For Eagles' special teams, Sunday's game is one they'd like to forget.
The Eagles gave up a touchdown on a punt return, kicker Alex Henery missed a PAT and the Eagles had to burn a timeout when lineman King Dunlap was not on the field for a field goal attempt. Special teams coordinator Bobby April said Thursday that these miscues are something he takes seriously, and as coach, must work to correct.
One of the biggest plays in the game happened early in the fourth quarter. With the game tied at 17, Cowboys punt returner Dwayne Harris returned a Mat McBriar punt 78 yards for a touchdown. While it looked like cornerback Brandon Hughes may have been blocked in the back, the coverage was unable to bring Harris down. The play gave the Cowboys a 24-17 lead, a lead they would not relinquish.
"I don't think effort was an issue. I don't think so at all," April said. "I think our guys are real pros at all that stuff. I just have to help them know where their spacing needs to be; leverage. We just need to work harder at it."
The second important play on special teams actually started on offense. After Dunlap was called for a penalty that ended a drive, the field goal unit trotted out to try for three points. But Dunlap was still upset over the penalty, and came out of the game when he should have been on the field goal unit. The Eagles then had to take a timeout, which was a major problem for April.
"When you have to give up a timeout, you let the team down, for one thing," April said. "But you really let the head coach down because those timeouts are like gold for a head coach. He has the equipment; he has the facility to strategize and use things to our greatest advantage when we have all our timeouts. And in a game like that one, that was so close for so long, a timeout is kind of priceless."
Fans are frustrated with the special teams units, and not just because the returners have yet to take a kick to the house. Inconsistent play has hurt the team and April knows the fans are upset.
"I can understand any definition that they could try to put on the ineptitude of that game," April said. "I perfectly understand ... guys have to spend a lot of time behind the wheel, driving that cab or driving that truck or delivering the bread. You have to put in a lot of time to buy a ticket to one of these games. And I know my family did when we used to go to the games when I was a kid. It's a big investment. You want to see a great product, and when they don't, they have every right to be angry. I definitely understand, 100 percent."
The Eagles will work on answering their critics in practice, but it's up to the coaches and players to get these issues fixed on gameday. April knows that starts with him, and he is determined to help the special teams become a positive force on this team.
"I feel (like) I'm responsible for that phase to win the game," he said. "If all the games are close and I've got to take care of that phase and I let the team down then it certainly is disappointing ... I could go further but I can't afford to be discouraged because we're playing Washington this week and we've got to get ready for them. I'm getting the cuts taken care of, I'm on the stool right now but the bell is going to ring at one o'clock on Sunday again. So I don't have time to think about that stuff."
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