Foles aims to get Eagles’ offense in gear vs. Cowboys
PHILADELPHIA — The traditionally heated Dallas Cowboys-Philadelphia Eagles rivalry will conclude 2017 almost as an afterthought on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Eagles (13-2) already clinched home-field advantage throughout the postseason following their 19-10 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Monday night.
The Cowboys (8-7) were eliminated from playoff contention last week after a disappointing 21-12 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, although they can still finish the regular season with a winning record.
While the game doesn’t pose significant meaning in the standings, the Eagles must fix their offensive woes. Backup quarterback Nick Foles improved to 2-0 since Carson Wentz went down with a torn ACL, but he was largely ineffective against the Raiders.
Foles went 19 of 38 for 163 yards with one touchdown and one interception. His performance was so shaky that it reportedly has coach Doug Pederson considering to play him against the Cowboys with Nate Sudfeld receiving some time as well.
“We have a lot of football left,” Pederson said. “Our season really is just beginning, quite honestly. But we’ll be smart and make good decisions as a coaching staff. I’ll talk to the coordinators about play time and all that. We’ll have a good plan later in the week.”
Most distressing was the Eagles’ inefficiency on third down (1-for-14).
Throughout the game, Foles didn’t appear to look comfortable throwing the ball downfield and stepping up in the pocket.
“Third down is a big thing with a quarterback, pin-point accuracy, making good decisions,” Foles said. “I’ll look at the film, I’ll improve. These wins are tough. Wins in the NFL are tough. This was a crazy, sloppy game. I thought our defense played wonderful, giving us an opportunity.”
When pressed on whether it’s important for Foles to become sharper against the Cowboys in preparation for the playoffs, the quarterback offered the following:
“It’s a humbling league, we’re going to continue to work, but I’m going to enjoy this win,” Foles said. “I know there’s a lot of stuff to work on, but we have the people around to improve in the areas we didn’t do so well tonight. I mean, shoot, we’re 13-2 and we have a lot of guys that work really hard. We still have a lot of work to do so that’s an exciting thing because we still haven’t reached our potential yet.”
The Eagles’ defense was sharp, forcing five takeaways in the second half.
“That’s the NFL,” said cornerback Ronald Darby, who contributed a key interception. “You come in to a game and expect that all the time. There’s not a certain team where you think you’re just going to blow them out. It’s the NFL so it’s any given Sunday. That’s the mindset regardless.”
Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott’s return from a six-game suspension helped as he compiled 97 yards on 24 carries in his first contest since Nov. 5. In the end, turnovers hurt the Cowboys and ultimately ended their hope of a playoff berth.
Quarterback Dak Prescott was intercepted twice and the offense was unable to produce a touchdown.
Prescott has tossed 13 interceptions this season against just four a season ago.
“It’s really disappointing,” tight end Jason Witten told reporters. “We had a chance and fought there at the end. It’s not overly complicated. Opportunities in this league are fleeting. You have to take advantage of them when you can. We just weren’t able to do that well enough.”
Like the Eagles, it’s unclear how many snaps the Cowboys’ starters will receive given that Sunday’s game solely is about pride.
“Finish is a really important word for us, each play, each day, each game, and we certainly have to finish the season the right way,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett told the Dallas Morning News. “And we have the right kind of guys to do that.”
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones also chimed in.
“This is a good opportunity for us to get some work in this week, but we’ll do both,” Jones told the Dallas Morning News. “We should just see how the game goes, but we’ve got younger guys … we have a need for them. We need to better understand their skills. But we’ll just see how it goes. But I would say the word is both.”