Mistakes hurt Gardner Minshew, Eagles as they fall to Cowboys – USA TODAY

ARLINGTON, Texas − Gardner Minshew, in his first game replacing Jalen Hurts, had his moments, and both he and the Eagles made more than their share of mistakes. 

The most costly came with 2:07 left in the fourth quarter, the Eagles trailing by three, when Miles Sanders fumbled the ball away at the Eagles’ 21. The Cowboys (11-4) turned that into a field goal, sending the Eagles to a 40-34 loss Saturday.

But not before the Eagles had one last chance on fourth down from the Cowboys’ 19 with 20 seconds left. Minshew, under heavy pressure, threw the ball into the end zone, toward A.J. Brown. But it was a bit too far and it fell incomplete.

Just like that, the Eagles’ chance to clinch the NFC East and the No. 1 seed throughout the NFC playoffs fell by the wayside − for now, at least.

The Eagles (13-2) can still wrap up both with one more win or one more Cowboys loss over the final two games of the regular season.

But this one will sting after five lead changes and three ties.

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The Eagles twice lost 10-point leads, mostly on mistakes. Minshew was 24-for-40 for 355 yards and two TDs. But he also threw two interceptions, both leading to Cowboys  touchdowns.

The Eagles’ defense also had a hand in the defeat, despite Josh Sweat’s 42-yard interception return for a touchdown. That gave the Eagles a 10-0 lead early in the first quarter.

But the Eagles were leading 34-27 midway through the fourth quarter with Dallas facing a third-and-30 following back-to-back sacks by Haason Reddick − he forced a fumble that the Cowboys recovered − and Sweat. But Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott aired the ball out down the sideline for T.Y. Hilton, who got behind Darius Slay and Josiah Scott, for 53 yards and a first down.

“I can still play. If you don’t think I can play, then that’s on you,” said the 33-year-old Hilton, who spent 10 years with Indianapolis. “I don’t have to be fast. I can be slow, I can still get open. But I’m still fast.”

The Cowboys scored on that drive to tie the game. Then Minshew was intercepted by DaRon Bland at the Cowboys’ 46. That led to the go-ahead field goal with 2:19 left.

Then Sanders fumbled and it appeared as if the Eagles were doomed.

But the defense held, forcing a field goal.

Then Minshew went to work. DeVonta Smith’s 22-yard catch with 33 seconds left got the ball down to the Cowboys’ 19.

Three straight incompletions brought up fourth-and-10. And the Eagles fell short.

“We missed an opportunity,” Minshew said. “You can’t turn the ball over four times. We stress turnovers all the time. That’s what has made us successful.”

Brown (113 yards receiving) and Smith (103 yards) each went over 100 yards in the same game for the third time.

But Dallas’ offense was just as impressive. Prescott threw for 347 yards and three TDs, while CeeDee Lamb had 120 yards receiving.

In the first half, Dallas racked up 210 yards and converted 6-of-8 third downs. The Eagles did get a stop on third-and-goal from the 3 late in the first half, when Prescott threw incomplete into the end zone. The Cowboys settled for a field goal to tie the game at 17-all.

Then Minshew took the Eagles down to the Cowboys’ 29, where they settled for Jake Elliott’s 47-yard field goal with 11 seconds left for a 20-17 halftime lead.

Sweat gave the Eagles an early 10-0 lead. Prescott was trying to throw in the flat to a receiver, but he couldn’t get the ball over the 6-foot-5 Sweat, who picked it off then returned it for a touchdown.

“Guess I just misjudged his length. He made a great catch,” Prescott said. “I was chasing him down, like, ‘Is this happening again? Oh well. Let me get back on the field, let’s get this thing back rolling.'” 

But the lead didn’t last long as the Cowboys drove down the field, scoring on Ezekiel Elliott’s 1-yard TD run. Minshew then threw an interception that eventually led to Prescott’s 36-yard TD pass to Lamb and the Cowboys had the lead.

Then Minshew drove the Eagles down the field, and scored on a QB sneak from the 1.

But it was a costly first half as rookie defensive tackle Jordan Davis left to be examined for a concussion and cornerback Avonte Maddox left with a toe injury. Both were ruled out for the rest of the game. Right tackle Lane Johnson left in the fourth quarter.

Still, Dallas Goedert made his return after missing five games with a shoulder injury. He had two catches for 45 yards in the first half.

Contact Martin Frank at mfrank@delawareonline.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.