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Eagles v. Cowboys: 15 winners, losers, and I dunnos

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Anguish.

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

The Winners

I absolutely refuse to put The Cowboys here.

And nobody can make me.

The Seattle Seahawks

The likely 5th seed who will face Dallas (the 4th seed) in Round 1 of the playoffs, Seattle will be facing a team that, frankly, isn’t very good.

If they had been facing the Eagles, they also would have been facing a team that wasn’t very good, but that’s neither here nor there.

Any team that has a healthy secondary should be able to beat this Cowboys team pretty cleanly in the playoffs.

Michael Bennett

Speaking of the Seattle Seahawks, Michael Bennett has been one of the five most impactful Philadelphia Eagles this season — all for the price of a fifth-round pick!

With multiple TFLs against the run — one I can remember clearly down in the red zone — and a strip-sack that led to the game-tying field goal in the early fourth quarter, Michael Bennett was the most impactful Philadelphia Eagle in this game. Full stop.

Bennett will be retained this offseason, even at the cost of a Brandon Graham extension. And I say, rightfully so. Dude’s a stud.

Dallas Goedert

In the last gasps of the Eagles’ 2018 playoff hopes, Dallas Goedert did just about everything he could to breathe life into the offense.

The called-back touchdown notwithstanding, Goedert was targeted 4 times on the final 4 drives; he caught each ball for a total of 44 yards and a touchdown — those would also be his game-long stats. I’ve been asking for more Goedert involvement all year; this was clearly a bit too little and a bit too late.

On the called-back touchdown...well, what do you say? Goedert runs the route pretty much exactly how you’d teach it, and because Jeff Heath is out of position and off-balance, it gets called back.

While Philadelphia would later score on this drive, a touchdown here knots the score up at 23 with 3 minutes left on the clock. Instead, Philadelphia would chunk of another 80 seconds, which let Dallas have the final possession of the ball game. The Cowboys would of course go on to win in overtime, and the offense would never get another opportunity to touch the football.

Rasul Douglas

A stellar game for the young corner, who had a massive interception and what should have been an even bigger PBU on the Dallas Cowboys’ 3rd and 8 in overtime.

Rasul’s high-quality interception illustrates why he was drafted in the third round: his ball production and playmaking instincts. Playing with his eyes on the quarterback in a deep third coverage, Douglas is willing to abandon the rules of his assignment to sift underneath the crosser and make a key play.

Douglas will get beat in man coverage; so will most corners. What most corners — especially those on the Eagles roster — don’t offer is the ability to make plays like this, with WR like ball-tracking and catch radius.

And on the final play, Rasul Douglas was again in perfect position, knew the slant was coming, and played it perfectly. It was a bad throw by Dak Prescott; the Eagles won the play. All the way up to the point that Amari Cooper caught a lucky bounce, and the Eagles season ended just as you would expect: in unbelievable and improbable heartbreak.

I’m excited to see Douglas play for the remainder of the season. The Eagles could use some starting-caliber play at outside corner, and Douglas has an opportunity to step into that role given the players on IR before him.

The NFC East

Again: every year that Jason Garrett remains coaching for the Dallas Cowboys is a great year for the division as a whole.

Fourth quarter Wentz/clutch Wentz

I, like many others, have been suspicious of Wentz’s late-game play for his young career. He scores very poorly in numbers that track fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drive opportunities.

For most of the game, Wentz struggled. But in the fourth quarter, he suddenly seemed to come alive: After the Dak fumble, the Eagles scored on 3 of their final 4 drives after finally busting the dam open with a two-yard score off the Corey Graham pick.

This Eagles offense seems like they can never break the seal and get those first points on the board; but once they do, they can really start to hum. I again wonder where Carson is at mentality. He seems like he puts so much pressure on himself with his hero-style of play.

But once things got going, man, Wentz sliced and diced this Dallas Cowboys defense — which had stymied the offense all game — to keep the Eagles in fighting position until the very end. Heartbreaking that he couldn’t get a possession in overtime, to really complete the statement comeback. He showed a lot of resiliency, and he deserves credit for that.

The Losers

First three quarters Carson Wentz

All of that mushy-gushy stuff aside, the biggest issue for the Eagles through three quarters — in an absolute must-win game — was their franchise quarterback. Carson’s struggles right now primarily stem from his feet: they get stuck in the mud all too often, as he becomes a statue in the pocket. He seems unwilling to manipulate pocket space by stepping up into open lanes, and he all too often throws without hitching into his target, which leads to his accuracy issues.

He certainly feels like the rookie version of Carson Wentz we saw in 2016. I understand that his regression is understandable when you consider the time he missed in the offseason, and the fact that he’s still a young player — but I do wonder how much QB coach Press Taylor has been able to do for Carson through his struggles. He has never been an NFL QB coach before, and his early returns are poor.

Carson should look more like his 2017 self with some time off to work and rehab before 2019. That’s the theory, at least. But for this game, which saw the Eagles scoreless until they were given a two-yard field, he was the primary issue.

Doug Pederson

The decision to not go for 2 at 23-22 with 1:40 left in the fourth quarter is extremely disheartening. This, from EDJ Anayltics:

And again, from Jimmy Kempski of PhillyVoice:

What happened here, Doug? Simply inexplicable.

I myself was wary of going for two, but I have not built my entire professional brand on being aggressive and going for the win — especially when the statistical data supports the decision! With the defense on the field for 35 minutes of game play, the secondary depleted by the Sidney Jones injury, and the Eagles unlikely to get the ball back with 1:40 remaining, I simply do not see how extending the game into overtime was the right idea.

Especially once the Eagles got the ball at the 1! Carson Wentz remains perfect on QB sneaks for his career, yet Doug — gifted a dumb penalty on the XP attempt by DeMarcus Lawrence — elected to not go for the 2PT try from the 1-yard line. That would have been their first lead of the whole game; momentum would have been on their side; victory in their jaws.

I can understand taking the XP there in a vacuum; but for Doug to take it was shocking.

Nate Gerry

Struggled in coverage and run support; cannot be trusted as a depth linebacker moving forward.

Corey Graham

Struggled in man coverage and as the deep safety; cannot be trusted as a depth safety moving forward.

Every DT not named Fletcher Cox.

Had little to no impact on the game; cannot be trusted as interior defensive line depth moving forward.

Howie Roseman

For filling his depth chart with the non-Cox DTs, Corey Graham, and Nate Gerry.

The Eagles have been tested by injury this season — no two ways about that. But man, you’d like to see more out of your backups than the fourth-highest yardage total surrendered in Eagles franchise history.

I dunnos

The folks out in black and white on the field during the game

I dunno who they were, but they certainly weren’t NFL referees. If they were NFL referees — which they are undoubtedly not — then the NFL would have a big problem on their hands, because you can circle three key inflection points at which the refs drastically impacted the outcome of a key NFL game with postseason implications; and the NFL’s product would be undeniably tainted if that were the case.