All the pomp and pageantry mattered nothing at the end of the day. The Eagles stumbled in their NFC East opener, falling to Washington 17-12, they lost quarterback Michael Vick for an undetermined period of time with a rib injury, and the team made enough mistakes to cause alarm after back-to-back wins spurred some momentum.
Yeah, the fans gave Donovan McNabb a standing ovation when he was announced before the game, showing great class and dignity. After that, it was pretty much all lackluster for the 2-2 Eagles. The team committed 8 costly penalties. They had breakdowns on special teams and on defense early, and the offense didn't get untracked the entire afternoon and evening.
And then there was the curious sequence late in the first half when the Eagles had the ball in Washington territory, trailing 17-3. LeSean McCoy rushed on a third-and-2 play for 1 yard and appeared to very nearly cross the goal line. He was ruled down at the 1-yard line and the officials then called for a booth review. The play was upheld, but the ball moved back from the original spot about a half a yard.
Prior to sending the offense back on the field on fourth and goal, Andy Reid called timeout. Then all heck broke loose. As the offense ran back on the field and before they could even line up, the officials called a delay of game penalty on the Eagles, moving the ball to the 6-yard line. At that point, the Eagles settled for a David Akers field goal to make it 17-6 at the half.
Instead of carrying some momentum into the third quarter, the Eagles trailed by 11 points and Lincoln Financial Field was somber.
"That's my fault," Reid said. "I'm trying to explain the thought process on it and that's where I'm going to end it. We had the play called for inches and inches weren't inches when that thing was spotted. The position of the ball wasn't where we thought. From where it was originally and where it ended up being were two different spots. That's my responsibility. I'm not here to complain about the officials. I'm not here to complain about anybody else.
It was an awful way to end the half, one that was too similar to the opener against Green Bay. Vick was sent off the field -- for how long, we don't yet know -- when he made a pretty scramble, knifing through the middle and diving toward the end zone. But Vick took a hit from both DeAngelo Hall and Kareem Moore and he was slow to get up. Eventually, Vick was helped up and off the field as Kolb took over the offense (the run by Vick was wiped out, typical of the day) and ran the show the rest of the way.
The fourth quarter was interesting after Kolb threw a touchdown pass to Brent Celek, but with 3 minutes, 53 seconds to play, McNabb took a snap in shotgun and ran around the right edge for 18 yards to keep a drive alive and forestall the Eagles' last shot.
Kolb put the offense in position, but his final heave into the end zone from the 32-yard line went in ... and then out ... of the hands of wide receiver Jason Avant and then Hall made the interception and the game was over.
You knew it was going to be a tough game from the very start when the offense went three and out and then Sav Rocca rocketed a 57-yard punt that Washington's Brandon Banks returned up the sideline for 53 yards to the Philadelphia 39-yard line. The Redskins then pounded the defense to score a touchdown -- a handoff to wide receiver Santana Moss gained 5 yards and the Redskins gained another 15 yards when Quintin Mikell was penalized 15 yards for a personal foul and the Redskins had the ball at the 19-yard line. Clinton Portis ran for 7 yards to the 12 and then Ryan Torian trucked Mikell on the way to the end zone.
Washington drove 9 plays and 78 yards on its second possession, ended when McNabb threw a pass on Chris Cooley's fingertips for 31 yards and a touchdown and it was, shockingly, 14-0.
Then Vick was injured and the entire day was just ... so ... disappointing. As they had against Green Bay, the Eagles had the ball with a chance to win. And as happened against Green Bay, the Eagles fell short.
I wish I knew about this football team. I loved when the Eagles went into Jacksonville and whipped an inferior team. And it was just as disappointing to lose to an inferior Washington team, at home, no less. The Eagles committed 8 penalties, including four holding calls against the offensive line. The special teams gave up the huge punt return that helped set up a Washington touchdown. The defense allowed three consecutive scoring drives to open the game before shutting out the Redskins.
And the offense had no rhythm and did not strike big down the field. DeSean Jackson caught 3 passes for 19 yards. Jeremy Maclin had one reception for 15 yards. McCoy was the huge weapon and he was terrific -- 174 yards on 28 touches -- but even McCoy had a play he wanted back when he fumbled late in the third quarter in Washington territory to end a scoring opportunity.
Why did the Eagles make so many mistakes? Is this a team still in the process of finding itself? Are the Eagles going to bump along for much of the season until the young roster establishes its leadership and ability to win close games like these?
And what about the quarterback situation? If Vick is out for an extended period of time -- published reports on Sunday night said that Xrays on his ribs were negative, but Reid did not acknowledge that in the post-game press conference -- can Kolb get his groove going and regain the explosiveness for this offense?
So many questions. Every single unit on this team deserves to be critiqued. Where was the defensive line against a so-so (at best) Washington front? And the Eagles offensive line? All of those penalties are killing the offense.
Tough game. Tough loss. I wasn't caught up in the McNabb hype -- although it was very pleasing to hear the crowd give him a standing ovation during the pre-game period -- and all I care about now is losing to a division rival that, frankly, shouldn't win at Lincoln Financial Field.
The loss to Washington was so eerily familiar to the loss to Green Bay. The Eagles need to get something going and keep it moving forward. The division is clearly wide open in the crazy-even NFC East. Right now, though, it is hard to look ahead. This is a loss that is going to gnaw for some time.