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Morning Roundup: A Gut Punch

Good morning, Eagles fans. Yesterday was a heartbreaker as the Eagles fell to the Dallas Cowboys in overtime 29-23. The players are off today but Doug Pederson will speak to the media at noon. Here's what you need to know in today's Morning Roundup presented by Microsoft leading off with the fight in a tough loss.

1. Fighting To The Bitter End

The Eagles struggled early in Sunday's loss and found a way to battle back and force overtime. In the fourth quarter, the offense answered the bell twice with touchdown drives that tied the game. It was a hard-fought game until the end.

But despite a gritty effort that produced an incredible football game, the result is all that matters and the Eagles lost a tough one. Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro has more on how the Eagles battled in a painful loss:

“We have to keep playing hard and we have to find ways to win,” tight end Zach Ertz said. “We have to finish strong. We haven’t started games the way we want all season long, it seems. We’ve been playing from behind too much. We can’t do that. It’s cost us too many times.”

2. Contentious From The Start

The odds seemed stacked against the Eagles right away yesterday in Dallas. On the opening kickoff, safety Malcolm Jenkins made an incredible play to force what looked like a fumble recovered by linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill and the Eagles. The runner was called down by contact initially on the field so the Eagles threw the challenge flag. After review, it was ruled that the Eagles were correct that it was a fumble but it was unclear who recovered the ball. Therefore, it remained with Dallas and the Eagles lost the challenge.

The call was immediately controversial. With only green jerseys surrounding the ball in a pile, players did not understand how it could have been unclear which team recovered it. Instead of the offense beginning deep in Dallas territory, the Cowboys kept the ball and the Eagles were stifled by another slow start:

"That was a pretty terrible call, to be honest," Jenkins said. "They reviewed it and the explanation I got was that it wasn't a clear recovery, although Kamu had the ball in his hand and there were only Eagles defenders on the ball in the replay.

"It was a clear fumble. That wasn't a close part. They said they didn't see a clear recovery. Again, common sense, you saw Kamu come out with the ball, so I don't know. ... In hindsight, obviously, that was a big play in the game."

3. Slow Start Hurts Eagles Again

In the fourth quarter, the Eagles' offense looked unstoppable. After tying the game at nine, the Eagles responded to two Cowboys touchdowns within the final six minutes of the game. Not even a very questionable offensive pass interference call on a Dallas Goedert 75-yard touchdown would stop the Eagles from scoring. In the final period, the offense gained 132 of its 256 total net yards. 

But, as was the case with many Eagles games this season, that offense was nowhere to be found early. The Eagles were shut out in the first half and held the ball for less than nine minutes. The stagnant start was a major reason for the Eagles' inability to pull out a crucial win:

“It’s frustrating and we’ve talked about this all season,” said tight end Dallas Goedert, who had a 3-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. “It’s one of those things that has hurt us. We just have had trouble getting into any kind of rhythm early in games.”

4. Injuries Pile On

Another disappointing takeaway from the loss yesterday was the flurry of injuries adding to what has been a painful Eagles season. By halftime, the Eagles lost three more key contributors Sunday in cornerback Sidney Jones (hamstring), running back Corey Clement (knee), and defensive end Josh Sweat (ankle). Jones was the only one that returned the game as he suffered a difficult third quarter against wide receiver Amari Cooper. 

The Eagles, and the defense in particular, have been destroyed by injuries this season. Dave Spadaro has more on the weekly injury woes:

"It's tough, and I'm frustrated with my hamstring," Jones said. "The hamstring is frustrating. It lingers. I wasn't close to 100 percent out there, but it was do or die so I fought and gave it my best effort."

5. Defense Almost Carries Eagles To Victory

Despite being undermanned, the Eagles defense fought to the end yesterday. As the offense struggled for the first half and into the second, the defense kept the deficit down by stopping Dallas short of the end zone. Two third-quarter turnovers set up offensive scores that tied the game for the Eagles. In the end, the Cowboys' offense was too much for the banged-up Eagles defense. Dallas stayed on the field for more than 45 minutes and dominated overtime. Alex Smith has more on how a shorthanded defense almost carried the Eagles to victory:

“I think we did a good job of getting after the quarterback. We knew it was going to come down to them against us in the rush,” defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. “Just trying to get (Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott) off his spot, and I think we did that, but I don’t think we did enough to win the football game. When it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter what you do or how hard you do it, if you don’t win, nothing else matters.”

6. Wentz's Second Half Turnaround Not Enough

Carson Wentz struggled in the first half once again with poor throws and a fumble in the few opportunities the Eagles' offense had. But in the second half, he and the offense came alive. Wentz rallied to finish 22-of-32 for 228 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. He had his second-best passer rating of the season at 120.3. But he had to sit and watch after tying the game late in the fourth as the Cowboys won the overtime coin toss and marched down for a game-winning score. 

In the end, Wentz blamed no one else but himself for the slow start and inability to close out a win: 

“It’s frustrating. It’s absolutely frustrating,” Wentz said. “With the talent that we feel we have on the offensive side of the ball and just couldn’t execute, couldn’t sustain drives, and came up short here and there, without a doubt that’s frustrating.”

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