Days after the Eagles’ 40-34 loss to the Cowboys on Christmas Eve, the one play that really isn’t sitting right is that 3rd-and-30.
After the Eagles got sacks on 1st and 2nd down in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys were facing a seemingly impossible 3rd-and-30 from their own 29-yard line.
And they converted it.
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Dak Prescott hit T.Y. Hilton for a 52-yard gain to keep the drive alive and the Cowboys scored a few plays later to tie the game at 34-34. Had the Eagles forced a punt they might already be the top seed in the NFC.
For the first time since that fateful play, Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon had a chance to explain the call and what went wrong.
“It's me. I have to do a better job of coaching what I want out of that call,” Gannon said on Tuesday. “I'm not going to get into specifics of the call, but I liked the call. But looking back at it, we have to do a better job putting our guys in position to make that play and get off the field because you can't give up a 3rd-and-30.
“That was a play in that game that I felt like was a little bit of a tipping point when we let them convert and then they scored that drive, that hurts the ball club.
Got to do a better job myself.”
Gannon was also asked about disguise on the call.
“There's always disguise in every call, depending on what the situation, the down and distance, everything like that,” he said. “But ultimately it falls on me, and have to get our guys in better position to make that play.”
Gannon purposely left some things vague on Tuesday but his players filled in some of the blanks in the locker room after the loss.
After the game, Eagles cornerback Darius Slay said he didn’t want to point fingers but made it pretty clear he didn’t think the error was on him. Slay was in trail coverage and backup nickel cornerback Josiah Scott said his responsibility was the deep half.
“I don’t want to put fingers and stuff like that,” Slay said. “It was an over Cover 2 call. S—, we just have to get depth and stuff like that. We just gotta do our job.”
Scott also said there were some communication problems because the Cowboys hit them with a quick-snap on this play.
“It was like right as the ball was snapped,” Scott said. “It was kind of like, oh shoot, the ball was snapped. So just tried to execute my assignment.”
There were clearly execution errors on this play from Scott but it’s also fair to question the pre-snap disguised Tampa 2 call, which gave Scott an ambitious assignment as the play unfurled. Of course, there was still a play to be made and he didn’t make it.
This is the longest 3rd-down conversion the Eagles have given up in at least 28 years and it’s one of just eight 30+ yard conversions on third down in the NFL during that span.
The Eagles clearly missed Avonte Maddox after he was forced out of the game with a toe injury. They had to rely on Scott and that was a problem. And it might continue to be a problem with Maddox reportedly out “indefinitely” with his injury. Although, there’s a chance C.J. Gardner-Johnson could return this weekend.
“It affects everybody that's up because they all have to know it,” Gannon said. “I think everybody that's out there playing has to know what we want out of every call, so that ultimately falls on me.”
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