By Joseph Santoliquito

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The desperate team left breathing and the team believed to be the favorite to win the NFC East left grasping for breath.

Though, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise. At least not this late in the Eagles’ enigmatic season.

Anything that appears easy, the Eagles make sure it is difficult.

They sure did Sunday night when the desperate Dallas Cowboys visited Lincoln Financial Field.

This was supposed to be a Dallas team that was in disarray — at least offensively.

It was supposed to be a Dallas team that the Eagles could step over on their way to getting the second half of the season moving in the direction that they expected, especially coming off a bye week where they were rested and believed to be healed.

But nothing has come effortlessly for the defending Super Bowl champions — and the 27-20 loss to the Cowboys was a dreaded setback that pushed the Eagles to 4-5 and the brought the Cowboys up to 4-5 — with the head-to-head advantage in the NFC East standings.

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With 11:42 left to play — after Dak Prescott hit Ezekiel Elliott for a seven-yard scoring pass and a 20-13 Cowboys’ lead — an underling current coursed through the Linc that this was it — this could be the season, if the Eagles didn’t answer.

A 51-yard rainbow from Carson Wentz to Nelson Agholor looked like it may have saved the season. Three plays later, Wentz hit Zach Ertz for his second TD on a one-yard toss and a 20-20 tie with 7:27 left.

That was answered right back by the Cowboys, who proceeded to drive straight up the field, buoyed by a 23-yard reception by Allen Hurns that set up an Elliott one-yard TD and a 27-20 Dallas lead with 3:19 to play.

When Hurns caught the pass, Eagles’ cornerback Rasul Douglas was nowhere to be found.

Then, Dallas rookie linebacker Leighton Vander Esch pulled down Corey Clement on a third-and-two for a five-yard loss with 1:17 to play and the Eagles turned the ball over on downs — and may have ended their season. Wentz was forced to throw on fourth-and-seven and his pass to Ertz came up short, which is what the Eagles have done all season.

The defense kept the Eagles in the game during the first half. Dallas held the Eagles to 132 yards of offense, and seven first downs, compared to Dallas’ 218 yards of offense and 13 first downs.

What’s more is that the Eagles went 0-for-4 on third-down conversions and Wentz struggled. He completed 10 of 17, with an interception, for 104 yards.

The Eagles didn’t convert their first third down until there was 4:54 left in the third quarter, when Wentz hit Jordan Matthews with an 18-yard pass down the sideline.

Wentz finished 32 of 44, for 360 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception. Ertz caught 14 passes for 145 yards and two TDs.

The Good

Defensive end Brandon Graham’s sack of Prescott on the Cowboys’ first play of the game at the Cowboys’ 9. Graham later combined with Chris Long for a 13-yard sack at the Dallas 27 with 1:12 left in the half.

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Defensive end Michael Bennett’s 9-yard sack with 4:29 in the half at the Eagles’ 13 saved a touchdown and kept the Eagles in the game when the Eagles’ offense wasn’t moving. Bennett later had another 9-yard sack on a first-and-10 at the Dallas’ 16 on the first play of the second half.

Ertz led the Eagles with 14 catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns.

Kicker Jake Elliott’s 56-yard field goal that put the Eagles on the board with 1:38 left in the first half. Elliott later booted a 26-yard field goal with 9:38 in the half.

Long’s sack at the Cowboys’ 27, combing with Graham with 1:12 left in the half.

Running back Corey Clement’s 11-yard run on a second-and-10 at the Dallas’ 44. The run seemed to jump start the dormant Eagles’ offense. It led to Elliott’s second field goal.

 The Bad

Coach Doug Pederson’s call to flick a little screen to Clement on third-and-two for a 5-yard loss with 1:17 left. Wentz was forced to throw on fourth-and-seven and his pass to Ertz came up short, which is what the Eagles have done all season.

The Eagles allowed a Dallas fake punt on the Cowboys’ 31 on a fourth-and-two. Jeff Heath bulled right up the middle and pushed the Eagles’ defensive line back for a three-yard gain and a first down.

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Safety Tre Sullivan being posterized by Ezekiel Elliott on his 32-yard second quarter run, which brought the ball to the Eagles’ 8 and set up a 31-yard field goal. Elliott leapt over Sullivan, who was leaning in and apparently not looking up when he tried to make the tackle.

The Ugly

Wentz tossing an interception on the Eagles’ second possession. Cowboys’ linebacker Vander Esch then showed his running ability by dancing through the Eagles’ offense for 28 yards. The turnover led to a 3-0 Dallas lead on a 25-yard Brett Maher field goal with 7:02 left in the first quarter.

The Cowboys converting a third-and-15 at their 35 on a screen play with :51 left in the first half. The defensive breakdown led to Prescott’s one-yard TD plunge, which was the only touchdown in the half. It gave Dallas a 13-3 halftime lead.

Douglas losing Allen Hurns on a third-and-eight at the Eagles’ 32, which went for 23 yards. The play kept the drive alive and resulted in Elliott scoring a one-yard TD with 3:19 play — and a 27-20 Dallas lead.

Joseph Santoliquito