Cowboys vs. Eagles: Philadelphia Grades, Notes and Quotes

Douglas J Miller@@seDougtiveFeatured ColumnistSeptember 21, 2015

Cowboys vs. Eagles: Philadelphia Grades, Notes and Quotes

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    Michael Perez/Associated Press

    Fans booed the Philadelphia Eagles off the field after they lost their home opener on Sunday to their division rivals, the Dallas Cowboys, 20-10.

    Nothing went right for Philadelphia as it starts the season with two consecutive losses and falls two games behind Dallas for the division lead. The offense, in particular, looked terrible as they failed to get a first down in five of their first seven possessions.

    The Eagles only stayed in the game until the fourth quarter due to Dallas' penalties and inability to convert in the red zone. The Cowboys set a franchise record with 18 penalties that added up to 142 total yards. The offense settled for a field goal after failing to score a touchdown following a 1st-and-goal on Philadelphia's 1-yard line in the first quarter. Philadelphia's defense also stood strong at the end of the half to force a Dan Bailey 28-yard field goal.

    Philadelphia started the second half down only six points, but could not get anything going offensively. After just one first down, the Eagles were forced to punt on fourth down. However, the Eagles could not even punt effectively on Sunday. Dallas blocked the punt and returned the ball for the first touchdown of the game.

    Trailing 10-3, the defense made a play in the fourth quarter by forcing a turnover and giving the Philadelphia offense a short field to work with. Rookie linebacker Jordan Hicks stripped quarterback Tony Romo and Fletcher Cox recovered it. On the play, Romo suffered a broken clavicle and did not return to the game.

    On the ensuing possession, Philadelphia had its first successful drive of the game. However, linebacker Sean Lee intercepted Sam Bradford on 2nd-and-goal when Dallas' defense was backed up three yards from their own end zone. That play sucked the wind out of the sails for Philadelphia, and it never looked likely to make a comeback.

    In the fourth quarter, Terrance Williams caught a quick slant from substitute quarterback Brandon Weeden and then turned upfield for a 42-yard touchdown. Cornerback Byron Maxwell played soft coverage and made no effort to contest the play.

    Philadelphia answered with a meaningless 11-play, 80-yard drive that resulted in a Jordan Matthews touchdown on 4th-and-goal.

    The Eagles have now lost five of their last six regular-season games under head coach Chip Kelly and their last three home games against Dallas.

Position Grades for Philadelphia

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    Elsa/Getty Images
    PositionGrade
    QBC
    RBC
    WR/TEC
    OLF
    DLB-
    LBB- 
    DBC+
    Special TeamsC-
    CoachingC-

    Offense

    The offensive line struggled for the second week in a row as Philadelphia failed to establish the running game. The Eagles ran the ball 17 times for a total of seven yards and zero touchdowns. Philadelphia came close to finishing with negative rushing yards for the first time since a 1961 game against Washington.

    The running backs did not play particularly well, but it would be hard for any group to perform behind an offensive line that played like Philadelphia's today. The tailbacks were met in the backfield at the same time they were receiving the handoff from the quarterback.

    DeMarco Murray finished the game with two yards on 13 carries. He also caught five passes for 53 yards. Murray also had the play of the game for Philadelphia when he hurdled a Dallas defensive back and earned a first down.

    Sam Bradford had his second straight rough game, as well. Bradford constantly looked out of sorts behind center and tripped several times to kill a play. Bradford also threw two more interceptions this week. His interception in the red zone to Sean Lee killed any hope of a comeback for Philadelphia.

    The receiving corps for the Eagles also struggled to give Bradford options throughout the day. Starting wide receiver Riley Cooper was only targeted one time and failed to bring in a catchable ball on an important third down in the first half. Jordan Matthews led the Eagles in receiving again this week, but he failed to make an impact until after the game was out of reach.

    For the tight ends, Zach Ertz played the majority of the game and seemed invisible. He finished with three catches for 17 yards. Ertz also batted a ball up in the air that led to Bradford's second interception. As a whole, drops were an issue for the Eagles this week.

    Defense

    The Cowboys finished with 20 points against the Eagles, and Philadelphia's defense was only responsible for 13 of them. The defense also forced and recovered two fumbles on the day.

    The only touchdown the defense gave up came late in the game when the result already seemed decided. The Eagles had no momentum and the defense was worn out. Without the offense able to sustain drives, Philadelphia's defense was on the field for over 40 minutes.

    "We let a really good defensive effort go for naught because we didn't do what we needed to do offensively," Chip Kelly said after the game, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Zach Berman.

    The defensive line and linebacker were the main bright spot for the defense. The front seven sacked Tony Romo three times on the day and forced a fumble. The linebacker depth may be tested moving forward as both Mychal Kendricks and Kiko Alonso left the game with injuries.

    The defensive backs were up-and-down throughout the game. Byron Maxwell made a few good plays, including his strip of Gavin Escobar. However, the offseason signing also never even touched Terrance Williams on the receiver's touchdown catch-and-run.

    The biggest bright spot of the secondary was safety Malcolm Jenkins. The veteran flew around the field making tackles and breaking up passes. Jenkins finished the game with eight tackles, including two for a loss, and a fumble recovery.

    Special Teams

    After a week serving as Philadelphia's scapegoat, Cody Parkey did not have much action Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons. The kicker converted his lone 46-yard field goal and converted an extra point.

    The punt team had a lot of work due to a sputtering offense, and Donnie Jones averaged over 50 yards a punt.

    However, blocking continued to be an issue as the Cowboys stormed through the line in the second half and blocked the punt off of Jones' foot. Two players made it through clean and gave Jones no chance. Dallas recovered the ball and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown.

Linebacker Injuries

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    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    Inside linebackers Kiko Alonso and Mychal Kendricks both left the field in the first half and did not return against the Dallas Cowboys.

    Alonso suffered an injury to his left knee, the same knee as his torn ACL, and will receive an MRI on Monday morning, according to NFL correspondent Geoff Mosher. The Eagles traded for the talented linebacker this offseason knowing his injury history, and now the team must wait to see how serious the injury may be.

    Kendricks left the game due to a hamstring injury. The linebacker chased the speedy running back Lance Dunbar all the way down the field to force an incomplete pass near the end zone. Kendricks pulled up immediately after the play holding his leg.

    Rookie Jordan Hicks filled in due to the injuries and looked to settle in his role next to the veteran DeMeco Ryans. The University of Texas product was burned by Lance Dunbar on a third down but did not let it affect him mentally. Hicks recovered and stripped Tony Romo for the first turnover of the game.

    Although Hicks played well, the Eagles defense will hang in the balance until the timeline for Kendricks and Alonso's return is determined. Philadelphia is already thin at linebacker and cannot afford to lose two of its key defensive playmakers.

Offensive Line Struggles

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    For the second week in a row, Philadelphia's offense failed to live up to expectations, and it is in large part due to the poor play of the offensive line.

    Chip Kelly decided to release the two starting offensive guards from last season. Both Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans find themselves on new teams this year, and the Eagles find themselves struggling to replace them. The new guys, Allen Barbre and Andrew Gardner, do not look like quality starting offensive guards.

    The offensive line failed to make a push against the Cowboys defense and hung the running backs out to dry. As mentioned before, the Eagles finished the day with seven yards on 17 carries. It did not matter which tailback lined up in the backfield, every time they received the handoff they were met with a thud by a Dallas defender exploding past the offensive line.

    "I don’t think the running backs even really had time to assess if there was a hole," Chip Kelly said, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Zach Berman.

    The new players along the offensive line did not have a good game, but neither did established starters. Jason Peters is one of the best left tackles in the game, and he allowed defenders to blow right past him. Center Jason Kelce acknowledged his own poor play following the loss.

    "Right now, I am not playing well," said center Jason Kelce, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Jeff McLane. It doesn't matter who is next to me if I am not getting my job done."

Lane Johnson on Preseason Success

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    Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

    Lane Johnson said after the game, via Berman: "Maybe we got a little overconfident in the preseason and thought we could go and beat anybody. Obviously, that’s not the case.”

    The Philadelphia Eagles hype train was in full swing two weeks ago following a successful preseason campaign, but the wheels have come to a screeching halt following two consecutive losses to start the regular season.

    Philadelphia scored 36 points or more in its first three preseason games, and 18 in the final tune-up game against the Jets. Bradford looked unstoppable in the third exhibition game against the Packers where he completed all 10 of his passes for 121 yards and three touchdowns.

    Since that game, Bradford has thrown two touchdown passes and four interceptions in the regular season. Philadelphia also has only scored three points total in the two first halves combined. The offense rallied last week to finish with 24 points, but they could only muster 10 points this week.

    In short, this just shows how the preseason means absolutely nothing. Unfortunately, Johnson's comments reveal that the Philadelphia locker room may have let themselves get caught up in the hype before the season even really started. Following two loses, the Eagles' players need to rally to save their season as their stock quickly drops.

Kelly Compares Season so Far to 2013

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Chip Kelly said after the game, via Berman"We were here two years ago…and then we went 7-1 down the stretch.”

    All is not lost for the Philadelphia Eagles for the 2015 NFL season, although things could not have started much worse. Kelly is surely disappointed following these opening two defeats, but he is not yet in full panic mode. 

    Kelly pointed back to his first season in charge of the Eagles when the team started the season with only one win through the first four games. In 2013, the Eagles defeated Washington in the opening weekend before losing to San Diego, Kansas City and Denver. The Eagles went on to win 10 games that season and win the division title before losing in the first round of the playoffs. Kelly refers to this season to provide hope to both his team and Philadelphia fans.

    However, this roster looks nothing like it did 2013. Since that season, Kelly has worked to put his own footprint on the roster. By letting go of superstar players like DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy, Kelly brought the spotlight on himself and put himself on the hot seat.

    Owner Jeffrey Lurie will likely stick by Kelly like he did with his previous head coach, Andy Reid. However, Kelly is in his first season with complete control of personnel decisions, and he decided to overhaul the roster. With so many new players and so many relationships to build, there might not be enough time for the Eagles to learn how to play as a cohesive unit.