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Eagles think officials fumbled call on first play of game: ‘I obviously came up with the ball’

Could the Eagles have changed everything with an opening kickoff turnover? Thanks to a hard-to-believe replay ruling, we will never know.

Dallas cornerback Jourdan Lewis appears to fumble the ball on the opening kickoff after getting hit by Malcolm Jenkins (left) and LaRoy Reynolds. The officials concluded the Eagles did not recover the fumble, although it appeared that way.
Dallas cornerback Jourdan Lewis appears to fumble the ball on the opening kickoff after getting hit by Malcolm Jenkins (left) and LaRoy Reynolds. The officials concluded the Eagles did not recover the fumble, although it appeared that way.Read moreDAVID MAIALETTI

ARLINGTON, Texas --The opening kickoff foretold what was about to befall the Eagles on Sunday.

Dallas returner Jourdan Lewis decided to bring out Jake Elliott’s offering from about a yard deep in the end zone, and at the Dallas 18, he was hit hard by Malcolm Jenkins.

The ball popped loose, and there was a scramble. As replays showed, Eagles linebacker LaRoy Reynolds was lying on it but didn’t realize he was, right away, so green-jerseyed arms reached in to secure it. Then the cameras lost sight of the ball, until Kamu Grugier-Hill, the “Dallas always chokes” guy, popped up and waved it to the crowd.

First problem: Referee Clete Blakeman’s crew somehow thought Lewis was down before he fumbled. So Doug Pederson had to challenge.

Second problem: The replay ruling from New York was that there was no “clear recovery” by the Eagles, even though no Cowboys were visible near the ball. Dallas kept possession.

Afterward, Blakeman told a pool reporter that the “first component” was to determine a fumble, which replay confirmed. But the “second component” was to ascertain “was there a clear recovery. And that’s just what we couldn’t confirm with the angles we had on video, to make it a clear recovery by Philadelphia, so we had to stay with the ruling on the field.”

» UP-DOWN DRILL: Doug Pederson, officials trending down; Dallas Goedert trending up

The pool reporter did not ask which Dallas player was close enough to have conceivably recovered the ball. He did ask about whether the ruling was based on how “so much can happen in a pile.”

“It’s really hard unless we have somebody with clear possession and control of it before the pile-up begins, and then we can give it to them,” Blakeman said. “We just didn’t have that on this one.”

The pile seemed to consist entirely of Eagles players, with Lewis off to the side, away from the ball.

Jenkins opined that “whoever’s watching that in New York should stay off the bottle.”

“It’s ridiculous. I obviously came up with the ball,” Grugier-Hill said. “They said because they couldn’t see all the way through on the camera. That was just real frustrating, coming out, you’re starting hot.”

Jenkins said “common sense … you saw Kamu come out with the ball.”

Jenkins said he didn’t see any Cowboys near the recovery.

“When you make a play as big as that and it’s taken away from you for nothing, from our vantage point, that’s a little bit tough,” Jenkins said. “But we got over it immediately, kept playing, didn’t make enough plays in a game where you know it’s going to be tough, you know it’s going to be tit-for-tat.”

» MARCUS HAYES: The Cowboys choked twice against the Eagles, but they didn’t choke enough

Clement injures knee

The Eagles might have suffered another significant loss when running back Corey Clement injured his right knee in the first quarter. Clement’s leg bent in a bad angle after he grabbed a shotgun snap that was bobbled by Carson Wentz, and he remained on the ground for an extended period with members of the medical staff as well as coach Doug Pederson and running backs coach Duce Staley surrounding him. A few players prayed for Clement.

He went to the locker room for further evaluation. When he returned to the sideline, Clement wore black warmups and a brace on his knee. He was declared out for the game.

With Clement out, the Eagles used more Darren Sproles – and even got Wendell Smallwood involved with a red-zone carry.

The other notable Eagles injury was to rookie defensive end Josh Sweat, who exited with a left ankle injury. Sweat could not put weight on his foot when he was helped off the field. The Eagles relied on the rotation of Michael Bennett, Brandon Graham, and Chris Long at defensive end, as the defense logged a brutal 93 snaps.

» COWBOYS 29, EAGLES 23 (OT): Loss drops Birds to 6-7, likely ending bid for first-place finish

No Jernigan or Maddox

Defensive tackle Tim Jernigan and defensive back Avonte Maddox were inactive after missing practice during the week. Both were listed as questionable. Jernigan has back spasms and Maddox has ankle and knee injuries.

The Eagles' other inactives were linebacker Jordan Hicks, offensive tackle Jordan Mailata, offensive lineman Matt Pryor, quarterback Nate Sudfeld, and cornerback Chandon Sullivan.

Jason Peters was in the lineup despite missing practice all week, although he was expected to play all along. He did not have an injury designation on Friday, when he missed practice for a personal reason.

Hicks missed his third consecutive game with a calf injury. The other players were healthy scratches. The Eagles decided to dress offensive lineman Chance Warmack over Sullivan, giving them more insurance along the offensive line. However, they were left with only Rasul Douglas, De’Vante Bausby, and Cre’von LeBlanc at cornerback after Sidney Jones’ injury.

» BOB FORD: Doug Pederson decided to just keep playing, and you saw what happened