Sunday night was really fun until it wasn’t. In the span of ten short minutes, Eagles fans went from extremely hopeful that their team could pull off a victory to speechlessness after they blew it. There were a lot of things that went into the Eagles losing this game and trying to pin the blame on one instance is a fool’s errand. At the end of the day, the Eagles left Dallas at 4-3 and 0-2 in division play. Meanwhile, the Cowboys improved to 6-1 on the season. As an Eagles fan since 2002 (not a bandwagoner, just young), that was one of the toughest losses I’ve ever had to stomach. To recap the game, here are six thoughts about the Eagles’ loss.
Carson Wentz is the real deal
Let’s start with some of the good from last night. Carson Wentz played very well. He was asked to execute a short game plan and he did, to near perfection. Wentz was careful and precise in his throws and he did not fold under the pressure of a divisional primetime game. Kudos to the young signal-caller for his poise. Statistically, Wentz didn’t have the greatest game, as he completed 32 of 43 passes for a 74.4% completion rate, had 202 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions. I am not going to fault Wentz for executing the game plan and in turn only having average numbers. That is what the game plan called for.
Wentz’s most important play of the night was not even a throw. In the fourth quarter, with little time left and deep in their own territory, the Eagles’ protection for Wentz broke down. Wentz stepped up and kept his eyes downfield. With absolutely no warning, Brandon Carr came flying into the young quarterback and chopped his arm to try and force a fumble. Wentz held on with just one hand and kept Dallas from getting the ball ten yards from the end zone. That’s what a franchise quarterback does for a team. Eagles fans should at least be excited about Wentz for years to come.
Doug Pederson’s decisions were questionable
Speaking of the game plan, Doug Peterson had an idea as to how he wanted this game to look and he did not differ from it to a fault. Pederson wanted short screens and slants to wear down Dallas’ defense. It worked until the Cowboys made a few adjustments and then it dried up. On top of not evolving the game plan at all, Pederson made a number of questionable decisions. The longest pass attempted all night by and Eagles player was by WR Josh Huff. You read that correctly. Wentz has a rocket for an arm, but Pederson has been annoyingly conservative about showcasing it.
Then there was the head-scratching call for a screen to Darren Sproles on 3rd down in Cowboys territory. At Dallas’ 30 yard line, Pederson called a screen out to Sproles, which resulted in a six yard loss. Pederson made yet another terrible call when he elected to punt after the Sproles play instead of letting Caleb Sturgis try for a 53 yard field goal. Never mind the fact that Sturgis made a 55 yard field goal EARLIER THAT GAME.
I get that Pederson is a rookie head coach and that he has to learn through failing. Its just a little too much to handle some of these calls in these types of games though. Pederson needs to be a little more aggressive. He played completely scared last night.
Dak Prescott is human after all
Another bright spot for the Eagles was their ability to fluster Dak Prescott all night. The Dallas QB was 19 for 39 for a 48.7% completion rate, had 287 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. Prescott’s interception was in the red zone and it came as he was being rushed by the Eagles defense. The Eagles might have just authored the book on Dak Prescott’s kryptonite. The final stat line for Prescott looks much better than he actually played. He missed throws, was pressured constantly, and threw a number of near-INT’s. He is not unstoppable. The Eagles’ defense simply did not stop him when it mattered most.
The Eagles need a cornerback
Most Eagles fans are split down the middle about who the Eagles should draft with their first round pick. Some say that the team should bolster its line to protect Wentz and to pad from bad play and injuries. Others claim that the team needs a true lockdown cornerback to contend with Dez Bryant, Odell Beckham Jr., and DeSean Jackson. After last night’s game, I think it has become pretty obvious that the Eagles need a cornerback.
Dez Bryant has been called washed-up, overrated, injury-prone, and a whole host of other names since his legendary 2014 season. In a lot of ways, those labels are not far from the truth. But you can always count on Bryant to have a huge game against Philadelphia every year. He did exactly that last night. On just four receptions, Bryant totaled 113 yards and one touchdown.
As sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, Dez Bryant will torch the Eagles’ defense. That is because the Eagles don’t have anything in the way of a stud cornerback. Leodis McKelvin had a few nice breakups, but it was pretty obvious to anyone watching that Bryant was going to break out sooner or later in the game. He eventually did when he caught the game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter. Oh yeah, and the play right before that, Leodis McKelvin dropped an interception. There are a lot of really good corners in this year’s draft class. Philly needs to scoop one up at all costs.
The running backs are infuriating
It might be nerves, lack of playing time, splitting carries too much, or any combination of the three, but the running backs on this team need to get it together soon. There have now been THREE fourth quarter fumbles by this team just this season. In another questionable call by Pederson, Wendell Smallwood was given his very first carry of the game in a clock-chewing situation in the fourth quarter. Smallwood fumbled that carry. This set up a Dallas field goal that put the game within one score again. Smallwood seems like a decent running back, but its hard to believe that he can be a three-down guy.
The Eagles might want to think about taking a running back from this draft considering its one of the best running back classes of all time. Whatever the case, Doug Pederson, Frank Reich, and Duce Staley need to work on teaching these guys to hold onto the ball. If you want to say this is the moment that allowed the Cowboys to swing the game to win it, then you can count two games that have been lost by a fourth quarter fumble just this season. This needs to be dealt with immediately.
The Eagles are clearly rebuilding
It will take a very long time to finally undo the horrific things that Chip Kelly did to this team. Between letting Jeremy Maclin go in free agency, cutting DeSean Jackson, trading LeSean McCoy for Kiko Alonso (hahahahaha why????), drafting Nelson Agholor in the first round, and letting Evan Mathis go, Chip’s presence on this team’s history books will take some time to undo.
That being said, the Eagles are on the right track. Howie Roseman is back in charge of player personnel and while he too has made questionable draft picks, he is a trade and cap wizard who will maximize what this team has. Philadelphia already has their quarterback for the next ten to twelve years and a very young defense that needs just a few upgrades to be elite. The team needs offensive weapons that can catch the ball when it is thrown to them (looking at you, Nelson Agholor and Jordan Matthews) and a workhorse running back that could go off for over 100 yards in any given game. They are not there yet, but I think this team will be scary good in two or three years. #TrustTheProcess
Last night’s game was heartbreaking. There are no two ways about that. The Eagles literally had the win in their hands and then decided to gift wrap it and hand it to Dallas. That’s what rebuilding teams do though. They show flashes of greatness, but are unable to execute week in and week out. Give it some time and patience and I have a feeling that we will be rewarded soon. As always, Fly Eagles Fly.