By Tucker Bagley
The Eagles season is in shambles after yesterday's overtime loss to the Cowboys. There is a lot to get through, from inept officiating to an exhausted defense and an under-performing offense. We'll start by trying to find the true cause of the Eagles' struggles yesterday before figuring out where the team goes from here.
Clete Blakeman's crew will be discussed in earnest this morning as fans grumble about the inexcusable calls that put the Eagles in a tough spot. The first and most ridiculous occurred on the opening kickoff when Malcolm Jenkins forced a fumble that was recovered by Kamu Grugier-Hill.
However, the officials blew the play dead, unaware the ball was loose on the ground. Doug Pederson challenged the call, and despite the officials admitting there was a fumble on the play, they couldn’t confirm a clear recovery. The video replays clearly showed the Eagles piling on top of the ball and Grugier-Hill handing the ball to the referee following the play.
The Eagles lost about 69 yards of field position and failed to score in the first half. The officiating took more points off the board late in the game when a bogus pass interference call negated a 75-yard touchdown pass to Dallas Goedert. However, the Eagles did end up scoring a touchdown on that drive a few minutes later.
The officials clearly represent an easy scapegoat for angry fans, and that early fumble would have been a huge boost for a team that has been notorious for slow starts, but as close as the game was, those two calls didn’t cost the Eagles the game.
For the third time this season, the Eagles defense was unable to come up with a big stop and were on the field as the game was lost. The Cowboys drove 75 yards on 10 plays and drained over eight minutes of clock in overtime before Amari Cooper's third touchdown catch sealed the victory for the Cowboys.
Certainly, allowing 29 points to an offense that ranked 24th in the NFL isn't ideal, but the Eagles were forced to stay on the field for 45 minutes. It was very reminiscent of the 2015 season, when a talented, albeit underachieving, defense struggled to contain the opposition as Chip Kelly's offense floundered. There was some good, the Eagles forced three turnovers and allowed just two field goals in three red zone trips during regulation.
But the Birds also allowed Dak Prescott to throw for over 450 yards, and it could've been more if he hadn't missed a few wide open receivers streaking down the sidelines. With the personnel the Eagles were forced to play with in their secondary, it was certainly a gutty performance.
The Eagles offense struggled for three quarters before finally coming alive in the fourth quarter, storming back and tying the game on three separate occasions. Carson Wentz looked abysmal until the end of the game, throwing for just 48 yards and fumbling in the first half.
The Eagles went just 1-9 on third down and failed to pick up more than a single first down on 6 of their 11 drives. As mentioned above, it was the offense's struggles that hung the defense out to dry. The Eagles held Dallas to just 9 points through three quarters, but still trailed 9-0 late in the third quarter because of an inept offense.
It was another rough game from Wentz, whose late-game rally masked his performance in the box score. The offense should shoulder much of the blame for this loss. Not only did their performance produce no points for much of the game, but it also wore down an already thin defense that was forced to play more than any defense in Eagles history.
Did not play: Jordan Hicks (calf), Avonte Maddox (knee), Tim Jernigan (back)
Corey Clement: After a decent kick return, Clement hurt his knee on the second drive of the game and later emerged from the locker room in street clothes. With Clement out, Wendell Smallwood got his first carry in three weeks.
Josh Sweat: The young defensive end hurt his leg early in the second half and never returned. The Eagles finished the game with just three healthy defensive ends and their lack of depth may have caused their fatigue at the end of the game.
Isaac Seumalo: Seumalo suffered an apparent pectoral injury in the third quarter and was replaced by Stefen Wisniewski. The Eagles offensive line played very well on Sunday, allowing just 2 sacks and 5 quarterback hits.
9: The duo of Fletcher Cox and Michael Bennett combined for all 9 of the Eagles' quarterback hits and they added 3 sacks and tackles for loss as well. The Eagles defense was certainly dealt a tough hand on Sunday, being on the field for 93 snaps and over 45 minutes, but the Birds top two defensive linemen stepped up in dire circumstances to deliver their best performance of 2018.
1: With their offense struggling to stay on the field, the Eagles had just one running back register more than one carry: Josh Adams. The past two weeks had featured a renewed interest in running the ball, but the Eagles abandoned the run early after failing to score in the first half. Even with Clement's injury, both Adams and Darren Sproles have proven to be effective runners in the right circumstances, but like a lot of the weapons on the offense, they suffered from a lack of opportunities.
4: Jake Elliott missed his first extra point of the season on Sunday, but he has struggled to make kicks for much of 2018. The second-year kicker has made just 20 of his 24 field goal attempts, ranking 20th among kickers who have attempted at least 10 field goals. There's no doubting his talent, but Elliott has slowly devolved from a clutch kicker to a below-average one.
History Tells Us...
The Eagles are 6-7 for the fifth time in franchise history and the third time since the NFL adopted a 16-game schedule. The Birds have never finished with more than 7 wins, with the most recent occurrence coming in 2015, the final year of the Kelly era.
It's hard to be so pessimistic when talking about the defending Super Bowl champions, but the Eagles have to play perfectly and receive a bit of help over the final three weeks to make the postseason. However, it's been 14 weeks and we have yet to see a full 60-minute effort from this team. I don’t know if it's coming.
Up: Dallas Goedert
The rookie tight end already was having a good day, but his 75-yard touchdown catch would've been the Eagles' longest play of 2018, had it not been for a bogus offensive pass interference call. Goedert did have 26-yard catch that would set up his fourth touchdown of the season and once again looked to be a big playmaker on an offense that is starved for one.
Goedert's production hasn't been eye-popping simply because he has been stuck behind Zach Ertz on the depth chart. It may not come in the final 3 games of 2018, but it has become clear the future is very bright for Goedert if Wentz can get the ball in his hands.
Down: Golden Tate
Man, the Eagles sure could use a third-round pick instead of a veteran who has become an afterthought in their offense. Tate had a nice game against Washington last week, but he came up small against Dallas, recording a single catch for seven yards.
As the Eagles trudge through the final three games of what seems to be a lost season, it will be worth wondering whether Howie Roseman's decision to trade for Tate was a wise one. Was the team really just one wide receiver away from competing for a Super Bowl?
Up: Rasul Douglas
Douglas's night will be remembered for the final play of the game, where he tipped a pass into the hands of Cooper, who scampered into the end zone for the game-winning score. However, until that point, Douglas was having arguably the best game of his career, recording the Eagles' first interception inside the red zone and notching 9 solo tackles, including one for loss.
Douglas entered 2018 as the Eagles' fifth option at cornerback, but with Ronald Darby potentially leaving in free agency and the struggles of Jones and Jalen Mills, it's possible he could be a starter in 2019. And why not? Douglas is the only Eagle with multiple interceptions this year and the Birds are in desperate need of a guy who can create turnovers.
Down: Sidney Jones
It's hard to put Jones here due to his injury issues, but he was such a liability in the second half. Jones missed most of the first half when his hamstring started to bother him, but he tried to tough it out after halftime before being pulled by the training staff late in the game.
Jones was matched up with Cooper for most of the game and the Cowboys singled him out in coverage again and again. The former Raider finished the day with 10 catches for 217 yards and three touchdowns. Sunday marked the second time that Jones's hamstring has flared up since he first injured it and he may need to sit out next week in order to get healthy again.
1. With yesterday's loss, the Eagles' chances at winning the division are virtually zero. In fact, the Eagles are two games back of the Cowboys, who also hold the tiebreaker over the Eagles. If the Birds want to win the division, they have to run the table over their final three games and hope the Cowboys go winless and stumble to an 8-8 finish.
2. As for the wildcard, the Eagles will be one game behind the six seed after the Vikings-Seahawks game tonight. Remember, the Vikings still hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Eagles and the Seahawks hold the conference record tiebreaker over the Eagles as well. So once again, tying does the Eagles no good, they need to win out and hope one of the teams ahead of them stumbles in two of their final three contests.
3. The 2019 offseason could be one of transition for the Eagles. The team needs to get younger and build their roster around Wentz, who is due for a contract extension. Outside of Wentz and the tight end group, every unit could use an upgrade or two. The running backs and wide receivers are thin, the lines are old, the linebacking corps needs an overhaul and there are quite a few questions in the secondary as well.
Roseman will also have to look at possibly upgrading a coaching staff that took a big hit with some departures last offseason. It says here that he will prioritize getting Wentz locked up and rebuilding the pass rush around younger players.
The Eagles will attempt to salvage their season on Sunday Night Football against the Los Angeles Rams next week. Jared Goff struggled mightily against the Bears last night, throwing for just 180 yards and tossing four interceptions. Unfortunately for the Eagles, the Rams are 6-0 at home this season.
The Eagles defense will have their hands full again, going against an offense that ranked second in the NFL in both points and yards before last night's loss. Defensively, the Rams have had an up-and-down year, allowing more than 30 points five times, but forcing a turnover in every game except one.