Eagles-Cowboys Postgame: The Yellow Brick Road...To Nowhere
The opening kickoff. The defense. And Mark Sanchez.....Oh my.
Dorothy had her Cowardly Lion, Tin Man and Scarecrow. Eagles fans got Josh Huff who didn't have the courage to come up and catch the opening kickoff, a defense that played without heart and Mark Sanchez who obviously plays without a brain.
There were plenty of other players and coaches on the Philadelphia Eagles to blame for their 38-27 loss to the Dallas Cowboys at the Linc on Sunday night, but those three stand out above the rest.
The Eagles dominated the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, when they didn't commit any turnovers. They reversed that little detail on the opening kickoff, as Dan Bailey's kick got held up in the wind and bounced at the Eagles 15 yard line. For some reason, Huff didn't field the ball and Dallas' C.J. Spillman recovered the ball on the Eagles 18 yard line. That should have been my first clue that it was going to be a long night.
The Cowboys turned that gift into a 1-yard DeMarco Murray TD to take a 7-0 lead. After an Eagles 3-and-out, the Cowboys made it 14-0 on a 4-yard TD pass from Tony Romo to Dez Bryant. While Bryant got the TD, the star of the drive was THE Jason Witten, who had three 3rd down receptions for first downs to keep the 16-play, 88-yard drive alive. Another 3-and-out by the Eagles led to another punt, which the Cowboys quickly turned into yet another Romo-to-Bryant TD, to give the Cowboys a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter.
It was even worse than the score indicated because at that point, the Cowboys had 21 points and the Eagles had minus 5 yards of offense in 6 plays
The Eagles defense couldn't stop the Cowboys from marching up and down the field, except to commit pass interference penalties, and the Eagles offense was doing nothing. At that point, it looked like it was going to be a blowout. But then, something strange happened. The Eagles actually decided to start playing some football.
The Eagles came to life with an 11-play, 84-yard drive to cut the lead to 21-7 on Chris Polk's 5-yard TD run. Meanwhile, the defense started to at least slow the Cowboys offense down and the Eagles added a Cody Parkey field goal to cut the lead to 21-10 at halftime. I'm guessing that maybe the Cowboys' offensive players were just tired from all that scoring they did early and needed to catch their breath.
The Eagles forced a Dallas punt on their first possession of the second half and Jeremy Maclin took a short Sanchez pass (are there any other kind of passes from Sanchez, than short?) 72 yards before getting tackled at the 1 yard line. Polk plunged in from a yard out to make it 21-17 and suddenly, the Eagles were back in the game. With the home crowd in a frenzy at this point, Vinnie Curry sacked Romo and forced a fumble that the Eagles recovered on the Dallas 14 yard line. Darren Sproles (remember him?) capped the short drive with a 1-yard TD run to give the Eagles the lead, 24-21. Yeah, I couldn't believe it either with how badly the game started for the Eagles. Too bad the game still had more than a quarter left to play.
At this point, the real Eagles defense and the real Mark Sanchez decided to show their faces again.
Dallas responded with an 8-play, 78-yard TD drive that ended with a 2-yard TD run by Murray to give the Cowboys back the lead, 28-24. Even though Murray scored twice, the Eagles did a decent job of holding the NFL's leading rusher to 81 yards on 31 carries. It was the only positive of the game for the home team.
On the following possession, Sanchez proceeded to overthrow THE Zach Ertz, who was wide open over the middle, and the pass was intercepted. The Cowboys accepted that gift and expanded their lead on Bryant's third TD reception of the game, to give Dallas a 35-24 lead. It was a perfectly thrown pass by Romo, but let's not overlook the fact that it was also the third TD that Eagles CB Bradley Fletcher allowed in the game. I have no idea why Fletcher even has a roster spot anymore, let alone starts. How bad are the backups on the roster if the coaches keep putting Fletcher out there to get beat and commit penalties every single game? Fletcher was easily the worst player on defense, but it wasn't his fault that the middle of the field was open all game long for Romo and his receivers. Safeties Nate Allen and Malcolm Jenkins didn't exactly have a good game either.
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Fletcher wasn't alone in him horrible play though. The rest of the Eagles secondary shared his inability to cover the Dallas receivers. Romo complete 22 of 31 passes, for 265 yards, with those 3 TD passes to Bryant. That's an amazing 129.1 QB rating, for those of you keeping score at home. The defense also didn't get much pressure on Romo, sacking him only three times. Defensive coordinator Billy Davis had one of his worst games of the season, as he never called for the blitz, even though his defense wasn't getting to Romo with a 3 or 4 man rush.
The Eagles might have had a chance to get back in the game, when they cut it to 35-27 on Parkey's second FG, but that dream died when THE Brent Celek fumbled on his own 34 yard line. When Bailey's final field goal sailed through the uprights to make it 38-27, the long walk out for the dejected fans began.
Sanchez (17 for 28, 252 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs, 60.4 QB Rating) added another typical Sanchez interception at the end and the Eagles suffered what might just be the death-blow to their playoff chances. The loss drops the Eagles a game behind the Cowboys in the division, with only 2 games to play. And with the previous losses to the Packers, Seahawks and Cardinals, the Eagles' only shot at making the playoffs is by winning the NFC East. For that to happen, they would not only have to win both of their remaining games, but also have the Cowboys lose at least one of their last two. I'm not sure even the Wizard of Oz would be able to deliver that one to the Eagles.
Who is most to blame for the Eagles loss to the Cowboys
Chip Kelly doesn't get a pass either. While he might not have as much blame as the players in this loss, he still came out with an ineffective offensive game plan and he's the one who picked those horrible defensive backs in the first place. Kelly has the reputation of being an offensive "wizard", but he came up "munchkin" small in this game.
The Eagles now head out on the road for their final two games against the Redskins and Giants, but after two straight home losses maybe that's not such a bad thing. For Dorothy there's no place like home, but for the Philadelphia Eagles and their fleeting playoff chances, maybe the road will be the key to success. Let's just hope that road isn't made with yellow bricks and leads nowhere.