ARLINGTON, Texas -- There were three mediocre teams on the field at AT&T Stadium on Sunday – the Eagles, the Cowboys, and the officials – and, to be totally honest, none of them should be let near a postseason game this season.
The Cowboys won the game, 29-23, in overtime when a good defensive play by the Eagles became a freak tip drill, and that was a fitting ending to a weird afternoon. Good became bad in this one. Bad became good. And if there was some doubt about which was which, the officials made something up as they went along.
Enough with all of them. Enough with Dak Prescott getting away with his tendency to give the ball to the opposition. Enough with Carson Wentz beginning the game as if in a trance. Enough with terrible flags, tweaked hamstrings, and tentative decisions. Draw the curtain and send everyone home.
That’s not the way the NFL works, however. One of the two teams will definitely make the playoffs and, heaven knows, it’s not as if Clete Blakeman’s crew are the only dreadful officials serving the league.
In that light, despite their 6-7 record, the Eagles deserve to advance to certain doom as much as the Cowboys. The chance of their joining the postseason as the NFC East winner is almost extinguished. They must sweep their final three games while the Cowboys lose theirs. It’s possible, although there is little that suggests the Eagles are capable of a three-game winning streak.
The backdoor entry to a conference wild-card berth is still possible, although, assuming Seattle has a grip on one of those, the Eagles would have to emerge from the bubbling tar pit that also contains the Redskins, Vikings, Packers and Panthers. Again, possible, but the temptation is to ask whether it would even matter.
“There is no big picture. You can go crazy looking at all the scenarios and watching other games, hoping somebody else controls your destiny,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “We’ll continue to fight and focus on winning and see what happens.”
» UP-DOWN DRILL: Doug Pederson, officials trending down; Dallas Goedert trending up
Part of the problem at the tail end of game that pretty much decided the division was that the head coach chose to just keep playing and see what would happen. Doug Pederson, given the chance essentially to take control of the game based on whether his offense could get 1 yard at the goal line, decided to shrug and let things play out.
The Eagles tied the game at 23-23 with a touchdown and extra point with 1 minute, 39 seconds remaining in regulation. On the extra point, the Cowboys were flagged for unnecessary roughness, which meant the Eagles had the option of taking the penalty, getting the ball at the 1-yard line, and trying for a two-point conversion to take the lead. They declined that option.
To be honest, the Eagles hadn’t played well all afternoon. It was a game of enormous importance, and Pederson had the chance to steal it with a gain of 1 yard. He was asked after the game whether, in retrospect, that was the right call.
“I stick by my decision,” he said.
He said this knowing how it came out.
“We had a little discussion, but we felt where we were as a team at the time, we felt good about it and kept the point on the board,” Pederson said.
Look, there’s no point in piling on, and there are plenty of other nits to pick from this game. The play-calling was odd at times, as when Wentz was used in a weird option keeper that made little sense, or when Wendell Smallwood, who hadn’t touched the ball in three weeks, had a pointless red-zone run on a third-and-11. But holding what was a losing hand, with a chance to draw one card for the win, it made for poor coaching to pass it up.
“We knew the stakes of the game,” Pederson said. “I just told them it’s one of those games where I’m proud of the way they fought. I’m proud of the way they hung in there, battled back. We were never really out of this football game at all.”
Oh, well. If that’s the measuring stick for satisfaction, the Eagles are 10-1. They were only out of the game against New Orleans. The league, stickler that it is, keeps the standings somewhat differently.
It’s no one’s fault, particularly. The team just isn’t very good. Injuries are a factor. A thinner roster because of Super Bowl defections is a factor. Bad luck is a factor. It all adds up, and it has added up to 6-7 and the narrowest of doors to the next round of games. The Eagles have shown no inclination to kick that door open, and there’s no reason to expect a change now.
“It’s not like we beat ourselves,” tight end Zach Ertz said. “They are just a better team.”
That’s really bad news, because Dallas isn’t very good. Just good enough for this division.
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