Pederson Coaches Terrible Fourth Quarter To Fuel Eagles’ Collapse
There were many factors that led the Eagles to defeat on Sunday Night Football against the Dallas Cowboys. But none greater than two horrendous decisions by head coach Doug Pederson.
Pederson’s decision to give rookie running back Wendell Smallwood the ball on the first carry of the team’s first possession of the fourth quarter was the beginning of the end for the Birds. It was the first time all game that Smallwood had touched the ball. The fifth-round pick fumbled the ball away, setting up Dallas with a short field that they converted into three points.
I think Smallwood has done some nice things for the offense, but for him to be touching the ball for the first time that late in the game is just asking for trouble. I can understand a reluctance to go to Ryan Mathews, whose fumbling issues had effectively played him out of the role, but Smallwood should never have been put into that situation.
The other major gaffe was the decision to punt the football late in the fourth quarter rather than have Caleb Sturgis try a long field goal.
Sturgis had been nothing but rock solid and dependable for the Eagles all year. He even drilled a 56-yard attempt before the half ended to give the Eagles the lead. There was no reason not to trust him.
In that spot, the Eagles desperately needed to make it a two-score game. The defense had enjoyed some success in slowing the Cowboys offense, but it was a lot to ask for them to keep them off the board for the rest of the quarter.
You have to hope that Pederson, a rookie head coach, learns from these errors and corrects them in the future.
The Eagles’ Offense Is Absolutely Putrid
Were it not for Carson Wentz, this offense would be absolutely unwatchable.
We’ve all harped on this plenty of times before, but the skill position players are some of the worst in the entire league, and their lack of effectiveness helped cost the Eagles the game tonight.
Nelson Agholor is an absolute failure. He has no football IQ, and can’t get himself open to make plays. There’s nothing about him that suggests he’s worth a first-round pick, and at this point its very hard for to imagine him on this team next year.
Jordan Matthews put up decent numbers, but drops are always going to be a major issue for him. And he’s not good enough to play the outside. He’s strictly a slot receiver, which is a problem. He can serve as a decent complimentary piece, but never a number-one receiver.
Dorial Green-Beckham is the one guy that’s overflowing with talent and potential, but the boneheaded mistakes and drops are such that they could produce brain aneurysms.
Finally, why in the world isn’t Zach Ertz a factor on this offense? The highly-paid tight end chipped in a grand total of four catches for only 19 yards. On an offense desperate for playmakers, its inexcusable that Ertz has gone over a month without being significantly involved.
Things aren’t much better at the running back position.
Darren Sproles is just a tremendous player, and a hell of a competitor. At times, the veteran put the Eagles on his back, and was the only guy doing anything with the football. He led the team with 86 yards on 15 carries. But the fact that he was the featured guy in this offense speaks volumes about how poor the other running backs, including fellow veteran Ryan Mathews, are.
The Eagles don’t have anyone that they can count on to make a play in the passing game, and until that changes, its going to be harder for this team to succeed if wideouts and tight ends can’t get open.
- The Eagles were unable to take any kind of shot down the field with the weapons they have at the skill positions. As such, Dallas was able to adjust as the game went on and made it easier to clamp down on Wentz and Sproles. You can’t succeed in this league playing offense within a 15-yard box.
- I think it was a mistake to go away from Ryan Mathews as heavily as the Eagles did this week. I understand that a message needed to be sent given his recent fumbles, but he’s still a veteran with some pop in his game, and Darren Sproles can’t take the pounding that he took tonight and remain effective.
- After tonight’s game, I wouldn’t at all be shocked if the Eagles intensified their efforts to bring in a veteran receiver.
- Good lord, I can’t stand Nelson Agholor.
- Big V has been improving in each of his starts.
- The Eagles’ defense did what they could against the weapons of the Dallas offense, and held their own for quite awhile, but ultimately were outmatched.
- The team did successfully hold Ezekial Elliot below 100 rushing yards without Bennie Logan.
- Jordan Hicks has been much more active over the last few weeks. Hicks came down with a big interception in the endzone in the first half that swung momentum in the Eagles’ favor.
- Leodis McKelvin had an opportunity to do the same at the end of the game, but dropped a potential pick in the fourth quarter in the final two minutes.
- Dak Prescott’s mobility was too much for the pass rush to overcome. The Eagles managed just two sacks (Marcus Smith, Connor Barwin).
- Dez Bryant only caught four passes, but did major damage with each one, going for over 100 yards and a touchdown.
- Credit Josh Huff with this much. He’s near useless as a wide receiver, but he’s developing into one of the game’s top young kick returners.
Absolute heartbreaker of a loss.
Dropping to 4-3, essentially three games behind the first-place Cowboys and dropping to 0-2 in the division is going to make it very difficult for the Eagles to win the NFC East.
And its going to be rough unless the team is able to swing a trade to upgrade the wide receivers.
But for all that went wrong tonight, the team fought well and were in front of the Cowboys for most of the game. Positives were still there to be found, but not enough.
Follow Denny Basens on Twitter, @DennyBasens