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Officials cost the Eagles an undefeated season

Two blown calls in the fourth quarter ruined the Birds' perfect season in a 32-21 upset loss to the Commanders.

Eagles offensive tackle Jordan Mailata (left) and safety Andre Chachere embrace after the Eagles fell to the Commanders, 32-21, at Lincoln Financial Field on Monday.
Eagles offensive tackle Jordan Mailata (left) and safety Andre Chachere embrace after the Eagles fell to the Commanders, 32-21, at Lincoln Financial Field on Monday.Read moreDavid Maialetti / Staff Photographer

It was Prime Time robbery.

How do you miss those calls?

Brutal. Just brutal. An obvious face mask. A ticky-tacky touch.

A loss. No perfect season. A 32-21 Eagles loss. Not 9-0, but just 8-1.

The officials made sure of that. Then, when it was over, they fled the field and into the protection of the visitors’ tunnel like so many thieves in the night. They were smart. They knew they were in Philly.

The worst came at the end. The Commanders were running off time, third-and-long.

» READ MORE: Eagles-Commanders analysis: Costly fumbles, questionable calls, shaky defense lead to Birds’ first loss

Brandon Graham had an open shot at Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke, who’d taken a knee after scrambling out of the pocket. Haason Reddick, coming from the left, touched Heinicke down. Graham, coming from the right, held himself up, but still made contact ... barely.

Referee Alex Kemp ripped his weighted yellow handkerchief from his belt and flung it into the air, with exuberance. With glee.

“We can’t put this game on the refs,” Graham said.

Fearing fines and enmity — they’ll see these refs again — his teammates, and his coach echoed his diplomacy.

To hell with diplomacy, especially in light of Kemp’s milquetoast explanation:

“I had ruled the quarterback had clearly given himself up. Therefore, he is down and a defenseless player. The contact by (Graham) was not only late, but also to the head and neck area.”

Yes, he actually said that Brandon Graham’s momentum-induced contact was clearly after the play ended and targeted Heinicke’s most vulnerable region. If Graham had been going any slower, with any less intent of malice, he’d have been going backward — backward in time.

That penalty, in particular, gave the Commanders the game. It robbed the Eagles’ of their last, best chance, and handed the game to Washington.

Funny, that.

A few minutes earlier, when a foul had actually been committed — committed with intent, and with malice — Kemp and his crew couldn’t find their flags.

This one happened at the 35-yard line. Dallas Goedert of the Eagles had the ball. He had run 5 yards with it. Another player came over and made first contact with Goedert’s face mask. There were no obstructed views.

It was the easiest call in the history of calls.

Stevie Wonder wouldn’t have missed that call.

Hell, Angel Hernandez wouldn’t have missed that call.

» READ MORE: Eagles place Avonte Maddox on injured reserve, leaving a hole at slot cornerback

It was clear. It was obvious. Jamin Davis nearly ripped off Goedert’s head with an open-field face-mask penalty that wrenched Goedert’s head both down and to the right.

Still, the officials somehow missed it.

“We didn’t see a face-mask on the field,” Kemp said.

Seriously? Surprised they saw the damn field.

As Goedert’s vertebrae were being misaligned in real time, John Ridgeway jumped on his back and punched the football loose. An argument can be made that Goedert should have held on despite Davis’ illegal mauling. To those arguers I say, go stand on your head and hold a loaf of bread, then get back to me.

The officials also ruled that Davis recovered the ball and ran for a touchdown, but that was reviewed, and reversed. The NFL, in its infinite ignorance, does not allow face-mask calls to be reviewed.

Sure; why review a play that might paralyze a player? It’s just ...

The blown call would have given the Eagles a first-and-10 at their own 48. Instead, the play gifted the Commanders a 55-yard field goal that increased their lead to 26-21 with 7 minutes, 33 seconds to play.

It changed everything.

That meant the Eagles no longer needed just a field goal to take the lead. They needed either a touchdown or two scoring possessions.

“That’s not what lost us the football game,” said coach Nick Sirianni, who watched his team commit four turnovers, allow two games’ worth of rushing yards, and let the Commanders convert 8-of-11 third downs in the first half, twice their normal rate, which ranked 27th in the NFL.

So no, the calls didn’t lose it. The Eagles could have played perfectly.

That’s too much to ask.

Other deficiencies contributed to the loss.

Jalen Hurts threw an interception in the second quarter that quashed an Eagles drive.

Quez Watkins fumbled away the Eagles’ next possession after a 50-yard catch. It was the sort of play that calls into question whether a player should be considered for future opportunities.

Sirianni declined a penalty that would have given the Commanders another down but would have pushed them out of field goal range midway through the fourth quarter.

Hurts panicked on third-and-long late in the fourth quarter, ignored Kenneth Gainwell in the flat, and was sacked trying to scramble. That, essentially, ended it.

The Eagles cost themselves a time stoppage as well; a bad snap on the ensuing punt led to a penalty and blew the two-minute warning.

The Commanders scored their final TD on a recovered Eagles fumble during a last-second gadget play, but they scored the rest of their points by running for 152 yards. The Eagles cannot stop the run without giant rookie Jordan Davis, who is on injured reserve with a bum ankle.

This problem will get worse before it gets better.

Next up: the Colts and Jonathan Taylor, the second-best running back in the NFL since he entered the league in 2020. Taylor’s so good he can even make Jim Irsay look smart. Taylor’s return to health coincided with Irsay’s crazy, midweek hire of non-experienced studio analyst Jeff Saturday to replace Frank Reich as the Colts’ head coach, and Taylor rolled for 147 yards on 22 carries.

After that: Green Bay’s Aaron Jones, the sixth-most productive running back since the start of the 2020 season whose 5.3 yards-per-carry average ranks third among backs with at least 350 carries.

And then? King Henry and the Titans.

With due respect to Brian Robinson, whose 86 tough yards were the difference in the game and in the time of possession (40 minutes for the Commanders, 20 minutes for the Eagles), Derrick Henry would’ve had 250 rushing yards Monday night, and he’d have sent three Eagles to the hospital.

“We understand that will be the narrative of how to beat us,” Sirianni said.

Especially if they keep getting the kind of officiating that cost them perfection on Monday Night Football.