ARLINGTON, Texas — The Eagles had the Cowboys right where they wanted them.
After back-to-back sacks in the fourth quarter from Haason Reddick and Josh Sweat, the Cowboys were faced with a seemingly impossible 3rd-and-30 from their own 29-yard line.
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The Cowboys converted it.
Dak Prescott aired out a deep ball to 33-year-old T.Y. Hilton, who had been a Cowboy for less than two weeks, and Hilton came down with it for a 52-yard gain.
A few plays later, the Cowboys scored to tie up the game in their eventual 40-34 win.
“Man, it’s just wild there,” veteran cornerback Darius Slay said. “Coach made a call. People just gotta do their job, really, man. Good throw by Dak, good catch by him. But if everybody just do their job, that play would have been stopped easily. That s— there, that was mind-blowing.”
Yeah, mind-blowing indeed.
The ProFootballReference play finder goes back to 1994 and this is the longest 3rd-down conversion the Eagles have given up since it began. So at least 28 years.
In fact, there have been just eight conversions on 3rd-and-30+ during those 28 years league-wide. This just doesn’t happen. And it happened to the Eagles in the fourth quarter against their most-hated rival on Sunday afternoon in North Texas.
On the play, Slay was trailing in coverage and backup nickel cornerback Josiah Scott was late giving help over the top.
“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.”
Slay took to Twitter on Saturday evening to defend himself.
Scott, who was only in the game because Avonte Maddox suffered a toe injury, explained that the Cowboys used a quick-snap as the Eagles tried to communicate what was coming among the members of their secondary. It caught them off-guard.
“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.”
When asked about his assignment on the play, Scott said, “Deep half.”
The rough part for the Eagles is that after allowing the Cowboys to convert on 6-of-8 third-down opportunities in the first half, they were much better in the second. The Cowboys were just 2-for-7 in the second half.
Unfortunately, one of them was an absolute dagger.
“We didn’t make a play and the guy did,” head coach Nick Sirianni said. “It’s really as simple as that. T.Y. Hilton made a really nice catch. Dak made a really nice throw, and we didn’t make the play. They did and we didn’t.”
Of course, there were more problems than just that 3rd-and-30. Prescott ended up completing 77% of his passes for 347 yards with 3 touchdowns and 1 interception on Saturday.
It felt an awful lot like some of those games from the Eagles defense in 2021.
And Prescott’s stats against zone coverage, via NFL Next Gen Stats, did nothing to alleviate that: 24/24, 300 yards, 3 touchdowns.
Still, even after all that went wrong on Saturday, if the Eagles just found a way to get off the field on 3rd-and-30 — or if they didn’t turn the ball over four times — they would have probably walked out of AT&T Stadium with a win.
They have a big game against the Saints at home on New Year’s Day in a week.
“They made a play. They get paid to make plays too,” Fletcher Cox said. “They made a play and we gotta move on from that. We can let that 3rd-and-30 dwell on us, affect our season. We still got two more games to play.”
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