Eagles let lead slip away, lose to Cowboys in OT

ARLINGTON, Texas - The other rookie quarterback pulled off the theatrics in the Eagles' 29-23 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, throwing the memorable game-winning touchdown pass to add another dramatic chapter to the NFC East rivalry.

It was not Carson Wentz, who had two opportunities to lead the Eagles on a game-winning drives in regulation and watched his punter take the field both times. It was Dak Prescott, the fourth-round pick, who extended a play on the first drive of overtime to buy time, racing around the backfield and allow for the coverage breakdown that left Jason Witten uncovered for a 5-yard touchdown pass and the Eagles with a 4-3 record.

"Those ones I'm kind of kicking myself over," Wentz said. "We had two chances to go win the ball game at the end of regulation, and we didn't get it done."

Prescott's touchdown pass was the final highlight of the game, but it didn't need to be the final play of the game. The Eagles watched a 10-point fourth-quarter lead evaporate with Carson Wentz allergic to throwing downfield, the defense failing to stop the Cowboys late, and coach Doug Pederson making a few questionable decisions that will make for talk radio fodder all week. The Eagles have now coughed up two fourth-quarter leads on the road this season.

"We can't let those teams linger and hang on," linebacker Jordan Hicks said. "We've got to step on the gas when we have them in position. . . . It has to be a learning experience."

Wentz finished 32 of 43 for 202 yards and one touchdown. The leading receiver was Jordan Matthews, who had 11 catches for 65 yards and a score. Darren Sproles rushed 15 times for 86 yards.

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Prescott went 19 of 39 for 287 yards, two passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdown, and one interception. Ezekiel Elliott rushed 22 times for 96 yards, while Dez Bryant caught four passes for 113 yards and a score in front of 93,103 at AT&T Stadium.

After the Eagles opened the game with a 3-0 lead, the Cowboys responded with a five-play, 75-yard drive that displayed the potency of their offense. Prescott found Bryant racing past Leodis McKelvin for a 53-yard catch, Elliott stampeded through the Eagles' line for a 15-yard gain two plays later, and Prescott kept the ball for a 7-yard touchdown run to take a 7-3 lead. Those three players showed why it could have been a long night for the Eagles defense, but they kept Dallas out of the end zone until late in the fourth quarter.

The Cowboys took their biggest lead early in the second quarter with a 38-yard field goal by Dan Bailey, and could have added to it on their next possession before the Eagles forced a punt and started a drive at the Cowboys 45-yard line. The short field benefited a methodical offense that needed nine plays to go 45 yards, but the Eagles managed to move the sticks three times and finish with Ryan Mathews' 1-yard score.

The game changed with Dallas nearing the Eagles' end zone late in the second quarter. The Cowboys reached the 7-yard line with 95 seconds remaining - in position to get at least three points, if not seven points - when Prescott tried hitting Brice Butler in the end zone. Hicks, who has forced a turnover in every career game against the Cowboys, jumped in front of the pass for his first interception of the season and to keep the game tied at 10.

Pederson managed the clock in the final minute and a half to put the Eagles in a position for a 55-yard field goal with one second left, which Caleb Sturgis hit for the longest of his career and a 13-10 lead.

On the second drive of the third quarter, the Eagles came out in a no-huddle offense that flummoxed the Cowboys and would have made Chip Kelly proud. They went 69 yards over 12 plays, with Wentz completing 8 of 10 pass attempts. The final one was a 5-yard touchdown pass to Matthews in which the Cowboys didn't appear ready to cover him to take a 20-10 lead.

With a 10-point advantage, the Eagles defense forced the Cowboys to punt. It seemed an opportune time for the Eagles to put Dallas away, except punter Chris Jones tucked the ball away with pressure in his face, skirted to the perimeter and raced 30 yards for a first down. The Cowboys took advantage of the new life to kick a field goal.

The teams traded field goals in the fourth quarter, with the help of rookie running back Wendell Smallwood fumbling in Cowboys territory. And when the Eagles were in position to add points, Pederson made a curious play call. The Eagles had a third-and-8 from the Cowboys' 30-yard field goal-at least in position for a long field goal. Except Wentz threw a horizontal pass behind the line of scrimmage that the Cowboys stymied for a six-yard loss. Those six yards were enough to make Pederson send his punting team onto the field instead of attempting a 54-yard field goal.

"The play was designed to give Sproles the ball in space," Pederson said. "The linebacker made a play on it. It was designed for that look and coverage. Give them credit for it."

Pederson said he wanted to trust his defense and value field position, which was why he punted. The Cowboys made sure the Eagles regretted that decision. They drove 88 yards to tie the game at 23 after Prescott found Bryant for a 22-yard score.

"For me, staying aggressive, that's been something I've prided myself on," Pederson said of the learning experience.

And Wentz had two chances to add to the mystique that already follows him in Philadelphia, the types of signature moments a quarterback yearns for and an organization that sacrificed a bounty of draft picks would want for its franchise quarterback. He couldn't lead a victory either time.

That proved costly when the Cowboys won the coin toss in overtime, drove downfield on the Eagles defense, and sent the Eagles with their third consecutive road loss before visiting the New York Giants next week.

"Any time you lose a game like this, in overtime, it's frustrating," Wentz said. "And to be in control in the fourth quarter, it's tough. We just didn't execute down the stretch. They made some plays, more plays than us. It's frustrating, but we'll learn from it."

zberman@phillynews.com

@ZBerm