LANDOVER, Md. -- Surely, this is not where the Eagles expected to be three weeks ago when they were 9-3, tied for the best record in the league. Now, three losses later, the Eagles find themselves on their very last playoff thread. By the time the team reconvenes on Monday, the Eagles could be eliminated, just like that.
"It's very frustrating for us to be 9-3 and control our own destiny and then be in this situation. We didn't envision this," said tight end Zach Ertz, who caught a franchise-record 15 passes in the 27-24 loss to Washington on Saturday. "We know we need a lot of help, but we're focused on the Giants. We'll probably watch the game tomorrow with everybody. I've been a big Andrew Luck fan before, now I'm going to be an even bigger one."
The Eagles will need Dallas to lose their remaining two games, to Indianapolis Sunday and at Washington next week. That scenario would also require the Eagles snapping their three-game skid and defeating the New York Giants in New Jersey next weekend.
"Obviously guys are going to be very tuned into the game tomorrow, but say we are eliminated when the Cowboys win, we're still going to come out against the Giants and play to the best of our abilities," Ertz said.
The Eagles were doomed again by the same unforced errors – turnovers and penalties. Five defensive penalties led directly to first downs for Washington.
"We can't have that many third-down penalties," said defensive coordinator Bill Davis. "We're getting off the field, making some plays – what'd they have, 20 percent on third down? (Washington was 2 of 9 on third down) – but then we shoot ourselves in the foot with penalties. You can't have that and think you're going to win games in the NFL."
"It would be hard to argue that you are a disciplined team and then you do that," said safety Malcolm Jenkins. "Some of them are maybe a little bit ticky-tack, but some of them are just a lack of discipline, a lack of focus in the moment. And you can't do it. Nobody wants to say that you're an undisciplined team, but you have to go out and prove it. I think over the last few weeks, those penalties, especially on third downs, we really shot ourselves in the foot. Especially after we get stops."
The scene in the post-game locker room, with heads down and perplexed faces, was clearly one of disappointment.
"It's tough," said outside linebacker Brandon Graham, who was credited with six tackles in his first start of the season. "Three losses in a row, you don't want that, especially with the type of team that we have. We work hard every day. That's the part that sucks, because we know how much we put in. For us to beat ourselves, that's the worst way to go out."
It is hard to reconcile the team the Eagles were in the first 12 games of the season with the one that has fallen off so sharply in December. The players have no good answers, only anger at themselves for not getting the job done.
"We have to get a stop or the season's over," said cornerback Brandon Boykin of the final defensive series. "All those small victories, with a winning record and all that does not matter if we don't get the job done today and we didn't. Nothing else matters, to be honest."
The Eagles traveled to Washington to face their NFC East rivals in a crucial Week 16 showdown. Making the affair much more special, is that it's Saturday afternoon football ...