PHILADELPHIA — Pass. Pass. Pass. Punt.
Four straight possessions saw the same result for the Philadelphia Eagles in a game they had to win to control their playoff hopes. Now they’ll need a lot of help to get an NFC wild-card berth.
Given the way they played against the Washington Redskins with their season on the line, the Eagles (8-6-1) probably don’t deserve to advance.
While everyone will harp on the last play of Sunday’s 10-3 loss at Washington — Reggie Brown was tackled at the 1 — it never should have come down to that. The problem for the Eagles was a familiar one: Questionable play selection. Poor execution, especially dropped balls, also hurt.
Coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg completely abandoned the running attack, even though the Eagles only trailed by a touchdown. They called 12 straight passing plays in the fourth quarter with Donovan McNabb scrambling on the last one. Eight of the 12 plays were in a shotgun formation, which hardly disguises the pass although the Eagles run out of it sometimes.
“We probably could have run it a couple of more times,” Reid said Monday. “We were backed up and trying to make some things happen. We took some shots in there and at the time we weren’t running it quite as effective as we would have liked to, but we probably could have stuck with it a little bit more.”
The Eagles averaged 154.3 yards rushing during a three-game winning streak that put them back in the playoff race. They had just 62 yards on the ground against the Redskins on 16 attempts, including two scrambles.
Overall, the Eagles ran 64 plays against Washington. The ratio of called passes to runs was 50:14 or 78 percent. Even before the final series when they had to pass, it was 35:13 or 73 percent. Brian Westbrook, the team’s best playmaker, only had 18 touches, including 12 rushes.
“The majority of the time on first and second down they were presenting an eight-man front,” Reid said. “And so, they gave you opportunities to work your quick (passing) game and they were playing off-coverage on the outside. We just didn’t do as well as I thought we could do.”
The pass-first philosophy didn’t seem like the right approach against the Redskins because receivers Kevin Curtis and Hank Baskett were sidelined with injuries. That meant Brown, who was a healthy scratch the previous two games, had to get significant playing time. He inexplicably cut his route short on the final play and came up one yard shy of the end zone after a 17-yard catch.
“He probably should have stuck with the original (route),” Reid said. “We tell the receivers to make sure that they are in the end zone in those situations, so we could have done a little bit better of a job there. We want to make sure that there is no question.”
McNabb struggled a bit after three straight outstanding performances that followed his first career benching. He finished 26 of 46 for 230 yards, bouncing a few passes to open targets. His receivers didn’t give him much help, either. DeSean Jackson couldn’t hang onto a deep pass with six minutes left. Then he let the tying touchdown on a perfectly thrown long ball slip through his hands in the end zone in the final minute.
For the Eagles to make the playoffs, they must beat Dallas (9-6) at home and hope for two others teams to lose. First, Tampa Bay (9-6) has to lose to Oakland (4-11) at home and either Chicago (8-6) or Minnesota (9-6) has to lose.
It’s far more likely Philadelphia will miss the playoffs for the second straight year and third time in four seasons since losing the Super Bowl.