LANDOVER, Md. - Of course, the receiver wasn't quite in the end zone when he caught the ball.

Of course, the team straining to score was out of timeouts and had to watch helplessly as the final seconds ticked off the clock.

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We're talking about the Eagles here. How else do close losses end?

"We didn't have much time left. When Donovan [McNabb] threw me the ball, I just tried to go up there and get it," Reggie Brown said afterward. "I wasn't thinking about anything else but catching that ball. Unfortunately, I got up and we didn't have enough time to stop the clock. They reviewed it, but I knew in the back of my mind I was down."

In the visiting locker room at FedEx Field, Brown hadn't seen the replay, didn't know that when he fastened his hands around the ball at the 1, the ball was an inch or 3 from breaking the plane of the goal line, which was why the play was reviewed before the Redskins could start their celebration.

Brown was sandwiched by safety LaRon Landry and corner Fred Smoot, then driven backward. The Eagles had mounted a 90-yard, 16-play drive - something they'd failed to do over and over and over again on an inept offensive afternoon - when they needed 91 to get a chance for overtime.

They created a ridiculous mess, tried to make it right, but couldn't. That almost certainly will be the epitaph for their season.

Their last gasp began with 12 seconds left, second-and-10 from the Washington 18. Andy Reid had blown a timeout before the third snap of the third quarter, amid offensive confusion. Now there were none left.

The play called for Jason Avant to drag across the middle, and Brown to find a hole in his wake. It wasn't supposed to go for a completion short of the end zone, McNabb said afterward.

"We knew we had to get two shots at the end zone," McNabb said. "We got a guy run through the middle, which drew attention from the safety as well as the nickel back. Reggie found a spot in there. I just tried to put it on his body. Reggie did a great job of catching it, but you also have to give them credit for converging on the ball . . . We tried to get down and kill it and give us another opportunity, but time ran out."

Reid would not discuss why he used a timeout early in the third. He said he would have liked to have been able to say that Brown scored, but he didn't have a good angle.

Redskins coach Jim Zorn said when he was told there would be a review, "I asked LaRon and he said, 'No way, no way, I kicked the crud out of him.' "

"I just wanted to get my hands on the ball. They were there to jump on me," Brown said. "I kind of wish I had kept going, but I stopped and he threw me the ball. Unfortunately, I wasn't in the end zone."

It was Brown's fourth catch. He finished with 47 yards as he returned to the starting lineup, with Kevin Curtis (calf) and Hank Baskett (knee) missing. Before yesterday, Brown hadn't caught a pass since Nov. 16. He took a holding penalty, but was not as drop-prone as DeSean Jackson or L.J. Smith, on a day when the Eagles' offense had little margin for error.

"This type of game, the implications of this game were enormous for this team," Brown said. "Unfortunately, we didn't get it done at the end. That's something that's heavy on your chest."

Brown agreed that the play kind of typified the season.

"Close but no cigar. That's kind of how it is right now," he said.

Birdseed

Donovan McNabb

has 333 completions this season, breaking his own team record of 330, set in 2000 . . . Left guard

Todd Herremans

played with ankle and shoulder injuries; the ankle had left him "questionable" as late as Friday . . . The Eagles were shut out in the first half for the first time since they lost to the Giants early last season, Sept. 30, 2007 . . .

Brian Dawkins

and teammates are hosting a coat drive at the ShopRite in Marlton, N.J., at routes 70 and 73, today between 4 and 8 p.m. Every donor of a new or lightly used coat will receive an autograph from an Eagles player, and different players will be there at different times. For a schedule of player availability, call 856-983-7370. *