When it happens, if it happens, this is the way it is going to happen. This is how the Eagles will end their season—logging a flat, listless effort sometime in January because of a sagging, plodding defense and an anemic offense that suddenly lost its explosiveness.
The Eagles did not lose as ugly as the previous week against San Francisco, though they were handled just as easily by the Dallas Cowboys on national TV Sunday night, 33-13, at AT&T Stadium.
The Eagles have now dropped out of first place in the NFC East, falling to No. 5 in the NFC playoff race with a 10-3 record, matching Dallas, now tops in the NFC East, and San Francisco, which now tops the NFC based on its victory over the Eagles last week.
The Eagles have been outscored by a combined 75-32 over their last two games. They have given up a total of 109 points over the last three games, surrendering an average of 36.3 points a game. Washington is the only team in the NFL that has allowed more points per game in that stretch (40.3). The Cowboys scored on their first four possessions, making it 10-straight drives in which opponents had scored against the Eagles without a kneel-down, before they ended that ignoble run in the third quarter.
“Obviously, we gotta play a little bit better, there’s no doubt about that,” drained Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “It wasn’t our best two performances in a row. We’ll pick ourselves up. Where we are, 10-3, and ready to play our next game and make sure we make the corrections off this game.”
When asked what a down moment like this demands from a head coach, a different side of Sirianni surfaced, a side the Eagles’ fanbase nor the media has seen before, when he uttered “Now we’re going through some adversity, and adversity can do a couple things to you. It can break you, or it can make you way better. I know that everybody that’s in that locker room has been through s—t in their lives and made it to this point. They made it to this point because of the s—t they’ve been through. That adversity has made a lot of us in that locker room where we are today.
“We gotta remember that. We gotta internalize that. We have to make sure the adversity that we’re facing right now we’re able to get through and make sure we get better from it.”
Jalen Hurts faced heat all night, completing a pedestrian 18 of 27, for 197 yards without a touchdown. But he lost a fumble, marking the seventh-straight game Hurts has fumbled the ball, losing four in that span. Dak Prescott, meanwhile, completed a cool 24 of 39 for 271 yards and two touchdowns.
For the sixth-straight game, the Eagles trailed at halftime and were outgained. It’s a trend that continues. After winning flawed games by coming behind against Washington (outgained 472-374/down 17-10 at halftime), Dallas (406-292/17-14), Kansas City (336-238/17-7), Buffalo (505-378/17-7), the Eagles fell to San Francisco (456-333/14-6 halftime/42-19 loss) and now Dallas (394-324/24-6/33-13 loss). Over this span, the Eagles have been giving up an average of 428 yards a game, while averaging 323, getting outgained an average of 105 yards a game.
The Eagles were nailed for 10 penalties for 95 yards—three came on the Eagles’ first drive. When asked about the discipline of the team, Sirianni said, “Well listen, we haven’t played detailed enough, we haven’t coached detailed enough the last two games. We are what we put on tape. You asked about the discipline, with us, we’re not doing well enough coaching or playing. That’s the facts. We haven’t done a good enough job against two really good teams the last two games. That’s starts with coaching, then to execution.”
There was a trickle of good, some bad and piles of ugly in the Eagles’ 33-13 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
Haason Reddick’s two sacks for minus-12 yards.
Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox stripping Dak Prescott and rookie Jalen Carter’s 42-yard scoop-and-score with 10:41 left in the third quarter. Cox bull rushed Cowboys’ right guard Zack Martin right back into Prescott and slapped the ball away as the frenzied Prescott tried to twist away. Carter picked up the loose ball and could have jogged into the end zone. The score gave the Eagles new life, pulling them within 24-13. Halfway into the third quarter, the Eagles’ defense had outscored the Eagles’ offense.
Kicker Jake Elliott’s 52- and 44-yard field goals in the first half. That’s it. The Eagles play calling in the red zone has been a problem this year. The only thing the Eagles could muster were six points—and one of those field goals was courtesy of a 28-yard completion from the punter—not from anything generated by the offense.
Punter Braden Mann’s 28-yard completion to Olamide Zaccheaus on a fake punt on fourth-and-two at the Eagles’ 33. Right off, you know you’re in for trouble when the first good thing is fake punt and 28-yard completion by your punter to jump start a dormant offense. This case it did. The Eagles got their first points on the board due to the bold move.
Carter in a rare mistake jumping offsides early in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys were looking at a third-and-nine at the Dallas 35 and the penalty gave Dallas a third-and-four at the 30. Prescott hit Lamb for six yards to the Cowboys’ 41 and a first down.
Going for it on fourth-and-eight at the Dallas 30 with 25 seconds left in the third quarter. With Elliott, the Eagles had an automatic three there instead of nothing, which the Eagles got there.
A.J. Brown’s third quarter fumble. It was the second lost fumble that the Eagles had. The Eagles were fortunate that it was the first time they stopped Dallas on its first drive of the third quarter. It stopped an opponent’s streak of 10-straight scoring drives excluding kneel downs.
Cornerback Bradley Roby’s coverage of Lamb on a third-and-nine at the Dallas 22 on the Cowboys’ second drive. Why Roby was even covering Lamb is anyone’s guess. Prescott immediately saw the mismatch and connected with Lamb for a 26-yard reception.
The Eagles’ offense. It’s kind of bad when the punter throws the best pass of the night. The offense was outscored by the defense. The team turned the ball over three times when the game was still in the competitive stages. There were some questionable drops.
DeVonta Smith’s fourth quarter fumble, the third lost fumble of the game for the Eagles, at the Dallas 12 with 6:38 to play. Smith had the ball knocked away from behind by Dallas linebacker Markquese Bell. From there, the Cowboys romped down field and had Super Toe Brandon Aubrey kick another field goal for the 33-13 final.
Safety Sydney Brown did everything but tackle Dallas tight end Jake Ferguson on his 32-yard third-quarter reception. The Cowboys were faced with a third-and-six at their 40, when Ferguson broke free up the middle. Brown hooked Ferguson with his left arm before the ball arrived—and still could not stop him. Brown, the rookie safety, is proving to be a very sound tackler but woefully deficient in coverage.
Cornerback Kelee Ringo getting flagged for not one but two penalties on the same play. On a third-and-six at the Dallas 40 in the second quarter, as Dallas was driving for its 24-6 lead, the rookie from Georgia was hit interfering with a Prescott pass to Cooks and a facemask call, amounting to 25 yards in penalties with 51 seconds left in the first half.
The Eagles first half. They went into halftime trailing, 24-6, outgained 247-176. The Dallas drive chart read: touchdown, field goal, touchdown and touchdown. The Cowboys converted six of eight third downs while going three-for-three in the red zone, while the Eagles had to settle for two field goals—one made possible off a fake punt. The Eagles were flagged six times for 60 yards, three on their first drive of the game. The Eagles simply did not know how to stop anything Dallas did. The Cowboys ran off 42 plays in the first half to the Eagles 27. It marked the seventh-straight game in which Dallas scored 17 or more points in the first half—and it marked the sixth-straight game in which the Eagles trailed in the first half. Dallas had 17 first downs by halftime.
Cornerback James Bradberry getting burned by Brandin Cooks for a 30-yard reception in the last minute of the first half. Maybe it is a good indication why the Eagles sometimes lean towards a zone defense and have their corners 10 yards off receivers. Bradberry seems to be aging far quicker than his counterpart, Darius Slay. Bradberry had his problems. He was flagged in the fourth quarter for interference on a third-and-six at the Dallas 45. The flag enabled the Cowboys to move to the Eagles’ 45. With Dallas’ kicker Brandon Aubrey making field goals from Colorado, every yard was crucial.
Big play Darius Slay getting flagged for pass interference on the Cowboys’ second drive. The Eagles were looking to get off the field at that point, pinning Dallas down on a third-and-17 at the Eagles’ 47. Slay, who has a tendency to be handy with receivers, was caught this time on Prescott’s pass to Michael Gallup. The penalty prolonged the Dallas drive, which resulted in the Hurts’ fumble and enabled Dallas to take a 10-0 lead.
The Eagles’ first offensive series. It was not the way to respond to Dallas’ first drive. The Eagles were flagged three times, two false starts and an offensive pass interference. They were placed in second-and-11, third-and-11, third-and-16 and first-and-20 situations. Then to punctuate the Hurts had the ball ripped out for his 15th turnover this season (10 interceptions/five lost fumbles). Dallas converted that into Brandon Aubrey’s 60-yard field goal.
The Eagles’ defense on the first drive of the game. Dallas marched right down the field with the opening kickoff. The Cowboys chewed through the Eagles for 75 yards over 10 plays, taking exactly five minutes. Dallas converted three third-and-shorts, and may been given a little help. Dallas left guard Tyler Smith’s left hand had a handful of Jalen Carter’s jersey on his right shoulder. It was initially called a hold then waived off, allowed Lamb’s 13-yard score. At least on the first drive, the Eagles’ defense did not look like they were tired. In this game, they were out schemed and outplayed.
Joseph Santoliquito is a hall of fame, award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has written feature stories for SI.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com, MLB.com, Deadspin and The Philadelphia Inquirer/Daily News. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a special project piece for ESPN.com called “Love at First Beep.” He is most noted for his award-winning ESPN.com feature on high school wrestler A.J. Detwiler in February 2006, which appeared on SportsCenter. In 2015, he was elected president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.