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Freefalling: Eagles Competitive, Lose to Dallas Anyway

Dec 3, 2012, 12:26 AM EDT

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The Eagles set a season high on Sunday with 33 points. Nick
Foles played the best game of his young, professional career, finishing with a
96.6 passer rating. Bryce Brown scored two touchdowns and eclipsed 160 yards
rushing for the second week in a row. Brandon Graham had 1.5 sacks, four QB
hits, and two tackles for loss. Heck, Damaris Johnson returned a punt 98 yards for
a touchdown!

In the end, Tony Romo was still taking a knee, as the Birds
lost a game to the Dallas Cowboys anyway by a 38-33 final.

Despite the sad state of the Eagles’ organization, which
dropped to 3-9 on the year – solidifying their first losing season since 2005 –
they actually gave us an entertaining game on a national stage, never trailing until
late in the fourth quarter. They finally surrendered the advantage with 5:35
remaining on Romo’s third touchdown pass of the night, his second to Dez Bryant.

Then, as things tend to do this season, disaster struck.
Brown’s magnificent effort was once again marred by a turnover, this of the
most costly variety. The rookie back was stripped by Josh Brent on his way to
the ground, the loose ball being scooped up by Morris Claiborne, who returned
it 50 yards for the decisive score.

Brown finished with 24 carries for 169 yards – good for 7.0
yards per carry – plus the two scores, and added four receptions for 14 yards.
The kid clearly has a ton of talent, but it turns out ball security is kind of
important. Let’s hold our horses before we anoint the guy.

That being said, Brown is not on the hook for the loss here.
Once again, Philly’s defense was completely ineffective.

Here is a sampling of the raw numbers. Dallas converted on 9
of 14 third downs – in fact they punted a total of three times. Dallas committed
zero turnovers. Romo completed 22 of 27 passes for 303 yards. He was sacked
twice. Jason Witten had six catches for 108 receiving yards, Bryant had six for
98. Dallas won the time of possession battle by an estimated 33 to 27.

The Eagles’ secondary in particular was embarrassed. I hardly
remember a ball hitting the turf in the second half. Dominique
Rodgers-Cromartie especially wanted no part of tackling the Cowboys receivers,
giving a questionable effort on Miles Austin’s 27-yard catch and run in the
third quarter, then later letting Bryant carry him across the goal line for the
go-ahead score in the fourth.

The Cowboys’ running game was more effective than the
numbers indicate as well. Dallas backs carried 30 times for 109 yards, though
DeMarco Murray ran backwards for 11 on his last touch. He finished with 23
rushes for 83 and a score.

If there was a silver lining here, it was Foles, who gave
the Philly faithful some hope the quarterback of the future may be on the
roster after all. Foles completed 22 of 34 attempts for 251 yards and a
touchdown, and perhaps most important, zero picks and just one sack. The scoring play went to Riley
Cooper, a perfect 15-yard strike on a go route to the end zone, which the
third-year receiver hauled in with one hand.

The stats probably don’t do the performance justice. Behind
a patchwork offensive line, with his two most dangerous weapons out of the
lineup, Foles made smart decisions, was mechanically sound, faced the pressure,
and threw good balls. The Eagles were also more efficient in the red zone overall, converting for six on all three trips. It was one game, and the Cowboys’ D have been hammered by
injuries, too, but it was definitely progress.

We can’t say the same for the Eagles as a whole, now losers
of their eighth in a row, which is an amazing number even for one of the worst
clubs in the NFL. Then again, we weren’t really expecting much, were we?

It hurt a little more to lose this game to Dallas, one in
which it looked like the Birds were primed to steal from the opening kickoff.
Yet at the end of the day, they remain on the path toward one of the top picks
in April’s draft. A win would have been nice, but nobody is going to care a
month from now, let alone in a few days.