THAT LAST Eagles drive Sunday had the potential to truly ignite the Nick Foles era, get fans excited about a future with their third-round rookie quarterback. It ended 5 yards short.
Foles was called for intentional grounding trying to avoid a sack when he couldn't find an open receiver on second and goal from the Redskins' 5, on a play that began with 8 seconds remaining and the Birds out of timeouts.
Of course, even if the Eagles had scored, to win they would have had to either go for two and make it or prevail in overtime, but just getting to OT would have been a solid accomplishment for a QB making his fifth NFL start, who had entered the fourth quarter down 27-13.
The ball fluttered to the field near Eagles right tackle Dennis Kelly, who was not an eligible receiver. New tight end Evan Moore, who had dropped a touchdown pass on the previous snap, was maybe 10 yards away, in the end zone. After a conference, ref Ed Hochuli's crew determined the ball didn't get back to the line of scrimmage, and given the mandatory 10-second runoff in such situations, the game was over.
Foles had moved the Eagles 80 yards in 14 plays before the grounding, no-huddling his way methodically down the field against a Redskins defense that could feel its upper hand in the NFC East race slipping. He had hit Jeremy Maclin twice for 24 yards (Maclin had eight catches for 116 yards on the day), and LeSean McCoy four times for 30 yards, showing impressive poise. He'd also missed Maclin wide-open in the end zone, and then he'd had that sure score bounce off Moore's hands.
"He was trying to make something happen," Eagles coach Andy Reid said of Foles on the final play. "He didn't have anybody open, so he was buying time the best he could. There was nothing there. The bottom line was that there was nobody open. He was just buying as much possible time as he could, but it didn't work out right."
Foles indicated he threw the dropped ball too hard to Moore, who participated in two practices with the Eagles after being released by Seattle last week. They probably don't have loads of timing together just yet.
On the Maclin miss, Foles said he thought he'd thrown it well, when it left his hand, but obviously, it didn't get there: "I just have to drive that ball, continue to drive it out there. Maclin ran a great route."
On the Redskins' bench, fullback Darrel Young confessed, "I was almost having a heart attack at the end of the game, while they were driving to score."
McCoy, who rambled and rumbled 12 yards with a fourth-down pass to set up the Eagles at the 5 with 11 seconds remaining, said: "I'd rather be blown out than lose like this."
Foles said on the final play, "I just have to be smarter and make sure it gets past the line of scrimmage. It's on me."
Eagles first-round rookie Fletcher Cox, the most consistent member of the defensive line, left the game with a concussion. There was no word on whether he might be able to play in the season finale Sunday at the Giants.
As expected, Michael Vick was inactive as the third quarterback. More notable might have been that 2011 first-round offensive-line pick Danny Watkins was inactive. Watkins badly needs a clean slate with a new o-line coach next season. Not sure a coach can instill mental toughness, though . . . Eagles video maven Mike Dougherty is retiring after 37 years and 775 games . . . LeSean McCoy got 13 carries and was targeted for 11 passes, catching nine, in his first game back from a 4-week concussion absence. That was a bigger workload than McCoy seemed to be expecting during the week, when he spoke of scraping off rust. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg neatly solved the problem of accommodating both McCoy and Bryce Brown by making Brown a four-carry nonentity again, which might not have been exactly what fans had in mind. "It was tough on me," McCoy acknowledged. "I think late in the game, I got fatigued a little bit. It was different from running in the training room and rehabbing . . . I think I'll be better for next game."