Grading the Eagles' 29-23 Loss to the Cowboys

In case you didn't see the game, all you really need to know is the Eagles blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead and lost to the Cowboys in overtime. It's not as if Dallas came storming back in the end either, like an unstoppable force.

The Eagles gave them the game. More specifically one person did.

Even had they managed to win this game by two possessions, the grades would've reflected the sort of gritty or ugly victory it was going to take to unseat a very good, very deep Cowboys squad in their own building. Since it wound up being a loss, the scores wound up being a tad more harsh.

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Quarterback

To his credit, Carson Wentz was very accurate, completing 74.4 percent of his passes — which doesn't even account for numerous dropped passes by his receivers. Then again, it's easy to rack up completions when the quarterback never looks down the field. Wentz averaged only 4.7 yards per attempt with a long of 14. Granted, lot of that was by design, but the coaching staff clearly doesn't trust its rookie signal-caller to push the ball vertically right now. Two sacks on the Eagles' final possession are a backbreaker as well, and more evidence Wentz isn't trusting what he sees. And while there were no turnovers, he very nearly managed to give the ball away twice deep in his own end in the fourth quarter. In terms of efficiency, Wentz was okay, but this was arguably his worst game to date.

Grade: C-

Running backs

Darren Sproles was great in a more traditional running back role, carrying 15 times for 86 yards. He wasn't as effective as a receiver with Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee dogging him all night, but this was vintage Sproles otherwise. The rest of backs were ineffective, or weren't given the opportunity to make plays, while Wendell Smallwood's fumble in the fourth quarter was absolutely devastating. 

Grade: C

Wide receivers

Dropped passes remain an epidemic for the Eagles. Nelson Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham both put passes on the turf inside the red zone, forcing the offense to settle for field goals instead of having a shot at six. DGB also committed a costly offensive pass interference penalty late in the fourth quarter. Jordan Matthews, meanwhile, caught 11 passes, but never challenged the defense deep, as evidence by his 5.9 yards per reception. Different week, same story. This group doesn't care opposing secondaries.

Grade: D

Tight ends

To their credit, the tight ends caught everything that was thrown their way — well almost. Trey Burton couldn't quite haul in Wentz's pass 3rd-and-4 with two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. The other issue is Burton and Wentz weren't impactful, their five receptions going for just 25 yards. Can anybody stretch the field?

Grade: C-

Offensive line

Gritty performance, considering all of the injuries and absences up front. Halapoulivaati Vaitai quietly has improved at right tackle. Stefan Wisniewski replaced Allen Barbre at left guard in the first quarter, and nobody noticed. Jason Kelce's struggles at center were obvious, but he was clearly playing hurt as well. The Eagles averaged 4.0 yards per carry on the ground, and Wentz was only hit six times on 46 dropbacks. Maybe the protection wouldn't have been as solid if the offense actually tried to attack the Cowboys downfield, but based on what we saw, the O-line held its own.

Grade: B-

Defensive line

Considering the challenge the Cowboys offense and offensive line presented, the D-line did a very good job. Holding Ezekiel Elliott to 96 yards on 22 carries in five quarters of play was about the best you could've hoped for, and it started up front, with the unit accounting for four tackles for loss. The group did a better job of getting after Dak Prescott than the numbers might suggest as well, registering one sack and six hits on the quarterback, but forcing him from the pocket on numerous occasions. The front four needed to finish more plays and might've been a bit undisciplined at time, but overall, they were a disruptive presence.

Grade: B

Linebackers

Jordan Hicks may have prevented the game from getting out of hand early with an interception in the end zone. Then again, how many times was Elliott carrying Hicks or flat out eluding the second-year linebacker? Mychal Kendricks was in on three tackles, but the one he didn't make is the only one people will remember. Nigel Bradham led the team with seven solos and 10 total, including one for a loss, so that was a positive. Not a bad performance by the unit, but not above and beyond like last week either. Elliott was simply too much for Hicks and Kendricks at times.

Grade: B-

Defensive backs

Sometimes the cornerbacks made a play on the ball. Sometimes they were just flat out beat. Leodis McKelvin broke up two passes, but was beat by Dez Bryant for a 53-yard gain and nearly gave up another that was overthrown to Terrance Williams. Nolan Carroll broke one up and had perfect coverage of Bryant on another, but then never turned around to look for the ball on the game-tying 22-yard score. Prescott only completed 48.7 percent of his passes, so the secondary must've been doing something right.

Grade: B-

Special teams

The Eagles were caught sleeping on a Cowboys fake punt that went for a 30-yard run, extending a drive that ended with three points rather than a change in possession. Otherwise, this was the typical solid all-around effort we've come to expect. Caleb Sturgis was perfect on two extra points and three field goals, including a 55-yarder. Donnie Jones averaged 45 yards per punt with two downed inside the Cowboys' 20. And Josh Huff nearly took a kickoff back for the second week in a row, only to be stopped after a 53 yards. The Eagles won in this phase of the game, if only in this phase.

Grade: B+

Coaching

The entire fourth quarter was rife with questionable or downright bad decisions by Doug Pederson, from offensive play-calling to game management. Among hits "greatest hits" were: giving the ball to a rookie running back for the first time, which resulted in a fumble; punting instead of attempting a 53-yard field, which ended up a 90-yard touchdown drive; and not using his timeouts at the end of regulation to at least force a Dallas punt, then never getting another possession in overtime. Keep in mind, the Eagles led by 10 with at one point in the fourth quarter. Simply put, Pederson cost his team the game.

Grade: F

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