Donovan McNabb and the Eagles' offense were shut out by the Cowboys in the last game of the regular season. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)

The Eagles will stir the ashes of this disaster, this 24-0 debacle, in an attempt to find some hope, seeing as how their playoff chances rest upon finding something in the next few days that will convince them that they can beat the Dallas Cowboys. And, well, good luck with that.

It was every bit as bad as the score indicated. Tempted by a chance at a division championship and a first-round bye in the playoffs, the Eagles got slaughtered instead. They got routed. The Cowboys ran all over them, shredded them through the air, and held their potent offense pointless. It was total domination.

And now the Eagles have to come back to Cowboys Stadium -- population: 100,621 yesterday -- and try to figure out a way to make it all go away.

Nobody covered himself in glory, from the head coach on down. Andy Reid stopped running when the team fell behind. The Eagles called a ridiculous timeout while in punt formation in the first half -- a timeout they really could have used as their drive expired at the end of the half. In the third quarter, down by 17-0, looking at a third-and-2 at the Dallas 35, Reid should have treated it as two downs to get 2 yards. Instead, he called a slant pass over the middle that fell incomplete and then saw David Akers miss a 53-yard field goal.

Even with all of that, though, the problems were much bigger. Defensively, especially, you wonder where the Eagles might find an answer. They have lived on the edge for weeks, and now they have toppled. The defense looked hollow yesterday, empty in the middle. Their post-season hope all along has been for their offense to put up big numbers, and now that imperative seems even greater. But against a very athletic Dallas defense, especially up front, the Eagles couldn’t sustain enough of the underneath stuff and couldn’t hit enough of the long stuff upon which they have lived all season.

If this all sounds grim, that is because it is.