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Blame Pederson for Eagles' loss to Dallas Cowboys

Eliot Shorr-Parks
December 10, 2018 - 9:41 am

It was no secret just how important the Eagles’ game in Dallas against the Cowboys was. Head coach Doug Pederson acknowledged it before the game, and he acknowledged it after the game. 

He just didn’t coach like it during the game. 

In a season filled with poor showings from his team, Sunday’s 29-23 loss might have been the worst game Pederson has had this year, and is at the top of the list for reasons the Eagles' chances at winning the division are now gone. 

His team looked unprepared, they weren’t aggressive, they committed silly penalties and they looked a lot like the unit that has slept through the beginning of each game this season. The stakes might have been the biggest they were all season, but you couldn’t tell watching Pederson’s team. 

Yes, the Eagles’ slow starts to games has been an issue throughout the season and are nothing new. Still, to have it happen in such a huge game, on such a huge stage is completely unacceptable, especially this late in the season. When asked about why his unit struggled in the first half, scoring exactly zero points, Pederson first complemented the Dallas’ defense. 

“This is a good defense,” Pederson said. “We knew that going in.”

There is certainly some truth to that. Dallas’ defense is one of the best units in the league. This excuse for the poor start, however, is pretty telling of just how prepared Pederson had his team for the huge game:

“It comes down to attention to detail, focus," Pederson said, "and things that kind of hampered us all season showing up early in this game."

Missing blocks or physical errors is one thing. The offense struggling because of “attention to detail and focus” in Week 14, however, falls directly on the feet of Pederson and his ability to get this roster ready to play. 

Pederson’s use of his personnel also left a lot to be desired. After committing to running back Josh Adams the last two weeks, Pederson left his red-hot running back on the bench for most of the game, despite Adams ripping off a 24-yard run in the first quarter. The rookie running back carried the ball just five total times, and only twice after his 24-yard run. 

Even Wendell Smallwood, who had not registered a carry during the Eagles’ two-game winning streak, got in over Adams late in the game. On a crucial third-down play late in the game, it was Smallwood who was lined on on the outside, a curious decision considering how little he had played over the last two weeks. 

Pederson also had a few questionable play calls. His worst might have been on 3rd-and-1 from Eagles’ 27-yard line midway through the second quarter. Pederson sent quarterback Carson Wentz rolling out to his right with an option to pitch the ball back to the running back. The play didn’t fool anyone, and the play was stuffed for a one-yard loss. 

The biggest sign that Pederson simply was off his game on Sunday, however, was on the Eagles’ game-tying touchdown at the end of the fourth quarter. 

After a flag on the Cowboys during the Eagles’ extra point, Pederson had the option to move the ball up to the one-yard line and attempt a two-point conversion. There is no denying the decision would have been a risky move — taking the point off the board that had the game all locked up. Pederson said after the game that he didn’t seriously consider going for two. 

“The decision making was to kick the extra point, tie it up,” Pederson said. "I just elected to go for the kick and tie it up. We had a little discussion, but at the time, we felt good about it and we kept the points on the board.”

Considering the reputation Pederson has gained for showing trust in his players and going for it in big spots, however, the fact he didn’t even seriously consider it was surprising. Perhaps Pederson didn’t go for it because he didn’t trust his offense to execute the play. If that is the case, that is pretty telling of where he has his team 13 games into the season.

At the end of the season, which is going to come a lot sooner than anyone expected, the Eagles will take a look at what went wrong this year. How a team that was supposed to compete for a Super Bowl didn’t even make the playoffs. 

When those meetings do take place, both at the end of the season and on Monday as the team attempts to dissect their loss to the Cowboys, it is going to be crucial that Pederson takes a long look in the mirror if this team is ever going to get back to the team they were in 2017 -- and stop looking like the unprepared, outcoached unit they have this season. 

You can follow Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks or email him at esp@94wip.com!