ARLINGTON, Texas – A half hour after Sunday’s heartbreaking 29-23 overtime loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Fletcher Cox was asked what he was feeling.
“I’m sick," the All-Pro defensive tackle said. “It’s sickening. You play for moments like this, for games like this. You want to capitalize on moments like that. It [stinks] to lose a game the way we did tonight.
“We didn’t finish the game. We had them a couple of times and we didn’t finish. They made the play at the end of the game to win it, and we just have to move on from it."
Dak Prescott’s 54th pass of the day ricocheted off the fingers of Eagles cornerback Rasul Douglas and into the grasp of Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper, who took it into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.
And just like that it was over. The game and likely the season.
"It’s rough, man, it’s rough," Cox said. “Knowing the way we played on defense, knowing we fought to the end, and didn’t get the result we wanted, it’s tough.
“We have to find a way to win games like that. We have to grind it out."
Cox and the rest of the Eagles defense was on the field for 45 ½ minutes Sunday. Ninety-three exhausting plays.
The Eagles’ depleted defensive line, which was once again playing without defensive tackle Tim Jernigan and lost backup defensive end Josh Sweat to an ankle injury early in the second quarter, battled hard. The Eagles sacked Prescott three times, including a strip-sack by defensive end Michael Bennett in the third quarter that helped set up a Jake Elliott field goal.
They did a good job in the second half on running back Ezekiel Elliott, holding him to 41 yards on 17 carries in the second half.
But it wasn’t enough. Prescott threw for 455 yards and three touchdowns as he and Cooper took advantage of the Eagles’ injury-ravaged secondary in the second half.
“I thought we did a good job of getting after the quarterback," Cox said. “We knew it was going to come down to us rushing him and hitting him and getting him off his spot and making him uncomfortable.
“I think we did that. But obviously we didn’t do it enough. We didn’t do enough to win the football game. No matter what you do and how hard you do it, unless you get the win, nothing else matters."
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Third down ended up being the Eagles’ downfall, which is a familiar story this season. The offense converted just one of nine third-down opportunities. The defense allowed the Cowboys to convert 10 of 19 third downs.
Prescott completed 11-of-13 third-down attempts for 98 of his 455 yards and one touchdown. Nine of his 11 third-down passes produced first downs, including three to Cooper.
Cooper finished with 10 catches for 217 yards and three TDs
“Amari Cooper made some plays today," Bennett said. “Big players make big plays in big games. And today, Amari played like the first-round pick that the Cowboys traded for.
“Overall, the defense played their hearts out. But we let our guard down two or three times. And anytime you let your guard down in the NFL a couple of times, the other team’s going to capitalize."
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Bennett, Cox and the rest of the defensive line held up their end of the bargain Sunday. But the injuries in the secondary and at linebacker just ended up being too much to overcome.
“That’s probably the most I played all year," Cox said. “We got to get off the field. We got to get the ball to our offense. We created some turnovers. We created a bunch of stuff. But they made the play to win the game, and that’s all that matters."
Like Cox, the 33-year-old Bennett seldom left the field. Yet he was as strong in the second half as he was in the first. Two of the Eagles’ three sacks of Prescott, including the strip-sack by Bennett, came in the second half. Bennett also split a sack with Cox.
“At one point, I looked and I think the snap difference was 70 to 47," Bennett said. “But we kept battling.
“I remember a game in Seattle once against the Cardinals where we played a hundred plays. Sometimes you got to go out there and play football no matter what the circumstances are. When you get paid, you got to show up and play.
“Great coaches like Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells and Pete Carroll have said games are won in the fourth quarter.