The Eagles can no longer control their own destiny to make the playoffs. That’s what a loss cost them last night in Philadelphia. Sure, they have the advantage in the division in that if both the Eagles and Cowboys finish with the same record, the Eagles would win the division, but that’s not enough. Philadelphia needs help.
When I say they need help, I’m not just talking about playoff scenarios, I’m talking about on their actual team. It’s too late for that of course, as the NFL will be entering Week 16 of the season following tonight’s game. But last night’s game proved something that Eagles fans had been accusing the Cowboys of for the entire season: The Eagles can’t win the big game.
Sure, they beat Dallas on Thanksgiving to remain undefeated on the holiday in franchise history, but it still is a huge loss of momentum that they’re a whole game back from Dallas now going into the final two weeks of the season. Teams have discovered the gaping holes in their team and have begun to exploit it (yes, I’m referring to the cornerbacks, especially Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher).
Let’s go over what each of those players did last night. Bradley Fletcher had the job of covering Dez Bryant, who torched him for six catches for 119 yards and three touchdowns on just seven targets. On all three of the touchdowns, Fletcher was clearly beat and all Bryant had to do was put his hands up and catch the ball and it was an automatic touchdown. He surprisingly led the NFL in passes defensed going into that game, but he had zero of those last night. Williams on the other hand didn’t give up any touchdowns, but had three defensive penalties, including two that extended a drive for Dallas that would’ve been over. Those performances are just unacceptable.
It’s really a shame because the Eagles have been doing such a good job stopping the run, even without their defensive captain DeMeco Ryans for the past bunch of games. They’ve had to play an elite run offense in the past three games (Dallas twice Seattle) and essentially shut them down. DeMarco Murray led the NFL by almost 400 rushing yards going into last night’s game and was stopped to just 81 yards on 31 carries, a 2.6 average. The first time he faced the Eagles, he had 20 carries for 73 yards, a 3.7 average. Those are his two lowest YPC averages in games this season. They also stopped Marshawn Lynch of Seattle to 86 yards on 23 carries, a 3.7 average. That’s really saying something about the Eagles’ front seven.
But the Eagles are only as good as their weakest link. They can stop the run all they want, but they can’t stop the pass to save their lives. Their secondary is downright bad, and I think last night’s performance was the worst of the season. If Eagles’ opponents were smart, they’d just pass on every play against this team, which is why the Eagles’ final two games (against the Redskins and Giants) will not be easy games.
Now, the Eagles didn’t just lose because of mistakes by themselves, I have to give the Cowboys a lot of credit. They knew what they were doing and beat the Eagles fair and square. Tony Romo looked much better than he did two weeks ago and that played a huge factor. Mark Sanchez looked far worse than he did two weeks ago though, and he failed to throw for a touchdown. He also threw two interceptions, including a bad one late in the game to seal the Cowboys’ victory.
The Eagles had four turnovers and have more than any other team in the NFL. It’s amazing that they have the record they do with the amount of times they just hand the other team the ball. They can afford to give up a few touchdowns through the air each week as long as the offense does their job too, but they didn’t last night and it cost them big. If they minimize their turnovers in these next two games, they should be wins. But they’re not guarantees.
Nick Foles has officially been declared out for next Saturday’s game against the Redskins, meaning Sanchez will have at least one more game in there. If they make the playoffs and Sanchez has to finish out the regular season as the starter, I highly doubt they’d stick Foles in a playoff game in his first game back. So it looks like it’s going to be all on Sanchez to see if he can turn this team around and get them into the postseason.