It was a perfect storm for the Eagles. The Cowboys, at home, without many of their best players (Dez Bryant, Greg Hardy, Orlando Scandrick and others) -- and after the start of the third quarter, without their star quarterback Tony Romo (who was injured with a left clavicle fracture). The Cowboys also committed 18 penalties in the game (for a ridiculous 142 yards), enough to set up any opposing team for victory.
But in Sunday's home opening loss, an all-time ugly 20-10 defeat, it was Philly that was stuck in the maelstrom.
The sheer magnitude of the Eagles' ineptitude is hard to summarize concisely, but we'll try. Here are the three things we couldn't help but notice in the NFC showdown at the Linc:
Another slow start
The Eagles offense had just 21 yards of offense and one first down in the first half. They suffered injuries to their two best linebackers, (Kiko Alonso and Mychal Kendricks) -- but still trailed by only six (6-0) at halftime. It's hard to determine whether the Birds' lack of offense -- they ran only 16 plays offensively -- was worse than the abundance of penalties in the opening 30 minutes. On both sides, yellow flags slowed the game at times to a crawl, with Philly wracking up 45 penalty yards (on six flags) and Dallas collecting 60 on ten setbacks of their own.
The first half woes can best be summed up by looking at the Cowboys' last scoring drive. A 15-yard march that included five penalties, and resulted mercifully in Dallas' second field goal.
The offense certainly didn't help them, but the Eagles, fresh out of the tunnel looking to turn things around in the second half, had a punt blocked and returned for a score by Cowboy Kyle Wilber. And after such solid defense in the first half, it was quite a buzz-kill, as they fell behind 13-0 early in the third quarter.
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Questionable play calling (and execution)
With the Eagles finally moving the football, Chip Kelly elected to, for some reason, throw the football at the three-yard line on first and goal with three of the most talented running backs in football on his roster in the third quarter. And of course, on second and goal after a first-down incompletion, Sam Bradford threw his worst pass as an Eagle, an interception right into the hands of Sean Lee in the end zone.
In all, the Eagles never even bothered trying to establish the run, compiling seven rushing yards on just 17 attempts, reflective of Week 1 in Atlanta. A mercy touchdown came inside two minutes to cap off an 11-play 80-yard drive (with a six-yard Jordan Matthews touchdown grab capping it off). But clearly down 10 with 1:21 remaining, the Eagles were already done.
Whether you blame Kelly, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur or Bradford (who was 23-for-37, for 210 yards and two interceptions), the numbers tell the tale. Out-gained 361-210, out possessed 41:07-18:53, and all-together an ugly game.
Defense stands tall
The Eagles defense was not only exceptional versus Dallas Sunday, they were also the beneficiaries of several Dallas penalties during key spots to help keep them from breaking the football game open. And if not for a positively disastrous offense, the Birds could have easily won the Week 2 battle. They bent but didn't break, causing a fumble (and knocking out Tony Romo) to stifle a potent Cowboys drive and set up the offense to mount their comeback.
With Brandon Weeden in and the score 13-3, Byron Maxwell forced another huge fumble, setting the Eagles up deep in Dallas territory but Bradford fumbled the ensuing play to give the Cowboys a chance to run out the clock. The final nail in the coffin came with 4:30 in the fourth when the Eagles, clinging to slim comeback hopes, turned it over with Bradford's second interception.
Byron Maxwell did get burnt with a 42-yard touchdown pass from Weeden to Terrance Williams late in the fourth, but the damage was clearly already done.