ARLINGTON, Texas – The opening kickoff of Sunday's Eagles-Cowboys game ended up making a difference in a most unusual way. The Eagles won the coin toss and elected to defer until the second half, meaning Dallas would have the first offensive possession.
After that, the opening kickoff was all kinds of crazy.
Dallas' Jourdan Lewis caught Jake Elliott's kickoff 1 yard deep in the end zone and returned it right. He was met at the 18-yard line by Malcolm Jenkins, who lifted Lewis into the air and jarred the football loose. After a scramble, Philadelphia's Kamu Grugier-Hill emerged with the football and it appeared that the Eagles would have a huge takeaway to open the game.
But wait. Not quite.
The officials ruled that Lewis was down by contact. As the replays were shown at AT&T Stadium, the Eagles challenged the call and as the play was reviewed. It was determined that there was a fumble on the play. Eagles ball! Eagles ball! The offense came onto the field. It all seemed so obvious.
But wait. Not quite.
As referee Clete Blakeman announced to the crowd, the official review came to the determination that while there was a fumble on the play, there was no way to tell who, exactly, recovered the fumble even though it appeared that Grugier-Hill came away with the football, fair and square.
Dallas retained possession of the football and the Eagles were charged with a timeout.
"There were a lot of green jerseys on the ball," Grugier-Hill said. "I came out with the ball, so ..."
Obviously, it changed the tenor of the first half. Not only did the Eagles miss out on an opportunity to have a quick takeaway and offensive possession inside the Dallas 20-yard line to open the game, they lost a timeout, one they could have used late in the first half when, in hurry-up offensive mode, the Eagles moved the football into Dallas territory. That drive ended when quarterback Carson Wentz had the ball knocked away by defensive end Tyrone Crawford as he set up to pass, and Dallas recovered. The Cowboys ended up kicking a 62-yard field goal to end the half and lead 6-0 after two quarters.
How different would the first half have been had the Eagles been awarded the fumble recovery on the kickoff?
"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."
Take a look at the best photos from the Eagles' game against the Dallas Cowboys.