Philadelphia Eagles News

Too Many Mistakes Add Up To Tough Loss

Donovan McNabb pointed to one play as a microcosm of the way things went for the Eagles in a 20-16 loss to Dallas on Sunday night at Lincoln Financial Field. On a third-and-10 play late in the game, McNabb dropped back and suddenly saw a running lane. He stepped up and "all I saw was green grass" as he put it later.

McNabb thought he had a chance to make a big play. He took off and ran, but Cowboys' linebacker Victor Butler peeled away from the blocking and made a shoestring tackle on McNabb for a 1-yard loss. Instead of marching for a game-tying touchdown, the Eagles settled for a David Akers 52-yard field goal.

Too little. Too late.

And an opportunity to take control of the NFC East was lost for the Eagles. Oh, they will be back. This is a very good football team. The Eagles are going to be in the thick of things until the very end of the season. Sunday's loss was tough, bitter. Two good teams played a fine, physical football game. And while I'm sure a lot of you will point to a couple of failed short-yardage situations and an extremely questionable officiating decision on a fourth-and-inches play the Eagles ultimately did not convert, there were enough mistakes made by the Eagles to make the post-game film review unpleasant, indeed.

Where to start? How about at the beginning. The Eagles turned the ball over on their first possession and it cost them seven points. In fact, McNabb, not very sharp in this game, threw two interceptions that Dallas turned into 10 points and, ultimately, made the difference in the game. On the first possession, though, the Eagles came out throwing the football and went nowhere. A McNabb fade to Maclin on first down was too long. A throw to DeSean Jackson over the middle was nearly intercepted. And then the third-down throw to Maclin bounced off the rookie's hands -- he accepted responsibility for the turnover -- and Dallas' Gerald Sensabaugh made the interception at the Eagles 37-yard line.

Seven plays later, Tashard Choice took the direct snap and motored 2 yards for the touchdown and the Cowboys led, 7-0. That sequence was the first of a bunch that chanced the course of the game. Let's take a look at some of the others ...

  • Late in the first quarter the Eagles put together a good drive and had a first down at the Dallas 18-yard line. They trailed 7-0 and a touchdown would certainly change momentum. But a LeSean McCoy run up the middle gained just one yard, and then a throw in the middle of the field for Maclin was incomplete. On third and 9, McNabb was sacked, forcing Akers to kick a 45-yard field goal to make it 7-3.
  • Later in the quarter, with the score the same, another drive stalled. A first and 10 at the Cowboys 37-yard line with 3:18 to go in the half seemed the right time to turn the game around. A completion to McCoy gained 2 yards. A Leonard Weaver run picked up 4 yards as the two-minute warning sounded. On third and 4, from the shotgun, the Eagles did something they rarely do: They ran the football. A handoff to McCoy gained only a yard, and Akers kicked a 48-yard field goal to make it 7-6.
  • Then the defense made a large mistake. Linebacker Tracy White, following Patrick Crayton in motion from the left to right side of the Dallas formation, ran into linebacker Moise Fokou, and Crayton ran up the seam, caught a pass from Tony Romo and gained 64 yards to the Eagles 17-yard line. All of a sudden, the Cowboys had a chance to put points on the board. The defense stiffened, and held Dallas to 3 points, but all of the miscues added up at the end of the game.
  • Opening the third quarter, Ellis Hobbs returned the kickoff for a touchdown, but Fokou was penalized for holding and instead the Eagles started the drive at their 23-yard line. No matter. McNabb and Co. put together a great drive, capped by an 11-yard touchdown pass to Brent Celek, and all of a sudden the Eagles led 13-10 and again had a chance to take the momentum of the game and hold it. They didn't, because ...
  • Sheldon Brown ended Dallas' next drive by intercepting Romo at the Philadelphia 11-yard line. Good stuff. His 54-yard return to the Dallas 34-yard line was nullified by a low block penalty on Fokou, and the Eagles held possession at their 12-yard line. Had they started in Dallas territory, they may have scored and put the game decidedly in their favor. They did not. Another costly mistake.
  • Later in the third quarter, the Eagles wanted to go for it on a fourth and inches at their 42-yard line and appeared to draw the Cowboys into the neutral zone on McNabb's hard count. But left tackle Jason Peters flinched and the Eagles were penalized 5 yards for the false start, killing another drive.
  • On their next possession, the Eagles made another fatal mistake. McNabb, looking deep down the left seam for Maclin, slightly underthrew the pass. Maclin had a step on the defense but the poor throw allowed cornerback Mike Jenkins to make the interception at the Dallas 45-yard line. Maclin was penalized 15 yards for a facemask call as he tackled Jenkins, and Dallas started the possession at the Philadelphia 42-yard line. Five plays and 27 yards later, Nick Folk kicked a 33-yard field goal to tie the game.
  • Then came the most crushing sequence of the game. An Eagles drive that started on their 25-yard line moved well as the Eagles gained a couple of first downs. On first and 10, McNabb completed a pass to Jackson -- one of only five times McNabb threw for Jackson, with just two completions, another story for another day -- and Jackson gained 9 yards. Two McCoy runs gained nothing, and then McNabb sneaked over the right side on fourth down and the officials ruled that Dallas stopped McNabb short of the first-down mark. Replays seemed to indicate that McNabb reached the first down, but upon further review, the call on the field stood. The Eagles lost their second challenge of the night, used their third and final timeout of the half and with 10:49 to go in the game, were in a heap of trouble.
  • Dallas immediately took advantage, converting a third-and-14 play when Romo pump-faked to Miles Austin on an "in" route. Brown bit on the fake and then could do nothing but give chase as Austin turned up field and caught a perfectly-thrown Romo pass, broke a tackle and scored a 49-yard touchdown to give Dallas a 20-13 lead. Heartbreak. Dallas converted 7 of 15 third downs on the night, none bigger than this one. While the Eagles struggled to convert 4 of 12 third downs, the Cowboys opened the game with three straight conversions and then finished with the back-breaking play.

That's the way it went for the Eagles. Yeah, maybe the refs blew a couple of calls and maybe the spot on McNabb's fourth-down sneak was terrible, but the Eagles didn't handle a fourth-quarter lead well and they turned the football over too much and they did not beat a good team in a close game, which is something this team needs to do down the stretch of the season.

The Eagles committed too many costly penalties, didn't take advantage of chances to seize momentum and, ultimately, lost a football game. At 5-3, they are clearly right there in the division and in the NFC. It sure would have been nice to sweep three games from the NFC East, but nothing is ever easy. Each week is going to be tough, and there are going to be games the Eagles take because they make the plays they didn't make on Sunday night.

Yeah, maybe McNabb was right. The Eagles were a shoestring away from winning against Dallas.Then again, add it all up and they fell short in many areas, just enough to go away disappointed against the Cowboys.

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