Cowboys 29, Eagles 23: Standout plays

Cowboys 29, Eagles 23: Standout plays

Reviewing the key moments in the Eagles' how-did-that-happen? loss to the Cowboys?

1. First quarter: Marcus Smith sack
Smith, the Eagles' first-round pick in 2014, entered the game with 1.5 career sacks -- and none this season. On the fourth play from scrimmage, Smith sacked Dak Prescott, and then on the next play stopped Ezekiel Elliott for a 2-yard gain.

2. First quarter: Caleb Sturgis 30-yard field goal
The acting job after the kick was worth mentioning. Sturgis drew a running into the kicker penalty on the Cowboys but should have been whistled for a flop.

3. First quarter: Dez Bryant 53-yard catch
Bryant simply beat Leodis McKelvin down the right sideline for a 53-yard reception. No other Eagles' defender was in site. After Elliott burst up the middle for 15 more, Prescott got the 'Boys on the board with an easy 7-yard touchdown.

4. Second quarter: Three runs by Sproles
This guy is really 33? On the Eagles' first touchdown drive, Sproles cut on a dime (sorry Shady) to make a guy miss before getting stopped for two yards. So then on 3rd-and-1, he zipped down the field for nine. Then two plays later, he jitterbugged his way for 19 to convert a 2nd-and-15.

Those runs — and a holding penalty on Dallas — set up Ryan Mathews' easy run for the Eagles' first touchdown.

5. Second quarter: Sturgis 55-yard field goal
He made this one twice, but the first one didn't count because Jason Garrett called timeout. They have to change that rule. 

Great job by Sturgis, and it wouldn't have been possible without the bullet to Dorial Green-Beckham with four seconds left. Green-Beckham did a great job to get both feet in and get out of bounds with just one second left, giving Sturgis a shot.

6. Third quarter: Jordan Matthews 5-yard TD catch
Easy pitch and catch, and notable because Doug Pederson mixed things up on the Dallas D, which wasn't ready for a sudden change in tempo. The Eagles put their foot on the gas, eschewed the huddle and drove 69 yards in 12 plays to take 10-point lead. 

“Did Chip Kelly come back in the building? What happened here?" NBC analyst Chris Collinsworth exclaimed after Matthews' TD catch.

The Eagles once again had their share of drops, but both Matthews and Agholor had nice third-down catches this series to keep the drive alive. 

7. Third quarter: 30-yard run by ... punter Chris Jones 
Kudos to the Cowboys on this one. The Eagles had all the momentum after going up 10 and forcing a 3-and-0ut ... but Jones on a fake punt took some back. It resulted in a Dan Bailey field goal, which came after Terrance Williams prevented Dak Prescott's second interception in the end zone by taking down McKelvin. 

8. Third quarter: Josh Huff 53-yard kickoff return
The Eagles' special teams weren't going to be outdone. Huff took the ensuing kickoff 53 yards to set up a 34-yard field goal.

Only Bailey prevented Huff from his second kickoff return for a touchdown in as many weeks and the Eagles' third straight week with a kickoff return for a TD.

9. Fourth quarter: Wendell Smallwood fumble
You're up 10. With the ball. There's 13:05 left to go. Sproles has been great all night. And you give the rookie his first touch of the game now? 

Easy to say after a fumble, hindsight being 20-20 and all that, but still.

Thanks to the Eagles' D, Smallwood's fumble cost the Birds only three points, as Bailey squeezed in a 49-yarder.

But when the Eagles look back at how this one got away, this is step No. 1.

10. Fourth quarter: Sean Lee throws Sproles for 6-yard loss
And here's No. 2.

It was 3rd-and-8 at the Dallas 30. Wentz tossed it to Sproles, but Lee flew right by a hobbled Jason Kelce, swallowed up Sproles, and moved the Eagles out of field goal range. 

Dubious play-call when staying in field-goal range had to be the priority. Instead of attempting a 54-yarder, the Eagles played it safe, punted and pinned the Cowboys back at their own 10.

11. Fourth quarter: Bryant 22-yard TD catch
Problem is, the Cowboys drove 90 yards in 11 plays, and the drive ended when Bryant beat Nolan Carroll with a superstar catch to tie it. Not much else to say.

12. Fourth quarter: Wentz sacked ... but doesn't fumble
On 3rd-and-19 from the Eagles' 11, Wentz escaped pressure, wound up to throw ... and was walloped from behind by corner Orlando Scandrick. Everyone was looking for the ball to fly out ... but somehow Wentz held on, and the Eagles punted.

13. Overtime: Jason Witten 5-yard TD
How did Witten get so wide open? Rodney McCleod and Malcolm Jenkins collided at the goal line, allowing Witten to easily catch his first score of the season. Game over.

Former Eagles personnel exec Tom Gamble leaves 49ers

Former Eagles personnel exec Tom Gamble leaves 49ers

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Longtime San Francisco 49ers personnel executive Tom Gamble is leaving the organization after a front-office overhaul this offseason.

General manager John Lynch announced on Wednesday that he and Gamble decided it would be in the best interest for the team and Gamble for him to leave the team.

Lynch was hired as GM to replace Trent Baalke late last month. Lynch then hired former Detroit general manager Martin Mayhew as a senior personnel executive and Adam Peters as vice president of player personnel to be his top personnel executives.

Gamble has 29 years of experience in the NFL, including 10 years with the 49ers. He was assistant general manager for San Francisco this past season.

Eagles Mailbag: Bennie Logan, top WRs in draft, Jeremy Maclin return?

Eagles Mailbag: Bennie Logan, top WRs in draft, Jeremy Maclin return?

There hasn't been much Eagles talk recently. The last few weeks have been pretty dead. 

That's about to change soon enough. Next week, the football world will take over Indianapolis for the combine and just after that, free agency will begin on March 9. After that, the draft isn't too far away. 

So let's jump into your mailbag questions: 

Yeah, I think there's a real chance Bennie Logan isn't an Eagle next year. Howie Roseman has been pretty consistent in saying he wants Logan to return, but it's fair to wonder about the price. Logan has now proven that he can play in a 4-3 or a 3-4 scheme, so there will be plenty of teams interested. 

If the Eagles lose Logan, their defense will take a big hit. There's not really a way around that. He's a good player and has been an important part of the line. But with a ton of money devoted to the defensive line over the next few years -- even assuming Connor Barwin isn't back -- will the Eagles pay another? I'm not so sure. 

And I agree that Logan was really good against the run last year. But I think his real value is in being great against the run while also being able to generate some pass rush. I think Beau Allen can be a decent run-stuffer, but he's clearly not the same player as Logan. 

I can't give a real answer here. Sorry. While I don't wholeheartedly agree with the best player available notion, the Eagles also can't prioritize one need over the other in this scenario. There will be either 13 or 14 picks before the Eagles are on the board. 

Really, it's going to depend on which players are left. Are Mike Williams and Corey Davis on the board? How about the top corners? There's a lot of them. If the player the Eagles really want at one of those positions is off the board, they could look elsewhere. And it's not automatic they'll take a receiver or a cornerback. What if they opt for an edge rusher? 

But getting back to corner vs. receiver, there are a couple thoughts: 

1. They'll pick a corner because receivers are far from a sure thing. Roseman made it a point to talk about how the 2014 draft changed expectations for rookie receivers. And the Eagles haven't had much luck recently drafting receivers in the first round. And Roseman has also said that while it might make sense to grab a first-round corner in the second round because of depth, there's often a run at positions where a draft is strong. It would be better to just get the best one. 

2. On the flip side of that, maybe they'll pick a receiver with the idea that at least one really good corner will be on the board in the second round. That would maximize value, especially if they get the receiver they want in the first round. 

That's a long way to say: I don't think it'll be about position as much as it will be about the specific player at 14 or 15. 

This is a tough one. I really think the margin separating these two is so close that the combine could flip them for me. But for now, I'm going with Mike Williams. 

Clemson listed him at 6-3, 225 and I think he's going to come close to that at the combine. And he might not have Corey Davis' speed or quick twitch, but he makes up for it. I really want to see how he performs at the combine; I expect it to confirm my belief that he's the top receiver in the draft. Davis will reportedly not run at the combine because of an ankle injury. 

It's possible a team like the Eagles could fall in love with Davis' deep threat ability. That's clearly what they value right now. But ultimately, I think Williams is the top guy. 

I don't think Ryan Mathews will be back next season. He's 29, coming off a serious neck injury and is way too expensive. The Eagles can save $4 million by cutting him. I expect that to happen and for the Eagles to try to find some younger, healthier talent. 

Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy! Let's get the band back together! 

I understand why the Maclin questions are rolling in. An ESPN column recently suggested that the Chiefs could cut the former Eagle. Maclin is familiar with the Eagles' offense and Doug Pederson, which means the move would make some sense. 

But from a football standpoint, Jackson would give the Eagles what they need more than Maclin. Over the last couple years, Maclin has really been utilized in the slot, which happens to be where the Eagles' only decent receiver plays. Sure, Pederson will move around his receivers, but there are probably better fits out there for the Eagles than Maclin. If he does become a free agent, though, it's at least worth inquiring.