If there was a Betty Ford Clinic for passaholics, Andy Reid would be a permanent resident.
A day after the Eagles entrusted their playoff chances to events they can't control with an ugly 10-3 loss to Washington, their coach offered explanations as to why he abandoned the well-balanced offensive game plan that helped them win the three previous games.
Welcome to Andy Reid's alternative universe. Again.
The explanations were as befuddling as the strategy that relieved the Redskins of any concern the Eagles might attempt to keep them off balance by handing the football off to Brian Westbrook or Correll Buckhalter.
The running game worked fine against Arizona (185 yards rushing), the Giants (140) and Cleveland (134). It helped quarterback Donovan McNabb shake free from his struggles and have his best stretch of the season. It boosted morale. It thrust the Eagles into the thick of the playoff chase.
But it continues to be apparent that Reid can't help himself when it comes to passing the ball.
The Eagles ran 64 offensive plays, and 16 of them were runs, including two scrambles by McNabb and two run-out-the-clock runs by Westbrook at the end of the half. They called 16 consecutive pass plays from their second possession of the third quarter to the last drive that ended with Reggie Brown catching a pass inches from the goal line. They called for passes on 36 of the 41 plays they ran in the second half.
"We probably could have run it a couple of more times, yeah," Reid said yesterday.
The cold, blustery day at FedEx Field called for running the ball, as the Eagles did so well in the swirling winds at Giants Stadium two weeks ago. Reid didn't hear the call. He said the wind wasn't that bad and, besides, the Redskins threw the ball with some success going into the wind during the first quarter.
"The wind didn't get worse as the game went on," Reid said. "It was actually a little bit stronger at the beginning, at least that's what I felt on the field. We started off with the wind to our advantage, and we saw they were able to throw the ball pretty effectively with the wind in their face, so I really didn't think that affected it. It wasn't like New York."
Reid had said earlier in the season that he turns to the passing game when the Eagles are not running the ball effectively. His first four carries, Westbrook gained 17 yards. The first half, he averaged 4.1 yards on eight carries. That's pretty effective running, yet Reid apparently didn't see it that way.
"We started off throwing," he said. "It just worked out that way. Like I said, we probably could have run it a few more times."
Reid said terrible field position prompted him to put the ball in the air. Most of the game, the Eagles did start possessions deep in their own territory. But they started at their own 35 on their first possession and their own 47 the first time they got the ball in the second quarter.
"We were backed up, trying to make some things happen, take some shots," Reid said. "At the time, we weren't running quite as effective as we'd like to. We started off throwing the football."
Reid also said the Redskins were geared to stop the run on first and second downs with an eight-man front.
"The majority of the time on first and second down they were presenting an eight-man front. That's what they were doing," he said. "And so, they gave you opportunities to work your quick [passing] game, and they were playing off coverage on the outside. We just didn't do as well as I thought we could do. They were willing to put that extra guy in there and keep him very close to the line of scrimmage."
After the game, Washington cornerback Fred Smoot, whose tackle prevented Brown from getting into the end zone on the game's final play, suggested the Redskins knew the Eagles would try to throw and throw and throw their way into decent field position.
Reid also said the defense got off to a slow start. The facts indicate otherwise: Washington had one sustained drive in the first half that ate 8 minutes, 31 seconds off the clock and resulted in a field goal. But the loss fell on the offense, not the defense. And, as Reid has so often said, that starts with him.
Eagles Play at 4:15 p.m.
The time of the Eagles' last game of the regular season - Sunday against the visiting Dallas Cowboys - has been changed from 1 p.m. to 4:15 p.m., the NFL announced yesterday.
The game still will be televised on Fox29.
Also, Sunday's Miami at New York Jets and Jacksonville at Baltimore games will be played at 4:15 and shown on CBS.
For Sunday Afternoon
Fastweatherforecast.com's forecast calls for partly sunny skies with a 40 percent chance of rain and temperatures in the low 50s. Later, the mercury is expected to dip into the lower 30s.