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By Joseph Santoliquito
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Just when you thought you were out, able take a spa from the angst, they forced you to clench your fists, hold on tight and pulled you back in again. For three quarters, at least, the Eagles lured you into thinking they might win for the first time in two months.
Nick Foles looked good, Bryce Brown looked real good, and the Eagles briefly looked like the team they were supposed to be against the Dallas Cowboys Sunday night.
But Dallas has the postseason to play for, and the Eagles porous secondary and penchant for blown coverages surfaced, and another Brown fumble spelled a 38-33 Dallas victory.
It meant the eighth-straight loss for Philadelphia, which no Eagles team has done since 1968, when they opened the season by losing a single-season record 11-straight games (a dubious mark originally set in 1936).
The defeat guarantees the Eagles, who fell to 3-9, will have their first losing season since 2005, while the Cowboys remain very much alive in the NFC playoff picture, improving to 6-6.
This one was a little different than the deluge of miscues that befell the Eagles during this slide. The played hard. They tackled. They executed. They actually played like the kind of team everyone expected. They were a pristine 3-for-3 in the Red Zone in controlling the first half and carried a 24-17 lead into the fourth quarter.
The 33-point outburst was a season high, surpassing the Eagles’ 24-point output in their 24-23 victory over the Baltimore Ravens on September 16.
Brown had another strong game. He finished with a game-high 169 yards rushing on 24 carries and two touchdowns, but the bulk of that came in the first half, when he tore through the Dallas defense for 107 yards on 14 carries and touchdown runs of five and 10 yards when he was barely touched.
Brown zig-zagged up the field, and sometimes made something when nothing was seemingly there. One carry, however, Brown would like back. His fumble with less than four minutes to play supplied the Cowboys with an insurance score.
“I thought the effort was great, and you have to give credit to the Cowboys, that second half, they had the four long drives, and Bryce had the turnover there and that was costly,” Andy Reid said. “Up to that point, [Brown] had done a heck of a job and he’s getting better. It’s a matter of getting used to playing again, and playing four quarters. Really as a team, that’s what we have to do, continuing to challenge in that fourth quarter. We have to get that momentum turned back around. I have to do a better job of being a head football coach.”
Foles made great decisions. He completed 22 of 34 for 251 yards and a nifty 15-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to Riley Cooper, who made the play with a one-handed catch against his body in the end zone.
In the end, a couple of Tony Romo completions, one a 35-yard strike to Dez Bryant between Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Kurt Coleman, and two plays later, a 36-yard completion to Jason Witten over Nate Allen, led to the game-winning score.
Bryant put Dallas up for the first time in the game, 31-27, bulling over Rodgers-Cromartie with a short Romo pass with 5:35 left to play.
“I truly don’t have an answer,” Rodgers-Cromartie said. “I shouldn’t have given [Bryant] that much room. That’s a decision I made. They made a quick throw, and that’s a play that I have to make. I wanted to prepare with my eyes and decision I made that I have to deal with it. We have to go back and understand each other. You don’t want to be the guy who goes out there and is afraid to make that mistake. We let the offense down. They gave us an opportunity to win the game.”
On the ensuing drive, Brown fumbled after a four-yard gain. The ball was stripped from behind by Josh Brent. Morris Claiborne alertly scooped up the loose ball that squirted free from the pile and took it 50 yards to seal the victory with 3:50 remaining, as some Eagles stood frozen wondering if Brown was down.
With :31 left, Damaris Johnson returned a punt 98 yards to add a cosmetic score and give the Eagles a last gasp. But a failed two-point conversion followed by the Cowboys recovering the on-side kick ended it for the Eagles.
Reid remained stubborn when asked if he feels he’s run out of answers in this morass, and if he feels he can still last the season.
“I haven’t been told any different,” Reid said. “I do what I do, teach, and expect my coaches to do the same, and expect the players to keep playing hard and learning, that’s all I can tell you. There is a combination of things, coaching and playing. We’re all in this together. Through the tough times, you work it out and try to figure it out and get it right. If they’re not in position, you put them in position to get it done. If they’re in a position to make a play, then the players know they have to do that.”
The Bryce is Right … RB Bryce Brown has amassed 347 rushing yards in his first two starts, which leads the NFL during that span and is the second-highest total ever by an Eagle in consecutive games. Steve Van Buren combined for 379 rushing yards on 11/20/49 and 11/27/49 … Brown’s four rushing touchdowns this season are tied for the third-most ever by an Eagles rookie … He became the first Eagles rookie ever to score at least two touchdowns in back-to-back games and the second Eagles rookie to have back-to-back 100-yard rushing games (Charlie Garner in 1994) … Brown eclipsed 100 yards prior to halftime of both games … With 169 rushing yards in this game, Brown now has the two best outputs ever by an Eagles rookie and his 488 yards this season are already eighth on the team’s rookie rushing list … The last time the Eagles had two running backs with over 450 yards in a season was 2003.
Return to Sender … WR Damaris Johnson’s 98-yard punt return touchdown was the longest in team history, topping Vai Sikahema’s 87-yarder on 11/22/92 at NYG. According to Pro Football Reference it tied for the third-longest punt return in NFL history … His 234 punt return yards this season are the fourth-highest total by an Eagles rookie.
The Book on the Rook … Eagles QB Nick Foles threw for 251 yards, which is the third-highest output by an Eagles rookie. He now has 793 yards this season, which is already the fourth-highest total by an Eagles rookie and the most since Donovan McNabb’s 948 in 1999. His 81 completions are also fourth.
King Henery … K Alex Henery connected on both of his field goals tonight and has made 21 in a row, extending his team record and marking the longest current streak in the NFL … Henery has connected on 22-23 attempts this season (95.7%) … Since entering the NFL in 2011, Henery is 46-50 (92.0), which makes him the second-most accurate kicker in the NFL during that span, behind only Josh Scobee (43-46, 93.5%)
Offensive Quick Hits … The Eagles offense scored touchdowns on all three of their red zone chances, which is their first time doing so since the season finale against Dallas in 2008 … WR Jeremy Maclin (233) moved into 19th place on the team’s all-time receptions list. He is one of four current players to rank in the team’s top 20 (DeSean Jackson, Brent Celek, Jason Avant) … TE Brent Celek (273) moved past Wilbert Montgomery and into 13th on the team’s all-time receptions list … The Eagles 33 points was their highest point total of the season.
Good Halftime Adjustments … WR Riley Cooper scored his second touchdown of the season, marking the Eagles 10th score on the opening drive of the second half (five touchdowns, five field goals). The Eagles lead the NFL with 50 points on the opening drive of the second half. San Francisco is second with 48.
Defensive Nuggets … The Eagles are the only team in the NFL that has not allowed a 100-yard rusher this season … DE Brandon Graham registered a sack and a half, marking his first multi-sack game … DE Trent Cole added a half sack and now has 70.0 for his career.