PHILADELPHIA - The Eagles' defense came up one play short on Sunday.
Had the unit been able to stop Dallas quarterback Tony Romo during a pivotal third-quarter series, the Eagles may have wound up winning instead of suffering their fifth straight loss, 38-23 at Lincoln Financial Field.
"We're just not coming up with plays when it counts," defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. "That is a big thing. When you look at any championship team, they go through tough stretches, but when they have to make a play, they do. We have to figure out a way to do that."
The turning point came in the third quarter. The Eagles had a 17-10 lead and all the momentum. Romo faded back to pass on third down and was immediately surrounded by Eagles defenders.
Three Eagles had a shot at taking him down and forcing a punt. Somehow, Romo twisted and wriggled his way free just long enough to fire a 25-yard completion to wide receiver Mile Austin.
Three plays later, Romo found wide receiver Dez Bryant for a 30-yard TD against cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to tie the game at 17-17.
"There's a time and a place to almost give yourself a chance to extend the play sometimes and that was an opportunity to do that, I thought," Romo said. "I don't rank my scrambles, but that one's number one. That was a big point in the game. We had kind of lost the momentum a little bit there and we obviously needed to score points on that drive."
The play ruined an otherwise solid effort by the Eagles' defense after back-to-back lousy performances against Atlanta and New Orleans. Of the Cowboys' 38 points, 17 were surrendered by the Eagles' defense. They collected three sacks, one apiece by defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, Jenkins and linebacker Mychal Kendricks.
However, they didn't force any turnovers and the run defense was lacking.
"We didn't win the ballgame, so we didn't make enough plays," defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said. "It's tough. It's tough for the team, not just for me. We're trying to win ballgames. Our job is to win and we didn't do it.
Hold that line
The Eagles shuffled their offensive line yet again.
Demetress Bell started at left tackle, King Dunlap replaced Todd Herremans at right tackle and rookie Dennis Kelly started his third straight game at right guard in place of Danny Watkins. Herremans is out for the rest of the season with a dislocated cuboid bone in his right foot. Watkins is sidelined with chronic ankle soreness.
Together with center Dallas Reynolds and left guard Evan Mathis, the line was inconsistent against the Cowboys. Dunlap was penalized three times, once for holding and twice for illegal hands to the face. Bell surrendered a sack and also was called for holding.
"I thought the offensive line was fighting all night," quarterback Nick Foles said. "They were fighting as hard as they could and that's what you want from your 'O-line.' You want them to fight every single play. I was really proud of them. I think they played their butts off."
Inside the numbers
The Eagles' Alex Henery made his 14th straight field goal before missing his first extra point of his two-year career during the fourth quarter. Henery had made 61 consecutive PATs before missing wide left after fullback Stanley Havili's 1-yard touchdown. ... Foles became the first Eagles rookie quarterback to throw a touchdown pass since A.J. Feeley in the 2001 season. ... Jeremy Maclin led the Eagles with eight catches for 93 yards.
Bumps and bruises
In addition to Vick, wide receiver Jason Avant left the game with a strained hamstring in the second quarter and did not return. Rookie Damaris Johnson replaced him.
The Eagles will play Washington for the first time next Sunday at FedEx Field in Landover, Md. The Redskins (3-6) will be the fifth team to face the Eagles this season after having an open week. The Redskins lead the series 79-71-6, but the Eagles have won three straight and five of the last six meetings.
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