By the time Carson Wentz sprawled on the grass after fumbling away the Eagles’ last hope for a victory Sunday, the Eagles were down to their fourth right tackle, third long snapper, second left and right guards, and only one running back.
A fragile season continued to crack in a 27-22 loss to the Washington Redskins at Lincoln Financial Field. There were untimely penalties, unforeseen absences, and an unsuccessful comeback attempt. Those have been problems throughout a season that can no longer end with a winning record now that the Eagles dropped to 5-8 and lost their fourth consecutive game.
The injury report swelled throughout the afternoon and players included Darren Sproles, who left for a concussion evaluation after a hit that enraged the Eagles sideline. It would have made for a resilient win if they scored on their final drive, when Wentz marched the Eagles 14 yards from the end zone in the final minute. But hope ended when Ryan Kerrigan beat reserve right tackle Matt Tobin around the edge and knocked the ball from Wentz’s grasp.
“We’re 14 yards away from winning,” left tackle Jason Peters said. “Then we wouldn’t even be bringing up the stuff that went wrong.”
After coach Doug Pederson questioned the effort of his team on Monday, the Eagles appeared more energized than any point in their losing streak. Wentz played what Pederson called the rookie’s “best game of the year” because of how he endured changes on the offensive line. He finished 36 of 42 for 314 yards with a touchdown, an interception, and a fumble. Both turnovers came in the red zone.
Right guard Brandon Brooks missed the game with an illness, forcing Isaac Seumalo into the lineup. Allen Barbre, who was the Eagles’ third right tackle to start this season, left the game with a hamstring injury and was replaced by Tobin.
The leading Eagles rusher was Ryan Mathews with 15 carries for 60 yards. He was the only running back remaining after Sproles and Wendell Smallwood exited the game. Five players left because of injuries, including three offensive starters.
“That’s the max effort,” Pederson said. “This team did an outstanding job today.<TH>… Any loss in this league is tough. The way the guys hung together and battled right to the end, it makes it tough.”
And although there was disappointment after the game, the way the Eagles performed compared to recent weeks was the reason safety Malcolm Jenkins said Sunday was “probably the least disappointing” of the close losses this season. Jenkins knew that when the Eagles look back at Sunday, they’ll bemoan “a couple of penalties or plays here or there.”
The first big mistake came in the first quarter. After taking a 3-0 lead on the opening drive, the Eagles could have extended their lead when they reached Washington’s 3-yard line. Wentz forced a third-down pass to tight end Zach Ertz that was intercepted by Deshazor Everett. Wentz called it a “miscommunication” with Ertz, but the Eagles were left with no points.
The next play that will bother the Eagles came early in the third quarter. They entered halftime with a 14-13 lead and forced a three-and-out to begin the half. Sproles returned the ensuing punt 72 yards for a touchdown, but a flag rested near where he caught the punt. Ertz was charged with an illegal block in the back, nullifying the touchdown.
“I feel terrible about it,” said Ertz, who led the Eagles with 10 catches for 112 yards.
After an Eagles punt, long snapper Jon Dorenbos left the game with a wrist injury. Two plays later, Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins found former Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson for an 80-yard touchdown. Jackson raced past Leodis McKelvin just as he did against opposing cornerbacks when he played in Philadelphia.
The Eagles tried cutting Washington’s lead with a field-goal attempt on their next drive, but they didn’t have Dorenbos. Brent Celek sputtered a snap that kept the Eagles from even kicking the 50-yarder and gave Washington possession at its 46-yard line, leading to a Redskins touchdown.
McKelvin found redemption early in the fourth quarter when he returned a Cousins interception to cut the Eagles’ deficit to 21-19. The defense then forced a punt, with Sproles waiting for the return.
While camping under the ball, Sproles was pummeled to the ground by Everett. The hit injured Sproles and angered his teammates. A flag was thrown and a scuffle ensued, with Peters restraining himself from an ejection.
“That was a cheap shot,” Peters said.
The Eagles drove to Washington’s 23-yard line, when Pederson sent the field goal unit out to try to take the lead. Celek left with a stinger, forcing Trey Burton to become the long snapper. The snap was high, but Donnie Jones still placed it down and Caleb Sturgis nailed a 41-yard field goal to take the lead.
The defense could not hold a one-point lead. The Eagles allowed Washington to convert a fourth and 1, then watched Chris Thompson run for a 25-yard touchdown to take the 27-22 lead with 1 minute, 53 seconds remaining.
Wentz took the field for a chance at a game-winning drive. It was the fifth loss this season when Wentz had a chance to win or tie the game in the final minutes. He drove the Eagles 61 yards, looking every bit like the franchise quarterback. Then on second down, Wentz dropped back and looked left. He never saw Kerrigan coming around his blind side.
Kerrigan whisked away Tobin, who was playing with an injured knee, then dropped Wentz to the turf and knocked the ball from the quarterback’s grasp. The Redskins recovered, and the Eagles were left with another loss.
“Just a tough one,” Wentz said.
The Eagles had chances to win and overcome injuries. Instead, they head to Baltimore for next week’s meeting with the Ravens on a four-game losing streak with a crowded injury report and lamenting a few plays that swung the game.
“It’s tough — we’ve lost, four, five, maybe six, when we’re there at the end,” Peters said. “There’s a lot of games that got away from us.”