ARLINGTON, Texas — Doug Pederson coaches the Eagles, but he’s eating crow today.
Pederson spent the past week defending and explaining and walking back his promise that his 3-3 Eagles would beat the 3-3 Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on Sunday night.
He now will spend this week claiming and insisting and trying to convince everyone that his promise did not fuel the Cowboys. They destroyed the Eagles, 37-10, and left no question about which team is the class of the NFC East.
The Eagles have a losing record, and they looked the part; four turnovers, little offense, a defense that couldn’t corral a show pony. Pederson’s proclamation was bravado at its foolish, hollow worst.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he believed Pederson’s guarantee at least added to his players’ resolve ... to which running back Ezekiel Elliott responded:
“We don’t give a (hoot) what Doug Pederson says.”
Well, clearly, they do.
Inspiration aside, the Cowboys entered the game healthier and hungrier, having lost three in a row and playing for coach Jason Garrett’s continued employment. They exit the game in first place. Injured players dressed out knowing they faced a bye week, in which they could rest and heal. They should have been better in every facet. They were.
It was a bad week to guarantee anything, but the matter deserves a bit of context.
It was Monday morning, and the Eagles had lost the first of a three-game stretch of road games, all against probable playoff teams. Pederson grew frustrated on his weekly radio show and blurted out a guarantee to the listeners of WIP-FM (94.1):
“We’re going down to Dallas, and our guys are gonna be ready to play. And we’re gonna win that football game and when we do we’re in first place in the NFC East.”
They proceeded to shut Pederson up themselves.
“I told him to shut up, didn’t I?" Lawrence said after recording his first career sack against the Eagles. “So what you think he’s doing now?”
He’s probably wondering how he’s going to stop DeMarcus Lawrence when he visits in two months.
On the Eagles’ second possession, Lawrence beat right tackle Lane Johnson and strip-sacked Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. It was the first sack of his six-year career against the Eagles, whom he had faced nine times. Woods recovered the fumble. The Cowboys made it 14-0 two plays later.
It wasn’t quite over, but it felt like it. The Cowboys had scored just 40 seconds before, after tight end Dallas Goedert fumbled away the first possession. The Eagles wheezed out a touchdown drive thanks to two Cowboys penalties, but the Cowboys responded with a touchdown and two field goals, the second a 63-yard, last-second missile that made it 27-7 at halftime. It wasn’t that close.
The Eagles gave up 8 yards on a quarterback sneak, and 9 yards on fourth-and-1, 17 first downs and 266 yards in the first half. Elliott compiled 90 of his 147 total yards in the game’s first 30 minutes. Carson Wentz completed five passes in the first half and was sacked three times.
All of which was completely predictable.
The Eagles faced an ornery, wounded, desperate group of Cowboys, playing for pride, first place, and maybe their coach’s job.
Six Cowboys who missed practice during the week — receivers Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb, tackles La’el Collins and Tyron Smith, cornerback Byron Jones, and guard Zach Martin — started Sunday night.
Injuries robbed Pederson of his big-play options, DeSean Jackson and Darren Sproles, and Pederson lost left tackle Jason Peters to a knee injury the week before. It should be noted, all are old.
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz started the fifth different combination of defensive backs in seven games. That includes only two starts for the five top defensive backs, and only three starts for top cornerback Ronald Darby, who missed his fourth straight game with a hamstring injury.
The linebackers were in even greater disarray. Nigel Bradham’s ankle cost him the game, and the Eagles cut Zach Brown the week after Brown derided Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, who promptly eviscerated the Birds. That pair had started every game.
So, with so many manpower issues, why would Pederson guarantee a win? Why, especially, against a division rival that has now beaten you four times in a row?
Because Pederson is impulsive. He is emotional.
He calls reverse tight-end passes to his quarterbacks in Super Bowls at the goal line on fourth down against the greatest coach in sports history. It is why you love him, and why his players love him.
Right now, Jerry loves him, too.
“Any time anybody says you can’t do it, there’s a human element that usually means you’re gonna show 'em,” Jones said. “In that respect, that might have had an impact. Whether they (admitted) it or not, if they got to talking about it all week -- and every time they thought about a little extra preparation, if that helped 'em out, so be it.”
In this moment it should be noted that Sunday night wasn’t nearly as profound an event as it was promoted. Nine games remain for each team, including a rematch in Game 15 at Philadelphia, which will carry considerably more weight.
I guarantee it.