A regular season that took the Eagles to the height of being the Super Bowl favorites with the NFL’s leading MVP candidate ended on a positively dreadful low Sunday, as the Cowboys shutout the Eagles — sans most of their starters for most of the game — 6-0 in Week 17.
The loss drops Philly to 13-3 as they prepare for a week off before hosting a playoff game in January as the NFC’s top seed. Aside from some solid defensive play from the Eagles’ back ups there were few positives in the game, played in front of a partially empty Lincoln Financial Field with temperatures in the teens.
Not many big-pictures can be drawn from a completely meaningless game for both teams involved, but regardless it was not good. Here are three takaways from Sunday’s match up:
A meaningless loss
After a decent sustained drives put the Eagles just inside Dallas territory, a dropped Torrey Smith slant sent up a fourth-and-seven. Unlike the agile Wentz, Foles felt the heat from a galloping pass rush and got rid of the ball as the Cowboys forced a turnover on downs. A stuffed Ezekiel Elliott run on a Dalls fourth and one gave the Eagles possession back.
Foles tossed a brutally ugly interception on an ill-advised throw later in the first but Dallas was unable to follow up a successful double reverse run into any points.
The action wasn’t filled with much excitement as a dreary first half trudged along and resulted in the first combined scoreless half of NFL football since 2011.
Dallas finally broke through, as Brice Butler caught a 20-yard touchdown pass from Dak Prescott (paired with a missed extra point) to break a scoreless tie early in the fourth. It was an impressive 99-yard touchdown drive against the Eagles’ second-team defense.
With seemingly more confidence, pocket presence and chemistry with the Eagles’ offense than Nick Foles (4-for-11, 39 yards, one interception in one quarter), Nate Sudfeld made his NFL debut as the back up quarterback no one had heard of until Carson Wentz got hurt.
Sudfeld (19-for-22, 138 yards) took few chances as the Eagles’ offense was in base formation for most plays and really gave the rookie mostly handoffs and short passes as the team finally covered its first third down midway through the third quarter. On that drive, Sudfeld scampered on a 22-yard run to finally get some blood flowing in the mostly empty and silent Linc.
Like Foles earlier in the game, Sudfeld was unable to convert a fourth down at midfield on what was the Birds’ best chance at scoring. He was also sacked three times.
Keeping in mind that the Eagles first-team defense was without Rodney McLeod, Jalen Mills, Nigel Bradham, Brandon Graham, Tim Jernigan or Derek Barnett, the unit was very impressive. Facing what was more or less Dallas’ full first team offense. But when the back ups game in, eventually, Prescott, Elliott and the rest of the Dallas starters were able to eclipse the 300-yard threshhold. The defense held Ezekiel Elliott in check early, but the star running back had 103 yards in his second game since returning from suspension as he gained momentum late.
Sidney Jones played a little, not a lot, but looked comfortable in his NFL debut as Steven Means tallied a sack but no one else made a highlight play.