Once nearly unbeatable in front of the home crowd, the Eagles dropped their third game in a row at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday night, falling to the Dallas Cowboys, 27-20.
The Eagles were 15-3 at home under head coach Doug Pederson entering the season, but their inability to win in front of the home crowd has left them at 4-5 and in jeopardy of becoming one of a plethora of teams in this century that missed the playoffs a year after winning the Super Bowl. Those teams include the New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, New York Giants, and Baltimore Ravens.
“The last couple times the way we played at home, that’s not what we pride ourselves on and this one hurt,” said Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, who completed 32 of 44 throws for 360 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
“We have a lot of veterans in there, a lot of leadership. We all have to look in mirror. What can we do differently, where can we be better? We realize a lot of people are going to want to write us off at this point, but now it’s just time to play some ball and go try to shock some people.”
A win next week would certainly qualify as a shock, since the Eagles will travel to New Orleans to take on the red-hot Saints.
The Cowboys’ win over the Eagles could also qualify as a shock, since they had to play on a short week and looked moribund in losing at home to the Tennessee Titans on Monday night. But the win pushed Dallas’ record to 4-5, and now both the Cowboys and Eagles are two games behind the NFC East leading Washington Redskins. The Cowboys, though, have already lost once to the Redskins, while the Eagles still have two games in hand against Washington.
Ezekiel Elliott paced the Cowboys with 151 yards and a 1-yard touchdown run on 19 carries and added 36 yards and a 7-yard touchdown on six catches.
“I just think we didn’t tackle well,” said linebacker Jordan Hicks, who made seven of them. “If you look at a lot of those plays, we had people in position. We just didn’t get the job done. I think it’s more of us than anything (Elliott) did. We know he’s a physical runner. He’s a strong, good running back. We have to execute, and we failed to do that.”
Amari Cooper had six catches for 75 yards to help quarterback Dak Prescott enjoy one of his finest games of the season, with 26 completion on 36 attempts for 270 yards and one TD.
“I expected to come in here and make plays and help this team win,” said Cooper. “We have some things to work on, me and Dak and we talked about that. But we’re creating that chemistry and we’re going to get better.”
The Eagles had hoped they bolstered their offense with the trade deadline deal to bring in receiver Golden Tate, but it was more of the same for an offense that is averaging nearly a touchdown less than it did a season ago.
Tate, had a limited role, and was targeted just four times, catching two passes for 19 yards. He also had two punt returns for 11 yards. So he wasn’t much of a factor.
Slow starts have plagued the Eagles’ offense and poor fourth-quarters have victimized the defense.
The Eagles have scored in the first quarter in just two games this year. They had hoped to start quickly coming out of their bye, but they went three-and-out on their first series, had an interception that led to a Dallas field goal on their first play of their second series, and, on their third series, gave up a nine-yard sack when Jason Peters was beaten inside by Randy Gregory then Alshon Jeffery dropped a pass on third-and-five.
The Eagles offense heated up a bit as the game went along, and got a two-touchdown night from tight end Zach Ertz. Ertz also had 14 catches on 16 targets for 145 yards, but a fourth-and-seven throw to Ertz came up a yard short at the Dallas 29 with 1:17 left.
“We knew it was going to be close,” said Wentz. “It was tight man coverage. We knew it was going to be right at the stick, but we came up short.”
The play was reviewed, but the ruling on the field stood, and, while the Eagles would get the ball back one final time in the final 40 seconds, the throw to Ertz was their last best shot to try to tie the score and head to overtime.
As for the Eagles’ defense, they surrendered 14 points in the fourth quarter and both touchdowns came after the Eagles offense had battled back to tie the score at 13-13 then 20-20. The game-winner was scored with 3:22 to play on an Elliott 1-yard run on third down.
The defense allowed 21 points in the final quarter in a 21-17 loss to the Carolina Panthers three weeks ago, also at home.
The defense wasn’t able to hold up on third down, either. The Cowboys converted 50 percent of their third-down opportunities into first downs (eight-for-16) and even converted a fake punt on fourth down into a first down that kept alive a drive that ended in a field goal and a 6-0 Dallas lead with 3:46 to go in the second quarter.
“This loss sucked and we have sucked lately at home,” said defensive end Fletcher Cox. “Normally, we’re really good at home; lately we sucked. We have to do something about that, get this game behind us and get ready to go to New Orleans next week. It’s a real test for us.”
NOTES: The Eagles did not have a single penalty called on them. Dallas had five for 37 yards … Eagles defensive end Michael Bennet had two sacks and now leads the team with 5.5. It was his ninth game career game with multiple sacks … Eagles kicker Jake Elliott kicked a 56-yard field goal nd now has two of the four longest field goals in team history, including the longest of 61 yards he made last year against the Giants. Tony Franklin has the second longest at 59 yards in 1979 against the Cowboys and David Akers the third longest at 57 yards against the Patriots in 2003.