Eagles' offense struggles early, defense folds late as playoff hopes fade

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Philadelphia Eagles' push for division supremacy abruptly ended inside Jerry's World on Sunday, as familiar issues finally toppled them from the high wire.

A 29-23 overtime loss to the Dallas Cowboys drops the Eagles' chances of winning the NFC East to 0.4 percent and their odds of making the playoffs to 5.1 percent, according to ESPN's Football Power Index. A win would have given them about a 50-50 shot to secure a postseason berth.

“It’s a tough loss. We knew the stakes of this game and we were able to stay in it,” Carson Wentz said. “We struggled there for a while and then battled back, and we just came up short and that’s never fun. You can say it stung a little bit, but frustrating for sure.”

“It is what it is. Our playoff chances are pretty much done,” added tackle Lane Johnson.

But the offense failed to produce for much of the night, and the defense let down late -- a combination that has sunk this Eagles team before.

Jim Schwartz's defense fought the good fight despite being seriously shorthanded in the secondary, and it set up two of Philly's scoring drives with a pair of takeaways. But it was unable to find an answer for Amari Cooper late, yielding touchdown passes of 28 and 75 yards in regulation and a third to him in overtime.

The defense's inability to hold up brought back memories of the letdown in overtime against the Tennessee Titans, and the fourth-quarter collapse versus the Carolina Panthers, when a 17-0 lead evaporated.

The defense has been playing on a razor's edge all season due to the offense's lack of production, though, and that was the case again Sunday.

The Eagles failed to score in the first quarter for the 10th time in 13 games and were blanked in the first half. Their first two scores were set up by defensive takeaways. It wasn't until late in the fourth quarter that Wentz and the offense awoke. Wentz tossed two touchdowns in the final 3:12 to force overtime, but Philly lost the coin toss and, soon after, the game.

“I’m real proud of the way the guys played today, to be honest,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “In a tight game we knew was going to go tit-for-tat, was going to be slow early, we knew we had to take the ball away. We did that. Even the play they scored on at the end, we were in position, the ball gets tipped up and they literally win the coin toss.”

Eagles linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill made some waves this week by saying, “I mean, you look at Dallas' history, they always choke, so we'll go down there and make them choke." The Cowboys provided an emphatic answer to that.

Originally, it looked like Grugier-Hill had backed up the talk when he recovered a Jourdan Lewis fumble on the opening kickoff. However, the officials ruled that there was not a “clear recovery,” and Dallas maintained possession. That was a critical call and will be a source of anger in Philly this week, as will an offensive pass interference call that negated a long TD by Dallas Goedert late in regulation.

But the Eagles need to look at themselves most of all for their inability to clean up problems that have plagued them all season.

“If ifs and buts were candy and nuts,” Johnson said, “we’d all have a Merry Christmas.”