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Eagles’ run defense goes AWOL vs. Cowboys, and four other takeaways | Paul Domowitch

Five takeaways from Sunday night's Eagles loss to the Cowboys.

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott signals a first down after a third-quarter run.
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott signals a first down after a third-quarter run.Read moreDAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer

Maybe the Eagles should’ve waited a week before making an example of run-stuffing linebacker Zach Brown.

The Eagles’ pass defense has been a dumpster fire since the start of the season, but their run defense had been excellent. They entered Sunday night’s 37-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys ranked second in opponent run average (3.3 yards per carry). They were third in opponent rush average on first down (3.3).

But Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys ran on them at will in the first half. Elliott had 65 yards on 13 carries and the Cowboys had 111 yards on 18 carries in the first half. The Cowboys averaged 6.8 yards per carry on first down in the first two quarters as they built a 27-7 lead.

Dallas finished with 36 rushing attempts for 189 yards, a 5.3 average yards per carry.

Poor protection

Even though the Eagles ran the ball reasonably well in the first half (4.5 yards per carry), Carson Wentz was under duress most of the game. He was sacked three times in the first half and pressured almost every time he dropped back.

Rookie Andre Dillard, making his first NFL start, struggled against both Demarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn. And Lane Johnson, who has owned Lawrence the last two years, lost this latest battle by a unanimous decision.

Lawrence beat him on a second-and-4 play on the Eagles’ second possession and stripped the ball from Wentz. The Cowboys recovered at the Philadelphia 14 and scored a touchdown two plays later.

Johnson also had a costly hands-to-the-face penalty in the red zone in the third quarter that effectively killed a potential touchdown drive and forced the Eagles to settle for a field goal when they were down by 20 points.

Another awful first half by the defense

In their first six games, the Eagles allowed 94 points in the first half, which was the third most in the league. The trend continued Sunday night.

The Eagles gave up 266 yards, 17 first downs and, most significantly, 27 points in the first two quarters. The Cowboys scored on five of their six first-half possessions.

The Cowboys jumped out to a 14-0 lead when they scored touchdowns on their first two possessions.

Has anybody seen Zach Ertz?

Zach Ertz caught 116 passes last season, which was the most ever by an NFL tight end. But lately, defenses have been able to put a muzzle on him.

He had just four catches (for 54 yards) in last week’s loss to the Vikings. On Sunday, he was targeted just once in the first three quarters and didn’t have a catch. He finished with two catches for 38 yards on five targets.

A 6-yard catch by Ertz in the red zone was wiped out by Johnson’s hands-to-the-face penalty.

Pass rush struggles

The Eagles did manage to sack Dak Prescott three times Sunday, and Fletcher Cox even got into the act, registering his first sack of the season.

But for most of the night, Prescott had all the time in the world to throw. Could’ve pitched a tent and lit a campfire. When Jim Schwartz tried blitzing him on a third-and-6 on the first play of the fourth quarter, the Cowboys easily picked it up and Prescott hit Amari Cooper for a 38-yard completion over Jalen Mills.

With the trade deadline just nine days away, general manager Howie Roseman has to decide whether acquiring pass-rush help at this point is too little too late.