ARLINGTON, Texas — Eagles coach Doug Pederson swears he, his coaches and players are not in a panic mode after the Eagles’ brutal 37-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football.
Two years ago, the Birds set the standard of how a team can win even after losing key players to injury.
The Eagles coaching staff ran a tight ship with players who were all-in with the game plan on both sides of the ball.
In 2019, this is a team that still has the injury bug, but now has players sneaking anonymous complaints to the national media, and the efforts of some of their starters is being questioned.
The coach has dismissed the leaks and the effort questions. But his team’s record is sliding fast.
This year, the Eagles are 3-4 and are in jeopardy of falling too far behind to grab a playoff spot that, at this point, will almost certainly mean winning the NFC East.
Injuries or no injuries, leaks or no leaks, there was no explaining the total collapse of the Eagles at AT&T Stadium.
No one played well. The offense finally scored a touchdown in the first quarter but gave up two touchdowns to the Cowboys on costly turnovers in their own territory.
Dallas led 14-0 just over six minutes into the game.
The final score was 37-10. It was a game the Birds were never in competitively
Quarterback Carson Wentz was asked to sum up the entire evening. He was honest. “It sucks,” Wentz said at his post-game news conference. “It definitely sucks. It’s something we definitely have to get fixed. We came out, we were moving the ball, doing some good things and the fumble happened. That’s what happens. The next drive, I fumble the ball. I’ve got to protect the ball better.”
On Monday morning, Pederson was asked if there were teams he has been with, as a player or a coach, that were able to navigate out of a similar situation the Eagles are in now.
“Yes. Great example. I was 1-5 in Kansas City in 2015, and we won 10 straight after that,” Pederson said. “I see a lot of the same similarities kind of where we are. We’re only 3-4, and we’re still a game out of first place in our division here with a lot of football left. Obviously, a sense of urgency has to pick up from the standpoint of each week becomes a little more important. But we have the guys in the locker room, I have the coaches on this staff to get it done, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Pederson was asked how that Chiefs team turned it around.
“I think No. 1, it starts with me,” the coach said. “My messaging to the team. And then the leaders of the football team. I think about back then, the guys that we had in that locker room and keeping it together, and that’s the type of men we have here in this locker room; they are not going to let one game define the season or a couple games define our season.”
One thing Pederson hopefully has learned is that words matter.
After the 38-20 loss to the Minnesota Vikings the week before, Pederson spoke during a Monday morning radio show and made a statement he believed at the time would motivate his team. It had the opposite effect.
“We’re going down to Dallas, and our guys are gonna be ready to play. And we’re gonna win that football game and when we do, we’re in first place in the NFC East.”
Pederson said he never meant it as a guarantee. Too late. Many of the Cowboys took his words to heart, including defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, who had never registered a sack in his nine previous meetings with the Birds. Lawrence challenged Pederson to come out and play.
Lawrence finally got his sack, and it was a big one. It came on the Eagles’ second drive and caused Wentz to fumble.
The Cowboys got the ball at the Eagles’ 14-yard line and scored two plays later on an Ezekiel Elliott 1-yard run. Elliott ended the game with 111 yards and a touchdown. He also caught six passes for 36 yards. Amari Cooper had five receptions for 106 yards.
Dak Prescott went 21-of-27 for 239 yards and a touchdown, with one interception.
Lawrence finished with four total tackles, a quarterback hurry, a tackle for loss and a forced fumble.
“I told him to shut up, didn’t I?” Lawrence said after the game, referring to his tirade Friday about Pederson’s promise to win the game and take over the NFC East.
Wentz finished 16-of-26 for 191 yards, a touchdown pass and an interception. He was sacked three times.
“They had a good pass rush,” Wentz said, trying to navigate a tough question. “We got down early, we made it tough on ourselves.”
Eagles Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox was almost invisible except for one play. He had a sack and forced fumble.
“We just got embarrassed on national TV,” Cox said at his locker after the game. “That’s just the truth. We got embarrassed and they kicked our (butts), if you want to know the truth.”
Pederson was asked what he can tell Eagles fans to keep them all-in for the 2019 season.
“We have nine games left, and it’s a one-game season,” he said. “By no means are we pushing any panic buttons. We’re one game out of first place in our division. We win our division at the end of the year, most likely you’re in the postseason.”
Pederson continued. “And the things that are showing up on tape are fixable. They are correctable. They are things that — it could be from a young player that’s new to the team that we have to continue to coach, and so from that standpoint, the sky is not falling for us. We have the men in the locker room to get the job done, and I think where we are, and kind of what we’ve been through this season already is going to really bring this team a lot closer. And we have a great opportunity this week.” ••
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii