It was the one good answer Andy Reid gave yesterday, not because it shed any light on his team's shocking 10-3 stink bomb against Washington, but because it was actually pretty funny.

The question: Did he notice that he's being asked the same questions about the same shortcomings over and over, season after season?

Reid's answer: "Yeah. You guys aren't very creative."

There was a time Reid dismissed reporters' questions with a mocking, "That's for me to know and you to find out," an expression most often used on the playground at the local elementary school. As annoying as that could be, there was also some evidence that Reid really did have answers, even if he chose not to share them.

The hardest thing about this season, especially the last two days, is this nagging feeling that the coach really doesn't quite know how things reached the point where his team could soil the linens in such a must-win situation. Reid disappeared into the fog of war on the sideline at FedEx Field on Sunday and still had not re-emerged by noon yesterday.

Maybe his most revealing comment was about wide receiver Reggie Brown, who cut his route short on the game's final play. Brown caught a perfectly timed and thrown pass from Donovan McNabb at the 1-yard line and was prevented from reaching the end zone by a couple of Washington defensive backs.

"We tell the receivers to make sure that they are in the end zone in those situations," Reid said, "so we could have done a little bit better of a job there. We want to make sure that there is no question."

So Brown blew it. The follow-up question was about whether Brown ran his designed route or changed it or drifted forward because McNabb waited too long to throw.

"He probably should have stuck with the original [route]," Reid said, revealing much more than usual about a player's in-game error.

So why would Brown neglect the fundamental task of getting into the end zone? One theory fits that play and is consistent with the rest of the game: The Eagles were physically intimidated by the Washington defense. That goes a long way toward explaining drops by L.J. Smith, DeSean Jackson and Brown - who had to know the hard-hitting LaRon Landry was behind him.

DeAngelo Hall, the cornerback beaten by Jackson on the would-be touchdown pass he dropped, helped create those drops by pounding Jackson every chance he got.

"Guys were just hitting everything moving," Hall said. "We were trying to make everybody feel us. They definitely dropped a couple balls out there. I don't know if they were anticipating contact or what."

It sure looked like it.

All of this just compounds the problem with Reid's insistence on throwing every down in the decisive sequence in the fourth quarter. Kevin Curtis and Hank Baskett were out with injuries. Brown was thrust into a prominent role after being benched a few weeks ago. Smith has been as aggravatingly inconsistent as ever all year. Jackson is, after all, still a rookie.

Forcing a pass-only offense under those circumstances seems especially foolhardy. Reid's explanations were no better yesterday than they were Sunday.

"We were backed up and trying to make some things happen," Reid said. "We took some shots in there and at the time we weren't running it quite as effective as we would have liked to, but we probably could have stuck with it a little bit more."

To run it ineffectively would have meant they were running it at all. They weren't.

"We started off throwing," Reid said. "It just worked out that way."

He was clearly straining to come up with an explanation when there just wasn't one. This was not the Reid with answers he just didn't care to share. This was a coach who could not defend his offense, then made matters worse by offending his defense. As he said Sunday - perhaps because he'd said it Sunday - Reid volunteered that the defense "started off slow."

The defense gave Reid's wretched offense a chance to win this must-win game. Maybe there is some high-level motivational strategy in Reid's tweaking of his defense, but it just sounds hollow to those who actually watched the game.

The true irony, though, is that Washington did have some offensive success in that game. And why? Because Jim Zorn stuck with the running game even when Clinton Portis was getting just 2 or 3 yards a carry. That approach took time off the clock and set up some manageable third-and-5 or third-and-6 situations for quarterback Jason Campbell.

On a frigid, windy day against a physical NFC East rival, that was the right answer - something that seemed in short supply from the Eagles coach this weekend.

Contact columnist Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844 or psheridan@phillynews.com. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/philsheridan.