Eagles Fumble Game Against Dallas, Turnover Ball Four Times

Jerome Miron, USA TODAY Sports

The Eagles, at 13-1, entered their second match against the division rival Cowboys with three games remaining on the season but needing to win just one of those games in order to secure a first-round bye. They were also without their starting QB, leaving Gardner Minshew in the driver’s seat.

It started out as a game of almost for the the Eagles. The lone exception was Josh Sweat getting pressure, making the pick and running through Dak to return it for a touchdown. Otherwise, it was the Eagles almost getting a touchdown on the first drive before AJ Brown tripped and the Eagles settled for a field goal. The Eagles almost sacking Dak to end a Cowboys drive that extended for a touchdown instead because Maddox couldn’t make the tackle. The referees missing holds and Eagles missing coverages at the same time to turn another stop into a touchdown.

What looked like a game the Eagles could be dominating was further turned into a dog fight by Minshew deciding to stare at Quez Watkins for a solid 15-30 seconds before throwing a pass that was offline for an interception in the middle of those two drives the Eagles should have stopped.

Minshew recovered on their third drive, however, finally hitting paydirt with a successful mix of rushing and passing plays. Unfortunately, the defense could not find a solution of their own and the best they could do was keep Dallas to a field goal attempt. Minshew followed that up with delayed decision making that resulted in a field goal before the half.

That put the teams in the locker room with the Birds leading by just three points.

The Eagles defense finally forced a three and out to start the second half and, with Minshew completing a fourth-down pass for a touchdown, the Eagles were once again in control of the game. Until they weren’t.

The defense allowed the Cowboys to drive deep enough to make a field goal and then Boston Scott, in the most egregious play of the game, fumbled the ball away on a handoff. This game the Cowboys the ball just outside the red zone and, a few uncalled holds to allow for successful throws later, the Cowboys had evened the game back up.

Miles Sanders and Minshew were able to run a seven-and-a-half-minute drive to put up another seven, but while the Eagles defense was able to force a 3rd and 30, Darius Slay apparently forgot he still had to play and allowed a 53-yard reception to TY Hilton as he allowed a man who was on the street just two weeks ago to gain 10+ yards of cushion on him. It was a Big Play allowed by Slay, indeed. Of course, this lackadaisical play lead directly to yet another touchdown by Dallas.

With five minutes left in the game, Quez Watkins had another off pass thrown to him that he allowed to be wrestled away from him. This gave the Cowboys the ball with the opportunity to run out the clock and win the game. The defense held them to the field goal.

That was meaningless since Miles Sanders decided he should also hand the ball away, so that’s what he did. The defense stood again to force a field goal, but a four to one turnover ratio is not something you can overcome.

Gardner Minshew put up a valiant effort to drive the Eagles 56 yards and get into the end zone, but they stalled there and turned over on downs. You simply cannot turn the ball over that much against a competent team if you want to win.

This was a game where a loss was fine. The team is not at full strength, they only need one win and they have a quarterback whose taken no meaningful snaps for over a year. The problem with this game is that the players who are not new to the lineup beat themselves in a game that was easily a win if the Birds simply don’t fumble the ball for no reason (and give up a conversion on thirds and 30).

Offensive MVPs: DeVonta Smith

The yardage total (113) isn’t in itself amazing, but Smith had critical catches all night. Two touchdowns, numerous first-down conversion taking major contact, an incredible catch on the sidelines to get both feet inbounds, etc. He did it all tonight. It’s just a shame he didn’t get the ball more instead of the players who allowed four turnovers from balls that hit their hands.

Defensive MVP: Josh Sweat

The Eagles pass rush dealt with uncalled holding all night and that’s a big part of the reason they rarely got home in this game. Sweat was the lone player able to do it multiple times in this game and you could see him being held while he initiated the second instance. He had three tackles, including one for loss, and had the pick-six where he trucked Dak to score at the start of the game.

Game Notes

  • TJ Edwards, statistically, would be the MVP on defense with 14 tackles, but the problem is that too many of those came on plays where he simply couldn’t cover the tight ends he needed to in order to prevent the catch in the first place. It was still a strong game, just not as great as the statistics make it seem.
  • Eagles fans should be thankful Ezekiel Elliott is on the Cowboys. For whatever reason, Dallas loves the dude and he is rarely effective for the majority of games against the Eagles. Meanwhile, Tony Pollard is a dynamic player that can wreck the Eagles defense, so Elliott keeping him off the field is a blessing.
  • Minshew made many of the right reads tonight, but seemed very on edge. He aired balls out that he didn’t need to and was slow to make the correct read on multiple occasions. That can be expected, at least to some extent, of a player that hasn’t had meaningful reps for over a full season, but the team will certainly look for those issues to have improved next week.
  • The amount of carries that Kenneth Gainwell got in the red zone is just malpractice. He’s shown little outside of the passing game and the red zone is certainly not the spot you want to be putting your least physical back into the game.
  • Minshew quite obviously experienced struggles in this game. Despite that, he was able to lead three drive of 74 or more yards for touchdowns. Now, that may say something about the “system” the Eagles have, sure, but it also leaves it up to the imagination how good the team could be if they needed to settle Minshew into starting longer-term until he had some time to work out those struggles.
  • Minshew relied much to heavily on Watkins in covered spots in this one. It resulted in two interceptions and really cost the Eagles defense with short fields.
  • For those kids out there wondering who this “TY Hilton” is that made Darius Slay look like a chump, Hilton was a top receiver from 2014-2016. The 33-year-old was last relevant in 2018 and hasn’t played since last season, so as you can tell he must be uncoverable.
  • Four turnovers. What else is there to say about that? It’s embarrassing and many of these players should feel like crap. Miles Sanders, Quez Watkins, Boston Scott, Darius Slay: if any of these four had simply not been the worst they could be on a single play in this game, the Eagles are the one seed.

Injury Notes

  • Milton Williams exited in the first quarter, but was able to return on the next drive.
  • Avonte Maddox exited with a leg injury in the start of the second quarter and did not return. If they are expecting Maddox to hit IR yet again, the team should consider giving Cre’Von LeBlanc a call.
  • Jordan Davis was pulled following a helmet-to-helmet collision with Josh Sweat in the second quarter. He was ruled out and did not return.
  • AJ Brown was injured in the second half. He had sustained a minor injury and returned earlier in the game, but this one appeared to be more serious. He did return later in the game from that one, as well.
  • Lane Johnson limped off late in the fourth quarter and was replaced by Jack Driscoll.

Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys – December 24, 2022