Of the first 51 Super Bowl champions, 16 didn’t make the playoffs. The Philadelphia Eagles are in danger of being the 17th.
Almost half of this season remains, but the Eagles can’t seem to shake the Super Bowl hangover. Facing a reeling Dallas Cowboys team that was 3-5 mostly because of a below-average offense, the Eagles got off to a slow start and even after they came back to tie the game twice in the second half, they couldn’t finish. The Cowboys pulled off the upset win, 27-20.
The Cowboys looked like the team that needed Sunday’s game most. The Eagles probably needed it too, but they never even led.
The Cowboys and Eagles are both 4-5 and neither team is in good shape in the NFC playoff race. But at least the Cowboys come out of Sunday night’s game with a little momentum. The Eagles have none.
Cowboys start fast
The Cowboys came out like their season was on the line. It probably was.
After a Monday night loss to the Titans, the Cowboys had almost no margin of error if they wanted to get back in the playoff race. They were 3-5 and couldn’t afford a loss at Philadelphia, no matter how tough that task was.
Dallas’ defense made some big plays early, Ezekiel Elliott was sharp (especially when he hurdled an Eagles defender in the open field for a big gain) and a late first-half drive orchestrated by Dak Prescott gave the Cowboys a 13-3 lead.
But, like the Cowboys coming into the game, the Eagles seemed to suddenly feel their backs were against the wall.
Eagles fought back in second half
The Eagles had a lot more urgency in the second half. They got a field goal, then Zach Ertz scored to tie the game. Even though it looked at that moment like the Eagles were taking control of the game, the Cowboys punched right back.
In the fourth quarter Elliott and Ertz traded touchdowns. With 3:19 left, Elliott scored again to give the Cowboys a 27-20 lead. The Eagles drove into Dallas territory but Cowboys rookie linebacker Leighton Vander Esch made a fantastic tackle on a third-and-2 catch by Corey Clement, dropping him for a 5-yard loss. On fourth down, Ertz made a nice catch but he was marked short of the first-down marker, a bit of a controversial call because Ertz seemed to catch the pass beyond the sticks, but he didn’t control it until he pulled it in short of the first down.
The Eagles got a stop and used their timeouts to get the ball back. Carson Wentz got the Eagles to the Cowboys’ 31-yard line in the final seconds and completed a pass down the middle to Ertz, but Ertz was stopped short of the end zone, and his lateral to Golden Tate was stopped as well as time expired.
Eagles aren’t in good shape to make playoffs
The Eagles were supposed to be in a better position to close out the game in the fourth quarter. They were coming off a bye, while the Cowboys had played just six days before. But for those who thought the Eagles would just start to roll after the bye, that didn’t happen. The Eagles have not won back-to-back games all season. And next week they play at the red-hot Saints. Meanwhile, the Cowboys’ season isn’t back on track at 4-5, but at least they have some life thanks to the upset win.
The Eagles’ Super Bowl championship was viewed as the greatest moment in Philadelphia sports history. That team will be beloved forever, and the players and coaches spent all offseason hearing how they fulfilled every Philly fan’s lifelong dream.
Everyone knew it would be hard for a talented roster to just march back to a Super Bowl, for all the factors that have taken down most other defending champions. This season has been even harder than anyone thought, though.
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