For the first time since 2016, the Eagles will not be in the playoffs. Sunday's 37-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys put to bed any chances of making the tournament for a fourth consecutive season.
Early on Sunday, it appeared as if everything was lining up perfectly for the Eagles. The Giants lost to the Baltimore Ravens, 27-13, in the early slate of games. Washington trailed 20-0 in the second quarter against Carolina. The Eagles, after DeSean Jackson's 81-yard touchdown reception, led 14-3 at the end of the first quarter.
But the defense couldn't stop the Cowboys whether it was through the air – Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup combined for 242 yards and two touchdowns, CeeDee Lamb added a 52-yard touchdown reception – or on the ground, as Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 105 yards. And for the offense? Just as many turnovers (3) and points the rest of the way, and it was a deflating final score of 37-17.
What happened? What lies ahead? It's all here in the Morning Roundup, presented by Microsoft.
Microsoft Teams Top Connection
Wide receiver DeSean Jackson returned from a seven-game stint on Injured Reserve and hauled in an 81-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter for the longest pass play of the season for the Eagles.
1. Washington-Eagles flexed to Sunday Night Football
Early on Sunday, I wouldn't have been surprised to see the Washington-Eagles game flexed to an 8:20 PM kickoff next Sunday. Optimistically, I thought that the Week 17 NFC East showdown would determine the division title.
Well, the game was flexed, just under much different circumstances for the Eagles.
The other three teams are in contention for the division title, so the Eagles can play the role of spoiler, pending on who you'd want to see win it.
• If Washington wins next Sunday, they're in the playoffs.
• If the Eagles win, then whoever wins the 1 PM game between the Cowboys-Giants at MetLife Stadium is in the playoffs.
2. Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro: NFC East title hopes end in a sloppy loss
There were short passes that went for long gains and there were wide receivers open in gaping holes in the secondary. There was no pressure on Dallas quarterback Andy Dalton and no help for an overmatched secondary. And the result on Sunday at AT&T Stadium was dismal for the Eagles – a 37-17 loss to the Cowboys that officially eliminated Philadelphia from the NFC East title picture. A 14-3 lead went away in a hurry as the Cowboys rolled to 30 points with six scores on their opening seven possessions – including five in succession – and never looked back.
It didn't help the defense that they entered the game minus defensive ends Derek Barnett and Josh Sweat along with linebacker Duke Riley, out with injuries and added to a list that included cornerback Avonte Maddox and safety Rodney McLeod. Pro Bowl tackle Fletcher Cox left the game in the first quarter with a stinger. Dallas went after rookie cornerback Michael Jacquet and had tremendous success with seven completions for 182 yards on nine targets as Dalton passed for 377 yards and three touchdowns and his receivers Michael Gallup (6 catches, 121 yards, 2 touchdowns), CeeDee Lamb (3-65-1 and another rushing), and Amari Cooper (4-121) had huge days.
Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz hoped that Jacquet would hold up at cornerback, but that wasn't the case. Midway through the third quarter, Schwartz moved Jalen Mills from safety to cornerback and used Rudy Ford at safety as Jacquet went to the sidelines. By that time, though, the score was 30-17 and the Eagles were running out of time with 8:31 remaining in the third quarter.
"I think my disappointment is just how everything has gone this season. It's not what we expected," Head Coach Doug Pederson said. "Tonight, it was obvious that the mistakes, the penalties, and in the end, just lack of execution all just sort of piled up on us during the game. (We) just didn't overcome it and that to me has been the disappointment, you know, in myself and obviously the year."
3. Jalen Hurts: 'We got kind of stagnant'
For the first time in his NFL starting life, quarterback Jalen Hurts had "rookie" moments on Sunday in a 37-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. He committed three turnovers, all of them in the fourth quarter and all of them in Dallas territory, and was unable to get the offense back on track after a hot start that cooled quickly in the second quarter.
The loss ended the Eagles' chances of playing for the NFC East title on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field against the Washington Football Team. Instead, the season ends on January 3.
"I think it's a big-time learning experience, a lot to learn from this game," said Hurts, who completed 21 of 39 passes for 342 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. He added 69 rushing yards on nine attempts but lost a fumble in Dallas territory in the fourth quarter. "It's something I've got to step away from it, evaluate everything, and learn from it. You've got to go out there and make the plays when the opportunity presents itself. It's something that I take complete ownership on. Those guys believe in me to go get it done and I take it very personally in getting it done and today I came up short."
4. Was Fletcher Cox's injury the tipping point?
Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox did not practice all week leading up to Sunday's game because of a neck injury, one that first appeared on the injury report prior to the Week 13 game in Green Bay.
But this was the first week this season in which he did not practice at all, as he was listed as questionable for the game.
He started, but only played seven snaps before leaving in the first quarter. The Eagles led 14-3 at the end of the first quarter. They were outscored 34-3 the rest of the way. Surely, it wasn't all because of Cox's injury as Dallas quarterback Andy Dalton did a great job of getting rid of the ball quickly, but was it just the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back with ends Derek Barnett and Josh Sweat also out for the game?
"Fletcher is obviously a big part of the D-line. We didn't have Josh Sweat, we didn't have Derek Barnett either up there and those are mainstays in that defensive line to be able to put pressure on quarterbacks," Head Coach Doug Pederson said. "It just goes to show you that it's tough in this business to play with that many new faces so to speak on one side of the ball. It magnifies itself and it happened to us today."
Looking at the snap counts along the defensive line, Brandon Graham played a season-high 58 snaps (previous 57). Javon Hargrave played his most snaps as an Eagle with 51. Vinny Curry played a season-high 49. Same for Genard Avery with 24. Malik Jackson played 42 snaps, although it wasn't a season high. T.Y. McGill, Raequan Williams, and Joe Ostman combined to play 51 snaps.
Dalton was sacked twice (Curry, Graham) and hit seven times.
5. Rough day for rookie Michael Jacquet
With the pass rush affected by injury, the Cowboys attacked cornerback Michael Jacquet, the rookie free agent who made just his second career start on Sunday.
With Darius Slay on Amari Cooper early in the game, quarterback Andy Dalton went to Michael Gallup early and often. By halftime, Gallup had six catches on eight targets for 121 yards and two touchdowns. In the second half, Jacquet covered Cooper, but the results didn't change. Dalton hit Cooper on a quick pass in the flat, Jacquet slipped, and Cooper churned out a 69-yard gain, the longest pass play of the day for Dallas.
The Eagles finally saw enough and moved Jalen Mills to cornerback and put K'Von Wallace in at safety. According to the FOX broadcast, Jacquet allowed seven completions for 182 yards on nine targets.
"He's a rookie. Not trying to use it as an excuse or anything like that, but he didn't have any OTAs, camp was what it was, he wasn't projected to be a starter," Mills said of Jacquet. "Got thrown in the fire. Had some good plays here, a couple of bad plays, but at the end of the day, just come to work each and every day and just get better. He's going to be a really really good player in the future, I promise."
The Cowboys had three pass plays of 50-plus yards, one was a 52-yard touchdown by rookie CeeDee Lamb that was surrendered by cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman.
6. DeSean Jackson's one catch a memorable one
Up 7-3 in the first quarter, on the first play from scrimmage after Dallas got on the board, quarterback Jalen Hurts took the snap out of the shotgun, faked the handoff to Miles Sanders, rolled right, and unleashed a ball that traveled 53 yards in the air to DeSean Jackson at the Cowboys' 38-yard line.
Dallas cornerback Chidobe Awuzie fell down at the catch point. Jackson toyed with rookie cornerback Trevon Diggs as he ran toward the goal line, eventually somersaulting into the end zone for the touchdown.
The 81-yard reception was the Eagles' longest pass play of the season. It was Jackson's 25th career touchdown of 60 or more yards, the most by any player in NFL history.
But it was his only catch. It was his only target. Jackson played 20 snaps in his first game back in the lineup since an ankle injury in the October 22 win over the Giants landed him on Injured Reserve.
"Obviously, DeSean's an electric player, explosive player. That was a designed shot play and well executed for the touchdown," Head Coach Doug Pederson said. "I believe he got sore as the game went on, his injury got sore and sorer. We had to be careful there. He just lost a little bit of that explosiveness as the game wore on, so we had to kind of keep him out."
7. Miles Sanders: 'I promise you better days are coming'
Running back Miles Sanders wore an Eagles' strength and conditioning T-shirt that read "Stronger Together" to his postgame press conference.
And he had another strong message to the fans following Sunday's frustrating loss.
"I'm very disappointed right now because this city is so passionate about this game and we're passionate too, but we owe it to the fans. I promise you better days are coming. I promise," Sanders said.
Sanders finished with 57 rushing yards and scored the game's opening touchdown in the first quarter. But 40 of those yards came in the first half. Sanders did lead the Eagles with four receptions, but only for 27 yards.
The Cowboys entered the game allowing a league-worst 161.8 rushing yards per game.
The Eagles tried to pad their lead up 14-3 in the first quarter with the run game, but Sanders gained 8 yards on three straight carries. After the Eagles punted the ball away, the Cowboys got momentum, scoring on a 10-play, 63-yard drive that ended with a 21-yard touchdown throw to Michael Gallup, who took a slant throw in zone coverage to the house to make it 14-10.
8. Penalties cripple the Eagles
The Eagles were flagged 12 times for 115 yards on Sunday, including six false start penalties on offense.
"Tonight, it was obvious that the mistakes, the penalties, and in the end, just lack of execution all just sort of piled up on us during the game," Head Coach Doug Pederson said. "(We) just didn't overcome it and that to me has been the disappointment, you know, in myself and obviously the year."
Late in the third quarter, cornerback Darius Slay stole the ball from Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb for his first interception as an Eagle. The Eagles trailed 30-17, but had the ball at the Cowboys' 28-yard line. After an incomplete pass on first down to Jalen Reagor, Miles Sanders' 18-yard run was wiped out by a Matt Pryor holding penalty on linebacker Sean Lee. Tight end Zach Ertz committed a false start penalty. On third down, left guard Isaac Seumalo committed a false start penalty.
First-and-10 at the 28-yard line eventually resulted in third-and-23. The Eagles turned the ball over on downs as back-to-back passes to Ertz on third and fourth down couldn't get the necessary yardage.
That was just a microcosm of the offense's afternoon following the red-hot start.
"I think the only thing that really hurt us was penalties," running back Miles Sanders said. "I think just playing smarter football and everybody doing their job and executing at a high standard and holding each other, holding each other and ourselves, accountable.
"The penalties really killed us and it was impossible to get like a true rhythm."
9. Brandon Graham wants Eagles to finish on a high note
The longest-tenured player on the active roster, Pro Bowl defensive end Brandon Graham, reflected on the state of the team following Sunday's loss.
"I think the mistakes we made, the penalties, caught up to us in a big way today," Graham said. "I just look back, when I think about it, 2016, we just found ways to lose. Then next year, we found ways to win, so I'm hopeful that we can end the season on a great note, we're winning, and learning from all this."
In addition to the penalties, Graham cited the team's lack of turnovers as an issue all season. The Eagles forced one on Sunday with Darius Slay's interception, but gave the ball away three times. The Eagles' -9 in the turnover department is tied for 29th in the NFL. The worst team in that category that could make the playoffs is Washington with a -5 turnover differential. The Eagles' 17 takeaways (six interceptions, 11 fumble recoveries) rank tied for 24th in the league.
"We didn't have as many as we would like this year," Graham said of the lack of takeaways. "But I think really it was just the mistakes, the self-inflicted stuff, that we did together.
"There's no sense in crying about it. We just got to figure it out and make sure that next year we don't do that. That's just us checking ourselves and making sure that we work on those details now that we know that it can hurt us in these games."
10. Eagles currently hold the No. 6 draft spot
Now that the Eagles are out of the playoff picture, they are assured of having a top-10 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Currently, with a 4-10-1 record, they hold the No. 6 spot. They are tied from a record standpoint with the Cincinnati Bengals, who they actually tied back in Week 3, but the Bengals have the No. 5 pick right now based on strength of schedule.
Postgame Show: Eagles fall, 37-17
The Eagles' hopes of claiming the NFC East crown for a second straight season ended on Sunday in Dallas. Amy Campbell, Fran Duffy, Ike Reese, and Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro recap the action on the Postgame Show presented by Ricoh.