|Eagles QB Nick Foles played good enough to beat the Cowboys but his defense let him down. (US Presswire)|
This time, the Eagles can't blame the offense. They can't blame the rookie quarterback or the rookie running back, even though he made another critical mistake. This loss falls squarely on the shoulder pads of the players on the other side of the line of scrimmage, the Eagles' high-salaried, under-performing defense.
The Eagles lost their eighth straight game, falling to the Dallas Cowboys 38-33 on Sunday night, even though rookie QB Nick Foles had his best game and rookie RB Bryce Brown had another strong one despite his fourth-quarter fumble. It was the defense that let the team down again, with busted coverages and weak tackling. The defense allowed the Cowboys to put on three long drives in the second half that ultimately decided the game.
The Eagles have tried to shake things up on defense -- they fired coordinator Juan Castillo six weeks ago, released end Jason Babin one week ago and just fired defensive line coach Jim Washburn on Monday. Unfortunately, they can't fire everybody -- that will have to wait until this season finally and mercifully ends.
This unit played its best game in a long time, mainly because rookie quarterback Nick Foles finally played like a veteran. He wasn't perfect and he made some mistakes reading coverages, but he made a huge leap over his first two starts. He looked like an NFL QB.
Rookie Bryce Brown looked like an NFL running back, except for that pesky fumble the Cowboys turned into a touchdown and proved to be the turning point in the game. Brown rushed for 169 yards in his second NFL start after rushing for 178 in his first start last week.
That's the second-highest two-game total in Eagles history, trailing only the 379 yards by Hall-of-Famer Steve Van Buren 63 years ago. TE Brent Celek broke out of his slump and had seven catches and 73 extra-effort yards. But the most reassuring thing for the Eagles was the improved line play, which opened holes for the running game and did a decent job protecting Foles. This was this group's best effort in a long time and the offense played well enough to win this game. Previous game's grade: C
This group has five starters who have played in a Pro Bowl, but it might be the worst defense in the league. The Eagles were once again carved up by the pass and they've had six straight games where the opposing quarterback has had a passer rating of 140.0 or better, and that's a dubious NFL record. The defensive backs are the biggest problem, even though they have the biggest salaries.
They're soft in coverage and soft when it comes to tackling and even when they do have tight coverage they fail to make a play on the ball. This is a team with a injury-ravaged offense that needs a boost from its defense; instead, the ‘D' drags this team down every week.
Every week they have at least one hard-to-believe breakdown where an opposing receiver gets wide open for a touchdown. But the worst thing they did was allow Dallas to put together three second-half drives of 80 yards or more -- if they had gotten a stop just once the Eagles might have won the game. Somebody should tell these guys how to spell t-u-r-n-o-v-e-r, because once again they failed to come up with one. Since Todd Bowles replaced Juan Castillo as coordinator this defense has given up 16 touchdown passes without coming up with a single interception. Previous game's grade: F
Special Teams: A
These guys finally did something special. This unit starts with the kicker, Alex Henery, who has established himself as one of the best in the game. He made two 43-yard field goals against Dallas, one a clutch connection in the fourth quarter, and has now made 21 straight FGs, an Eagles team record and the best current streak in the NFL.
The Eagles' return game hit a home run when Damaris Johnson returned a fourth-quarter punt 98 yards for a touchdown that gave the Eagles hope in the final seconds. That's the longest punt return in Eagles history, surpassing Vai Sikahema's 87-yarder against the Giants in 1992. Plus the punt and kick coverage was solid and, all-in-all, this was the special teams best game of the season. Previous game's grade: C
The offensive game play was a good one as the Eagles tried to protect rookie QB Nick Foles with a strong running game and a series of high-percentage passes. Of course, it makes you wonder why the Eagles never committed to the run like this before, considering they have All-Pro LeSean McCoy and exciting rookie Bryce Brown, but that's another story for another time. Maybe you can't blame the coaches for the defensive players' breakdowns, but it can't be a coincidence that the Eagles' defense has been much, much worse since Todd Bowles replaced Juan Castillo as coordinator six games ago. Another plus – the Eagles were only penalized once for 5 yards and that's by far their cleanest game of the season. Previous game's grade: D
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis on the Philadelphia Eagles from blogger Kevin Noonan, follow @CBSEagles.