Eagles Suffer Damaging Loss to Cowboys
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - A dull affair turned into a shootout late but injuries to the secondary proved too much to overcome as the Eagles suffered a crippling 27-20 loss to the desperate Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night.
Philadelphia (4-5) entered without two of its top three cornerbacks -- Jalen Mills (foot) and Sidney Jones (hamstring) -- before losing Ronald Darby to a knee injury in the third quarter.
From that point forward the Eagles simply couldn't stop a usually pedestrian Cowboys passing offense, although it was another thorn in the defense's side that punctuated two fourth-quarter touchdown drives, Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott.
"I mean it's not like you have time to sit there and cry about it," star safety Malcolm Jenkins said of the Darby injury. "I mean at the end of the day you put the next guy in there and play."
Elliott finished with 187 total yards -- 151 on the ground and 36 through the air, scoring on a 7-yard pass and a 1-yard run in the final frame. Dak Prescott wasn't all that effective early but with rookie Chandon Sullivan, an undrafted free agent out of Georgia State who was on the practice squad until Week 8, replacing Darby and joining fellow rookie Avonte Maddox and the typically little-used Rasul Douglas at CB, he was able to amass 270 yards on 26-of-36 passing by the final gun.
"Me moving from down to up, down to back, I'm used to it now," Maddox said.
The Eagles had just three points at halftime and also picked up things in the second half but a final throw to Zach Ertz in the waning seconds and a lateral to the debuting Golden Date came up short at the Dallas 9-yard line.
Carson Wentz finished 32-of-44 for 360 yards with two TDs and an interception. The offense, however, was still far too Ertz centric as the tight end caught 14 of 16 targets for 145 yards and two touchdowns.
The loss coupled with Washington's win earlier in the day means the Eagles are now in third place, two games behind the Redskins in the NFC East with seven to play.
In many ways, the NFL is about who overcomes injuries the best and that almost defined the Eagles' 2017-18 Super Bowl season. This time things haven't gone quite as smoothly because the hits have piled up at certain positions: receiver early in the season and now the defensive backfield.
There have been so many moving parts on the back end of the defense that it's hard to remember them all starting with safety Rodney McLeod, who was lost for the season against Indianapolis in Week 3 with a knee injury.
By the fourth quarter tonight Darby, Mills, and Jones had turned into Douglas, Sullivan and Maddox with a little Tre Sullivan mixed in with Corey Graham on the back end.
For the most part, the Eagles refused to grasp the low-hanging fruit but it doesn't mean that it's not there.
"That's no excuse," Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox insisted. "We're all pros. At the end of the day, the next guy needs to step up. We're all in the same meetings, we're all in the same practices in everything together. The next man up shouldn't be an excuse."
Jones is expected back next week in New Orleans and perhaps Mills, who was healthy enough to get into a little pre-game dust-up with Cowboys assistant Kris Richard, can also get back on the field.
If not Drew Brees will be working in a glorified 7-on-7 drill and the Eagles will have to shift their thinking from Atlanta and Super Bowl LIII to April and the NFL Draft.
"Right now we're are taking it day by day," Maddox said. "So we'll get in Tuesday and watch the film and see what we have to do to make ourselves better."
Ertz, on the other hand, was more descriptive.
"We gotta believe," he said. "And ignore the evidence [of 4-5]."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen