This season the Eagles' special teams have been a true difference maker, among the best in the NFL.
Like the Eagles, their special teams got off to a rough start in Sunday's showdown with the Dallas Cowboys and never recovered.
While the special teams showed some improvement as the game went on, a critical mistake on the opening kick gave Dallas some valuable early momentum during the 38-27 loss to the Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Cowboys, who never held the lead during their 33-10 Thanksgiving loss to the Eagles, gained possession after a special-teams miscue to begin the game.
A short kickoff into the wind by Dallas' Dan Bailey bounced on the 15-yard line.
Eagles return man Josh Huff was stationed around the 8-yard line when the ball bounced. Brad Smith was closer to the ball, but he went forward to block.
Huff couldn't get to the ball in time, and Dallas safety C.J. Spillman recovered on the Eagles' 18-yard line.
Dallas scored on that opening drive on DeMarco Murray's 1-yard run.
"He put it up in the air and the wind just caught it, and I did a bad job communicating with Brad up there, and I take full responsibility for what happened," Huff said.
Added Smith: "We have to communicate better between the two of us. The guy had a great kick, and you have to give it to him."
Spillman had a simple explanation for his recovery.
"I just saw the ball, and the object is to get the ball," he said.
Huff said it was a freak play but understood the adverse impact it had.
"The wind just caught it, and there was nothing we could do about it and have to move on," Huff said. "That gave Dallas the momentum and we had to fight and claw back, and we came back. We just ended up short."
After the Cowboys jumped out to a 21-0 second-quarter lead on Dez Bryant's 26-yard reception, the Eagles had another miscue on the ensuing kickoff when a holding penalty by Chris Prosinski had them begin on their own 16-yard line.
After that penalty, the special teams settled down.
Among the bright spots were Cody Parkey's field goals of 47 and 43 yards.
Still, the Eagles didn't have the impact plays the special teams are known for. This season they have six special-teams touchdowns.
Dallas also did a good job limiting the Eagles return units. Darren Sproles returned just one punt for 1 yard, and the Eagles averaged just 15 yards on five kickoff returns.