hasty in making internal promotions, especially with Mike Groh at offensive coordinator. Maybe having a new, more experienced voice from the outside would’ve helped Pederson more. He’s ultimately in charge of his staff.
It’s hard not to be losing faith in Pederson right now. He just hasn’t done a great job of coaching this team.
3 - Jim Schwartz isn’t off the hook, either
Again, the Cowboys were averaging 13.5 points on the road this season. Schwartz’s unit allowed them to double that figure on Sunday night.
The Eagles ultimately had no answer for Ezekiel Elliott, who ran 19 times for 151 yards (7.9) average and one touchdown. He also had six receptions for 36 yards and one score.
Schwartz’s unit allowed Dak Prescott to have one of his best games of the season. Prescott finished with a season high in completion percentage and his third best passer rating at 102.8 overall.
In fairness to Schwartz’s unit, the secondary was pretty depleted, especially when Ronald Darby went down with a knee injury. At that the point the Eagles were missing their top three corners and a starting safety. Not ideal. Philadelphia was down to Rasul Douglas, undrafted rookie free agent Chandon Sullivan, and recent acquistion Cre’Von LeBlanc at corner.
But injuries don’t explain away all of the defense’s struggles. A common theme that’s persisted throughout the season now is this unit’s inability to come up in the clutch. For example, the Eagles FINALLY get on the board with a field goal late in the second quarter and then the Eagles allow the Cowboys to easily march down the field for a touchdown drive. Then the Eagles finally string together some touchdown drives of their own and the defense immediately hands the momentum back over to the other side.
We saw this same issue against the Titans, Panthers, and even Jaguars. I brought this up following the Jacksonville game:
The Eagles’ defense has now gone back-to-back games where they’ve allowed a touchdown drive RIGHT after the offense marches 90-plus yards down the field for a touchdown of their own. What’s up with that? It’s almost like they take their foot off the pedal and it ends up being a big momentum killer.
On the whole, the offense deserves more blame than the defense this season. But Schwartz’s unit still deserves criticism.
4 - Carson Wentz failed to come up big in another big spot
Carson Wentz was 7-0 in his last NFC East games. This was his opportunity to advance to 8-0 in a big way.
Once again, however, Wentz ultimately didn’t come up big in a big moment.
The numbers certainly weren’t bad: 32/44, 360 yards, 8.2 average, 2 TD, 1 INT, 102.5 passer rating. And zero fumbles!
But those numbers don’t show the plays that Wentz left on the field. Wentz had Alshon Jeffery open in the end zone for a touchdown but he got the ball out too late and the contested pass ended up being complete. The Eagles settled for a red zone field goal instead of seven points.
Wentz’s accuracy was off on some other throws as well. And his interception, which was a really bad throw, just set a bad tone early on.
Wentz is a very good quarterback and the Eagles’ future is potentially bright with him under center. But the Eagles need him to come up bigger in big moments such as Sunday night’s game.
5 - There’s really no run game to rely upon
Eagles running back carries over the last three games:
Josh Adams: 20 for 125 yards (6.3 ypc)
Wendell Smallwood: 19 for 60 yards (3.2 ypc)
Corey Clement: 17 for 25 yards (1.5 ypc)
Smallwood is average at best and Clement is just giving this team nothing. Adams has been the team’s most efficient rusher but unfortunately it’s not as simple as giving him all the carries. Adams is an undrafted rookie who is a non-factor as a pass catcher (one reception) this year.
It just sucks the Eagles can’t rely on the run to make life easier on Wentz at times.
6 - The Golden Tate trade is already looking questionable
The Eagles gave up a 2019 third-round pick for Tate. In his first game with the Eagles, Tate only played about 20% of Philadelphia’s snaps. He was targeted four times and had two receptions for 19 yards.
Tate only has seven more games with the Eagles before he becomes a free agent this offseason. The Eagles may have given up a significant draft pick for a rental who won’t really be able to help the team make the playoffs.
7 - Zach Ertz is having hell of a season
On a positive note, the Eagles have a great tight end. Zach Ertz finished the game with 14 receptions for 145 yards and two touchdowns. He’s up to 75 receptions for 789 yards and five touchdowns on the season.
Where would this unimpressive Eagles offense be without him?
8 - Michael Bennett is killing it, too
Bennett had a strong game against Dallas. He finished the night with two solo tackles, two sacks, two tackles for loss, and four quarterback hits. Bennett now leads the Eagles in sacks this season with 5.5. He’s easily been the team’s best offseason addition.
9 - There’s a reason why Jalen Mills wasn’t getting benched
I’d like to think I’m neither a Mills hater nor a Mills stan.
But I must note that the Eagles’ defense still struggled without everyone’s favorite scapegoat. And it was Mills’ replacement — Rasul Douglas — who was getting toasted in coverage.
Now you might see why the coaching staff had Mills ahead of Douglas. It’s not like Douglas is this infallible stud who’s an obvious upgrade on Mills.
10 - Maybe the Eagles are playing four dimensional chess?
Maybe the Eagles lost on purpose so the Cowboys keep Jason Garrett and Dak Prescott around for the long-term?!
Nah. The Eagles needed to win this game. I’m just looking for a silver lining here.
11 - Trying to put a disappointing season in perspective
I feel like I’ve mentioned this before but I find the need to put the Eagles’ struggles in perspective.
Winning in the NFL just isn’t easy. There’s a reason why there hasn’t been a repeat winner in the NFC East since 2004. And why there’s only been one repeat Super Bowl winner in the salary cap era. It’s just tough.
The Patriots missed the playoffs the year after they won their first Super Bowl in the Bill Belichick era. The Eagles had a bad year in 2005 after having a great season when they went to the Super Bowl in 2004.
I’m not saying this means you shouldn’t be upset about the Eagles having a disappointing season. But this idea that they’re blowing a golden opportunity to repeat just isn’t true. Also, just because the Eagles aren’t having a good season in 2018 doesn’t mean their 2017 Super Bowl championship is any less legit. That still very much counts.
At the same time, there are very real issues with this franchise moving forward. It’s completely fair to express concerns about such.