Zone Read: Eagles-Washington, the Day After
LANDOVER, Md. — Chip Kelly had been in this room before, but the circumstances were different the last time.
It was September of 2013. Kelly’s squad had just put the NFL on notice that his up-tempo attack could be effective at the professional level as the Eagles defeated Washington on Monday Night football in his debut as Andy Reid’s successor.
Kelly answered questions from a roomful of reporters about the Birds’ pace, Michael Vick’s performance and other topics. Before exiting the room to make the trip back to Philadelphia, Kelly stopped to say hello to some media members who had made the trip from Oregon.
Where his first season began was essentially the same place that his second season ended. Kelly’s squad was clinging to its playoffs aspirations Saturday afternoon at FedEx Field. The hope was that the Eagles would take care of business against an inferior opponent and perhaps get a little help in the final two weeks to sneak into the postseason.
Instead, the Eagles suffered a meltdown. Issues that have been prevalent all year long resurfaced, and the result was a 27-24 loss.
“We put ourselves in a hole,” Kelly said. “With penalties and extended drives, and that’s on us. You can’t sit there and say we expended too much energy during the game. We had the ball at the end, tried to put ourselves in a situation, and we didn’t do it.”
When the locker room opened up to reporters, Jeremy Maclin sat at his stall with his uniform and pads still on, staring into space. Some of his teammates had already showered and packed their bags. But Maclin had yet to move.
He’s been probably the Eagles’ most consistent player all season long. When the Eagles were coming back, Maclin made a brilliant catch on a pass near the sideline to set up a Riley Cooper touchdown.
With under two minutes left and the Eagles facing a 3rd-and-4 from the Washington 48, Mark Sanchez dropped back and looked to his right for Maclin. But the throw was off-target, and the result was an interception by Bashaud Breeland.
Asked about the play, Maclin said: “It was behind me.”
Did you think you had your guy beaten?
“Yes,” he continued. “It was a tough route for what coverage they had, but like I said, the ball was behind me.”
On the first play of Washington’s ensuing drive, Pierre Garcon beat Cary Williams for a 23-yard catch and run. Vinny Curry was called for roughing the passer. And just like that, Washington was in position for the game-winning field goal.
There’s no way to sugarcoat what’s happened to the Eagles since what appeared at the time to be a big Thanksgiving Day win in Dallas. They were in position to control their own destiny with upcoming matchups against the Seahawks, Cowboys and Washington. They were favored in the last two, but lost all three – two at home and one against a 3-11 opponent.
This is now the season that has slipped away, with the Eagles playing their worst football at the most critical time. It’s perfectly reasonable to call this a meltdown. A year that once seemed promising has now gone down the tubes.
“It’s just frustrating,” said Maclin. “Three weeks ago, we were sitting pretty. Now we need a lot of stuff to happen, so we don’t have nobody to blame but ourselves. It’s frustrating.”
Added Connor Barwin: “You just are so disappointed in yourself. Everybody I’m sure is just thinking if they could have played better, then they could have made the difference to win this game. You’re ultimately just really disappointed in yourself, I think, and that’s probably how the majority of the guys feel in this room.”
At this point, we know what the Eagles are. They turn the ball over too much. The run game is inconsistent. With Sanchez at QB, they can’t get the ball downfield.
Defensively, they can stop the run, but have glaring weaknesses in the secondary and give up too many big plays. Special teams has been great for much of the season, but put it all together, and this team is pretty much exactly where it deserves to be.
The Eagles will keep an eye on Sunday’s Colts-Cowboys game and hold out hope for a minor miracle.
But after Year 1 started with a bang at FedEx Field, Year 2 appears to have ended there with a whimper.