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13 thoughts on the Eagles’ overtime loss to the Cowboys

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Time to vent.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Eagles were defeated by the Dallas Cowboys in overtime on Sunday, 29-23. Here are some final thoughts on the game.

1 - The first play of the game is impossible to get over

I’ll never understand how Philadelphia wasn’t awarded a possession where a Cowboys player clearly fumbled and an Eagles player clearly recovered the ball. Malcolm Jenkins knocked the ball out. Kamu Grugier-Hill had clear possession on the ground and further proved as much by leaving the pile with the ball.

The refs did a bad job by missing the fumble live. But hey, mistakes happen during these bang-bang plays. That’s why replay exists. And yet, the video was reviewed and somehow it was determined there “no clear recovery” despite the fact Grugier-Hill had the ball. And that four Eagles players were in the immediate area of the ball while no Cowboys players were.

I’ll never not wonder how this game might’ve played out differently if that ball was rightfully given to the Eagles. I don’t think you can just hand-wave this mistake away as “just one play.” The Eagles getting the ball at the Cowboys’ 18-yard line would’ve given Philly a real chance for AT LEAST three points. Maybe even seven. But at least three would’ve made the difference in this one.

It just feels like the Eagles might’ve been able to get things rolling from the jump. Kind of like how we saw them get off to a strong start during their best win of the season in Week 6.

Instead, the officials made an unconscionable, deflating decision. It was so infuriating that I couldn’t even focus on the game for most of the first half. It just never felt like a fair fight. If baseball rules applied, the Eagles should’ve played this game under protest.

It feels like this was a game in Madden where you get screwed by a glitch on the first play and you restart the match without feeling any guilt whatsoever.

The non-fumble obviously wasn’t the only bad call in this game. The offensive pass interference on Dallas Goedert was a total joke as well.

The Eagles also had some bad calls go in their favor. But they don’t make up for the magnitude of the missed call on the first play of the game. The refs wiped a potential tone-setter off the board for no justifiable reason. It changed the entire complexion of the matchup.

I mean, how am I even supposed to be super pissed at the Eagles after a screw job like that?

2 - The Eagles aren’t going to the playoffs

The Eagles aren’t mathematically eliminated just yet but c’mon. It’s just not happening.

The Eagles are staring 6-8 in the face with a West Coast trip to Los Angeles to play the Rams on Sunday Night Football up next.

Maybe the Eagles find a way to beat the Texans in Week 16. Possible but I don’t know. I do think they’ll beat Washington, who got blown out by the Giants today, in Week 17.

So you’re probably looking at a 7-9 or 8-8 season for the 2018 Eagles. That’s awfully fitting since this year’s team has been mediocre.

3 - The Eagles’ first half offense still sucks and coaching staff changes need to be made

The Eagles now have 28 first quarter points in 13 games. That’s 2.15 first quarter points per game. Dead last in the NFL. Pathetic.

The slow starts ensure that the Eagles are almost always playing from the behind to start the game. It sucks.

The offensive failures ultimately fall on Doug Pederson. He’s the head coach. He calls the plays.

But the solution isn’t firing him just one season after winning the Super Bowl. The Eagles should start elsewhere in that regard.

I feel like offensive coordinator Mike Groh has to go. I know he doesn’t call the plays and that Pederson ultimately hired him. I’m not trying to absolve Doug. But we’ve understood Pederson’s strengths to be a collabator. And I’m failing to see how Groh, who passing game coordinator for a 2016 Rams offense that ranked 31st in passing yards per game and 32nd in passing DVOA, is part of the solution. Quarterbacks coach Press Taylor might need to be on the hot seat as well.

I’ve written about this before but I can’t help but feel like the Eagles did themselves a disservice by automatically promoting Groh and Taylor this offseason to replace Frank Reich and John DeFilippo. It’s just weird to me how Eagles put a TON of emphasis on the importance of their head coach/offensive coordinator/quarterback coach hires in 2016, and then they lose two of those guys, and there’s no discernible effort to hire the best possible candidates. Just automatic internal promotions.

It’s an especially odd choice when you consider Pederson is still relatively inexperienced. He only began calling plays in 2015 and he was a high school football coach as recently as 10 years ago. Groh and Taylor only began their NFL careers in 2013. Why is there no voice with significant experience on the staff? That’s exactly what Reich and Flip, who had play-calling experience, had to offer in some capacity.

I get the Eagles won the Super Bowl and Pederson was inclined to think he had some great coaches on his staff. But I think promoting Groh and Taylor was rushed. Some will say Duce Staley should’ve gotten the OC job instead.

With all respect to Duce, I’d like to see the Eagles get some fresh ideas in here. Don’t be like the Flyers and think internal options always hold all the answers.

4 - Doug Pederson’s lack of aggression ultimately cost the game

In the moment, I really didn’t like Pederson’s decision to NOT go for the two-point conversion following Darren Sproles’ touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter. I especially didn’t like it when the Cowboys committed a dumb penalty and the Eagles could’ve attempted a two-point conversion from the 1-yard line instead of the 2-yard line.

Why go for two there? Well, first of all, it’s just a yard. And the Eagles’ offense was finally starting to come alive. They certainly looked much more reliable than an Eagles defense that was getting torched at that point.

Also, Pederson has previously gone for two in a similar situation. During the Eagles versus Panthers game in 2017, the Eagles decided to go for two after Carolina committed a penalty on the PAT kick. It allowed the Eagles to go up 18-10 instead of 17-10. Not exactly the same situation here, of course, but Pederson called that decision a “no-brainer” at the time.

When asked about the decision to not go for two after Sunday’s loss to Dallas, he had the following to say:

The Eagles offense never touched the ball again after kicking that PAT. With the season on the line, Pederson could’ve been aggressive and played to win. Instead, he played it safe, and the Eagles’ offense never touched the ball for the rest of the game.

What happened to Big Balls Doug, anyway?

...

Some other Doug gripes I’d like to mention:

  • What the hell was the decision to have Wendell Smallwood take a carry in a key red zone series early in the fourth quarter!? There was some thought Wentz checked into a run play but Pederson said it was a designed run. Smallwood, who demonstrably stinks, hadn’t had a single offensive touch in two weeks. Why was it so critical to give him the ball in that spot?!!?
  • Running an option towards DeMarcus Lawrence, arguably the Cowboys’ best defender, on 3rd-and-1 doesn’t seem like the best idea. Especially with a quarterback who hasn’t exactly looked spry on the move.

Overall, I don’t think this was a disastrous game from Pederson. The bad is always going to stick out more in a loss. I would like to credit him for correctly accepting a holding penalty that eventually led to a missed Dallas field goal. And the offense did eventually wake up in this game, although it was ultimately too late.

Like I said in my previous point, I’d like to see Pederson surround himself with more experience and new voices. I think Doug needs some help.

5 - Carson Wentz didn’t come up big enough in a big game

The article title for BGN Radio’s Eagles versus Cowboys preview show was: “Eagles need signature performance from Carson Wentz against Cowboys.”

Well, the Eagles didn’t get the signature performance they needed.

As has been the case this year, Wentz’s numbers look better than his overall performance indicates: 22/32, 228 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT, and a 120.3 passer rating.

These numbers don’t show that Wentz only had 48 yards in the first half. They also don’t show he fumbled after failing to get ready of the ball quickly enough.

Against Washington on Monday night, Wentz left too many easy plays on the field. That was the case once again in Dallas. Wentz had some receivers running open and he simply couldn’t hit them. He also threw an inaccurate screen pass, which you think would be simple, to Nelson Agholor, who couldn’t catch it.

That’s not to suggest Wentz was all bad. He clearly stepped up later in the game to help the Eagles tie things up. He threw a gorgeous pass to Dallas Goedert at one point. His deep throw to Agholor was also nice.

But the Eagles need more from Wentz before he can truly be considered an #elite quarterback in the league.

For the record, I’m still optimistic about No. 11. We know he’s capable of special things. We saw it last year. There should be hope that Wentz can rebound in 2019 given that he’ll be further removed from injury. Also would be nice to get him some better coaching and some skill players who can actually make big plays down the field on a regular basis. A functional ground game would be cool, too.

6 - Josh Adams didn’t get enough work

The Eagles rode Adams hard in their last two wins. Against Dallas, Adams only got seven carries. Three of those came on the first drive. He gained 30 yards on them. Then Adams didn’t touch the ball again until the second play of third quarter. OK.

I’m not even a huge “RUN THE BALL!” guy but maybe the guy who’s averaging 5.0 yards per carry on 76 attempts this season should’ve had more than seven touches? Especially when Wentz was struggling to move the ball with his arm early on?

7 - The Eagles’ defense is too depleted

Jim Schwartz’s unit deserves credit for holding the Cowboys to just six points in the first half. Three of those came on a very long 62-yard field goal.

The second half obviously wasn’t as good with the Eagles allowing 17. And then Philly gave up the game-winning drive to Dallas in overtime.

I’m not saying the defense was perfect. But despite being dealing with a number of injured starters, the Eagles still only allowed 23 in regulation. Philadelphia also forced three turnovers and generated three sacks, five tackles for loss, and nine quarterback hits.

I don’t know how much better you realistically could’ve expected the Eagles defense to perform in this one when they’re relying on their 11th string cornerback. I can’t help but feel like the offense needs to score more than 23 in four quarters.

8 - The Amari Cooper trade looks a lot better than the Golden Tate trade

Amari Cooper on Sunday: 13 targets, 10 receptions, 217 yards, 3 TD (including game-winner)

Golden Tate on Sunday: 3 targets, 1 reception, 7 yards, 0 TD

Thanks, Howie Roseman.

9 - Michael Bennett continues to shine

Bennett has been one of the few bright spots this season. The 33-year-old is out there kicking ass on weekly basis.

Against Dallas, Bennett alone accounted for 50% of the Eagles’ sacks, 40% of their tackles for loss, and 55% of their QB hits against the Cowboys.

He was a beast.

Fletcher Cox also deserves some love with 1.5 sacks, one tackle for loss, and four quarterback hits. The way he dominated All-Pro right guard on a bull rush Zach Martin was impressive.

Lastly, I have to give props to Brandon Graham. The stat sheet only shows three tackles but he drew multiple holding calls with Tyron Smith blocking him.

Looking ahead, the Eagles have an interesting decision to make with Graham set to be a free agent. Bennett is still under contract but the Eagles might want to make his cap hit more manageable. We’ll see what happens. I don’t think it’s an easy call.

10 - Sidney Jones sure doesn’t look like an elite prospect

The Saints went into their game against the Eagles viewing Sidney Jones as a weak point. Jones was clearly being picked on by Dallas in this game as well.

Jones wasn’t helped by the fact he was playing through a hamstring injury. But I think it’s fair to wonder if Jones is an injury-prone player. The 6-0, 181 pound corner is slight.

Going back to watching him in camp and preseason, I was never really blown away by him. I felt like maybe I was missing something. But maybe I wasn’t.

I’m not closing the book on Jones’ career. But I think it’s safe to say that talk about him being an instant impact player was overblown. I also wonder just how much you can count on him as a sure fixture. Hopefully he shows improvement in 2019.

11 - Dallas Goedert needs more targets

Four catches for 44 yards and one touchdown on five targets. This doesn’t include the touchdown he had wiped off the board with a bullshit penalty.

Goedert is so good and yet so clearly underutilized by this staff. I know it might be “challenging” to give Goedert a ton of targets when the Eagles already have Zach Ertz. But hey, here’s an idea: TWO TIGHT END SETS!

The Eagles have clearly been so much more effective in 12 personnel (two tight ends) than 11 personnel (one tight end) this season. It’s too late now but hopefully they realize this for 2019. Just give Goedert a ton of targets until someone proves they can stop him.

12 - Jake Elliott needs to stop missing freebies

Elliott’s missed PAT attempt loomed large in this game. That one point would’ve been the difference.

Elliot is now 75 of 83 on all kicks (field goal and extra point attempts combined) from the 30-39 yard range during his career. So he’s missed eight in that “gimme” range.

The Eagles have the most field goal misses from that 30-39 range in the past two seasons.

In fairness to Elliott, he’s improved upon his rookie numbers. I’m not saying cut him tomorrow.

But I am saying it wouldn’t hurt the Eagles to give him some kind of competition this offseason.

13 - Dak Prescott still sucks

I’m sure some will try to fight me on this but I don’t care. Dak sucks. He threw the game-winning touchdown pass in overtime, sure, but an actually good quarterback would’ve been able to beat the Eagles in regulation.

Prescott was a big reason why the Eagles were even in this game. His two awful interceptions gave the Eagles life. People complain about Wentz fumbling, which is an issue, but Prescott is even worse at protecting the ball. Dak fumbled for the 12th time in 13 games this year.

Prescott also missed a number of wide open receivers deep down the field. A good quarterback would’ve hit those and led the Cowboys to a relatively comfortable win.

The Eagles should be just fine with Dallas committing to Prescott as their long-term quarterback. They should also be OK with Jason Garrett continuing to stick around. We all know the Cowboys aren’t destined for greatness with those guys around.