The story of the night for the Eagles on Saturday was the same story that the team has been writing for much of the season. Just when momentum seemed to shift into the Eagles' favor, there was a drop or a penalty or a fumble. Every time it looked like things might turn out well for the Eagles, a costly mistake crippled the team's chance at success.
On Saturday night, fans were hoping for a twist ending to that all-too-familiar story. Instead, the plot remained unchanged and the Washington Redskins came away victorious by a final score of 38-24 to clinch the NFC East title.
"There were times where we did click for a few games, but for the most part the offense wasn't clicking this year like we normally have in the first two years when we were breaking franchise records for points two years in a row," said tackle Lane Johnson. "It's just a major setback from that standpoint."
A prime example of the Eagles' inconsistent play this season came in the middle of the third quarter. The Eagles had just scored to climb back within six points at 23-17. The offense got the ball back with an opportunity to take the lead, but the ball, and the chance to keep momentum going, slipped through running back DeMarco Murray's fingertips and was returned by safety DeAngelo Hall for a 17-yard touchdown.
The Washington Redskins traveled to Philadelphia to face the Eagles in their final regular season game at home. View the full gallery here...
"Obviously, we had the dropped passes and the turnovers," said center Jason Kelce. "We were never really able to establish a solid running game for most of the year. It's really a recipe for disaster. Obviously, (I'm) very frustrated. This isn't what anyone expected or wanted, but you'll get exposed if you're not good enough and don't play well.
"We look at the game out there, and there were times when we were moving the ball great. Then obviously the turnovers and penalties and things like that killed us, but that's what it's been all year. That's why we're 6-9. Everybody knows what it is. We can see the mistakes out there and you can't win football games when you play like that … I think what we need to focus on offensively is not making these mistakes."
The Eagles posted 398 yards of total offense on the night, but the raw numbers don't paint the complete picture. After scoring a touchdown on a beautiful 80-yard opening drive, the Eagles couldn't find the end zone again until midway through the third quarter.
"We knew that they were a good offense and we knew that we were going to need to score throughout, so anytime you can go down and score early, that's a positive," said offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. "It kind of gets the motor going a little bit, but … six or seven drops, six accepted penalties against us, and then the two fumbles, which are no-nos.
"The one fumble that they returned for a touchdown, that was a six-point game at that point. We had just scored on a quick drive. We found a little rhythm and found some good stuff that we wanted to and then the score stretched out again."
For the second straight season, tight end Zach Ertz put up some of the best numbers of his professional career in the Week 16 matchup with the Washington Redskins, caching 13 passes for 122 yards, but for the second straight year, the big performance came in a losing effort. Ertz's night also included a lost fumble and some passes he couldn't hold on to, and while he took full responsibility for the plays he missed, he vowed to learn from it as he continues to grow in his NFL career.
"Our goal every year is to win the division, make the playoffs and make a run and get hot at the right time, and obviously we didn't do that," Ertz said. "We had so many opportunities this year. It shouldn't have come down to this game in the first place.
"I had a lot of drops today and a big fumble. I take a lot of responsibility for this game. Obviously it's not my best game, and it hurts. This is the deciding game of the division, so I'm going to be taking this with me all offseason and it's going to motivate me a lot."