By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS) —The Eagles were supposed to be playing the role of spoilers on Sunday against Robert Griffin III and the visiting Washington Redskins. It’s actually a role that they’ve played quite well the whole season.
The 2012 Eagles will be faintly remembered for spoiling a year of expectations, spoiling Andy Reid’s last game at Lincoln Financial Field and spoiling any hopes that they will be good again anytime soon.
Washington is a mirror antithesis of where the Eagles are heading, and that came through on Sunday, when the Redskins swept the Eagles for the first time since 2008 with a 27-20 victory at Lincoln Financial Field, for Washington’s sixth-straight victory.
Both the Eagles and Redskins were 3-6 on November 4. Behind Griffin III, Washington has not only vaulted over the Eagles, but at 9-6 possibly the entire NFC East. They’re playing meaningful games in December, and what appears like many Decembers to come, while the Eagles will be rebuilding.
The loss marked the last home game Reid will probably coach at Lincoln Financial Field as head coach of the Eagles. But all of the talk during the week leading up to the game centered on the fans’ reaction to Reid.
Was that really relevant?
What was is that the Eagles dropped to 4-11, their worst record since 1998 when they finished 3-13 under Ray Rhodes. Prior to that, you have to go back to 1976 since the Eagles last won only four games in a full season (the Eagles were 3-6 in the strike-shortened 1982 season).
“I’m pretty pissed off, well, it’s more frustration more than anything,” Eagles’ center Dallas Reynolds said. “You feel sometimes you get so close and things don’t work out, and we have to keep on battling through.”
It’s become now a matter of eight days, and one more game before it’s official and Reid, in all likelihood, will be fired. His last game will probably come next week when the Eagles travel to play the New York Giants.
“I don’t see any positives at all, from a team aspect to individually,” said LeSean McCoy, who rushed for 45 yards on 13 carries in his first game back since suffering a concussion against the Washington on November 18. “It’s been a tough year, a really tough year. I haven’t thought about [the possibility it’s Reid’s last home game]. A lot of guys have mentioned it, the media has been mentioning it, I don’t think he deserves his last game. He’s done so much for this city and this team. People forget how good of a coach he really is. I’ll fight for him. I just don’t think he should be penalized or faulted for the mistakes guys make in lackadaisical plays guys are making, and guys aren’t making. It’s hard to say he should be fired.”
At least this game, the Eagles started well, driving 11 plays and 76 yards with the opening kickoff, converting two fourth downs along the way. Nick Foles’ 27-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin concluded the drive and it seemed the Eagles would make a meaningless game intriguing.
That edge, however, didn’t last very long.
The Redskins answered by scoring on three-straight drives to take a 13-7 lead—10 points coming off a Foles’ fumble and London Fletcher interception. Over the last two years, the Eagles lead the NFL with 74 turnovers (39 interceptions, 35 fumbles) for a minus-37 in takeaway/giveaways.
The Redskins’ extended their halftime lead to 20-10 by taking the opening third-quarter kickoff 72 yards using just five plays. Then, two drives later, Griffin III hit Santana Moss with a 22-yard touchdown strike. The Washington scores sandwiched an Alex Henery 30-yard field goal.
What may have typified the game—and the season—came on fourth-and-two at the Washington 47. With 4:38 left in the third quarter, Foles moved forward in the pocket, then tripped over the left foot of rookie right tackle Dennis Kelly, giving Washington back possession at midfield.
Seven plays later, Griffin III spotted Moss in one-on-one coverage from Colt Anderson and placed a perfect pass in his waiting arms for a 27-13 lead.
Anderson, however, was a bright spot in another dismal afternoon with the Eagles’ first interception since Nnamdi Asomugha picked off a pass against Detroit on October 14—nine games ago. That’s when the beginning of the end began, when the Lions overcame a 10-point Eagles’ lead with 5:18 left to play.
The hopes of a tie slipped away not once, but twice. With :23 left at the Redskins’ 17, Foles had Maclin alone in the end zone and missed short. After getting a first down on a screen to McCoy, who reached the Washington five with :11 left to play on first-and-goal, Foles tried going to Evan Moore, a back-up tight end who the Eagles just signed Thursday. The ball bounced off Moore’s hands with :08 left. The final seconds ticked away when Foles rolled left and was pressured, then eventually flagged for intentional grounding.
“Up front, I can’t see what’s behind me, you block your guy and it may look confusing, and up front, we knew who we had,” Reynolds said. “You see the good things we do, and it does look like we’re about to take that turn and we don’t. I don’t know how else to explain it.”
There was no spoiler alert for this game. That was it.
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.