By losing, Eagles get a much-needed victory with a chance at a top NFL draft pick
The Eagles won Sunday.
No, not on the field. They got walloped, losing to the Dallas Cowboys 37-17 and blowing a chance to play for the NFC East division title.
And the Eagles lost like they typically do – with broken-down players breaking down, with little discipline on offense or defense, with injuries decimating positions that make it all too easy for the opponent to exploit.
But the Eagles ultimately won because they'll secure a top-10 draft pick. As of now, the Eagles (4-10-1) are tied for the No. 5 pick with Cincinnati. They could end up as high as No. 3 if Houston, Atlanta and the Bengals win while the Eagles lose their finale to Washington this coming Sunday.
And just for kicks, the NFL decided to flex the Eagles-Washington game to 8:20 p.m., presumably so the entire nation can see the Eagles’ defense make whoever starts at quarterback for Washington seem like the second coming of Johnny Unitas ... or the Cowboys' Andy Dalton after he dissected the Eagles for 377 yards and 3 touchdowns.
SECONDARY IS PRIMARY: Eagles problems are secondary to playoff hopes
So here the Eagles are, with just one game to tank, er, play, with the possibility of the No. 3 draft pick as the ultimate prize.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, this is where the hard part comes in. The Eagles need a lot of help, as the Cowboys – and really, pretty much every team – made painfully obvious during this season that was atrocious in every way.
That begins with those making the decisions in general manager Howie Roseman, head coach Doug Pederson and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.
And it continues with the players. Is Jalen Hurts the quarterback? Is Carson Wentz? Or is it the No. 3 pick, which could be Ohio State's Justin Fields or BYU's Zach Wilson? That's assuming Jacksonville takes Trevor Lawrence at No. 1.
But did you see the Eagles' secondary with Dalton picking on overmatched rookie Michael Jacquet? He was mercifully benched in the third quarter after both Amari Cooper (121 yards receiving) and Michael Gallup (also 121 yards) burned him repeatedly.
Or the offensive line with Matt Pryor looking like a sieve at right tackle? Or linebacker, where the Eagles are pretty much using duct tape and Band-Aids?
In other words, the Eagles have to figure out their biggest problems before they can go about fixing their biggest problems.
And there are many. The Cowboys had 514 yards of total offense, which came one week after Arizona had 526 yards.
The Eagles committed 12 penalties, turned the ball over three times, didn’t run enough, didn’t stop the run and were brutal on special teams.
"As the leader of the team, it starts with me, right?" Pederson said. "Look, if I don’t look at myself in the mirror, it’s hard for me to correct anybody else."
Hurts threw for 342 yards, his second straight game over 300 yards. But he turned the ball over three times in the fourth quarter on two interceptions and a lost fumble. Two of the turnovers came in the red zone.
Pederson said Hurts might have had some kind of injury in the second half that could have limited his effectiveness.
When asked about that, Hurts replied: "If I answered that question, I’d be making excuses, and I can’t go that route. They switched some things up in their coverage. If we go out there and do our job, none of that matters. We go out there and execute, none of that matters."
Of course, the Eagles didn't execute.
The Eagles need an infusion of talent, but they also need to clear salary cap room. The Eagles need to get younger, but they also need veterans who don't break down. The Eagles need to draft better, but they also need to decide who's doing the drafting, who's doing the coaching and who's doing the quarterbacking.
"No excuses," defensive end Brandon Graham said. "Nobody wavered, just next man up mentality. We played, we fought, we scratched, we clawed. We did all we could do."
It just wasn't enough. It hasn't been enough all season.
Here's an example:
DeSean Jackson had an 81-yard touchdown catch that gave the Eagles a 14-3 lead in the first quarter. It was his first game back since breaking his ankle on Oct. 22, and it seemed like he was about to save the Eagles' season.
But, as has been emblematic of the Eagles' season, Jackson didn't get another pass thrown his way the rest of the game. Pederson said Jackson was getting "sore and sorer" as the game went along.
This, too, is emblematic: Jackson, who's 34 years old, was playing in just his eighth game out of 32 since the Eagles traded for him in March 2019. And yet, Jackson's one catch for 81 yards was only 34 yards fewer than what Alshon Jeffery has had in seven games this season.
Neither veteran should return in 2021.
And yet, that would leave the Eagles with a receiving corps consisting of three rookies, two second-year players and Greg Ward. One of those second-year players, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, was the Eagles' second-round pick in 2019. He has been a healthy scratch in four games.
You get the picture.
At least the Eagles didn't continue the farce by beating the Cowboys. Their flaws were exposed, their postseason chances mercifully extinguished once and for all.
Now it's time for the Eagles to reap the rewards of their dysfunction – the chance for the No. 3 pick in the draft.
Just one more loss to go for the Eagles' biggest victory of the season.
Contact Martin Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.