LANDOVER, Md. -- What a collapse. What an utter, complete, unmitigated collapse. There is little to say here. There is little to do but marvel at the wreckage.
"Three weeks ago, we were sitting pretty," Jeremy Maclin said. Then his voice kind of trailed off. There were a dozen people surrounding him in a cluster, more than a dozen, microphones and recorders all attempting to hear his version of what had gone so terribly wrong.
You lost a word here and there because of all the people in the way. It did not matter, not really. When you got a peek at Maclin through the crowd of reporters, his face said more than his words. Maclin looked stricken. Frankly, they all did.
"We have nobody to blame but ourselves," he said.
He and his teammates had just spent the evening at FedEx Field on their hands and knees, trying to beat the ho-ho-horrible Washington Redskins. At the start of the fourth quarter, they were trailing by 24-14 and playing abominably. With their playoff lives at stake, they were playing as badly as they have played all season, especially considering the caliber of the opponent.
Nearly perfect kicker Cody Parkey missed two field goals. Cornerback Bradley Fletcher had finally been yanked out of the base defense after 51- and 55-yard rainbows to DeSean Jackson. And the offense, with Mark Sanchez at quarterback, gained a ton of yards but was forced to walk the ball up the field, incapable of explosiveness anymore.
Still, down by 24-14, the Eagles came back. They dinked and dunked and scored on an 85-yard drive to make it 24-21. Then, a Nate Allen interception on another attempted rainbow to Jackson set up a Parkey field goal to tie it. And after the Eagles' defense forced a punt, they got the ball back with 2:04 remaining and you thought that maybe, just maybe, they would be able to tie a ribbon around this pig after all.
But with 1:31 remaining, Sanchez threw behind Jeremy Maclin and the pass was intercepted by Washington's Bashaud Breeland. "I just kind of missed," Sanchez said, after it was over. And thus began the down-spiral: a completion to Washington's Pierre Garcon to the Eagles' 35. A Vinny Curry roughing-the-passer penalty on the same play put the ball on the Eagles' 20.
And then it was just a painful dance that ended with a Kai Forbath 26-yard field goal with 5 seconds remaining. The final score was Redskins 27, Eagles 24. It was the Eagles' third consecutive loss. They have fallen from 9-3 to 9-6. Their playoff chances have gone from incredibly good to infinitesimal.
Now the Eagles are in a position of having to win their last game at the New York Giants while rooting for the Dallas Cowboys to lose both of their remaining games, against Indianapolis and at Washington. At this point, the least likely of those three outcomes is the Eagles winning at New York.
After the game, you could look pretty much anywhere and find some blame. First, there was defensive coordinator Bill Davis. Yes, he has been dealt a weak hand in the secondary. But to keep running Fletcher out there, and to keep leaving him in single coverage against elite receivers, is the kind of decision that really makes you wonder. Everything is a calculated risk, granted -- but this one went so horribly, completely wrong, and that is undeniable, and that is on Davis.
Then there is Sanchez. Yes, he threw for nearly 400 yards, but he turned the ball over twice, Again. The first one was a strip-sack in the first quarter that he never saw coming; fine. But the interception at the end is the play that cannot happen but always does.
"You have to win games," Sanchez said. "The head coach and the quarterback, we're the only ones who keep a record, so it goes with the territory of this position. There have been three really tough games and this one came down to the wire and we came up a little short."
And now they are left to rely upon the kindness of strangers, knowing full well that they have been exposed in the last three weeks. The only thing more unforgiving than the standings in the NFL is the locker room mirror. The Eagles will find no solace in either.
"We have one game left against the New York Giants, and we need to win that game," Chip Kelly said. "There are a lot of other things that have to happen besides that, and we have no control over those. The only thing we can do is prepare for the Giants."