Eagles vs. Cowboys: Philadelphia's Biggest Winners and Losers from Week 13
For the Philadelphia Eagles, the remainder of the season will be about watching their young players develop for the future, specifically quarterback Nick Foles and running back Bryce Brown.
It's not about wins and losses anymore.
In fact, one could argue that losses will only help the Eagles because, at this point in the season, it's much more important to have a high draft pick than to win a meaningless late-season game.
The Eagles dropped a Sunday Night Football showdown against the Dallas Cowboys in a game that was actually much closer than most Eagles fans expected. It was eerily similar to the first time the two teams met, as the Eagles built a lead but saw it collapse behind a surprising 21-point performance from the Cowboys in the fourth quarter.
The Eagles, at 3-9, have just four more games left in a season that will undoubtedly rate as one of the more embarrassing in franchise history. The 2013 season will bring a new head coach and possibly a new quarterback, depending on the development Foles shows in his final four games.
That being said, the Eagles still had some highlights against the Cowboys, but there were also quite a good deal of "lowlights."
The following 10 slides will highlight the positives and the negatives in the Eagles' Week 13 loss to the Cowboys.
Winner: Nick Foles
In his first two starts, rookie quarterback Nick Foles showed very little to indicate that he could be the Eagles' quarterback of the future. But he took a big step forward against the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football in Week 13, throwing for 251 yards and a touchdown without an interception.
He completed a pair of 3rd-and-10 passes on the game's opening drive, which ended in an Eagles' touchdown. He also played a major role in the Eagles scoring their most points in a game since the final game of the 2011 season.
It's still too early to tell if Foles should be the starter in 2013, but Sunday night was a great step in the right direction.
Winner: Bryce Brown
In rookie Bryce Brown's first-ever NFL start last week, he rushed 19 times for 178 yards and two touchdowns.
Then, on Sunday night, he proved that his first game was not a fluke, carrying the ball 24 times for 169 yards and another two scores.
In his first two starts, he has 43 carries for 347 yards and four touchdowns, giving him twice as many touchdowns as LeSean McCoy has rushed for all season.
Brown has a lot of Eagles fans speculating that the team could go with a two-headed running back system in 2013.
Loser: Bryce Brown
For the second straight week, Bryce Brown appears on both the winners and the losers list, as the rookie running back lost a fumble in the fourth quarter that was returned 50 yards for a game-clinching touchdown for the Cowboys.
Brown has now fumbled three times—which have all been lost—in his two starts in an Eagles' uniform. That's unacceptable.
Winner: Jason Avant
Slot receiver Jason Avant returned from missing two games with a hamstring injury to catch four of five passes thrown to him for 79 yards, including a big third-down conversion with the Eagles trailing in the fourth quarter. He had more than twice as many receiving yards as any other Eagles' receiver.
Winner: Damaris Johnson
With DeSean Jackson out for the remainder of the season with a pair of fractured ribs, rookie receiver Damaris Johnson was slated to earn additional game reps.
He finished the game with just one catch for 13 yards but he made a big splash as a punt returner, taking one back 99 yards for a score in the final minute against the Cowboys.
The return touchdown brought the Eagles within five, and although they still lost, it couldn't have been a more dramatic play for the Eagles' rookie, who has generally disappointed as a returner this season.
Winner: Brent Celek
The Eagles' reliable tight end proved to be a pretty good security blanket for Foles, as Celek caught seven of eight passes thrown to him for 73 yards.
He did whiff on a block of linebacker DeMarcus Ware early in the first quarter, but realistically, no tight end in the league can be expected to block the game's best pass-rushing linebacker.
Wnner: Offensive Line
For the second straight game, the Eagles' offensive line had a pretty good game blocking rookie Nick Foles, who was sacked just once. On the ground, Bryce Brown rushed for 169 yards on 24 carries, which averaged out to an impressive seven yards per carry.
Give a lot of the credit to left guard Evan Mathis, who has been a force for the Eagles' injury-riddled line all season. As a unit, the Eagles' line played pretty well again, especially considering three starters are on injured reserve.
Winner: Brandon Graham
The Eagles' first round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, Brandon Graham was promoted to starter following the surprising release of veteran Pro Bowler Jason Babin earlier in the week. Graham made the most of his opportunity, collecting 1.5 sacks, which is the same amount that veteran starter Trent Cole has collected all season.
Graham has rated as the team's best defensive player in 2012, according to Pro Football Focus, and he is expected to be a key contributor to the 2013 Eagles squad.
Loser: Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
It can't possibly get any worse for the Eagles' secondary, which is in the midst of a six-game stretch that has seen every quarterback throw for at least two touchdowns and no interceptions with a collective passer rating above 120.
Cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie played well early in the game, but Tony Romo ended up throwing for 303 yards and three touchdowns, including 154 yards and a touchdown to receivers Dez Bryant and Miles Austin.
The worst play from either of the two, however, was a missed tackle by Rodgers-Cromartie on Bryant in the fourth quarter that led to an easy touchdown.
Winner: Alex Henery
The Eagles' kicker has been one of the lone bright spots for the 2012 Eagles, and he continued his hot streak against the Cowboys, connecting on both field goal attempts. His second kick was a 43-yard field goal that gave the Eagles a 27-24 lead in the fourth quarter.
Henery has now made 21 consecutive field goals, the longest streak in franchise history and the longest streak among active kickers in the NFL.
Loser: Todd Bowles
The Eagles' defensive coordinator is all but ruining any chance he'll ever have as a defensive coordinator in the NFL, as his unit has now lost all six games where he has been the leader of the defense. Not one opposing quarterback has posted a passer rating under 120 and the team has not intercepted a single pass.
Bowles was thought highly of by Eagles fans when he joined the team as a defensive backs coach before the 2012 season, but his failures in resurrecting the defense following the firing of Juan Castillo could put his future as an NFL defensive coach in serious jeopardy.