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Eagles-Cowboys Postgame: Bad Coaching Costs Eagles a Win

Updated on October 30, 2016

I haven't been this ticked off about an Eagles loss for a while. The Eagles lost a game they were leading by 10 points in the fourth quarter and my anger is directed right at Eagles head coach Doug Pederson. His play-calling throughout the game was atrocious and cost the Eagles the game during two critical possessions in the 4th quarter.

You have to go back to the Andy Reid era to find a coaching performance this horrible by an Eagles head coach and that's saying something, after the three-year debacle that was the Chip Kelly era.

The Eagles were up by a score of 23-13 at the beginning of the 4th quarter, but Pederson's horrendous play-calling prevented the Eagles from getting out of Dallas with a win over the hated Cowboys. The fact that the Eagles lost in overtime isn't even the worst part of this loss. The worst part is that Pederson's play-calling was both baffling and gutless.

With 13:05 left in the game and his team leading by 10 points, 23-13, Pederson decided to give RB Wendell Smallwood his first carry of the game. Smallwood promptly fumbled the ball at the Eagles 36 yard line. The Eagles defense held the Cowboys to a Dan Bailey FG to cut the lead to 23-16, but Pederson wasn't done with his mindless play-calls. Oh no, he was just getting started.

The Eagles got the ball on their own 25 yard line after the kickoff and proceeded to drive the ball straight down the field. They got it down to the Dallas 32 yard line before Pederson decide that the drive was going too well and it was time for the dumbest trick play he had in his playbook. Eagles QB Carson Wentz hadn't thrown a pass beyond 10 yards all game long, so of course, Pederson calls for a screen pass to WR Josh Huff and then has Huff heave the ball deep down the sideline to Jordan Matthews for an incomplete pass.

Oh sure, if it works, Pederson looks like a genius, but there was no reason to call this play. The Eagles were driving the ball down the field and were already in FG range that would have put them back up two scores, with less than 8 minutes left in the game. This play disrupted the rhythm the offense had established during the drive and it only got worse from there.

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson seemed confused on Sunday night in Dallas
Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson seemed confused on Sunday night in Dallas

Kenon Barner gained 2 yards on the next play, because apparently Ryan Mathews got benched for his fumbling issues in recent games. Guess he'll be joined by Smallwood on the bench now, but that's a problem for another time. Mathews got all of 4 carries in this game, while Barner got 3. Pederson would say after the game that he stayed with Darren Sproles (15 carries for 85 yards) because he wanted to stay with the hot hand, but that doesn't excuse giving Smallwood and Barner those late carries.

And Dougie wasn't done blowing this game yet. Oh no, he had even more bad trick plays up his sleeve. The next play was the worst one yet. With the Eagles in FG range, Pederson called for a flare pass behind the line of scrimmage to Sproles on 3rd down. The Cowboys defense blew up the play and Sproles lost 6 yards. As bad as that was, what Pederson did next was even more mind-boggling. He punted.

With the ball on the Dallas 36 yard line Pederson, decided to punt. That means that he passed up a chance at a 53-yard FG from Caleb Sturgis. While a 53-yard FG is nowhere near a sure thing, keep a few things in mind. Sturgis had made his previous 17 FG attempts in a row. AT&T Stadium in Dallas has a retractable dome, and while the roof was open for the game, there was no wind. And finally, Sturgis had already kicked a 55-yard FG at the end of the 1st half that would have been good from 65 yards.

Each one of those decision in that sequence were awful. Together they lost the game for the Eagles.

Philadelphia Eagles RB Ryan Mathews spent most of his time in Dallas on the bench
Philadelphia Eagles RB Ryan Mathews spent most of his time in Dallas on the bench

Yes, the Eagles defense allowed the Cowboys to drive down the field and tie the game on a Dez Bryant 22-yard TD catch from Dak Prescott. But it should have been a two score game at that point, which wouldn't have left the Cowboys with enough time to tie the game and force an overtime, where the Eagles lost the coin toss and never got the ball on offense.

Pederson's entire gameplan was flawed. The Cowboys pass defense was ranked 21st in the NFL coming into the game and the Eagles never tried to test them deep. Wentz completed 32 of 43 passes, which sounds great until you consider the fact that those 32 completions went for only 202 yards. That's only 6.3 yards per completion or 4.7 yards per attempt. Even a bad defense can stop an offense that absolutely refuses to throw any pass beyond 10 yards. Screen passes don't work if the defense is always charging forward, knowing you won't throw deep. Ever. You can't make it that easy for a defense to beat you, yet that's exactly what Pederson, who also calls all the offensive plays, did.

The Eagles lost a game where they held the NFL's leading rusher, Ezekiel Elliott to only 96 yards on 22 carries. They held QB Dak Prescott to only 19 completions on 39 pass attempts. Yes, Prescott threw for 287 yards, 2 TDs and ran for a 3rd, but he also threw a really bad INT directly to MLB Jordan Hicks in the endzone. But in spite of the worst game of the year for the Dallas offense, they won the game. The return of WR Dez Bryant certainly helped. Bryant caught 4 passes for 113 yards and a TD. That was in stark contrast to the Eagles WRs, most of whom couldn't catch a pass all game.

Jordan Matthews led the Eagles with 11 catches for 65 yards and a TD, but the rest of the Eagles receivers looked like they were batting the ball away whenever it came near them. I know the team isn't going to trade a valuable draft pick for a receiver before the trade deadline, but the Eagles need to dump most of these stiffs in the offseason.

NFC East Standings

Dallas Cowboys
Philadelphia Eagles
New York Giants
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Who lost the game for the Eagles

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Let's also not let defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and his unit of the hook either. Yes, Dallas has the best offensive line in football, but Prescott had too much time in the pocket and Schwartz needed to dial up a few more blitzes. As it was, the Eagles only sacked Prescott twice and allowed him to rush 7 times for 38 yards and a TD. Plus, they let the Cowboys drive right down the field in OT and score the winning TD. They stuffed Elliott on a 3rd & 1 run at the Eagles 28 yard line, but then allowed Prescott to get the 1st down on a QB sneak on 4th down on that final drive. They didn't get it done with the game on the line there.

Even the special teams did their part to help lose this game. While Huff had a nice 53-yard kickoff return in the 3rd quarter to set up a Sturgis FG, that gave the Eagles the 10-point lead they would later blow, they also allowed Dallas to covert a fake punt with a 30-yard run by the punter. It was pathetic. That Dallas coach Jason Garret had the guts to call a fake punt from his own 22 yard line, just shows why he was the better coach in this game and why his team stole the win.

Doug Pederson Showed flashes of his mentor, Andy Reid (L) on Sunday night.  Be afraid.  Be very afraid.
Doug Pederson Showed flashes of his mentor, Andy Reid (L) on Sunday night. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

So the Eagles lost a game they should have won. It was bound to happen with a team nobody really expected to be a playoff contender before the season. But the way they lost this game is what really hurts. It also hurts that it was against the hated Cowboys and that a win would have put the Eagles in 1st place in the division.

There really is nothing good to take away from this loss.

Worst of all, Doug Pederson made me have flashbacks to the worst gameday coach in the history of organized sports, Andy Reid. He better learn from this one and never make those kinds of mistakes again, or else this team will never win anything.

Have I mentioned I'm ticked off? Just checking.


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