LANDOVER, Md. - The Eagles were inches away from being a point behind with a chance to tie when time ran out yesterday at FedEx Field.
That, in a nutshell, describes their season, which is now over unless you believe Eagles coach Andy Reid can walk on water, heal the sick and make the blind see again.
The Eagles, at least mathematically, still have a chance to make the playoffs after their 10-3 loss to the Washington Redskins, but they were well aware that they squandered their best chance.
"We didn't get the job done," safety Brian Dawkins said. "This really hurts. This really hurts. I don't even care what needs to happen. We should have won this game right here."
After San Diego beat Tampa Bay earlier in the afternoon, the math was simple for the Eagles. Beat the Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys and they were in. Now, they need to beat the Cowboys and pray that Oakland can win in Tampa Bay. They also need either Minnesota or Chicago to lose a game. The Bears play tonight at home against Green Bay and at Houston on Sunday. The Vikings, who lost to Atlanta yesterday, play the Giants at home on Sunday.
"There were opportunities where we had to make plays and we were not able to make them," Reid said after the Eagles slipped to 8-6-1. "I'm very disappointed."
The Eagles' last chance came on the game's final play.
Faced with a second down on the Redskins' 18-yard line with 12 seconds remaining, quarterback Donovan McNabb spotted Reggie Brown near the goal line and rifled a pass to the receiver.
As Brown went into the air to catch the football, the Redskins duo of Fred Smoot and LaRon Landry converged on the Eagles' receiver and prevented him from scoring. Time expired as the line judge attempted to spot the ball on the two-inch line.
"When Donovan threw me the ball, I just tried to go up there and get it," Brown said. "I wasn't thinking about anything else but catching the 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 that I was down. It was an L."
The play was close enough that referee Jerome Boger reviewed it to make sure Brown had not crossed the goal line, but the final conclusion was that the Eagles were close but oh, so far away, which pretty much sums up the team's quest to return to the postseason.
"I made a great play," Landry said. "That's what I'm out there to do, make great plays. I was on the goal line, so I knew if he was in front of me, it wasn't a touchdown. I knew I just had to lay the lumber on him."
McNabb's throw to Brown was the last of 46 by the Eagles' quarterback as Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg once again abandoned the running game, calling 16 straight pass plays at one point in the second half.
That's not to say that some of those pass plays weren't good ones.
One, in particular, was good enough to be a touchdown on the Eagles' final possession, which started at their own 9-yard line with 3 minutes, 48 seconds remaining. McNabb completed six of his next seven passes to get the Eagles to the Washington 40-yard line, and he should have completed the next one, too.
With 57 seconds left, McNabb went to rookie DeSean Jackson in the right corner of the end zone. Jackson had a step on cornerback DeAngelo Hall, but he was unable to pull in the perfectly thrown pass.
Jackson had also dropped a deep pass earlier in the fourth quarter, and on the drive before that, the rookie broke free down the left sideline but McNabb never saw him.
Jackson said he let the play on which McNabb did not see him affect him for the remainder of the game.
"I kind of got over-excited when they didn't come my way, and when they did come my way, I wasn't able to put it together," Jackson said.
Missed opportunity after missed opportunity equaled another in a season filled with disturbing losses. The Eagles dropped a total of seven passes, including three by Jackson, two by tight end L.J. Smith and two by Brown.
"We played the sixth-ranked defense in the league, so we knew it wasn't going to be easy," offensive tackle Jon Runyan said. "You have to catch the ball. The plays were there and we didn't make them."
Those were the plays the Eagles had been making during a three-game winning streak that thrust life back into their season and briefly put their playoff destiny in their own control.
"It went back to the way it was with us dropping everything," Runyan said. "You win when you make plays."
You almost always lose when you only score three points. Even the drive when the Eagles scored ended badly when the Eagles failed to convert a third-and-3 opportunity from the Redskins' 5-yard line. McNabb dumped the ball to running back Brian Westbrook, but he came up with just 2 yards on the play and Reid sent in David Akers to kick a 22-yard field goal that cut the Redskins' lead to seven points.
While the Eagles' offense couldn't score a touchdown for the second time in the last five games - remember Baltimore? - McNabb and company did help set up the Redskins' only touchdown of the afternoon.
The Eagles had just 66 yards of total offense in the opening half and continued to sputter on their first possession of the second half.
This time, they also turned the ball over. Unable to find an open receiver, McNabb was hit by defensive end Jason Taylor and fumbled the football. London Fletcher picked up the ball and headed for the end zone but was stopped at the Eagles' 18-yard line by Runyan.
Three plays after quarterback Jason Campbell connected with tight end Chris Cooley for a 12-yard gain, Clinton Portis bulled his way into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown, giving the Redskins a 10-0 lead.
With the Eagles' offense back in its pass-first, drop-often mode, a 10-point deficit seemed even larger.
The Eagles came close to getting even but ended up inches short, and now their season almost certainly is lost.
Playoff Long Shot
Atlanta yesterday clinched one of the two wild-card berths in the NFC. For the Eagles (8-6-1) to get the remaining wild card, the following must happen:
The Eagles beat Dallas (9-6) at home Sunday.
Tampa Bay (9-6) loses at home to Oakland (4-11) Sunday.
Chicago (8-6) loses one of its two remaining games, tonight vs. Green Bay or Sunday at Houston or Minnesota (9-6) loses at home to the Giants.