THE MISTAKE is traced to Brian Dawkins' escape; surely, Dawkins' play at safety was sorely missed after the Eagles failed to re-sign him after the 2008 season.

What often is forgotten is that the mistake was compounded after the 2010 season, when the Eagles let Quintin Mikell leave, too.

They were confident that they had at least two options from the 2010 draft: second-rounder Nate Allen, whom they expected to recover from a late-season knee injury; and seventh-round revelation Kurt Coleman, who, as a backup, appeared to be a sterling find.

They fortified themselves with Jaiquawn Jarrett in the second round of 2011, and signed free agent Jarrad Page for 2011.

The Eagles were very, very wrong.

Page began the season as a starter but was cut midway through 2011. Jarrett was cut this summer.

Coleman has been a play-action marionette the past two seasons.

Allen still hasn't recovered the speed sapped from him by knee surgery, and was benched Sunday in favor of Colt Anderson, whom the Eagles signed as a rookie free agent in 2010.

Anderson had enticed the Eagles the past two games in place of Coleman, playing safely and, it seemed, competently.

Then, the Redskins targeted Anderson, and thereby stole the win, 27-20.

Alfred Morris trotted in past Anderson for a 10-yard touchdown early in the third quarter to make it 20-10. Santana Moss then beat Anderson on a fade route near the end of the quarter, and it was 27-13.

Anderson, at 5-10 and 194 pounds, is, like Coleman, undersized (5-11, 194). Both are tough. Neither is big enough or fast enough to cover receivers - even an aged Santana Moss.

Which is too bad.

Both relish contact. Both are smart, and football-crazy, and willing special-teamers; Anderson is the Eagles' best, in fact. He overcame offseason knee surgery to make the team in that role.

It is the only role to which he is suited.

Yes, he collected the Eagles' first interception in nine games, but it was not a playmaker interception. Robert Griffin III threw ridiculously high to intended receiver Joshua Morgan, who tipped the ball even higher. Anderson simply gathered in the deflection.

He was in the right spot, so there was that.

"That doesn't mean anything," Anderson said. "We needed to make more plays. Myself."

He was right, and honest: There needed to be more.

Near the Eagles' end zone in the third quarter, there was virtually nothing.

Moss never was touched. All he had to do was drag his feet.

"I felt like I knew the route," Anderson said. "And I was going to trust my read."

He trusted the read.

He just lacked the speed.