Eagles-Cowboys, Day After: A Disappointing Finish

Why the Eagles gave up two late touchdowns to the Cowboys.

Marcus Smith and Dak Prescott. (USA Today Sports)

Marcus Smith and Dak Prescott. (USA Today Sports)

While Doug Pederson’s questionable decision-making left the door open for the Cowboys in the Eagles’ 29-23 defeat, it was Philadelphia’s defense that let Dallas walk through and maintain the top spot in the NFC East.

With 6:26 remaining in the fourth quarter, Dallas started their series at their own 10-yard-line. But after 11 plays and 3:22 ticked off the game clock, the Cowboys went 90 yards for the touchdown to tie the game. Then, in the opening drive of overtime, the Cowboys traveled 75 yards in 12 plays to put the Eagles away.

“We have to close those games out. We have a 10-point lead in the fourth, you can’t let those teams linger in and hang on,” Jordan Hicks said. “You know coming in here they are going to fight to the end. It is going to be a dog fight to the very end. You have to step on the gas when you have them in that position. It is disappointing we weren’t able to do that, but it has to be a learning experience. We have to come together, we have to be closer, and we have to move forward.”

The Eagles’ defense allowed 10 points in the Cowboys first three drives, but in the following five possessions, Dallas put only three more points on the board. For the first time all season, the Cowboys were held to just 13 points in the first three quarters of a game.

Jim Schwartz’s unit tightened up by giving Ezekiel Elliott little running room and Dak Prescott nowhere to throw the ball. At one point in the second half, Prescott’s passer rating was only 6.6 points better than Cole Beasley’s, whose only pass attempt in the game was an incompletion.

“We thought we were going to win,” Rodney McLeod said. “We were in good position.”

But then the Cowboys scored two touchdowns in their final four drives of the game, and the Eagles’ defense suddenly went from the reason the Birds were in position to win to why the team traveled back to Philadelphia with a loss. During Dallas’ game-winning touchdown pass, Prescott escaped the pocket and rolled to his left before he found a wide open Jason Witten for the five-yard score.

“The quarterback started getting out of the pocket. That’s pretty much it,” Nigel Bradham said. “He scrambled, used his feet and created time. That’s all it was, really. We got to do a better job of staying in coverage longer and do a better job of keeping the quarterback in the pocket.”

After feeling like they made a convincing case that they were the best defense in the NFL by outshining Minnesota’s top-ranked unit a week ago, the Eagles continued their subpar play on the road in Texas. In four away games, Philadelphia has allowed around 24 points per game. While that’s right around the league average in terms of how many points teams give up on a weekly basis, it’s triple what the Eagles have conceded at home.

Now, the Birds must rebound as they travel to play the Giants and hope to avoid an 0-3 start in NFC East games.

“We have to find a way to get some wins on the road. That will be important,” Connor Barwin said. “For us, it is just staying focused. Continue to worry about the little things; continue to have less and less mistakes. That is how you get wins on the road.”




Nelson Agholor on drops after he failed to bring in a third-down throw inside the red zone in the first quarter:

“I don’t give a damn, man, that shit is nothing. You just have to make the next one. Everybody runs routes. Sometimes they are contested. Sometimes you drop them. If you make as many as you possibly can that come your way, you’ll put yourself in a good position. No one is perfect. I don’t look at no drops, or that type of shit. I’m tired of hearing that shit. It’s just stupid. We play football. I dropped the first one. I didn’t drop one after that. What does it matter? Because if we lose, then it’s like we’ll place blame on this person did this. No! As a team, we have a responsibility to win football games and I get it, some plays could have helped. But there are still four quarters of football to be played and we got to win. I don’t got time for that no more. I got time to win football games, only. No statistics. No ‘Who did this.’ Win, that’s all that matters. That’s what coach staff cares about. That’s what I care about. That’s what we all care about — winning football games.”

Doug Pederson’s response to Agholor’s comments:

“I’m disappointed in the type of comments. I think each individual has to be responsible for their own job, obviously, and we’ve got to make good, smart choices. Everybody’s mad and disappointed and angry after tough losses like we just came through, and cooler heads prevail. We just have to bite our lips sometimes and just suck it up and get to work. That’s what we’ve got to do this week.”

Zach Ertz on his lack of targets in recent weeks:

“My number is just not being called right now. I’ll never second-guess the coaches. I’ll never second-guess Carson. That’s just the way the games have gone. Obviously, you want to be involved each and every play. But that’s not really the case right now.”

—Pederson’s response to Ertz’s comments:

“He may not be the primary guy every time, but the times that he might be secondary — primary or secondary — there’s been times where he’s been open and Carson’s gone a different way with the ball. So a lot of times it’s progression of the play. He’s doing an outstanding job when called upon. He made a couple good catches again last night, and we continue to try to find ways to keep feeding him the football.”

Dak Prescott on his game-winning touchdown pass:

“It was supposed to be a quick pass. The ball was supposed to come out real quick right there and I did not see anything. I kind of moved around and rolled to my right and I realized nothing had gone well all night going that that way, so I decided to turn around and [Jason] Witten was there clear as day. When he is that wide open I just wanted to get it to him. I didn’t want to overthrow him. It was great.”

—Pederson on why the Eagles didn’t attack down the field more on offense:

“Dallas played a little bit more two deep against us than what we’ve seen in previous weeks. I thought that Carson was very efficient with the throws he did make. He made some tough throws at the end of the half. There were some situations there. But overall I thought we came away in the passing game pretty well in this game. So, we’ll evaluate it some more, but at the same time I thought that the decisions that he made and the down-the-field throws that we did have were good and led to a field goal, obviously, before the half.”



Player# of snaps% of snaps
Brandon Brooks78100%
Jason Kelce78100%
Jason Peters78100%
Halapoulivaati Vaitai78100%
Carson Wentz78100%
Nelson Agholor7191%
Jordan Matthews7090%
Stefen Wisniewski6988%
Zach Ertz6381%
Darren Sproles6381%
Dorial Green-Beckham5165%
Brent Celek2329%
Josh Huff1924%
Trey Burton1215%
Allen Barbre912%
Ryan Mathews810%
Kenjon Barner68%
Matt Tobin34%
Wendell Smallwood11%

*Darren Sproles played a season-high 63 snaps (81 percent) — and deservedly so. His 86 rushing yards is the fourth-highest total of his career and his most since 2011. He was also efficient as he averaged 5.7 yards per carry.

*As for the other running backs, Ryan Mathews played a season-low eight snaps (10 percent). Doug Pederson said it didn’t have anything to do with Mathews’ recent fourth-quarter fumbles, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Sproles continuing to get more carries. Kenjon Barner played six snaps (eight percent) and carried the ball three times for nine yards, while Wendell Smallwood’s only snap was his fumble.

*Nelson Agholor (91 percent) played the most snaps among the receivers, but he didn’t produce many yards. Agholor hauled in three catches for 25 yards, plus a red zone drop on third down.

*Stefen Wisniewski’s 69 snaps (88 percent) was a season-high as he filled in for an injured Allen Barbre. Every other starting offensive lineman didn’t miss a snap.

*Zach Ertz (81 percent) played a lot of snaps, but he tallied just 19 receiving yards on four catches. He said after the game his number hasn’t been called much in recent games, while Pederson added that Carson Wentz has gone elsewhere with the ball when Ertz has been open. Either way, you’d expect a guy making a reported $42.5 million to play a larger role in an offense with little talent at receiver.


Player# of snaps% of snaps
Nolan Carroll78100%
Jordan Hicks78100%
Malcolm Jenkins78100%
Rodney McLeod78100%
Nigel Bradham7799%
Leodis McKelvin7394%
Brandon Graham6482%
Fletcher Cox6482%
Beau Allen5469%
Connor Barwin5368%
Jalen Mills4760%
Vinny Curry3241%
Destiny Vaeao2836%
Mychal Kendricks1924%
Jaylen Watkins1519%
Marcus Smith1519%
Stephen Tulloch34%
Steven Means23%

*Leodis McKelvin more than doubled his previous season-high number of snaps with 73 (94 percent). McKelvin gave up a big 53-yard reception to Dez Bryant early in the game, but he also led both teams in pass break-ups (two).

*For the second week in a row, Brandon Graham (82 percent) played the most snaps among defensive ends after Jim Schwartz said he would decrease Connor Barwin’s (68 percent) playing time. However, Vinny Curry (41 percent) still played a minority of snaps while Marcus Smith (19 percent) recorded his second-highest snap total (15) this season.

*Since the Lions game, Stephen Tulloch (four percent) has played just nine snaps in three contests. In the three previous games, the linebacker played 38 snaps.