There were just too many mistakes for the Dallas Cowboys’ defense to overcome against the Eagles Sunday night in Philadelphia.
“We’ve got to be cleaner,” head coach Mike McCarthy said following the Cowboys’ 26-17 loss that put an end to their four-game win streak. “The undisciplined penalties really hurt us.”
One of the biggest came from linebacker Micah Parsons, who drew a rare unsportsmanlike conduct penalty midway through the third quarter for taunting Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert after a near-interception of quarterback Jalen Hurts.
“A lot of highs and lows,” Parsons said after the game that saw the Cowboys fight back from a 20-3 halftime deficit to make a game of it in the second half. “It’s just more frustrating because it really feels like we beat ourselves. You just play back the mistakes I made and some other guys might have made.
“I know we could have played a much cleaner football game. That’s the frustrating part. I guess it’s good to learn early.”
For the first game this season, the Cowboys’ defense allowed more than 19 points. And that happened in the first half.
Dallas (4-2) came back with 17 unanswered points in the second half despite backup quarterback Cooper Rush’s worst statistical game of his career — a 37.3 passer rating with three interceptions. Rush finished with 181 yards and one touchdown — a 7-yarder to Jake Ferguson at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Dallas’ other scores came on a 30-yard field goal by Brett Maher at the end of the first half, and a 14-yard run by Ezekiel Elliott in the third quarter.
Dak Prescott is expected to return when the Cowboys host the Detroit Lions (1-4) next Sunday.
The bigger problem, however, was Hurts — who threw two touchdown passes, stayed turnover-free, and directed a rushing attack that allowed Philadelphia to gain more yards on the ground than in the air.
With the victory, the Eagles (6-0) remain the NFL’s only unbeaten team and sit atop what has proven to be a tough NFC East.
As much as the Eagles owned the second quarter – when they scored all their first-half points – the Cowboys owned the third quarter and cut a 20-point lead down to three.
While the Cowboys’ offense posted 14 unanswered points to cut the Eagles’ lead to three early in the fourth quarter, Philadelphia answered with a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that put the game away in the final minutes.
“I think there’s always value when someone cracks you in the mouth and you fight back,” said McCarthy. “There was great confidence on the sideline as we felt like we were flipping the game.”
Unfortunately for the Cowboys, there was too much to flip – thanks to the mistakes on defense.
Parsons’ unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was critical because it turned a punting situation into an automatic first down for Philadelphia.
“It’s just passion of the game,” said Parsons. “You play the game with passion, you play with heart, and sometimes you might overdo it. Football’s a game of talk trash and hitting people. And I thought it (the flag) was a little bit late, but I’ve got to be accountable for that and not give up the first down for my team.”