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December 25, 2022

Five-minute fallout: The Eagles fell apart late against Dallas

Almost anything that could go wrong did for the Eagles in those final five minutes

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DeVonta-Smith-Incompletion-Eagles-Cowboys-Week-16-NFL-2022.jpg Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports

Eagles WR DeVonta Smith is pushed out of bounds trying to make a late-game catch for the win by Cowboys CB Nahshon Wright Saturday down in Dallas.

Those last five minutes went about as badly as they could've possibly gone. 

Lane Johnson got hurt, Gardner Minshew threw an interception right after, Dallas took the lead with a field goal, then Miles Sanders fumbled at the start of the next – critical – drive, leading to another Dallas field goal and a six-point hole. 

They had their chances, even down to the very last play. The one-seed and the NFC East title were well within grasp, but when things got down to the wire, the Eagles couldn't hold it together and the Cowboys left on top, 40-34, with a leg still in the race for the top spot in the playoffs. 

Merry Christmas, Philadelphia. That was brutal. 

The good news: The magic number is still one. With a win over the Saints or the Giants in the next two weeks, the Eagles (13-2) will still get the division title, home-field advantage, and a first-round bye in the playoffs. 

The bad news: Well, no one's exactly breathing easier because of it right now. 

• The Cowboys (11-4) are still alive in the race for the NFC East and the No. 1 seed alongside Minnesota (12-3) and San Francisco (11-4), though all three need to win out while requiring the Eagles to lose out. 

• Johnson went down with 4:51 left and had to be tended to by trainers, a sight that no one in Philadelphia ever wants to see. He got up and off the field under his own power but went to the medical tent on the sideline and didn't return.

Jack Driscoll took over in his place and the pressure on Minshew's right got greater on the Eagles' final drive. 

What's known about Johnson's status so far via The Philadelphia Inquirer's Josh Tolentino:

The Eagles absolutely need Johnson healthy if they're going to make a run. He hasn't allowed a sack in ages and is about as close of a lock as you can get when it comes to keeping the quarterback protected. The Eagles' offensive line has been so strong for so long in large part because of him.

We'll know more going into next week. 

• The Eagles still had a chance after the late Minshew interception, which led to a field goal that put Dallas up 37-34, but Sanders' fumble to start the next drive sucked the wind out of everything. 

"Nobody else's fault but mine," Sanders said postgame, though his teammates were far from pinning the blame on him. Three turnovers before that (another fumble and two interceptions) did them no favors. 

"We just can't have four turnovers on offense," DeVonta Smith said. "We're not gonna win the game like that." 

And they're not, nor can they afford, to dwell on it either. 

"It's on to the next one, quick memory," Sanders said. 

• If there's one real killer, however, it was when Dak Prescott hit T.Y. Hilton on that huge 3rd and 30 conversion following back-to-back sacks from Haason Reddick and Josh Sweat midway through the fourth. More often than not, a sequence like that can put an opponent away, but the Eagles couldn't get that last stop to finish it off. Instead, they let up a 52-yard bomb, which went on to set up the game-tying touchdown from CeeDee Lamb. 

"That can't happen," cornerback Darius Slay said, who fell behind trailing Hilton on the pass. "That's a play that changed the game, changed the momentum...We gotta execute that better on the back end.

"That play got me hot, real hot."

And losing to the Cowboys is never fun around here. 

Merry Christmas, Philadelphia. That was brutal. 

But it's over now. On to the next one. 

"We'll correct," head coach Nick Sirianni said. "We'll correct all the mistakes we made in this game because we made plenty of them. Playing, coaching, we made plenty of mistakes that we'll learn from. 

"That's what I love about this team is that we'll learn from our mistakes and just crave to get better...We'll get better from this game."

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