PHILADELPHIA — The Eagles hit a new low under coach Andy Reid on Sunday.
They suffered their fifth straight loss for the first time during Reid’s 14 seasons, blowing a pair of leads during a 38-23 loss to Dallas at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Eagles last lost five in a row in 1998, when they finished 3-13 in coach Ray Rhodes’ final season. Unless they can find a way to end this skid, Reid likely will suffer the same fate this year.
“Five in a row. ... ,” defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. “We’re at the bottom of the barrel right now.”
They hit the bottom with a loud thud that echoed through the Linc. Not even the debut of rookie Nick Foles — he replaced Michael Vick after the starting quarterback suffered a concussion during the second quarter — could provide enough motivation to pull out a much-needed victory.
The Eagles remain in mathematical contention in the NFC East. At 3-6, they are tied with Washington for third place in the division behind the struggling New York Giants (6-4) and Cowboys (4-5) with seven regular-season games remaining. However, they have provided little evidence to suggest they can make a run for a playoff berth.
“Right now, we are where we are,” Reid said. “So we have to change that around, and I believe we have the players to do that. I absolutely still believe we can be a playoff team. You don’t know in this league, so you keep battling. That’s what you do.”
The Eagles appeared headed for a win early in the third quarter, when Foles fired a 44-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jeremy Maclin to give the Eagles a 14-10 lead with 12 minutes, 52 seconds remaining. Alex Henery upped the Eagles’ lead to 17-10 on their next series with a 40-yard field goal.
A sellout crowd of 69,144 shook the Linc with cheers.
Minutes later, there were boos and silence.
The Cowboys responded by scoring three touchdowns — one apiece on offense, special teams and defense — in a span of 2:35.
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo tied it at 17-17 with a 30-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Dez Bryant on the final play of the third quarter. Three plays earlier, Romo had escaped three Eagles pass rushers to complete a 25-yard pass on third down.
Cowboys punt returner Dwayne Harris gave his team the lead with a 78-yard punt return for a TD with 13:35 left in regulation. Harris grabbed the ball on the left side and sprinted untouched behind a wall of blockers to the end zone.
Three plays into the next series, Foles’ off-the-mark pass toward wide receiver DeSean Jackson was intercepted by safety Brandon Carr, who returned it 47 yards for a TD with 12:25 remaining to give the Cowboys a 31-17 lead and send most of the fans heading to the exits.
“The obvious is that there were took many big plays in a very short period of time there,” Reid said. “We went from the lead to behind behind by a couple of touchdowns. I thought our guys battled, but you can’t give up things like that to a good football team.”
The Eagles had some reasons to be encouraged. Before he got hurt, Vick played well. He led the Eagles to a touchdown on their opening series for the first time this season with a 2-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Riley Cooper. Vick was forced out of the game early in the second quarter when former teammate Ernie Sims hit him, causing his head to slam against the turf.
Foles also had a decent debut, considering his lack of preparation. The third-round draft pick from the University of Arizona completed 22-of-32 passes for 219 yards. His 44-yard TD to Maclin made him the first Eagles rookie to throw a touchdown pass since running back Brian Westbrook had one against Dallas in 2002.
But there were also costly mistakes. Besides the pick-6 interception, he also coughed up a fumble when sacked by linebacker Anthony Spencer and defensive tackle Jason Hatcher recovered it in the end zone for another Cowboys TD.
“I didn’t play good enough to win,” Foles said. “I made some mistakes. I can’t turn the ball over and that’s the most important thing to win games. You can’t turn the ball over. I can’t have that.”
Reid indicated that if Vick is healthy, he will be the starting quarterback at Washington next Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Eagles will keep trying to figure out a way to straighten out a season that has gone terribly awry.
Once billed as a Super Bowl contender, they are closer to the basement than the top of the NFC.
“I’m stunned that we’ve lost five in a row,” Maclin said. “To be sitting here at 3-6 is not what anyone envisioned or planned. It’s very frustrating.”
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