Tight end L.J. Smith was criticized by some for not getting out of bounds on a catch during the Eagles' final, desperate drive to tie the game. Smith instead opted to pick up the first down. It was a play that cost the Eagles an extra 11 seconds on the drive.
That, however, was not the play that really cost the Eagles crucial time.
For some reason after Brian Westbrook ran for 2 yards on the first play of that drive, the Eagles huddled to call the next play. A full 28 seconds went off the clock between the time Westbrook got up after the play and when the Eagles ran the next play. That huddle was the real waste of time that proved costly at the end of the game.
Receiver Jason Avant thought he caught a pass good for a first down on a third-and-4 play early in the fourth quarter. He was so sure that he urged coach Andy Reid to challenge the ruling on the field that the ball skipped into his hands and was incomplete.
The word from the Eagles' coaching box upstairs was that the replay showed the official made the correct call, but if you watch the play in super slow motion, you can never really tell if the ball hit the ground. The call probably would have stood, but Avant may have been right.
With a chance to keep field position in their favor late in the game, the Eagles' special teams came up small, allowing a 36-yard punt return to the Eagles' 45-yard line.
Quintin Demps, Sean Considine and Omar Gaither all had a chance to stop Antwaan Randle El long before he got into Eagles territory. That play was the reason the Eagles had to start their final drive of the game at the 9-yard line.
This space has been used to defend Smith at times in the past, but the tight end was guilty of a terrible performance against the Redskins. It started with a dropped pass early in the second quarter on a play that might have gone for a first down. It continued on the Eagles' next offensive series, when he dropped a second-down pass, setting up a third-and-8 play.
Smith also missed a crucial block on safety Chris Horton on a third-and-3 play late in the third quarter. Horton wasn't Smith's exact assignment, but the tight end should have dealt with him instead of moving farther down the field. The quick screen to Westbrook resulted in a 1-yard gain and forced the Eagles to settle for a field goal.
On the Eagles' first possession of the second half, coach Andy Reid called a time-out from the sidelines because he was visibly upset with something before a third-and-7 play from the 20-yard line.
Reid, asked if the Eagles were in the wrong formation, wouldn't comment yesterday on why he burned the time-out after saying Sunday that "I screwed up a call."
That time-out, of course, would have been valuable on the Eagles' final drive.
For what it's worth, the Eagles were in the same exact formation two plays later. That play didn't work, either.
A lot of things that went wrong for the Eagles' offense weren't Donovan McNabb's fault, but the sack and turnover that led to Washington's only touchdown early in the second half should be pinned on the quarterback.
McNabb could have thrown to a wide-open Reggie Brown right in front of him for a first down on the third-and-3 play but instead held the football way too long and was sacked by defensive end Jason Taylor, who had worked his way around right tackle Jon Runyan. London Fletcher recovered the fumble and returned it to the Eagles' 18-yard line.
It wouldn't be surprising if Victor Abiamiri opens next season as the Eagles' starting left defensive end, but he and Darren Howard also have real value as rushing defensive tackles in third-and-long situations.
Abiamiri ended the Redskins' first offensive series by getting a terrific push on center Casey Rabach before reaching in with his left arm and knocking the ball away from quarterback Jason Campbell as he cocked his arm to throw.
The unfortunate part for the Eagles was that Rabach managed to fall on the football just before linebacker Stewart Bradley could get there. The offensively challenged Eagles could have used that good field position early in the game.
Playing defensive end, Abiamiri was also responsible for getting the Eagles' defense off the field on Washington's second offensive series. On a third-and-1 play from the Washington 46, Abiamiri beat tackle Jason Fabini to get into the Redskins' backfield. His pursuit gave safety Quintin Mikell a chance to come up and stop Clinton Portis for no gain.
The bad news for Abiamiri is that he's probably going to miss the Eagles' final game because of a sprained foot.
It's obvious that offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg called the plays against the Redskins, and there were some questionable ones, and we're not even talking about the lopsided pass-run ratio.
Let's start with a third-and-6 call on the Eagles' first possession of the second quarter. DeSean Jackson and Avant were lined up to McNabb's left, and Brown was wide right. All three ran routes much deeper than the six yards the Eagles needed for a first down, and when Taylor disrupted Westbrook's route in the middle of the field, McNabb dumped the ball to fullback Dan Klecko, who had no chance of running away from linebacker H.B. Blades.
Why wasn't at least one wide receiver running a 6-yard pattern just beyond the first-down marker?