Mac Engel

For second consecutive week, some birds embarrass Cowboys

Jason Garrett’s team has the look of some of his classic 8-8 crews, only if the Dallas Cowboys can hit that magical mark call it a good season.

The Cowboys might make the playoffs, because some team has to, but the Philadelphia Eagles effectively wrapped up the NFC East on Sunday night with a 37-9 win.

Birds of a feather; the Cowboys lost last week to another bird team, the Atlanta Falcons, 27-7.

There will be no double-digit win total for the Cowboys, meaning this franchise has not posted consecutive 10-win seasons since 1995 and ‘96. There might not be a second consecutive trip to the playoffs, something Garrett has never done; the Cowboys have not climbed this now seemingly impossible peak since ‘06 and ‘07.

Against the Eagles, the Cowboys wide receivers were terrible. quarterback Dak Prescott was terrible, although the running game without Ezekiel Elliott wasn’t bad. The offensive line was just a tick better than it’s historically awful performance against the Falcons in Atlanta last week.

The defense ... apparently, four-letter descriptions are not permitted in this forum, which, considering how this game played out, is a waste.

This is how you know it was a bad game: The Cowboys best player was kicker Mike Nugent.

1. Linebacker Anthony Hitchens killed the prayer that he can replace Sean Lee effectively. The Cowboys have no replacement for Lee, who remains out with a hamstring issue.

The Cowboys started veteran Justin Durant in the middle, which did nothing. Jaylon Smith isn’t ready for this, and Hitchens is a serviceable pro.

The Eagles came to Arlington with the either best, or second-best, offense in the NFL. For the first half, the Cowboys defense did it and held the Eagles to seven points.

Then the loss of Lee showed up; midway through the third quarter, Eagles running back Jay Ajayi ran up the middle for a 71-yard gain. Hitchens could not get off his block and only because of safety Byron Jones’ speed did Ajayi not score.

No matter, the Eagles scored a few plays later for a 23-9 lead.

The Eagles ran 18 times for 143 yards ... through the first two-and-a-half quarters. For the game, they ran the ball 33 times for 215 yards.

1.5. The change at left tackle worked. Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott did not have his best game, but he had a chance, which is more than he did in Atlanta last week.

All Pro Tyron Smith was out again, and Chaz Green was benched. Instead, Byron Bell, the veteran from Greenville, made his first career start with the Cowboys.

The running game was OK — the absence of Ezekiel Elliott just might have had something to do with that — and Dak didn’t get killed. Unlike Green against Atlanta, when he was left one-on-one for seemingly every snap, Bell had help from a tight end or a back. And you never heard his name called.

But, who am I kidding? The offense was garbage. Dak turned it over four times, and he is getting zero help from his teammates.

Since Elliott began to serve his six-game suspension, the Cowboys are 0-2 with 16 points.

2.5 At halftime, the Pro Football Hall of Fame honored Jerry Jones for his induction during the summer. The team brought back all of their Hall of Famers, and Jerry received a nice ovation from the home crowd. There was a time when Jerry was roundly booed by many (all?) of the same people.

3.5 Speaking of giant runs by an opponent when the Cowboys are honoring great former players ... Ajayi’s 71-yard run is the longest given up by the Cowboys since Le’Ron McClain ran 82 yards for a touchdown in the Baltimore Ravens’ win against the ‘Boys on Dec. 20, 2008.

On the Ravens’ prior offensive snap before McClain’s touchdown run, teammate Willis McGahee ripped off a 77-yard touchdown run.

That was the final game at Texas Stadium, when the team brought all of the former big names back to watch an embarrassing home loss.

On Sunday night, to honor Jerry, the Cowboys had all of their Pro Football Hall of Famers come back, and they also honored the Super Bowl team from 1992.

3. The field goal crisis turned out not to be much, During warm-ups, kicker Dan Bailey was hitting field goals from about 50 yards. The Pro Bowler remains inactive, but his replacement has not been as bad as feared. Former Cincy Bengals kicker Mike Nugent has been pretty good. He was 3-for-3 on field goals in the first half, and is 7-for-9 since he stepped in for Bailey.

The Cowboys led 9-7 at the half because of Nugent’s right foot.

Too bad he couldn’t play offensive line. Or receiver. Or quarterback. Or running back. Or safety. Or linebacker.

Mac Engel: @macengelprof

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