Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Bounces don’t go Eagles’ way

Posted by Eric Fisher On December 9

Sometimes the bounces don’t go your way. That was true for the Eagles during Sunday’s NFC East showdown with the Cowboys.

From the first play of the game to the last play of the game, the bounces didn’t go the Eagles’ way when they needed them most.

On the first play of the game, kickoff returner Jourdan Lewis fumbled, but the officials ruled he didn’t fumble. Eagles head coach Doug Pederson challenged the call. The replay revealed that Lewis fumbled, but the replay official maintained that the Eagles didn’t have a clear recovery, meaning they didn’t recover the ball right away, so the Cowboys kept possession.

On the final play of the game, with the Cowboys facing third-and-7 from the Eagles’ 15-yard line in overtime, quarterback Dak Prescott tried to connect with Amari Cooper on a slant from the left side. Cornerback Rasul Douglas deflected the ball with his left hand, but the ball popped up in the air. Cooper corralled the loose ball and took the final steps into the end zone to provide the Cowboys with a crucial 29-23 victory over the visiting Eagles.

“Literally, the ball didn’t bounce our way,” said Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, who caused the fumble on the game’s first play.

The loss leaves the Eagles (6-7) with the slimmest of hopes of winning the NFC East. They must win their final three games while the Cowboys (8-5) lose their final three games in order to capture the division. A win would have tied the Eagles with the Cowboys atop the division.

The Eagles must now focus their attention on the wild card race. The Seahawks (7-5) lead the way, with the Vikings (6-5-1) right behind them. The Vikings visit the Seahawks on Monday, so, barring a tie, one of those teams should suffer a loss. The Eagles are tied with the Redskins, who have lost four straight games, and the Panthers, who have lost five straight games.

But the Eagles can only focus on what’s in front of them on the field. They have a difficult challenge next Sunday (8:20 p.m.) when they visit the NFC West-champion Rams.

“We will never quit,” quarterback Carson Wentz said. “We’re going to keep competing our tails off and let the chips fall where they may.”

Mistakes, bad bounces will haunt Eagles

If they don’t make the playoffs, though, Sunday’s overtime loss will be among the games that haunt the Eagles. And there will be plays within the overtime loss to the Cowboys that the Eagles will have difficulty forgetting, including the game-winning touchdown.

“To lose on that play, the way it happened …,” Wentz said. “Rasul made a great play.”

Jenkins concurred, saying “I thought he played phenomenal. I feel for him. He played it exactly the way he’s supposed to.”

Douglas saved a touchdown pass to Cooper early in the second quarter with a well-timed interception. A 10-point deficit would have been more difficult to overcome, especially considering the Eagles were having difficulty moving the ball.

The Cowboys complete controlled the first half, but the Eagles escaped with only a 6-0 deficit entering halftime, and the Cowboys needed a franchise-record 62-yard field goal by Brett Maher as time expired to increase their lead to six points.

The Eagles went three-and-out for the third time in five possessions at the start of the second half. When the Cowboys kicked another field goal with 8:59 left in the third quarter – after the defense stopped Prescott at the 2-yard line – the situation looked bleak for the Eagles.

“It’s definitely frustrating with the talent we have on offense,” Wentz said. “We just didn’t execute, couldn’t sustain drives.”

The Eagles picked up one first down on their second drive of the second half, but didn’t need to go too far on their third drive. Prescott badly overthrew a wide-open Michael Gallup, and safety Corey Graham was in perfect position for the interception. He returned it to the 2-yard line, so the Eagles only needed one play, a 2-yard pass to Alshon Jeffery, to reach the end zone. But a missed extra point by Jake Elliott, his first miss of the season, left the Eagles trailing 9-6.

Offenses erupt in fourth

After scoring a combined 15 points during the first quarter, the offenses busted out during the fourth quarter, combining for 31 points. Cooper caught touchdown passes of 28 and 75 yards, both down the right sideline. The 75-yard touchdown came one play after the Eagles had tied the game, 16-16, on a 3-yard pass from Wentz (22 of 32 for 228 yards, 3 TDs) to rookie tight end Dallas Goedert.

Goedert has another touchdown, a 75-yarder, called back for a marginal offensive pass interference penalty, but the Eagles managed to score on that drive anyway. Wentz found Darren Sproles open at the 3, and the veteran running back made a move to create just enough space between two Dallas defenders to reach the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown with 1:39 remaining in regulation.

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson immediately called for Elliott to kick the game-tying extra point. The attempt was good, but another questionable penalty, this time on the Cowboys, could have given the Eagles the ball at the 1-yard line with an opportunity to go for a 2-point conversion. The usually aggressive Pederson decided not to take the point off the board, leaving the game tied at 23-23.

“I just elected at that point to go for the kick and tie it up,” said Pederson, who later reiterated that “I stand by my decision.”

Cowboys in control

What Pederson didn’t know at the time is the Eagles would never get the ball back. The Cowboys drove downfield on the final possession of regulation, reaching the Eagles 41, but a low snap on second down caused a 6-yard loss and Fletcher Cox sacked Prescott on third down, pushing the Cowboys out of field goal range.

In overtime, though, the Eagles defense couldn’t get off the field. The Cowboys held the ball for the entire 8:05 of overtime. That didn’t come as a complete surprise, considering that the Cowboys accumulated 576 total yards. Prescott passed for 455 yards, although he turned the ball over three times, twice on interceptions and once on a fumble. Ezekiel Elliott rushed 28 times for 113 yards, and he got the Cowboys off to a good start on their overtime possession with runs of 8 and 10 yards on their first two plays.

The most damage, though, was done by Cooper. He caught 10 passes for a career-best of 217 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner in overtime.

“You’ve got to hate this moment,” Pederson said. “You’ve got to hate this feeling. You’ve got to hate losing.”

Not only do the Eagles have to hate losing, but they have to hate the way they lost. After the game, Jenkins was still upset about the failure to overturn the call on the game’s first play.

“That was a terrible call,” said Jenkins, who will pick up a fine for adding, “Whoever’s watching that (replay) in New York should stay off the bottle.”

Perhaps a short field on the first possession would have injected life into an Eagles offense that was nearly catatonic during the first two-and-half quarters. We’ll never know.

What we do know is that, when they needed them most, the bounces didn’t go the Eagles’ way on Sunday.

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