American Football

Eagles vs. Cowboys: The good, the bad, and the ugly


Philadelphia Eagles v Dallas Cowboys
Photo by Sam Hodde/Getty Images

Highlights and lowlights from Philadelphia’s Week 16 loss.

The Eagles lost a game that they should have won against the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday at AT&T Stadium—even without Jalen Hurts.

Four Eagles’ turnovers translated into 20 points for the Cowboys, and a 40-34 Eagles’ setback.

Despite the four turnovers, the Eagles were still in position to win the game. Gardner Minshew completed 24 of 40 passes for 355 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

The Eagles fell to 13-2 overall and it’s their first road loss this season. The Eagles have not beaten the Cowboys in Dallas since the 2017 Super Bowl champion team beat Dallas, 37-9, on Nov. 19, 2017.

DeVonta Smith was amazing, leading the Eagles with eight catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns, while the defense sacked six times for 43 yards.

The Eagles have two more home games to secure home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

Maybe this blip serves as motivation.

There was some good, some bad and a whole of lot of ugly in the Eagles’ 40-34 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

The Good

DeVonta Smith caught a team-high eight passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns, including several huge catches, like the 22-yard reception on a second-and-10 at the Dallas 41, placing the ball at the Cowboys’ 19, with :33 left, putting the Eagles in position to win. His two touchdowns came on fourth and third down.

Consecutive nine-yard sacks by Haason Reddick and Josh Sweat with 8:39 left in the fourth quarter. Reddick and Sweat had Dallas stuck. The Cowboys were faced with a third-and-30 at the Dallas 29 and looked finished—and then they weren’t. Reddick finished with 2.0 sacks and 1 FF, setting a new career high with 14.0 sacks this season. Sweat reached 10.0 sacks for the first time in his career.

Head coach Nick Sirianni deciding to go for it on fourth-and-three at the Dallas 14 on their first drive of the second half. Minshew hit a wide-open Smith in the end zone for a 27-17 lead. It was a fantastic play design that had Dallas thoroughly confused. A.J. Brown came off the field and Smith, aligned left, ran between cornerback Trevon Diggs and strong safety Kayron Kearse—and, inexplicably, neither picked up Smith.

Minshew on the first drive of the second half. The series spanned 77 yards over 10 plays and took up 4 minutes, 37 seconds. Minshew completed four of five for 68 yards and ended it on the 14-yard touchdown pass to Smith. Minshew had been sailing the ball, though on that drive, his throws to Kenneth Gainwell for 20 yards on a third-and-nine, and Brown for 12 yards, on a second-and-nine, were darts. With 14:13 left to play, on third-and-10 at the Dallas 49, Minshew found Smith for a 19-yard gain to keep the Eagles’ last-ditch drive going.

Sweat’s 42-yard interception return for a touchdown and a 10-0 Eagles’ lead. It was Sweat’s first career interception and first career NFL touchdown. He snared the ball right from mid air on a first-and-10 at the Dallas 47. No one grabbed Sweat as he took off down the sideline. Sweat is the only NFL defensive lineman with an INT-TD this year. He is the first Eagles defensive lineman to do so since Juqua Parker on Oct. 12, 2008 at San Francisco.

The Eagles’ first drive. Granted, it only resulted in a Jake Elliott 24-yard field goal, it was a great start. The big play was on the Eagles’ third play, when Minshew hit Brown on a 48-yard reception on a first-and-10 at the Eagles’ 41. It established Minshew could go deep early. Brown did twist his left ankle on the play.

Nickel corner Avonte Maddox making a nice open-field tackle on CeeDee Lamb on a second-and-10 at the Dallas 30 on the Cowboys’ second drive. A few plays later, Maddox took down Tony Pollard for a loss on a first-and-10 at the Cowboys’ 43. Maddox later came through with another major play on the Cowboys’ first play of the second quarter, when he took down Prescott at the Dallas’ 43 for a 10-yard loss on a flea-flicker play. Regrettably, Maddox came off the field holding his left foot and later went back to the locker room in the first half and never returned.

Tight end Dallas Goedert going up to snag yet another Minshew overthrow on a first-and-10 at the Eagles’ 23 on their first drive of the second half. The 22-yard reception was all Goedert, who prevented Dallas free safety Donovan Wilson from intercepting Minshew a second time. The play jumpstarted the Eagles’ second-half offense, which resulted in a 27-17 Eagles’ lead.

Minshew finding Smith for a nine-yard touchdown with 9:59 left in the game. It was the second Minshew-to-Smith touchdown connection, the first coming on a fourth-down completion and the second, a go-ahead 34-27 score, came on a third-and-seven at the Dallas’ 9. Minshew threw a great timing ball that Smith hauled in at the goal line.

The Bad

Safety Reed Blankenship had a rough first half. On a third-and-seven with 5:19 left in the half, Sweat had jumped offsides, giving the Cowboys a free play. Blankenship failed to get over in time to catch Lamb down the middle of the field on a 26-yard reception to the Eagles’ 35. The Lamb reception eventually placed Dallas’ kicker Brett Maher in position to boot a 21-yard field goal.

The Eagles’ defense on Dallas’ second drive. The Cowboys went 75 yards over 14 plays, absorbing 7 minutes, 26 seconds off the clock. Prescott was 5-for-5 on the drive and the Cowboys converted two third-and-five plays—one in which the Eagles had Prescott in their grasp (see below).

Maddox started strong, however, he failed to take down Prescott when he was wrapped around Prescott’s ankles at the Cowboys’ 48 on a third-and-five. Prescott had enough time to hit Michael Gallup for an 8-yard gain to the Eagles’ 44. It preserved the Cowboys’ second drive and led to Dallas’ first touchdown.

Minshew overthrowing Quez Watkins on a first-and-10 at the Dallas 30 with 10:28 left in the half. Minshew had Watkins and knew it. The Eagles still managed to score on the drive when Minshew scored on a one-yard QB sneak. With 1:21 left in the half, Minshew later overthrew Smith on a second-and-four at the Eagles’ 46. The pass was almost intercepted.

The Ugly

With 8:02 left to play, cornerback Darius Slay and nickel corner Josiah Scott, playing for the injured Avonte Maddox, letting 33-year-old T.Y. Hilton run by them on a third-and-30 at the Dallas 29 for a 52-yard reception. It seemed like the Eagles defense was going to keep the Cowboys in check after two successive sacks for minus-18 yards. The play extended the Cowboys’ drive and ended with Prescott finding Lamb in the corner of the end zone for a 34-34 tie with 5:49 left to play. It should ring like a Philadelphia Christmas chime for a while—third-and-30.

Miles Sanders’ second fumble of the season on a first-and-10 at the Eagles’ 25 with 2:19 left to play. Cowboys’ nose tackle Carlos Watkins fell on the ball at the Eagles’ 21. It was the fourth Eagles’ turnover, two lost fumbles and two interceptions. Dallas scored on each one of the Eagles’ four turnovers translating into 20 points.

Receiver Quez Watkins getting outfought by Dallas nickelback DaRon Bland for an interception at the Dallas’ 40 with 4:24 left to play on a third-and-four. The Eagles’ third turnover led to 17 points for the Cowboys, who took advantage this time on Maher’s third field goal and a Cowboys’ 37-34 lead, Dallas’ first since going ahead 14-10 early in the second quarter.

Boston Scott failing to hold on to the ball on the Eagles’ second drive of the second half. On a first-and-10 at the Eagles’ 40, Minshew and Scott flubbed the handoff, which strong safety Jayron Kearse (who had a great game) pounced on at the Eagles’ 31. It was the Eagles’ second turnover that resulted in a touchdown. It also came during an important time in which the Eagles could have possibly gone up by two scores.

With :24 left in the half, tight end Dallas Goedert getting called for a false start penalty when Goedert took a step back at the Dallas 29. It forced the Eagles to waste an important timeout, and unfortunately, the Eagles wasted an ideal situation to go up by a touchdown.

On a second-and-12 at the Eagles’ 43, on the first play of the second quarter, Minshew forcing a pass intended for Watkins that was intercepted by Kearse at the Eagles’ 49. The Cowboys made the Eagles pay, turning the pick into a 14-10 lead.

The blown coverage on CeeDee Lamb’s 36-yard, second-quarter touchdown reception. Scott let Lamb go right by him, and Blankenship was totally exposed, coming over late. Prescott easily hit Lamb for a 14-10 Dallas lead. The completion came on a third-and-six at the Eagles’ 36. Dallas had converted four-of-five third downs to that point.

Slay getting nailed for illegal contact on Hilton on a fourth-and-eight at the Eagles’ 45 on the Cowboys’ first drive of the second quarter. It led to the Cowboys’ 14-10 lead.

Surrendering eight of 15 third-down conversions to the Cowboys, and giving up 19 first downs via the pass. The Eagles’ offense has now turned the ball over seven times in their last two games.

Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has written feature stories for,,,, Deadspin and The Philadelphia Daily News. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a special project piece for called “Love at First Beep.” He is most noted for his award-winning feature on high school wrestler A.J. Detwiler in February 2006, which appeared on SportsCenter. In 2015, he was elected president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

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