This was a game the Eagles had locked in the poacher’s bag but the prey gnawed his way out and escaped…
The first serious questioning of Doug Pederson’s play-calling while protecting a late lead shall commence.
Don’t get me wrong, the Eagles overall played a tough smart game. But just a few crucial brain short-circuits allowed the Cowboys back into the game. The synapse lapses snowballed into a most unfortunate chain of late events.
QB Dak Prescott won the first head-to-head matchup with Carson Wentz with a late surge, as the (6-1) Dallas Cowboys edged the Philadelphia Eagles (4-3) in overtime, 29-23, to maintain command in the NFC East.
The process was mostly in the Eagles’ favor until the final minutes of the 4th quarter.
The Eagles were able to knock Prescott out of his comfort zone for most of the game, and Prescott had his share of accuracy issues for the first time all season. But he rallied late. The 135th overall pick out of Mississippi State fired a 22-yard touchdown pass to Dez Bryant in the left corner of the end zone with 3:04 remaining in regulation to force overtime, and led the Cowboys down the field on the opening possession of OT, which was capped by a TD toss to veteran tight end Jason Witten.
The fact is Carson Wentz outplayed Prescott for the first 57 minutes of the game— but there were a bunch of Eagles’ receiver drops in this one, as well as a fumble by rookie running back Wendell Smallwood in the fourth quarter that led to a crucial Dallas field goal.
HC and defacto offensive coordinator Doug Pederson called a sound game up to the point where he was protecting a late lead—then he got ultra-conservative and inexplicably called a side screen pass to Darren Sproles on 3rd and 8 very late in the game which got stuffed by the Dallas defense for a 6-yard loss and knocked the Eagles out of potentially clinching FG range.
The Birds ended up punting— and the rest is the history of a gut-wrenching loss.
The 23-year-old Prescott recovered from a shaky start, finishing 19 of 39 for 287 yards with two scores— and an end zone interception that cost the Cowboys points late in the first half.
Wentz had the Eagles (4-3) in position for a win with another efficient performance. But he couldn’t move Philadelphia late in regulation with the game tied. The Eagles never got the ball in overtime after Prescott led the 75-yard scoring drive.
The Eagles blew a chance to put the Cowboys away in regulation. Too bad, because in overtime, Prescott finally pulled out all his tricks, completing all five of his passes in the extra session for 56 yards, including a 5-yard, game-winning touchdown pass to Jason Witten. On the play — second-and-goal from the Philadelphia 5 — Prescott ducked inside, spun backward, rolled left and found a wide open Witten in the end zone.
Except for a 53-yard completion to Dez Bryant in the first quarter, Prescott was simply off all night. His most egregious mistake was an interception in the Philadelphia end zone late in the second quarter. With the score tied 10-10, Prescott forced a pass to Brice Butler that Jordan Hicks picked off.
The Eagles turned Prescott’s first interception at home into a 55-yard field goal to close the half.
In the second half, Prescott underthrew an open Bryant in the end zone. On third down Terrance Williams saved his second red-zone interception with a deliberate offensive pass interference penalty, which allowed the Cowboys to kick a field goal.
The Eagles actually got terrific pressure and coverage on Prescott for most of the game. Cole Beasley entered the game leading the Cowboys with 33 receptions. He did not have a catch until the fourth quarter. Witten entered second with 28. He caught one pass. Bryant, playing for the first time since Sept. 25, caught only four passes out of 14 targets…
But with 6:26 to play, Prescott had a chance to extend the game, drove his team downfield and answered with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Bryant to tie the score at 23-23 with 3:04 to play. He had a chance to win the game with 1:42 to play, but three straight incompletions forced a punt. A final-minute drive was fruitless as well.
Why Doug Pederson took his foot off the gas pedal late in the game will be debated by many fans and Philly talk show hosts this week. I get it that you want to avoid a dangerous turnover— but even in playing conservatively “not to lose”, we wound up coughing up the ball on a short toss pitch back to a rookie running back. My guess is Pederson has learned a valuable lesson in this one— a 7-point lead with over 6 minutes to go is not really that big a deal when you are playing on the road against a hot offensive opponent.
Caleb Sturgis 30 Yd Field Goal
10 plays, 50 yards, 5:11
Dak Prescott 7 Yd Run (Dan Bailey Kick)
5 plays, 75 yards, 1:58
Dan Bailey 38 Yd Field Goal
8 plays, 52 yards, 3:20
Ryan Mathews 1 Yd Run (Caleb Sturgis Kick)
9 plays, 45 yards, 5:05
Caleb Sturgis 55 Yd Field Goal
8 plays, 43 yards, 1:26
Jordan Matthews 5 Yd pass from Carson Wentz (Caleb Sturgis Kick)
12 plays, 69 yards, 4:10
Dan Bailey 23 Yd Field Goal
12 plays, 70 yards, 5:24
Caleb Sturgis 34 Yd Field Goal
6 plays, 29 yards, 1:47
Dan Bailey 49 Yd Field Goal
4 plays, 5 yards, 1:24
Dez Bryant 22 Yd pass from Dak Prescott (Dan Bailey Kick)
11 plays, 90 yards, 3:22
Jason Witten 5 Yd pass from Dak Prescott
12 plays, 75 yards, 7:12
|Passing 1st downs||12||13|
|Rushing 1st downs||6||12|
|1st downs from penalties||3||1|
|3rd down efficiency||6-15||4-14|
|4th down efficiency||0-0||2-2|
|Yards per Play||4.1||6.1|
|Yards per pass||4.1||6.5|
|Yards per rush||4.0||5.5|
|Red Zone (Made-Att)||2-4||2-5|
|Defensive / Special Teams TDs||0||0|
|Marcus Smith II||2||2||1||1||0||1||0|
|Nolan Carroll II||2||2||0||0||1||0||0|