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Eagles cough up win to Cowboys, 38-33

ARLINGTON, Texas - If the 2012 Eagles are afforded enough time, they will find a way to lose. Even in a game in which they took their biggest lead of the season, they collapsed Sunday night in the fourth quarter of a 38-33 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

Bryce Brown fumbles the ball on a drive late in the fourth quarter. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)
Bryce Brown fumbles the ball on a drive late in the fourth quarter. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)Read more

ARLINGTON, Texas - If the 2012 Eagles are afforded enough time, they will find a way to lose. Even in a game in which they took their biggest lead of the season, they collapsed Sunday night in the fourth quarter of a 38-33 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

The unraveling has become a trademark of this team, and it occurred as it did so often this season. The secondary experienced a complete breakdown to the point that Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo appeared as if he was playing backyard football. And the Eagles were undisciplined with the ball at a time when they badly needed a big play.

"It's been a long, frustrating season," wide receiver Jeremy Maclin said. "We haven't been able to win for two months now. That's a long time."

It was the Eagles' eighth consecutive loss and drops their record to 3-9. They ensured the first losing record under coach Andy Reid since 2005 and brought the seemingly inevitable Reid dismissal just four games away.

"I haven't been told any different, so I'm going to keep going," Reid said when asked if he'll be able to finish the season.

The game was not all bad. Rookie quarterback Nick Foles had his finest start yet, throwing for 251 yards and one touchdown without an interception. The offense's star for most of the game was Bryce Brown, who rushed for 169 yards and two touchdowns. Fellow rookie Damaris Johnson had a 98-yard punt return for a score in the game's waning seconds.

But the game was sealed when Brown coughed up the ball late in the fourth quarter, and Dallas recovered for a game-clinching score. The killer fumble came one week after Brown twice fumbled in a loss to the Carolina Panthers, and the dynamic rookie continues to demonstrate one pronounced weakness that offsets all the production he otherwise generated.

The Eagles played from behind at that point because of their pass defense. Romo dissected the Eagles' secondary the way every quarterback has done since Todd Bowles became defensive coordinator. Pass catchers roamed free deep down field, and as long as Romo had time he could find his targets.

"There's nothing to explain. You either make plays, or you don't," Bowles said. "Some people are in position. Some people aren't."

Romo completed 22 of his 27 passes for 303 yards and three touchdowns, all of which came while leading a second-half comeback. Two of those touchdowns were for more than 20 yards.

"The ones where the guys are wide open, the breakdowns, those are young-guy mistakes," Reid said. "When guys are in trail position, those are plays we have to make."

The Cowboys tied the game at 17 on the first drive of the third quarter with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Dez Bryant on which the Eagles defenders demonstrated an aversion to tackling.

Even after the Eagles went on an 11-play, 80-yard drive to retake the lead - finished by Foles' 15-yard touchdown pass to Riley Cooper - the defense surrendered the lead.

That happened on the ensuing drive. The Eagles celebrated when they appeared to stop the Cowboys on fourth and 1, but the review of the play reversed the ruling on the field and gave the Cowboys a first down. They made the Eagles pay when Romo found Miles Austin for a 27-yard touchdown to tie the game.

Even when the Eagles responded with Alex Henery's 43-yard field goal, it was not enough. That gave the Eagles a 27-24 lead, but the way their defense was playing, Dallas was bound to score. And they did on a drive that included passes of 35 and 36 yards. When Romo hit Bryant for a 6-yard score, the Cowboys took a 31-27 lead because of a passing offense that the Eagles secondary simply couldn't stop.

When Brown fumbled the ball in the Eagles' comeback attempt, the loss was minutes away.

The biggest story during the week leading up to the game was the Eagles abruptly releasing veteran defensive end Jason Babin. Their stated reason was that they wanted to see young players at the position, and the immediate beneficiary was Brandon Graham. He sacked Romo on the Cowboys' first drive and finished with 1 1/2 sacks starting in Babin's place.

The Eagles used an offense that was more balanced than it had been for much of the team's losing streak. They trusted Brown, whose dynamic rushing ability is proving that he was a steal in the seventh round of April's draft.

Brown's two scores helped the Eagles build a 14-3 lead in the second quarter, which was their biggest lead of the season. They had a 17-10 lead at halftime.

But just like the season on whole, the Eagles collapsed in the second half. It's happened for the last two months and could happen during the next four games. That's all the Eagles - and Reid - have left.