How last year's Eagles loss in Dallas was turning point for Doug Pederson

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How last year's Eagles loss in Dallas was turning point for Doug Pederson

It was the loss that really sent the Eagles into a downward losing spiral.

They were 4-2 going into Dallas late last October, they were up 10 points early in the fourth quarter and up a touchdown and within field goal range with 7½ minutes left in the fourth quarter.

And still, they lost.

Before you knew it, 4-3 turned into 5-9. By the time the Eagles beat the Cowboys on the last day of the season at the Linc, the Cowboys were on the way to the playoffs and resting their starters, and the Eagles were playing out the string. 

On Wednesday, with the Eagles a few days from a greatly-anticipated rematch with the Cowboys, head coach Doug Pederson spoke about how much he learned from that devastating loss to the Eagles' biggest rival 13 months ago.

"What did I learn? No. 1, you hate to lose any week," Pederson said. "The other thing is just we had opportunities in that game to make some plays and change the outcome of that game. And I learned from the decisions I made in that game, and I've corrected those this season from the preseason on.

"And those are some of the takeaways. And for us as a football team, we're learning how to finish those games now this season. And that's a tribute to the players in the locker room."

The Eagles go back to Dallas this weekend with a much better team and a much better coach.

The Eagles are 8-1 with a seven-game winning streak going into their nationally televised NFC East showdown against the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Cowboys are 5-4 but 2-0 in the NFC East.

The Eagles have won five of their last seven games in North Texas. But last year was rough.

The Eagles just gave it away.

They led 20-10 late in the third quarter and were one score from putting the game away when the Cowboys ran a fake punt on a 4th-and-8 from their own 27-yard line. Punter Chris Jones ran 30 yards for a first down — the Cowboys' longest run against the Eagles in seven years. That led to a field goal and made it a one-possession game.

With eight minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Eagles still led by a touchdown and had a 3rd-and-8 on the Dallas 30-yard line. But an ill-fated play — a Carson Wentz backward pass to Darren Sproles — lost six yards, knocking the Eagles out of field-goal range.

Donnie Jones punted down to the 10, but the Cowboys drove 90 yards for the game-tying touchdown, then won in overtime on Dak Prescott's TD pass to Jason Witten.

"They had the fake punt, got us last year," he said. "They marched the length of the field and scored. And we had opportunities in that game. That's what I said earlier about us learning how to finish those games and putting those teams away. 

"We weren't able to do that last year and make those plays and offensively stay on the field and defensively get off the field. And that was definitely one we looked at a year ago. And it did slip away because you had the lead there early in the fourth quarter."

Pederson said the sequence late in the fourth quarter that knocked the Eagles out of field goal range also haunted him after last season.

"[We] had a chance to maybe kick a field goal and I have to do a better job at coaching the actual play," he said.

"It was a third-down situation, and I've got to do a better job at the teaching of the play. It starts with me. And we didn't execute the play very well. And it knocked us out of potential field goal range and it would have extended our lead at that time. 

"So [I learned from] just those types of decisions where maybe you do something a little bit differently, call a different play or, in that case, just teach that play at that time better."

More money might not be enough to keep Chris Long in Philly

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More money might not be enough to keep Chris Long in Philly

The Eagles have given veteran defensive end Chris Long a raise, but according to one report, Long is concerned enough about his playing time with the Eagles that he's mulling his options regarding his future.

What is certain is that at some point before March 15, Long signed a new contract with the Eagles that increases his 2018 base salary from $1 million non-guaranteed to $2½ million fully guaranteed.

However, NFL Network's Michael Silver reported Monday that Long may decide he doesn't want to accept the new contract — which he already signed.

According to Silver, Long is concerned about how many snaps he would get as a third-down rusher following the addition of Pro Bowl pass rusher Michael Bennett.

The Eagles officially acquired Bennett on March 14, although the deal was reported a week earlier. Long's new contract was filed with the NFLPA on March 15, but there is a good chance he agreed to it and signed it before the Bennett acquisition.

Whether or not Long knew Bennett was coming to the Eagles when he signed the restructured deal is unknown. But at some point Long knew about their interest in Bennett and even gave Bennett a "glowing recommendation" when the Eagles asked, according to an interview Long gave to SBNation.  

Long wouldn't appear to have many options. He could retire, in which case he would have to return the $500,000 bonus he received from the Eagles last week.

He could request a trade, which would be bizarre for someone who signed a contract extension just a few days earlier.

Or he could simply play under the terms of the contract restructure and pay increase, which was first reported by Field Yates of ESPN and confirmed by NBC Sports Philadelphia with a source familiar with the renegotiation.

As for the contract itself, including that $500,000 roster bonus — which was also in the previous version of the contract — Long would receive $3 million guaranteed this year instead of $1.5 million non-guaranteed plus $750,000 in easily achieved roster bonuses.

Long had five sacks and forced four fumbles last year as a rotational defensive end. He wound up playing 496 snaps, 10th-most on the defense and only about 10 per game fewer than starter and Pro Bowler Brandon Graham and five per game fewer than starter Vinny Curry, who the Eagles released.

Long, who turns 33 next week, has 63½ career sacks. His 5.0 sacks last year were his most since 2013. He's won back-to-back Super Bowls the last two years with the Eagles and Patriots.

What happens next?

Long has demonstrated that the money is secondary to him. He donated his entire 2017 base salary to charity.

At some point very soon, the Eagles will need him to decide whether he's even going to have a 2018 base salary.

Terrell Owens digs deep to find his Hall of Fame presenter

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Terrell Owens digs deep to find his Hall of Fame presenter

A day after we found out that Brian Dawkins picked Troy Vincent to introduce him at the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony this summer, Terrell Owens has picked his presenter. 

No surprise: It's not Donovan McNabb.

After alienating many people in the league throughout his tremendous career, Owens picked a name from his early days. Longtime NFL assistant coach George Stewart, who was Owens' receivers coach in San Francisco, will introduce T.O. at the 2018 induction. 

In a video released by the Hall of Fame, Owens said Stewart "knew what to get out of me."

Now special teams coordinator and assistant head coach for the Chargers, Stewart has been an NFL coach for three decades. He began his time in San Francisco in 1996 (Owens' rookie season) as a special teams coach but was their wide receivers coach from 2000-02.

"Things that George Stewart may say, it may be shocking to a lot of people, but not to him because he knows who I am," Owens said. "... To know who Terrell Owens is, you really have to spend some time with him. Fast forward, George Stewart became a father figure to me."

The first season Stewart became the 49ers' receivers coach, Owens went to his first of six Pro Bowls and was named an All-Pro for the first of five times in his career. Owens was a Pro Bowler and an All-Pro in all three of the seasons that Stewart held the position in San Francisco. 

Of course, Owens' growth under Stewart led to his becoming one of the biggest stars in the NFL.

Eventually, Owens forced his way out of San Francisco and got to Philadelphia. With the Eagles, Owens had a short and tumultuous two seasons, but was also dynamic on the field and nearly helped them pull off a Super Bowl win over the Patriots. 

Owens averaged 93.5 receiving yards per game during his time in Philadelphia, the highest average in franchise history. It wasn't his play that led to his downfall in Philly. It was his beef with McNabb, along with his attempt to strong-arm the Eagles into a new contract. 

Owens was a divisive personality for his entire career. It's likely the reason it took him three tries to make it into the Hall of Fame. Because his numbers don't lie: He's one of the best receivers of all time.