DEFENSE BAILS OUT TURNOVER-PLAGUED EAGLES OFFENSE IN 23-9 WIN OVER THE COWBOYS
It wasn't pretty, but the Eagles 23-9 decision over the Dallas Cowboys at the damp Lincoln Financial Field was a win. And as they say in sports...a win is a win.
The Eagles head into the Bye Week riding a two-game win streak and in first place in the underachieving NFC East. But there are concerns about the offense that became more glaring as the Sunday night nationally televised game unfolded.
Against the Giants, Eagles franchise quarterback Carson Wentz drove the offense into the Red Zone three times during the game and came away with nothing...zero points. The Birds trailed deep in the fourth quarter 21-10 and the season on the line.
The fifth-year signal caller engineered two fourth quarter scoring drives to pull out the victory.
Against the Cowboys, it wasn't stalled drives that led to a 9-7 deficit very late in the third quarter against a team that was down to it third quarterback and fielded a defense that was setting league records for futility.
It was turnovers this time that killed drives.
Wentz was a turnover machine Sunday night, throwing two interceptions and losing two fumbles.
Eight of the Birds points totals came from a 58-yard scoop-and-score by safety Rodney McLeod with 5:18 left in the fourth quarter and two points came from an intentional safety called by Dallas head coach Mike McCarthy.
His team lined up to punt from their own 11-yard line with 4:00 left in the fourth. The strategy was to give up two points in order to get the ball back via an on-sides kick after the safety. It didn't work. McLeod recovered the kick.
Wentz finished 15 of 27 for 123 yards, two touchdown passes, two interceptions and two lost fumbles. He was sacked four times for 29 yards in losses.
Head coach Doug Pederson was asked what his conversations were with Wentz after a turnover and if he contemplated pulling Wentz after the fourth turnover.
“The conversation was, again, explaining that just, hey, we can't do that,” Pederson said during his post game video conference. “We're in a position to put points on the board and continue a drive if we just throw the ball away and that's something that we've got to learn from. And no, there was never any of that conversation to pull him.”
It did not help Wentz and the offense when they found out All Pro right tackle Lane Johnson was a last minute scratch.
Jordan Mailata was his replacement.Most observers and Mailata himself admitted he played poorly in last week's game against the Giants.
The unit did block well enough to produce 119 yards rushing on 26 carries (4.6 yards per carry), but four turnovers that killed drives and two drives that ended on downs is unacceptable for a team with playoff aspirations.
Incredibly, the Eagles started 11 drives in the game and only punted once. That would be a great stat if your offense is scoring, but Wentz and the Birds could only produce 15 total points two touchdowns.After the game
Wentz was asked for his assessment of his play Sunday night and up to this point in the season.
“I’m not good enough,: he said. “I’m pumped we got the win, but I’m going to have to watch the tape and I’m a little frustrated with how I played and how we’ve left some plays out there, left some points out there, and missed some big opportunities. I can be better. I know I will be. I would say the same thing for this far in the season.
"I’m pumped that we’re at the top of our division, that we’re heading into this bye week, but halfway through the year I know I can play better and a lot of it’s just coming down to taking care of the football. “I feel like I’m still the same aggressive guy that’s going to pull the trigger and I never want to change that. But [it’s about] being smart and putting it in the right spot.”
Wentz was asked about how he plans to go about the bye week.
“It’s definitely needed - for everybody - to take maybe not the whole week, but to take some time off," Wentz said. “You have to. It’s a long season and with everything going on with the world these days, guys really need to take the time off. We’ll have a couple work days and we’ll capitalize on those, make the most of them, and get better.”
The Eagles two touchdowns came on a two-yard touchdown pass from Wentz to rookie Jalen Reagor in the first quarter and a nine-yard throw to Travis Fulgham with 1:54 left in the third quarter.
The defense kept the wounded Cowboys offense out of the end zone for the game, holding them to just three long Greg Zuerlein field goals (49, 49, 59).
The Cowboys were forced to use rookie quarterback Ben DiNucci, a seventh round pick out of JMU.
The 6-foot-2, 215 pounder was pressed into service after a season-ending ankle injury to Dak Prescott and a concussion to backup Andy Dalton last week against Washington.
DiNucci finished 21 of 40 for 180 yards. He was sacked four times and lost two fumbles.
Ezekiel Elliott rushed 19 times for 63 yards. Tony Pollard rushed for 40 yards on seven carries.Michael Gallup led the Cowboys with seven catches for 61 yards.
Prized rookie wide receiver CeeDee Lamb finished with four receptions for 27 yards and
Amari Cooper had just one catch for five yards.
Eagles cornerback Darius Slay left the game just before the half with an ankle injury.
He was seen on the sideline in the second half but did not return to action.
McLeod on whether he felt like it was a tough battle tonight.
“I felt like we did what we had to do to win,” said McLeod, who finished with one tackle, but knocked down two passes and scored off a fumble recovery. “There’s going to be times where the defense carries the team and there’s going to be other times where the offense comes up big and bails us out. Every phase showed up tonight when we needed them the most, special teams included coming up with that onside kick. Guys running down on kickoff making tackles. Good to have (safety) Rudy Ford back. And then the offense showing up, like I said, when they needed. We’re going to continue to get better. We know there’s a lot of things that need to get fixed and we have time during this bye week to correct that and then prepare for the Giants, another division opponent.” *
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii