It was a tense affair as expected last night between the Eagles and the Cowboys and just like last year’s showdown in Texas, it went to overtime. The birds fell short, giving up a late touchdown pass to Jason Witten..but there will be plenty to talk about over the coming days.
Wentz chained down:
In what became a stunning rookie quarterback showdown, there was one key difference between Went and Prescott. Dak threw it down the field. Wentz may have been accurate, completing 32/43 passes for 202 yards and a touchdown..but averaging just 4.7 yards per pass, he was seemingly chained down by a mix of conservative playcalling and wide receiver errors, (both of which we will get to later). At some point you have to trust the strong arm of the North Dakota State star and balance risk with reward. Wentz did what was asked of him, protected the football and was much more consistent..but the “dink and dunk” critics will swarm to the box score here.
The playcalling was simply strange last night. The game was littered with screen passes and strange decisions. For instance on 3rd &12, the play design was a 10-yard route, leaving Agholor just short of the sticks. The conservative nature flew out the window late on and was replaced with what felt like desperation. Fake special team plays and some gutsy decisions to go for the home run instead of what would have been a crucial field goal stung the Eagles and the team left Overtime empty handed. Pederson was conservative in the wrong places and aggressive at the wrong times.
This ties in with the playcalling, but the Eagles were relying heavily on their playmakers to make something happen through YAC..but it never did. The short passes were wrapped up by defenders and nobody seemed able to break a tackle as hoped. Drops once again plagued the Eagles receiving corps in crunchtime situations and the need for a playmaker oddly presented itself aggressively just days after the Torrey Smith trade rumors. There were some bright spots, including some big catches from DGB and Matthews, but an inability to gain separation and become a constant threat really hurt the Offense.
Running back rotation:
The good news is that the Eagles found success on the ground with a lead back averaging over five yards per attempt, the bad news is that it was 33-year old Darren Sproles. It seemed clear that Doug Pederson was trying to send a message to Ryan Mathews, who saw limited action along with Wendell Smallwood and Kenjon Barner last night. The balance in the backfield is something Pederson is yet to get right, but Sproles saw such an uncharacteristically heavy workload last night that although it’s impressive, it could hurt the team if he decides to retain Sproles as the feature back.
Ezekiel Elliott has been beyond impressive so far in his rookie season and although he still had his moments against the Eagles, he was held to under 100 rushing yards for the first time in four games. It may not seem like a big deal, but it forced Prescott to throw the ball, often under a lot of duress. This resulted in an interception, a fumble and a large second half lead for the Eagles in the second half..one they couldn’t quite hold onto. There may be flaws on the Eagles Defense, but after such a worrying performance against the Redskins, the run-D has bounced back brilliantly in recent weeks.
Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports