Sunday, December 2, 2012

Eagles fall to Cowboys


ARLINGTON, Texas — Way back in the day, Andy Reid beat the Dallas Cowboys for his first NFL victory.

The way the Eagles blew up in a 38-33 defeat Sunday night, you have to wonder if he’ll win with them again.

The Eagles gave it everything they had – including a 98-yard punt return by rookie Damaris Johnson with 31 seconds left - and it still wasn’t enough. That against a Cowboys team so full of holes it needed to win a challenge over a spot to secure the victory.

It was the eighth straight setback for the Eagles, tied with the Arizona Cardinals for the longest such skein in the league.

The last Eagles team to play so poorly was the 1968 group that started 0-11 for Joe Kuharich.
If the New York Giants beat the Washington Redskins Monday night, the Eagles are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.

With a 3-9 record and four games remaining Reid has locked up his third losing system. Moreover he’s 11-17 (.393) in his last 28 starts and with a 139-99-1 (.584) in 14 seasons, just one loss short of the century mark.

The backbreaker was Cowboys tight end Jason Witten’s 36-yard reception over Nate Allen for a first down at the four-yard line of the Eagles.

Two plays later Dez Bryant took a quick pass from Tony Romo and ran through Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for a touchdown with 5:35 remaining giving the Cowboys their first lead.

It was Romo’s third scoring pass of the evening and the 16th against the Eagles in the last six games, all under defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. The Eagles haven’t intercepted a pass in those games.

Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne provided the insurance points returning Bryce Brown’s fumble 50 yards for a score.

Johnson’s punt return heightened the drama although the try for two points, and the ensuing onside kick both failed.

Brown scored two touchdowns and rushed for 107 of his 169 yards to give the Eagles a 17-10 lead at the intermission.

The Eagles had a solid game plan requiring rookie Nick Foles, who threw for 251 yards and a touchdown, to read only half of the field.

Reid had a strong game on the sideline as well, winning a challenge and edging counterpart Jason Garrett, who also has been accused of poor clock management and use of timeouts, on a strategic level.

It was tough, for example, to gauge what was more shocking – that Reid had all three timeouts on the Eagles’ final possession of the first half or he used them artfully to set up a 43-yard Alex Henery field goal at the buzzer. That wiped out the momentum of a late Cowboys touchdown march cutting the score to 14-10 with 41 ticks remaining.

The Eagles took the lead in the first quarter and until the final frame were never headed.
Each time the Cowboys answered the Eagles retaliated.

Romo led the Cowboys on a seven-play, 80-yard march ending with a 23-yard scoring catch-and-run by Bryant, knotting the score at 17 with 11:18 remaining in the frame. Bryant juked the Eagles into blocking each other on the play. Romo broke Troy Aikman’s Cowboys record with his 166th scoring pass.

But Foles got the Eagles right back on top with an elite 15-yard scoring throw to Riley Cooper, who turned cornerback Brandon Carr around in the end zone. Foles bent the throw around the defender giving the Eagles a 24-17 cushion with 5:27 left in the frame.

The Cowboys made it six straight possessions these teams put points on the board when Miles Austin hauled in a 27-yard pass from Romo after getting away from Rodgers-Cromartie, and breaking a couple more tackles. That tied the score at 24 with 13:41 to go.

The Eagles went right back to work. When the drive stalled Henery booted his 21st straight field goal, a 43-yarder, giving the Birds a 27-24 advantage with 9:51 to play.

But Romo, who was just 23-39 in December before the kickoff, took over the game.

Brown rolled around left end and scored untouched from 10 yards out giving the Eagles a 7-0 lead with 5:38 left.

Brown carried three times for 37 yards. That, after getting slammed for minus-three yards on his first four lugs.

Foles completed two pass attempts for 29 yards.

With Dallas Reynolds shaking off an ankle injury, the offensive line dictated to the Cowboys.

For the first time this season, the Eagles exited the first quarter with the lead.

Brandon Graham made sure they held onto to that lead in the second quarter when on third-and-15 at the Eagles’ 18, he combined with Cole to sack Romo.

Dan Bailey kicked a 39-yard field goal for the Cowboys cutting the lead to 7-3.

Graham entered the game with 1 1-2 sacks. He had 3 after that play.

Brown made it 14-3 with a five-yard run capping a seven-play, 73-yard drive with 6:07 left in the first half.

On the verge of getting embarrassed, the Cowboys battled back with an 11-play, 75-yard drive capped by DeMarco Murray’s one-yard run pulling them within 14-10 with 41 ticks left in the first half.

Witten had four receptions for 61 yards, including the basic bomb where the receiver runs wide open 
through the secondary. Witten was stopped just before the goal line on the 28-yard grab with Nnamdi 
Asomugha and Nate Allen, the closest Eagles, bringing him down.

Foles, in just 35 seconds after the kickoff, marched the Eagles into range for Henery to boot a 43-yard field goal as time expired giving them a 17-10 lead. It was just the third time the Eagles have led at the half all season.


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