ARLINGTON, Texas -- Why did the Eagles lose, 29-23, to the Dallas Cowboys in overtime Sunday? Here are five reasons.
This was why the time of possession (45:33 to 22:32) and play-snap differential (93 to 48) were so lopsided. The Eagles defense couldn’t make plays on third down to get off the field, and the offense couldn’t make plays on third down to stay on the field.
The Cowboys offense converted 10 of 19 third-down opportunities, including two of three in overtime. Dak Prescott was 11-for-13 for 98 yards and a touchdown (the 15-yard game-winner to Amari Cooper) on third down.
The Eagles offense, meanwhile, converted just one of its nine third-down opportunities. And that one came on its first possession. After that, third down was a black hole.
Carson Wentz, who just a year ago was the league’s most efficient third-down passer, completed only one of six third-down passes against the Cowboys, for 6 yards.
Late in the first half, after a Wentz fumble gave the ball back to the Cowboys, they converted a third-and-7 when the Eagles inexplicably left the middle of the field wide-open for an all-too-easy, 16-yard completion to Ezekiel Elliott that led to a field goal with no time left to give Dallas a 6-0 halftime lead.
The Cowboys converted a critical third-and-9 in overtime when Prescott hit Cooper for a 12-yard completion on an underneath crossing route. Cornerback Rasul Douglas, who was supposed to be covering Cooper, failed to anticipate a pick by Cole Beasley and got caught in traffic.
The costly strip
The Eagles offense once again came out of the gate like a stumbling drunk. The Eagles ran just 17 plays in the first half and had a measly four first downs and 70 net yards.
Still, there they were, late in the first half, trailing by only 3-0 and sort of actually driving after back-to-back Wentz completions to tight end Zach Ertz gave the Eagles a first down at the Dallas 37 with 59 seconds left.
Worst-case scenario seemed to be a shot at a game-tying field goal. Best-case scenario: a momentum-shifting, go-ahead touchdown.
But there ended up being a much, much worse worst-case scenario. Cowboys defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford busted through the left side of the Eagles offensive line on a first-down play and knocked the ball out of Wentz’s hand. It was recovered by the Cowboys' other tackle, Maliek Collins.
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Not only didn’t the Eagles score, but also, the Cowboys managed to get close enough for a franchise-record 62-yard field goal by Brett Maher. The turnover, Wentz’s seventh lost fumble of the season, was responsible for a potential 10-point scoring shift.
On the sack, Crawford ran a game with defensive end Randy Gregory. He was being blocked by left guard Isaac Seumalo but rushed at left tackle Jason Peters’ right shoulder, much like a basketball player on a pick-and-roll.
Gregory looped inside. Seumalo left Crawford to take Gregory, and Crawford essentially rolled off Peters and got to Wentz.
Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper made mincemeat of the Eagles’ injury-ravaged defense in the second half. Cooper, who had one catch for 27 yards in the first half, was targeted 10 times by Prescott in the second half and had nine catches for 190 yards and three touchdowns.
Cooper caught a too-easy 28-yard touchdown pass from Prescott on Sidney Jones midway through the fourth quarter to give the Cowboys a 16-9 lead, then torched De’Vante Bausby for a 75-yard TD with 3:01 left in the fourth that made it 23-16.
His game-winning, 15-yard TD catch came on a ricochet off Douglas’s hand. Douglas, who had a touchdown-saving interception in the first half, actually played a very good game.
Jones got off to a good start. He blew up a screen and broke up a third-and-6 pass to Cooper on the Cowboys' first possession.. But he reinjured his hamstring early in the second quarter and it was all downhill from there.
He returned to the game, but Prescott and Cooper went after him. He gave up a 12-yard completion (on third-and-12) and a 13-yard completion (on second-and-5) to Cooper on the same fourth-quarter drive on which the two-time Pro Bowl wideout burned him for the 28-yard TD.
The blown call
I’ve been covering pro football for 36 years, and I’d have to go back a pretty long way to find a game more poorly officiated than Sunday’s.
Clete Blakeman’s crew was godawful. It seemed determined to have a say in the outcome of the game, and succeeded.
The officials cost the Eagles a potential rare early lead when they failed to see Jourdan Lewis’ fumble on the opening kickoff, as well as the recovery by the Eagles’ Kamu Grugier-Hill.
After Doug Pederson challenged the call, the replay officials in New York acknowledged that, yes, there was a fumble, but claimed they couldn’t tell which team recovered it. So the Cowboys retained possession.
If they had gotten the call right, the Eagles would have had the ball on the Dallas 18 with a chance for something that’s been hard to come by this season: first-quarter points and early momentum. Maybe they would have squandered the opportunity. Maybe not. We’ll never know.
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Jake Elliott picked a bad time to miss his first PAT of the season. He was a perfect 23-for-23 on extra points in the Eagles’ first 12 games.
But his attempt after the Eagles’ first touchdown – Wentz’s 2-yard scoring pass to Alshon Jeffery with 6:04 left in the third quarter -- went wide right.
It’s hard to say it absolutely cost the Eagles a victory. But it almost certainly would have forced the Cowboys to go for two after at least one of their two fourth-quarter touchdowns.