FIERRO: Eagles suffer hideous loss in more ways than one to Cowboys
PHILADELPHIA — A ghastly performance marred by turnovers, penalties and injuries to two key defensive players has the Philadelphia Eagles at the bottom of the NFC East standings just two weeks into the NFL season.
Despite playing without injured top receiver Dez Bryant and then losing quarterback Tony Romo to a broken clavicle in the third quarter, the Dallas Cowboys held off the Eagles and their punchless offense for a 20-10 triumph Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field that catapulted them to the top of the division with a 2-0 record. The Eagles dropped to the bottom at 0-2, tied with the New York Giants.
For a second straight week, the Eagles were unable to get their running game going and were shut out in the first half as a result.
They finished with just 7 rushing yards and 231 total in addition to three turnovers by quarterback Sam Bradford — on a pair of interceptions and a botched shotgun snap that reversed some key momentum they finally seemed to establish in the fourth quarter.
Any chance they had at a comeback victory essentially ended with that lost fumble, which came immediately after they took possession when Malcolm Jenkins recovered a fumble and returned it to the Cowboys' 30-yard line.
The Cowboys were leading by 10 points at the time and would then turn Bradford's second interception into a touchdown when backup quarterback Brandon Weeden hit Terrance Williams with a 42-yard touchdown pass with 4:20 remaining.
So completely inept was the offense that coach Chip Kelly rebuilt with a new quarterback, new running backs DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews, new starting guards Allen Barbre and Andrew Gardner and the addition of wide receiver Nelson Agholor, that the coach said every member of the offense, including the coaching staff, will be up for evaluation.
"If we can't run the football, we're not going to win many football games. It was very disappointing. We couldn't get anything started. I don't think the running backs had time to assess if there was a hole. Too much penetration up front. Too many guys in the backfield."
But perhaps worse than being dominated in their home opener, the Eagles also lost a pair of inside linebackers to game-ending injuries and possibly worse.
Kiko Alonso (left knee) and Mychal Kendricks (hamstring) both left the game before intermission and did not return.
For Alonso, it's the same knee that he injured last year in the preseason when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament, sidelining him for the season. Despite that, the Eagles traded running back LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills to acquire him this past offseason.
Alonso will undergo an MRI on Monday.
Kendricks declined an interview request by The Morning Call in the postgame locker room. He was injured on a play in which he was forced to cover a receiver deep down the left sideline. The pass was incomplete, but Kendricks, who signed a lucrative contract extension in the offseason, was done for the day.
Much like the Atlanta Falcons six days earlier, the Cowboys' defensive front spent a good portion of the game in the Eagles' backfield whenever the Eagles tried to run the ball. Most of the tacklers on the seven negative-yardage plays broke through untouched as the offensive line appeared sluggish and/or confused about assignments whenever the players moved laterally, failing to cut off the back side and not even coming close to sealing the front side.
"We have to go back and watch the film," center Jason Kelce said, "but it obviously doesn't get any worse than this on offense. That was the worst rushing attack I have ever been a part of here."
Right tackle Lane Johnson said that there was nothing the Cowboys did that surprised them, despite the line appearing to have no clue on which players to hit post-snap.
"We've got to get our heads out of our butts and put it together," Johnson said. "They were getting a lot of penetration with their stunts. I think that's what caused a lot of tackles for losses and even when we tried to get outside zone a few times, they got penetration on that so they pretty much just shut it down.
"We knew what was coming, it was just a matter of going out and stopping it. So hats off to Dallas. They came out there and got it done."
As poorly as the offensive line played, Bradford appeared worse. He was 23 of 37 for 224 yards and a touchdown but faltered in key situations, the most egregious being when he tried to force a short pass into the end zone to Zach Ertz and was intercepted by Sean Lee late in the third quarter. Wide receiver Riley Cooper was open on the play, and a touchdown and extra point there would have made it a six-point game.
After halftime, the Cowboys added to their 6-0 lead when they returned a blocked punt for a touchdown and a 13-0 lead.
They sealed it shortly after Bradford again tried to force a ball to Ertz and was intercepted by J.J. Wilcox in the fourth quarter.
Ertz took responsibility after getting his hands on the pass.
"I should have had it," he said.
Two plays later, Terrance Williams took an inside route in one-on-one coverage against left cornerback Byron Maxwell and broke free easily for a 44-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Weeden, who came in after Romo was felled by a broken clavicle.
Maxwell hinted strongly that he was exhausted by that point.
"He just got inside of me," Maxwell said. "We was on the field all, all, all day. He got inside of me. I couldn't really explode. I didn't feel tired, I just couldn't do it."
There was no miscommunication, either. Maxwell knew he would have no deep help on the play but failed to leverage Williams to the outside, which corners are supposed to do in that situation.