With all the subtlety of Sam Hinkie, the Eagles sabotaged their chances to win a game that meant nothing to them but meant everything to their opponent, the Washington Football Team, and the Giants, who’d beaten the Cowboys on Sunday afternoon and needed the Eagles to win to make the playoffs.
With nothing to play for except the No. 6 pick vs. the No. 9 pick, the Eagles did not dress 10 key players Sunday night. The most intriguing were running back Miles Sanders (knee) and tight end Dallas Goedert (calf), their two best offensive players. It would have been interesting to see if they’d have played had the Eagles remained in the playoff hunt. Suspiciously, on fourth-and-goal from the 4, coach Doug Pederson passed up a chip-shot field goal in the third quarter that would have tied the game at 17: “When you’re that close, stay aggressive.”
More suspiciously, Pederson benched starter Jalen Hurts and inserted third-string QB Nate Sudfeld, who hadn’t taken a snap all season. Sudfeld promptly threw an interception, lost a fumble, and took two horrible sacks.
Most suspiciously, T.Y. McGill jumped offside on a crucial fourth-and-1 at midfield that gave Washington a first down with two minutes to play, essentially sealing the loss.
By the end of the game NBC announcers Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth, clearly offended by the Eagles’ clumsy subterfuge, were brazenly discussing “conspiracy theories.” Michaels apologized to the Giants and their fans. Collinsworth could’t believe what he was watching.
“I couldn’t have done what Philadelphia did tonight,” said Collinsworth, who had a standout eight-year NFL career.
Predictably, Giants players were fuming on Twitter: “This is sickening,” tweeted receiver Darius Slayton.
Pederson said afterward of his loyal third-stringer, “The plan this week was to get Nate in the game.”
He was unconvincing.
Really, there was only way the Eagles, who finished 4-11-1, could have been more obvious in their intent to lose.
They could have played Carson Wentz.
In his fourth start, auditioning for the 2021 starting job, Hurts was underwhelming as a passer. He completed seven of 20 passes for 72 yards and. He also ran eight times for 34 yards and two touchdowns. He threw an interception when he forced a pass to tight end Zach Ertz on the Eagles’ second possession. He also missed a receiver who was open for a touchdown in the third.
In what might have been is his last game as an Eagle, Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz showed why. Ertz, 30, caught three passes for 16 yards. He finished his eighth NFL season with 561 career catches for 6,078 yards and 36 touchdowns. His 116 catches in 2018 set a record for NFL tight ends and he’s No. 2 all-time in Eagles annals, trailing only Hall of Fame receiver Harold Carmichael, who has 589 catches. Ertz is expected to be a salary-cap casualty for the cap-strapped Eagles.
In his last game before departing after five years as Eagles defensive coordinator, without three key starters — defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, end Derek Barnett, and COVID-19 casualty Jalen Mills — Jim Schwartz’s defense sacked Washington quarterback Alex Smith three times and intercepted him twice.
Demoted quarterback Carson Wentz was inactive. Wentz started the first 12 games before losing his spot in the third quarter of Game 12 to Hurts, a second-round rookie, but Wentz had been the backup from Games 13-15. Wentz reportedly will demand a trade after this season rather than compete with Hurts for the starting job in 2021. If he were to have played Sunday night he would have risked injury, and a serious injury would have both cratered Wentz’s trade value and compromised Wentz’s availability for the Eagles next season. Sudfeld was Hurts’ backup, and we saw how that went.