PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Conservative coaching, poor execution and another fourth-quarter fumble cost the Philadelphia Eagles a chance to be in first place.
After wasting a 10-point lead in a 29-23 overtime loss at Dallas, the Eagles (4-3) fell two games behind the Cowboys (6-1) with another division game on the road coming up against the rested Giants (4-3). It’ll be Philadelphia’s third straight game playing a team coming off a bye week.
The turning point Sunday night in Dallas occurred with 6:34 remaining in regulation. The Eagles led 23-16 and faced a fourth-and-14 at the Cowboys 36.
Coach Doug Pederson punted instead of letting Caleb Sturgis attempt a 54-yard field goal that would’ve made it a two-possession game. Sturgis already made two 55-yard field goals at the end of the first half — the second one counted after Dallas called a timeout before the first try. Sturgis also has connected on 17 consecutive field goals.
Still, Pederson chose to punt to pin the Cowboys inside the 20. But Dak Prescott drove Dallas 90 yards for the tying score.
Pederson stood by his decision on Monday.
“Where we were in the game, we were stopping their run game,” Pederson said. “I was trusting my defense making them run the length of the field. If we execute better on third down, we’re not talking about it today.”
On third-and-8 from the Cowboys 30, Pederson called a screen pass to Darren Sproles. Carson Wentz dropped the shot-gun snap, linebacker Sean Lee burst through blockers and tackled Sproles for a 6-yard loss.
Pederson defended the call, but blamed the loss on a missed assignment. Blocking Lee appeared to be center Jason Kelce’s responsibility.
“I would have called the same thing again,” Pederson said. “It’s assignment football. It’s one of our basic fundamental plays that we’ve repped the entire season in a man situation, which we got, and it just comes down to assignments. We busted one assignment and a negative play happened. We have to own up to those. It starts with me, obviously. And then each man on the team has to own up to their responsibility and make sure those negative plays don’t happen again.”
The one regret Pederson had was declining a running-into-the-kicker penalty that would’ve given the Eagles fourth-and-1 from the Cowboys 7 in the first quarter. Pederson took the field goal instead of taking points off the board and going for it.
“It’s the first quarter of a ballgame and it kind of sets the tone early,” Pederson said.
For the third time in four games, a running back fumbled in the final quarter. The Eagles were up 23-13 and had a first down at their 41 a couple minutes into the fourth when rookie Wendell Smallwood fumbled on his only carry of the game. The Cowboys got a field goal out of the ensuing drive.
Pederson blamed the miscue on the offensive line.
Against Detroit on Oct. 9, Ryan Mathews fumbled in the final minutes when the Eagles were running out the clock and the Lions drove for a winning field goal. Mathews fumbled again in the fourth quarter in a win against Minnesota last week. He carried only four times against the Cowboys.
“We’ve just got to learn to finish,” Pederson said.
NOTES: LG Allen Barbre is week to week with a left hamstring strain. Stefan Wisniewski played well filling in at his spot vs. Dallas. … DT Bennie Logan is making progress after missing two games because of a groin strain.
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