Eagles turnovers gift-wrapped Cowboys’ early onslaught, and four other reasons for Sunday’s loss | Paul Domowitch
The average starting field position tilted heavily in Dallas' favor. Oh, and the Eagles couldn't stop Zeke Elliott ... as usual.
The Eagles committed four turnovers in Sunday’s 37-10 loss to the Cowboys, including three by Carson Wentz (two lost fumbles and an interception). The first two — Dallas Goedert’s fumble on the Eagles’ first possession, and the first of Wentz’s two fumbles on the second possession — were devastating. They gift-wrapped a 14-0 lead for the Cowboys just six minutes into the game.
Goedert’s fumble not only killed a potential Eagles scoring drive but also gave the Cowboys the ball at the Philadelphia 45-yard line. It took just six plays for them to score from there.
Wentz’s fumble was caused by Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, who beat right tackle Lane Johnson and knocked the ball out of the quarterback’s hand. It set the Cowboys up for business at the Philadelphia 14-yard line and it took just two plays for them to score from there.
Jim Schwartz’s defense needs no help giving up points early. The Eagles have allowed a league-high 51 points in the first quarter and 121 in the first half. Only the Giants have given up more first-half points (129).
Wentz’s other two turnovers came in the fourth quarter after the Cowboys had taken a 30-10 lead. He forced a pass to Alshon Jeffery in the middle of the field that was picked off by safety Xavier Woods, then fumbled a shotgun snap on the Eagles’ next possession.
Losing the field-position battle
In their first six games, the Eagles’ average drive start was their own 30.8-yard line, and their opponents’ was their own 27.6. That’s a plus-3.2 drive-start differential.
On Sunday night, the Eagles’ average drive start was their own 18.8, while the Cowboys’, with a lot of help from the Eagles’ four turnovers, was their own 41.7.
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The best starting field position the Eagles had was on Brett Maher’s five kickoff touchbacks. The Eagles’ other six possessions started at their own 10 (twice), 13, 14, 15 and 20.
The Cowboys started drives in Eagles territory on four of their 11 possessions. All four were the result of the Eagles’ four turnovers. The Cowboys scored three touchdowns on those four possessions.
The Zeke problem
Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys’ offensive line shredded an Eagles run defense that had held opponents to 3.3 yards per carry in their first six games.
Without linebacker Nigel Bradham, the Eagles were a little light at the second level. In retrospect, they might have waited a week before making an example out of Zach Brown, even if he wasn’t playing all that well.
The Cowboys rushed for 189 yards, 111 in the first half when the game was decided. They averaged 6.8 yards per carry on first down in the first half.
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Elliott finished with 111 yards on 22 carries. The Cowboys had six double-digit-yard runs, and he had four of them.
The Eagles had their poorest tackling effort of the season. On an 11-yard run by Elliott on the Cowboys’ third touchdown drive, five Eagles defenders — Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Akeem Spence, and safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod — missed tackles. On a 16-yard pitch to Elliott, Graham, McLeod, and Jenkins all failed to bring the Cowboys running back down.
(Not) defending the pass
The Eagles got cornerback Jalen Mills back Sunday night, and unlike the week before against the Vikings, they managed mostly to keep the ball in front of them against the Cowboys.
That strategy might have been a lot more effective had the Cowboys not had such terrific field position much of the game. Just one of Dallas’ four touchdown drives was longer than 45 yards, and two were 14 and 16 yards.
Last week, the Vikings’ Kirk Cousins completed 22 of 29 passes against the Eagles. Sunday, Dak Prescott completed 21 of 27. He was 7-for-8 on third down, though nine of the Cowboys’ third-down situations were 6 or fewer yards.
On the Cowboys’ second-quarter touchdown drive that put them up by 21-7, Prescott completed 6 of 6 attempts for 50 yards on the 12-play, 71-yard drive, beating the Eagles’ soft coverage over the head with slants.
The Eagles got a little more help from their pass rush Sunday than they did a week earlier, but not much. They had a pair of nice back-to-back pressures late in the first quarter — a sack by Derek Barnett and a third-down pressure by Josh Sweat — that forced Chris Jones’ only first-half punt. But aside from that, Prescott usually had plenty of time.
Ertz’s quiet day
Remember last year when Zach Ertz caught 116 passes and people were suggesting that Carson Wentz was favoring him too much? Well, nobody has been saying that lately.
In last week’s loss to the Vikings, Ertz had four catches for 54 yards, but only one reception in the first half.
Sunday night, he didn’t have a catch until the fourth quarter, when the game was already way out of reach. In fact, he was targeted just once in the first three quarters.
Both Ertz and Wentz acknowledged that the Cowboys didn’t do anything special to shut him down. So why isn’t he getting the ball?
He’s on pace for 134 targets, which would be the second-most of his career. But his 59.3% catch rate through the first seven games is the worst of his career.