By Kevin McGuire
The Philadelphia Eagles were once again embarrassed on national television in a 38-17 loss at home to NFC East rival Washington. Washington clinched the NFC East with the road win and eliminated the Eagles from postseason contention for a second straight year under head coach Chip Kelly. The Eagles opened the game on a positive note by driving 80 yards for a game-opening touchdown drive, but Kirk Cousins torched the Eagles defense for 365 yards and four touchdowns to lead his team to a division-clinching victory.
The Eagles started on the right foot with a game-opening touchdown drive of 80 yards, capped by a Ryan Mathews touchdown run from the goal line. The next four possessions resulted in punts as the Eagles failed to establish any offensive rhythm and momentum. A late fumble in the first half led to a Washington field goal and the first half could have ended with a greater deficit had Cousins not had slipped up and taken a knee instead of spiking the football.
Philadelphia managed just 45 rushing yards in the game, 27 of which were picked up by DeMarco Murray on five rushing attempts. Sam Bradford attempted 56 passes and completed 37 of them for 380 yards and a touchdown. He was sacked five times and lost one of his three fumbles. The Eagles had two turnovers, with one being a fumble returned for a Washington touchdown. Eagles players fumbled the football seven times and only managed to lose two of them.
While the Eagles may have done a solid job of making sure the running game for Washington could not get going and have an impact, the pass defense was poor. Former Eagle DeSean Jackson caught four passes for 40 yards, but Jordan Reed hauled in nine passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns. Veteran Pierre Garcon put together seven catches for 80 yards and a score as Cousins had a big game. In the second half, the Eagles gave up two crucial touchdown drives, each culminating with a touchdown pass from inside the red zone. The inability of the defense to keep Washington off the board helped to dig a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
Fletcher Cox was the lone bright spot for the Eagles on defense, with a pair of sacks on Kirk Cousins. The Eagles defense failed to force a turnover as well.
Special Teams: B
Once again, the most reliable part of the roster came in the special teams department. Punter Donnie Jones punted the football seven times on the night, pinning three inside the 20-yard line and averaging 43.6 yards per punt. Kicker Caleb Sturgis did his part as well, kicking the lone field goal attempt he was asked to convert, from 34 yards, and kicking all three of his extra-point attempts for six total points. Josh Huff returned one kickoff for a 49-yard gain, but the punt return game was missing. Darren Sproles fielded two punts for no return yardage and Kenjon Barner lost three yards on his lone punt return opportunity.
Chip Kelly and his staff still have one more game to prepare for, but at this point in the season, it is clear some changes need to occur in the offseason. The Eagles have become a running joke before national TV audiences. Philadelphia has lost four games at home by double-digit margins, and there is more to blame at this point than general manager decisions by Chip Kelly in the offseason. Play calling and instant replay decisions left for more questions to address in the postgame press conference for Kelly. Now, for a second straight season, Kelly has failed to coach the Eagles into the postseason in a mediocre NFC East because he could not coach the Eagles to a victory against Washington. The offseason should be a dramatic one in Philadelphia as a result.
The Eagles wrap up the 2015 season next week in the Meadowlands against the New York Giants. Philadelphia easily defeated the Giants earlier in the season with a 27-7 victory at home. The Giants are also eliminated from the postseason already, but will likely have Odel Beckham Junior back in the field catching passes.
Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.