It ended on a third-and-74-yards-to-the-end-zone play with a completion from Nate Sudfeld to Quez Watkins that gained 6 yards, an apt ending to a disappointing 4-11-1 Eagles season and the Washington Football Team players celebrated their NFC East Championship after the 20-14 win while the Eagles trudged to the locker room, disappointed and knowing that a long and franchise-changing offseason awaits, one that features the sixth overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft and a whole lot of decisions that need to be made.
A team that opened the season blowing a 17-0 lead at Washington ended with Sudfeld replacing Jalen Hurts at quarterback, with Carson Wentz inactive on the sidelines. The Eagles trailed only 17-14 when Head Coach Doug Pederson made the call to insert Sudfeld, and he was asked to explain the move in the virtual postgame interview room.
"Yes, I was coaching to win, yes that was my decision solely," Pederson said. "Nate has obviously been here for four years and I felt that he deserved an opportunity to get some snaps. Listen, if there is anything out there that thinks that I was not trying to win the game, you know, (tight end Zach) Ertz is out there, (defensive end) Brandon Graham is out there, (cornerback) Darius Slay is out there. All our top guys are still on the field at the end, so we were going to win the game.
"Pretty simple, the plan this week was to get Nate some time and I felt it was the time to get him in the game."
That wasn't the only topic for Pederson to answer in the postgame period. Earlier on Sunday, a report emerged saying that Wentz would ask the Eagles for a trade in the weeks to come and Pederson was asked to comment on that and if he felt Wentz could be the quarterback for the Eagles in the future.
"Look, I've answered this question quite a bit and you know how I feel about Carson Wentz," Pederson said. "I've got the utmost respect for him and I feel like we can, together, get these things corrected and get back on track and that's my mindset going into the offseason and that's where I'm at. … I still have total faith, total trust in Carson Wentz and myself together to get the job done."
Pederson described his relationship with Wentz as "good. It's been professional. We've communicated over the last month of the season. Listen, I know he's frustrated. He was the starter and I get that and that's understandable. I have so much confidence in him and myself that we can work on the things we need to work on and get it done."
Also, reports on Saturday said that Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz would step away from football for at least a season, and Pederson said "these are the conversations that we're going to have here in the next couple of days and Jim and I will obviously sit down and talk and just see where he's at, if that's the case. I truly appreciate Jim Schwartz and the five years that we've worked together. He helped the Philadelphia Eagles win a championship in 2017 and he's really done an outstanding job for us, for me, and obviously for the organization. Whatever he decides moving forward, I will support that."
As for Sunday night's game, a competitive one even with the Eagles missing so many key players with injury, here are some observations …
1. Good job by the offensive line when Hurts played quarterback, with Matt Pryor at left tackle and Brett Toth at right tackle, the 14th starting combination for the O-line this season. Working against a terrific Washington front, the line held up, particularly on the edges. It was nothing spectacular, but the Eagles learned something about Toth in his first NFL start. He's something to work with. Pryor isn't a tackle, but the fact that he can help a team at both guard spots and both tackle spots gives him a chance to play in the NFL for a long, long time.
2. Jalen Reagor left the game in the first half with a head injury. Reagor played in 11 games and had 31 receptions for 396 yards and a touchdown. He's certainly got some explosiveness, but Reagor has to stay healthy. The offense could have used a lot more from Reagor in 2020.
3. Hurts played three quarters and he managed things pretty well, leading the offense to 14 points. Hurts recognized when Washington brought pressure and he was decisive when he left the pocket. Hurts also threw the ball well from the pocket and, despite the threat of Washington's speed and attacking defense, Hurts kept his composure and moved the offense. He threw an interception when tight end Zach Ertz couldn't untangle himself from coverage. Hurts, in his fourth start, had a most impressive performance, given everything the Eagles had going on with the shifting personnel on offense.
4. Finally, a Greg Ward pass. The former collegiate quarterback made a nifty move to roll away from pressure and connect with wide receiver Travis Fulgham for a 15-yard gain. The Eagles tried another one with wide receiver John Hightower, but the play was blown up and Hightower ended up running for 1 yard.
5. Tackle Javon Hargrave was forceful inside, as were his tacklemates Malik Jackson and Raequon Williams, each of whom had a quarterback sack. Washington didn't do a whole lot offensively with a gimpy Alex Smith running the show at quarterback. Darius Slay did a nice job on wide receiver Terry McLaurin but wasn't in coverage when McLaurin caught his touchdown pass. McLaurin lined up against Grayland Arnold and ran to the corner and separated for the catch.
6. Marcus Epps is giving the Eagles something to think about as they figure out who is going to play safety next season. He had a spectacular interception as he came up in coverage against running back J.D. McKissic, popping McKissic and stealing the ball away on a short pass at the same time. The play set the Eagles up at Washington's 15-yard line late in the third quarter, a possession that died on a fourth-down throw into the end zone. Epps has been around the football a lot in the last few games – he also had an interception in Arizona – and with Rodney McLeod returning from a torn ACL and Jalen Mills due to be a free agent in March, Epps has to at least be in the conversation.
6. The Eagles missed Miles Sanders' size and power in the running game in short-yardage situations and in the red zone. Hurts had two runs for touchdowns, but after that Epps takeaway, the lack of a running game inside the 10-yard line was glaring. The Eagles could use more depth at running back – along with size – to complement Sanders. Boston Scott had some nice numbers with 15 carries and 65 yards, but the lack of success on the ground inside the 10-yard line has been an issue all season.
7. Nate Sudfeld was in a tough spot and it showed. He hadn't played in three seasons. He was rusty and had no timing and he turned the football over on his first two possessions and failed to move the offense as Washington teed off on him and took advantage of his lack of mobility. I remember a reporter asking Doug Pederson, and this is true, just before the 2017 playoffs started how long it would take for Pederson to think about replacing Nick Foles with Sudfeld. The lack of reps and practice time and game situations for Sudfeld make it so difficult to perform.