LANDOVER, Md. – If there was ever the perfect microcosm for a season, it was this game, this hard-to-take 27-24 loss to Washington at FedEx Field on Saturday evening. With everything to play for, the Eagles made the same mistakes they've made all season, including an interception thrown by quarterback Mark Sanchez that set Washington up for the winning points and sent the Eagles to their third consecutive defeat.
It wasn't a difficult pass on third-and-4 from the Washington 48-yard line. Sanchez, facing a blitz from his left side, threw for wide receiver Jeremy Maclin on the right side of the formation. He threw off his back foot, rushed it a bit because of the free man coming at him, though, and instead of throwing outside, toward the sidelines, threw it inside just enough to give cornerback Bashaud Breeland a chance at the pass. Breeland made a diving interception and Washington took control at its 42-yard line.
"I knew people were going to come free, so I'm just trying to anticipate where Mac is going to be and I had a guy in my face and I tried to throw it to him (Maclin)," said Sanchez, who completed 37 of 50 passes for 374 yards and two touchdowns. "The guy (Breeland) made an unbelievable play. It would have been a great throwaway and fourth down and we're still rolling, so it's really too bad."
Said Maclin, who had created enough space away from Breeland to make a catch on an accurate throw: "It was behind me. It was a tough route for what coverage they had, but the ball was behind me."
On first down from there, Washington's Robert Griffin III completed a pass on the edge to wide receiver Pierre Garcon and he broke a tackle attempt by cornerback Cary Williams to gain 23 yards to the Philadelphia 35-yard line. A roughing-the-passer penalty against defensive end Vinny Curry on the play cost the Eagles another 15 yards and Washington had a first down at the 20-yard line.
Washington moved into field goal position as the Eagles burned their timeouts and Kai Forbath kicked a 26-yard field goal with five seconds remaining in the game to provide the winning points for Washington.
"It's tough to take," linebacker Connor Barwin said, "but we're doing it to ourselves. We have too many mistakes across the board. Penalties, missed opportunities, turnovers. You can't win in this league against any team making the kind of mistakes we're making."
It was a brutal way to end an extremely disappointing day. The Eagles committed two turnovers, leading to two Washington field goals. The offense moved the football up and down the field all game, but those two giveaways, plus a 3 of 5 performance in the red zone – missing after a takeaway on the opening kickoff of the second half and then unable to convert on a first-and-goal situation from the Washington 8-yard line late in the fourth quarter, limited the Eagles to only 24 points.
The penalties were costly, as the Eagles committed 13 of them for a loss of 102 yards, and five of those penalties were called against the Eagles' defense, giving Washington first downs. Two Cody Parkey missed field goals were, obviously, painful.
The defense didn't handle wide receiver DeSean Jackson – who had 4 catches for 126 yards including gains of 51 yards and 55 yards that led to two touchdowns – until the coaching staff used Nolan Carroll II instead of Bradley Fletcher and added some safety help over the top.
"You try to get some help over the top in certain coverages and get matched up with them," head coach Chip Kelly said of the cornerbacks-vs.-Jackson matchup. "We felt like our corners could stay with him but obviously they didn't and he had a good game."
Going to waste were 495 total net yards of offense, including 115 yards on a franchise-record 15 receptions from tight end Zach Ertz.
Playoffs? The chances are remote – Dallas has to lose against Indianapolis and at Washington and the Eagles have to win on Sunday at New York – and nobody, frankly, wanted to even think about the postseason after this troubling defeat.
The Eagles did not take care of their business on Saturday at Washington in losing their third straight game.
"We have had games that we win as a team and here we lost as a team and it's very disappointing," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "It hurts a lot, because I think we have a much better team than we've played in the last few weeks. But we've done it to ourselves. We're here because of what we've done."
It's amazing to think that the Eagles were 9-3 three weeks ago, but losses to Seattle and then Dallas and now Washington leave the Eagles at 9-6 with a game to play.
Disappointing, to say the least.
"We're just not doing the right things to win football games," Kelly said.
There were so many critical moments. Jenkins had a chance to end Washington's first drive after an early Sanchez fumble, but he couldn't come up with an interception on the goal line. A first-and-10 at Washington's 40-yard line with 34 seconds to go in the first half and the Eagles leading 14-10 went to waste. After Jenkins forced an Andre Roberts fumble on the opening kickoff of the second half, the Eagles had a three-and-out offensive series and then Parkey missed a 34-yard field goal. After Washington took a 17-14 lead, the Eagles moved the ball right down the field and couldn't convert on a third-and-1 McCoy run behind right guard Andrew Gardner and Parkey's 46-yard field goal went wide right.
The Eagles roared back in the fourth quarter after trailing 24-14, but they failed in their final red zone chance and then Sanchez moved the offense from the 15-yard line to the Washington 48 and threw the interception.
It added up to a defeat, a painful one and one that told the story of the season: Too many turnovers, not enough touchdowns in the red zone, far too many penalties and a defense that gave up two receptions of 50-plus yards that led to touchdowns.