Dak Prescott

Roob's 10 observations from Eagles-Cowboys

Roob's 10 observations from Eagles-Cowboys

BOX SCORE

OK, you thought the Raiders game was unwatchable?

This was worse. 

The Eagles finished the regular season with a ridiculously ugly 6-0 loss to the Cowboys, the first time they've been blanked at home since that Monday night game against the Seahawks in 2005 — the night they retired Reggie White's number (see breakdown).

The offense has been brutal the last two weeks, and the playoffs are up next.

So Doug Pederson, Frank Reich and John DeFilippo have two weeks to get this thing back on the rails. 

Here are today's 10 freezing observations from the Linc:

1. We talked about it all week, and this was the risk of letting Nick Foles play against Dallas to try to give him something positive going into the playoffs. By the time Pederson got him out of there, nothing positive had happened. Yeah, it was cold and windy. Yeah, Torrey Smith didn't do him any favors with that drop on the first drive (see report card). Still … this was a second straight terrible performance from Foles, and there are no more dress rehearsals. The Eagles have to be terrified internally with his inability to move the offense the last two weeks, and we all know if he's not significantly better it's going to be a very short playoff run. All I can say is Foles has a fairly sizeable career body of work, and although nobody expects him to be Carson Wentz, historically he hasn't been this bad. Just have to hope that two weeks of practice — and maybe some better weather the weekend of Jan. 13-14 — helps Foles find himself. Because what we've seen the last two weeks has been frightening.
 
2. Should Doug Pederson consider starting Nate Sudfeld in the playoffs? I know everybody always loves the backup quarterback and Sudfeld did do some good things against Dallas, but come on now. You can't just bench your backup QB — a guy who has won 16 of 21 starts in an Eagles uniform since 2013 — for a guy with three quarters of NFL experience. I know everybody is frustrated with Foles. And Sudfeld acquitted himself fine in his first NFL regular-season game, although he didn't get any points on the scoreboard. But when you're honest with yourself, the Eagles have a better chance of getting Foles back to where he was two weeks ago against the Giants than they do winning a playoff game with a kid who has thrown 23 passes in his career. It has to be Foles.   
 
3. But … if Foles doesn't play any better through the first, say, four series in the playoff opener? If he's this bad again? Get Sudfeld out there! 
 
4. What impressed me most about Sudfeld in his NFL debut was his accuracy. There wasn't anything down the field — I think the conditions have made that really tough the last couple weeks — but he did complete 19 of 23 passes for 128 yards and also showed some athleticism with a 22-yard run. Sudfeld broke the NFL record for most accurate performance by a player in his first career game (with a minimum of 20 passes). The record of 80 percent was set in 1968 by Sam Wyche of the Bengals, who went 20 for 25 against the Oilers. Definitely something to work with.
 
5. Was nice to see Sidney Jones out there running around. He did look rusty, which is understandable, considering he hadn't played in a game in exactly 365 days. But you got at least a small sense of his skill set, his ranginess and his confidence. Heck, he lined up against Dez Bryant on his first NFL defensive snap and didn't back down (see rookie report). Will Rasul Douglas move to safety? Will Jalen Mills move to the slot? Ronald Darby and Jones outside? They can all play. They're all versatile. Going to be interesting to see how this group of young corners grows over the next few years.

6. As wretched as Foles was, I have a lot of faith in this defense. Even the backups played pretty well Sunday against Dallas before they wore down in the fourth quarter. This defense is why the Eagles have a chance every time they play at home. Even with the backups playing most of the game Sunday, they still only allowed six points to a Cowboys team playing all its starters and clearly intent on trying to win the game. This defense always plays well at the Linc. They've only allowed 11 touchdowns at home this year and 23 at home the last two years, fewest in the NFL. The Eagles are going to be in every game they play at home.
 
7. Do we have to be concerned now with Kenjon Barner? He's fumbled a punt two weeks in a row now, and although he recovered both, he certainly looks shaky back there right now. Just another thing to worry about. 
 
8. He had one bad drop early, but I'm high on Mack Hollins. I see him moving right into that Smith role next year. Remember, when he was drafted, he was considered a special teamer and a big-play specialist. But he's got a well-rounded game and seems comfortable with all the routes. He just needs experience. I see him being a big part of this offense next year.
 
9. Speaking of Douglas, he had a rough time on the Cowboys' touchdown drive early in the fourth quarter, but you have to remember he hadn't played defense since the Denver game, and it definitely showed. He looked super rusty. I like Douglas. He's tough, physical and smart. I have no idea how everything will settle with all these young defensive backs moving forward, but I'll be surprised if he's not a significant part of this defense moving forward.
 
10. Finally, I'm just really disappointed the Eagles weren't able to get Brent Celek the 15 yards he needed for 5,000 in his career. Celek wasn't even on the field for the last drive. Celek has done nothing in his 11 years here other than play hard and practice hard without fail, never complain about his role and serve as a tremendous locker room leader and mentor to the younger tight ends, and he deserved to go out with that milestone. Celek has a $4 million base salary in 2018 but would count only $1 million against the cap if the Eagles release him. Maybe he'll retire. Maybe he'll play somewhere else. Maybe he'll take a pay cut and return to Philly. But there's a chance this was his final regular-season game in an Eagles uniform, and if it was, it kills me to know he fell just two yards shy of 5,000 in an Eagles uniform.

5 key Eagles matchups vs. Cowboys

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USA Today Images/AP Images

5 key Eagles matchups vs. Cowboys

The Eagles don't have anything to play for this weekend. They're already the top seed in the NFC, which comes with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

But there's still a game Sunday against the Cowboys.

The Eagles will always want to beat the Cowboys. And a win Sunday will give the Birds their first 14-win season in franchise history and just the 30th such season in NFL history.

The real question is about playing time. How much will everyone get? It seems likely the Eagles will play some starters but keep out guys who have injuries. Meanwhile, the Cowboys are expected to play everyone who is healthy.

Here are five matchups to watch:

Nick Foles vs. Cowboys starters
It's a good thing Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett wants to play most of his starters in this game because Foles could certainly use the work.

After a terrible performance that has placed doubt in the minds of a ton of Eagles fans, a few good series against the Cowboys could do wonders for Foles. Not only could it help with the chemistry along the offense, but it could also be good for his confidence going forward.

The Eagles are going to need Foles to play better if they want to win in the playoffs. It's a no-brainer to play him this weekend.

Nate Sudfeld vs. Cowboys defense
Foles should get to start the game and play for a while, but it's also pretty important to get the new backup quarterback into an NFL game for the first time in his career. The Eagles have been high on Sudfeld all season and even protected him when the Colts tried to sign him away from the practice squad. Sudfeld had a good week of practice after getting bumped up to No. 2, but some actual game reps would be nice.

Could the Eagles survive if Foles went down? Probably not, but if Sudfeld plays well against the Cowboys' starting defense, it would give folks a little bit of hope if that scenario ever unfolded.

Ezekiel Elliott vs. Eagles' run defense
The Eagles gave up a season-high 137 yards on the ground in last week's win over the Raiders but still have the NFL's best rushing defense. They've given up 75.9 yards per game through 15 games. The next closest team is the Vikings, who have given up 87.1.

The Eagles missed Elliott in their first meeting down in Dallas when the Pro Bowl running back was serving his six-game suspension. Elliott has played nine games this season and has gained 80-plus yards in eight of them. The Eagles have had just four guys go for 80-plus on them this season: Todd Gurley, Kareem Hunt, Marshawn Lynch and Alfred Morris. They have not allowed a 100-yard rusher all season.

Elliott will try to be the first to put up 100 yards against them this season. No matter who is in there for the Eagles, they'll try to stop him.

Byron Bell vs. Derek Barnett
It seems pretty likely that Tyron Smith (knee) won't play in the regular-season finale, so his backup, Bell, will probably get the start. This would be a good time for Barnett to have a big game heading into the playoffs.

Barnett hasn't had a sack since he picked up half of one in the Seattle game back on Dec. 3. He hasn't had a solo sack since the last Dallas game on Nov. 19. Barnett has five sacks this season, which is seventh in Eagles history for a rookie. If he gets one more, he'd move into a tie for third. If he gets two more, he'd be all alone in third place behind Corey Simon (9½) and Reggie White (13).

Dak Prescott vs. Eagles defense
Prescott had a terrible game the last time these two teams played. He threw for 145 yards with three interceptions and was sacked four times. His 30.4 passer rating was by far the worst of his two-year career.

This game doesn't mean much, but Prescott is going to want to put together a much better performance this time around.

Cowboys rout Redskins, prevent Eagles from clinching NFC East

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AP Images

Cowboys rout Redskins, prevent Eagles from clinching NFC East

BOX SCORE

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dak Prescott was getting X-rays on his swollen right hand when rookie Ryan Switzer scored his first career touchdown on an 83-yard punt return.

The extra time with the Dallas offense on the sideline kept Prescott from missing any plays, and last year's NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year led the Cowboys to their first win after three straight losses without suspended star running back Ezekiel Elliott.

Prescott threw two touchdown passes, including a franchise record-breaker to Dez Bryant, in the Cowboys' 38-14 victory over the Washington Redskins on Thursday night.

The injury happened in the second quarter when Prescott's right hand was hit by linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons just as he made an option pitch to Rod Smith. Thanks to Switzer's dash to the end zone, Prescott never left the game.

"I don't know if I've ever broken my hand," Prescott said. "I couldn't grip initially right after because the (hand) swelled up on me so bad. As I said, they wrapped it up, got the swelling down and I was fine."

Bryant's leaping 13-yard leaping in the end zone was the 2014 All-Pro's first score in six games and 72nd of his career, one more than Hall of Famer Bob Hayes.

The Cowboys (6-6) never trailed despite a sluggish start to the offense, thanks to three first-half turnovers and four overall by the Redskins (5-7). Dallas kept it going after halftime with a 21-7 scoring edge after getting outscored 72-6 in the second half of three straight losses without Elliott.

Alfred Morris, Elliott's replacement during the six-game suspension for alleged domestic violence, had 127 yards rushing and a clinching touchdown.

The Cowboys forced NFL-leading Philadelphia to wait until at least Sunday to clinch the division title. But Dallas still faces a steep climb to playoff contention, and two more games without Elliott.

The Redskins had already been eliminated in the division race and are virtually out of the postseason picture after Kirk Cousins threw two interceptions and lost a fumble while throwing two touchdown passes.

Jamison Crowder let the pass go through his hands on Cousins' first interception and fumbled on a Dallas punt a few plays later in the Redskins' fourth straight loss to the Cowboys, the longest such streak in the series since 2003-04.

"It was just miscues," Cousins said. "A dropped ball here, we had a nice drive down the field the second drive, just a tough turnover, and then it was one thing after another that were just mistakes. They happen, and we have to correct them."

By the time the Redskins answered Switzer's punt return with a 75-yard drive that ended with Cousins' 20-yard scoring pass to Ryan Grant, Prescott was ready to return. He had been holding his right hand in his helmet once he returned to the sideline.

Rookie backup Cooper Rush had his helmet on when the Redskins punted.

"If we didn't have the return by Switz, Cooper Rush would have got in the ballgame at that point," coach Jason Garrett said. "We got the return, Dak was able to come back out."

Prescott only threw for 102 yards, but didn't have a turnover after throwing five interceptions and losing three fumbles without a touchdown pass during the losing streak.

And the Cowboys looked more like the offense they have when Elliott is around, with Morris picking up big yardage on clock-killing drives with the Cowboys in front.

Cousins moved the Washington offensive sporadically because he was consistently harassed behind a patchwork offensive line that had to shuffle some more because of injuries. Cousins, who was 26 of 37 for 251 yards, was replaced by Colt McCoy late in the fourth quarter.

DeMarcus Lawrence, the NFL sacks leader most of the first half of the season, had two of Dallas' four sacks, ending a two-game drought and extending his career high to 13 1/2. Cousins was hit hard by David Irving on a sack in the fourth quarter.

Bryant's impact
Bryant still hasn't had a 100-yard game, his longest drought to start a season since his second year in 2011. But the 61-yard effort included a 24-yarder that set up his record-setting TD on the first play of the fourth quarter. "I was talking about that demeanor and that attitude that we carried," Prescott said. "I give him credit. He kind of brought it this week and pretty much tonight and you kind of felt it early."

More OL shuffling
Redskins right tackle Morgan Moses didn't return after injuring an ankle in the first half, forcing Ty Nsekhe to that spot after he was a fill-in starter at left guard on a patchwork line that's been dealing with injuries all season.

Left tackle Trent Williams left the field briefly in the third quarter. He's been inactive three of the past six games because a knee injury that will require surgery. Washington was already missing center Chase Roullier because of a hand injury.

Up next
Redskins: At Los Angeles Chargers on Dec. 10.

Cowboys: At New York Giants on Dec. 10 to start a season-ending stretch of three of four on the road.