ARLINGTON, Texas — Losing to the Dallas Cowboys is one thing, but for the Philadelphia Eagles to be so thoroughly outmatched in the season’s most critical game — a 37-10 Dallas romp — is nothing short of alarming.
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson seemed to sense his team was veering off course following a bad loss in Minnesota and tried to reroute them this week by cutting starting linebacker Zach Brown and stepping out of character to essentially guarantee a win against Dallas during a radio appearance. Whatever spark was intended did not catch.
Instead, Dallas took advantage of a weakened linebacker corps (the Eagles were also without Nigel Bradham because of an ankle injury) and rumbled for 189 yards on the ground, piercing a run defense that was the strength of the team coming in.
That was new, but the slow start was all too familiar. The Eagles trailed 14-0 midway through the first quarter, marking the sixth time in seven games that they fell behind by double digits early. The endless uphill climb is taking its toll.
Ideally for Philadelphia, there would be one issue to point to. But there are many things to fix, including a leaky secondary, an inconsistent pass rush, inadequate wide receiver production and an inability to start strong.
With another road test against the 5-1 Buffalo Bills up next, followed by a three-game home stretch against the Chicago Bears, New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks, the Eagles’ season is suddenly on shaky ground.
QB breakdown: Carson Wentz finished 16-of-26 for 191 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He was sacked three times and absorbed five hits. Rookie left tackle Andre Dillard, in for the injured Jason Peters, had some shaky moments in his first NFL start, leading to blindside pressure. There were plenty of things working against Wentz, but it’s of note that the team is 8-10 over the past two seasons in Wentz’s starts.
Eye-popping NFL Next Gen Stat: The Cowboys generated 11 pressures (50% pressure rate) and all three of their sacks with their four-man rush while holding Wentz to a completion rate of 52.6 and a QB rating of 60.6. It was only when Dallas sent an extra attacker that Wentz found real success (83% completion rate, 118 QB rating).
Pivotal play: The Eagles’ opening drive looked promising, as Alshon Jeffery drew a pass interference penalty deep down the right sideline. But the refs picked up the flag after consultation, and tight end Dallas Goedert lost a fumble on the very next play. Dallas took advantage of the short field and scored on a Tavon Austin run, and the Cowboys were off to the races.
Silver lining: For all the waves of negativity that will understandably crash ashore in Philadelphia this week, the Eagles (3-4) are certainly within striking distance of Dallas (4-3) in the NFC East with nine games to play, including four divisional games.