3 things we learned in the Eagles heart-breaking loss to Dallas

3 things we learned in the Eagles heart-breaking loss to Dallas
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If you were an Eagles or Cowboys fan Sunday night, your heart was in your stomach.

If you were just a casual football fan, it was a fantastic game.

With the game tied at 23-all a defensive slugfest manifested for the last five minutes of a hotly contested divisional contest. And though Philly falteredin overtime in a 29-23 loss, the game had the feel of a classic rivalry battle.

With fourth and one in overtime at the Eagles 29, Dak Prescott QB snuck up the gut as Jason Garrett decided against kicking a field goal. A few plays later on a broken play, Prescott rolled out of the pocket and found a wide open Jason Witten in the middle of the end zone. Game over.

Prescott led a truly magnificent drive with the Cowboys trailing by a touchdown and five minutes left, marching his unit down the field 90 yards on 11 plays, finding Dez Bryant in the back of the end zone in Tony Romo style on a 22-yard fade to tie things at 23-apiece with 3:04 to play.

After a pair of really quick three-and-outs, Carson Wentz had the football in his hands with just over one minute to go, but moved back against his own goalline, narrowly hanging on to the football on a third and long sack leading to a punt.

Prescott took his try with 40 seconds left, but was squashed by the Eagles defense setting up overtime.

In a hard fought game, some questionable play calls (like punting instead of trying for a 51-yard field goal after a loss on third down in the fourth quarter) there were many positives. Here’s a look at why Eagles fans should be optimistic about their 4-3 squad after a heartbreaking setback Sunday night:

1. Opportunistic

The Eagles turned several Dallas self-inflicted errors into points.Thanks to too many men on the field on a fourth down punt, the Eagles were able to drive into the red zone and add three points to take an early lead.

Dez Bryant made his return known on the Cowboys second drive, snagging a deep 53-yard bomb to set up a Prescott (19-for-29, 287 yards) keeper at the goalline, putting Dallas up 7-3. The 5-play, 75-yard drive exposed the Eagles offense big time.

Another Cowboys drive fueled by Ezekiel Elliott — both through the air and on the ground (he ran for 40 yards and had 35 yards receiving in the first quarter) — helped Dallas add a field goal as the second started.

With the Cowboys knocking at the door inside the 10 yardline, inside the two minute mark Jordan Hicks continued his break out season with an end zone interception to keep Dallas from taking a halftime lead. A quick two-minute drill set up a long, 55-yard field goal nailed by Caleb Sturgis, putting the Eagles up 13-10 after 30.

2. Darren Sproles

Darren Sproles(15 rushes for 86 yards, five catchers for seven yards)did a little of everything while the Eagles were on offense, catching passes, turning short losses into medium gains and keeping drives alive. He grabbed a low dump-off pass from Wentz, rolled off one defender and zig zagged inside the five yardline in the second half. A play later the Eagles scored their 17th unanswered point. In the fourth with the Birds needing to burn clock, Sproles churned off a 19-yard scamper for a big first down.

Sproles took control as Philly’s featured back on a drive earlier in the game in the second quarter,including a key first down run on a second-and-15 in the second quarter to put the Birds in the red zone. Backfieldmate Ryan Mathews took over at the goalline and on an outside handoff and scored untouched, tying things at 10-all. For the second straight scoring drive, a Cowboys penalty — this one a defensive holding on third down — gave the Eagles a second opportunity.

When Sproles wasn’t on the field, the Eagles suffered. Rookie Wendell Smallwood coughed up the ball to start a drive in the fourth, as Dallas recovered on their side of the 50-yard line. The defense bailed Smallwood out, holding Dan Bailey to a 49-yard field goal to cut Philly’s lead to 23-16.

3. Dictate the pace

The Birds knew theycouldn’t win if they were trailing late in the game. Between Bryant, Witten and the always dangerous Elliott (22 rushes for 96 yards), letting Dallas have the football is lethal. By keeping their own offense on the field and making sure the Cowboys got limited opportunities by guessing right on defense, they minimized the impact of big plays early by countering Elliott’s attempts in the second half.

Back on the field after the break the Eagles went 69 yards on 12 plays, fighting their way into the red zone whereWentz(32-for-43, 202 yards) found a wide open Jordan Matthews to put Philly up 20-10.

Dallas shocked the Eagles on fourth and eight, when Chris Jones — the punter — ran for more than 30 yards on a fake punt to get the Cowboys moving again. Inside the five, the Philly defense hunkered down and kept Dallas to a chip shot field goal. Philly got a chip shot field goal of its own following a Josh Huff kickoff return that set up the Eagles inside midfield.