10 Takeaways From The Eagles-Dallas Game

1. The Eagles win gave the Dallas Cowboys (2-6) their sixth consecutive loss and their longest losing streak in 26 years.  In 1989, they had a eight-game losing streak that ended with a win in the middle of the season, but then they followed that win with another seven consecutive losses.  They finished 1-15 that year, so, even though they can’t finish that bad this year, they’re likely out of the playoff race.

2.  Heading into the game, the Eagles heavily favored passing in their gameplan.  However, last night, they had 36 passes against 35 runs, and they produced 172 yards and two rushing touchdowns on the ground.  Ryan Matthews ran the ball 11 times, and DeMarco Murray ran 19, so the distribution was similar to how they’ve been used this season.  However, for a team that went into the game passing the ball 59% of the time, a more even distribution was good to see.  The Eagles have 639 yards rushing in their four wins and 334 in their four losses.

3.  The Eagles came into the game being outscored 33-10 in the first quarter of games all season, and that trend continued Sunday night.  The score after the first quarter was 7-0 with Dallas holding the lead, meaning that the Eagles now have been outscored 40-10 in the first quarters of games.  The Eagles did not cross the 50-yard line in the first quarter, and they ran the ball five times against ten passes, but the ground game didn’t get working until the second quarter. When will they get off to a good start again?

4.  Penalties, of which the Eagles had 10 for 70 yards, were a real momentum killer and a key component in Dallas’ game-tying drive that brought the game into overtime.  Defensive pass interference is a very subjective call to make – probably the most subjective penalty in the sport – and the referees were very giving in what they considered interference.  However, they missed a crucial illegal-formation penalty that would have given the Cowboys a longer kick to convert in order to bring the game into overtime.

5.  The Eagles defense allowed Darren McFadden to run for 117 yards, and that total was just the second time all season they’ve allowed a running back to total 100 yards or more.  The only other player to do it was Jonathan Stewart in Week 7.  That means the Eagles have given up more than 100 yards to a running back in two consecutive games after not doing it at all through the first six contests.  Is this a trend we should expect to continue?  Miami’s Lamar Miller is one of the better running backs in the league.

6.  Jordan Matthews is starting to develop a real knack for coming up big in games against the Cowboys, and he was great against the Cowboys Sunday, finishing with 9 receptions on 12 targets for 133 yards and a touchdown.  His 41-yard touchdown reception to end the game in overtime displayed the strength of his character, considering that he had just cost the Eagles five yards on a false-start penalty six plays prior to the touchdown.  What is most important, though, is that he caught 9 of the 12 passes thrown his way because he has dropped a lot of balls recently.  He now has a combined 213 yards and two touchdowns in two games against Dallas this season.

7.  Jordan Hicks’ 67-yard interception return for a touchdown that broke a 14-14 tie and pretty much saved the season, combined with the fact that the rookie is becoming the quarterback of the defense, has qualified him as the Eagles best defensive draft pick by Kelly.  In fact, Kelly’s best overall pick so far would be a three-way contest between Jordan Matthews, Hicks, and Lane Johnson.  Heading into the Week 9 contest, Hicks, the third-round rookie, ranked among the top players in the league in solo tackles (37), despite playing only six games against seven or eight for every other player ranked above him except one.  After last night, he is now tied for the ninth most in the league with 43.  Hopefully the injury he suffered to his pectoral muscle will not be too serious because Hicks is really talented and needs to be playing.  He will have a MRI today, and the results will tell how the team will handle him going forward.

8.  Speaking of rookies and draft picks, as of last night’s game, the Eagles are still getting little to nothing in return for their first-round draft picks from the past two years.  2014 first-round pick Marcus Smith still hasn’t figured a way to contribute in any way other than special teams, and the fact that he is a long-shot to become a part of the defense is becoming an ever-present reality.  When the Eagles coaches made the decision not to use Vinny Curry as an outside linebacker after the bye week, the general thinking was that Smith could have an opportunity to fill the role.  However, he played 17 special-teams snaps against the Cowboys and nothing more.  Connor Barwin (94% of defensive snaps) and Brandon Graham (78%) seem locked as the primary outside linebackers.  But, can Smith become a part of the defense at some point?

9.  Caleb Sturgis came up big for the Eagles when they needed him most and hopefully put his early-season struggles behind him.  The Eagles have had a lot of let downs from kickers over the past two seasons as kickers have failed to convert in tough situations, but Sturgis’ 53-yard field goal that gave the Eagles a 27-24 lead with one minute, 51 seconds on the clock was spectacular.  Sturgis has not missed an extra point after missing one in each of his first two starts with the Eagles.  He has converted 10 of 11 field goals in the past four games, including 2 of 3 field goals of 50 yards or more and 7 of 9 from 30 yards or greater.  Having a trustworthy kicker is invaluable, so hopefully his streak and clutch playing can continue.

10. The Eagles (4-4) are still in the playoff race in the NFC East and only half a game away from the Giants (5-4), whom they will play in the last game of the season. The Giants beat Tampa Bay yesterday, 32-18, but they now play the seemingly unstoppable Patriots, so a win is most definitely not a guarantee.  The Patriots just dismantled the Redskins yesterday, 27-10, so the Redskins (3-5) are currently third in the division and play the newly-rejuvenated passing offense of the New Orleans Saints.  The Eagles face the Dolphins, who lost 33-17 to the Bills on Sunday after suffering a 7-36 pummeling by the Patriots two weeks ago.  The NFC East is up for grabs; the Cowboys are pretty much out of the race, and the Giants and Eagles are the current frontrunners.  The division is sure to be to be a race to the finish line.

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