By Tucker Bagley
The Eagles' playoff hopes hang in the balance this afternoon as they travel to Dallas to take on the division-leading Cowboys. Despite playing terribly on offense, the Birds have held the Cowboys to just 3 points on their three red zone possessions and trail, 6-0, at the half. Here's what happened in the first 30 minutes of action:
- After their early success, the Eagles defense struggled to contain the Dallas offense, allowing a 13-play, 80-yard drive on their second possession. However, the Eagles succeeding in stopping the Cowboys in the red zone, holding them to a field goal. Jim Schwartz has always employed a "bend but don't break" scheme, but the defense's ability to hold the Cowboys' streaky offense to just three points on their three red zone possessions is huge, considering the offense's early struggles.
- Rasul Douglas's second quarter interception was a huge momentum swing for the Eagles, who looked to be on their heels. Granted, the Eagles went three-and-out on their next drive, but Douglas became the first Eagle in 2018 with multiple interceptions. Douglas came up with a pair of big tackles later in the half.
- The Eagles created a big play on the opening kickoff when Malcolm Jenkins forced a fumble that was recovered by Kamu Grugier-Hill. The only issue was the officials blew the play dead and awarded possession to the Cowboys. Doug Pederson's ensuing challenge wasn't fruitful because "there wasn't a clear recovery" on the video. Luckily for the Eagles, they forced a three-and-out on the drive, but after the Cowboys' punt, they lost roughly 69 yards in field position and had to punt on their next drive. Now, it's unclear what video Clete Blakeman watched because it was obvious the Birds recovered the ball, but the bigger travesty was them missing the fumble in real time and costing the Eagles a challenge and time out.
- A speed option on third-and-1 against a defense that has two Pro Bowl linebackers? My goodness, what a terrible call.
The Eagles offense had just two first downs in the first half and stood on the sideline for more than 20 minutes of the first half. The Birds are at their best when they are controlling the ball and the clock. Pederson's play-calling on third downs has been atrocious, with the Eagles converting just one opportunity in the first half. The Eagles will start the second half with the ball and need to put together a drive that ends with points to get back in this game.
Second Half X-Factor: Fletcher Cox
The Eagles remain thin up the middle on defense with Tim Jernigan missing another game with back spasms. Cox and company have struggled to contain Ezekiel Elliott, who has averaged north of 6 yards per carry in the first half. The Eagles need to stymie the rushing attack of Dallas and put the game on the arm of Prescott.