Eagles, Zebras combine to end 2018 season: Macnow

Dallas Cowboys Amari Cooper Philadelphia Eagles Rasul Douglas NFL
Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper gave the Eagles' secondary problems on Sunday. (Photo: Getty Images)

There is an abundance of reasons why the Eagles lost to Dallas, 29-23, Sunday in Texas.

The offense sputtered through three quarters. Doug Pederson lost his play-calling mojo. Carson Wentz played hesitantly. The kicker missed a stinking extra point.

I could go on. The injured and exhausted defense couldn’t stop the run — or the deep threat of Amari Cooper.

All those factors contributed to knocking the Birds to 6-7, and out of the playoff hunt. But another travesty more likely had you cursing into your pillow late into Sunday night:

The refs stunk.

Oh boy, did they. I have a policy not to whine about officiating after a loss; it’s too easy an excuse. But what occurred on the field Sunday as Jerry Jones cackled from above was so egregious that it needs to be reviewed — from the very first play.

On that kickoff, Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins popped Dallas returner Jourdan Lewis and the ball flew free at the 18-yard line. Five — count ‘em five — Eagles pounced on the loose ball, and Kamu “Dallas Chokes” Grugier-Hill leaped up waving it to the refs.

Except that referee Clete Blakeman somehow ruled Lewis was down before he fumbled. So Pederson had to challenge. Endless time passed, and then the replay ruling from New York decreed there was no “clear recovery” by the Eagles — even though there wasn’t a silver-and-blue uniform within 10 feet of the pile. Outrageous.

Afterward, Blakeman blathered some inane mumbo-jumbo defending the call. Malcolm Jenkins cut through the bureaucratese, saying, “whoever’s watching that in New York needs to lay off the bottle.”

The Eagles safety will certainly pay a hefty fine to the league for that honesty.

Alas, the opening kickoff was merely the beginning of the horror in black-and-white stripes. In the fourth quarter, there was a phantom offensive pass interference call that nullified a 75-yard touchdown to Dallas Goedert. On replay, the Eagles tight end appeared guilty of nothing more than trying to avoid being jammed at the line.

We’ll leave the emphasis to Hall-of-Famer Terrell Owens, who played for both of these teams and tweeted at the moment: “The WORST call EVER!! These refs need to be heavily fined!! A swim move by the TE is Pass Interference now?!! WOW!”

That’s seven angry exclamation points and one exasperated question mark, in case you’re counting.

There was a myriad other calls throughout the game — including one or two on Dallas — that boggled logic. Fox analyst Mike Pereira, the former NFL head of officials, seemed flummoxed when Joe Buck and Troy Aikman called on him for the 10th time.

And this is a huge problem for the NFL. The Eagles-Cowboys matchup Sunday was not the first showcase game this season marred by horrible officiating. It happens every week. The league is over-legislated with ticky-tack interpretations that leave on-field refs throwing flags on every play. The disembodied replay system confuses more than it clarifies. And the guys in black-and-white too often view themselves as the star attractions.

A great, great sport becomes an embarrassment. And bitter fans come away believing the zebras are impartial or incompetent — or both.

Look, I don’t know if time-traveling to correct that opening kickoff fumble would have changed the result Sunday. As I said, the Eagles’ own mistakes and lethargy contributed mightily.

And, much as this stinker drowned their playoff hopes down a well of disappointment, the Eagles season was tossed away in horrible losses to Tampa Bay, Tennessee, and Carolina.

But an important, highly-anticipated game became a farce because of the pageant of flying yellow flags. That’s an issue the league office on Park Avenue really needs to address.

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