IF THE COURSE of the 2012 season had taught us anything, it had taught us that Andy Reid's final game at Lincoln Financial Field was not fated to end in some sort of miraculous comeback to win in overtime, with giddy fist-pumps and fireworks and adulation. You felt that in your bones, even as Nick Foles drove the Eagles downfield for what would have been the tying score in the final seconds Sunday.
So when Ed Hochuli's crew gathered to discuss the ball Foles tried to throw away as he was hit by Stephen Bowen, on second-and-goal from the Washington Redskins' 5, with 1 second remaining on the clock after the ball bounced off the turf nearest right tackle Dennis Kelly, there could only be one outcome, the one Hochuli eventually announced: intentional grounding, 10-second runoff on the penalty, game over, Eagles lose, 27-20.
Reid was off and running to a midfield congratulation of Redskins coach Mike Shanahan before the Linc crowd fully grasped what had happened. Then Reid was churning toward the tunnel, surrounded by an armada of photographers. Somehow, Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett broke through the escort and Reid pulled up for a hug - a poignant moment between the two finalists for the Eagles' head-coaching job 14 years ago next month. Then Andy was under the south end-zone stands and gone, as some hardy loyalists in the seats nearby chanted his name.
"We have great fans. I've always said that we're kind of on the same page," Reid said, apparently not making a joke. "When you stink, they let you know you stink, and when you're doing good, they're going to let you know you're doing good. I got it. I understand. I understand the situation. I appreciate everything."
Asked about speculation that this was his final home game, with his team 4-11 and out of the playoffs for the second year in a row, both times having been touted as a contender, Reid said: "I don't know that. I have nothing to tell you on that. I'm the coach right now, and I'm just coaching. That's what I'm doing, the best that I possibly can."
No thoughts of auld lang syne?
"Those are good stories, but when you're in the process of getting ready for a game, and then you're playing the game, your mind doesn't go there - especially a game like that, which comes down to the last second. That's not where I'm at," Reid said.
That is where the rest of us are "at," though. So what did Sunday's game tell us about the players the next coach will inherit?
Foles, the rookie QB, again offered a mixed bag. He showed enough promise to make you think he could be a franchise quarterback in the making, while making enough terrible mistakes to keep you from being sure he will be such a rare and precious entity. Foles finished 32-for-48 for 345 yards, a touchdown, a deflected interception, an 85.9 passer rating and a killer fumble that turned momentum after the Eagles had seized it early. Also, there was the final-play intentional grounding, which should have been a safe throwaway a second or 2 earlier, and a play three snaps before that when Foles had Jeremy Maclin wide open in the end zone and threw it short. (In between there was a touchdown drop by new tight end Evan Moore, playing on 2 days of practice and somehow targeted with the game on the line.)
Foles suffered a bruised throwing hand in the first half, got halftime X-rays and stayed in the game. He was sacked five times behind an offensive line that seemed to misplace the synchronization it has found lately, particularly in blitz pickup. Foles stood tall under pressure, for the most part, made some strong plays.
LeSean McCoy, in his return from a four-game concussion absence, showed heart, grit, and those dazzling cuts that make him elite. McCoy caught nine passes for 77 yards, ran 13 times for another 45 that were accomplished without benefit of much blocking.
Brandon Graham continued to show that former defensive-line coach Jim Washburn deserved to be fired - wide-nine aside - simply for not starting Graham and playing him at least two-thirds of each game. Graham got no sacks Sunday, but he led the Eagles with six solo tackles and he surprised Robert Griffin III in the backfield, Griffin bouncing a shovel pass off the defensive end, who wasn't supposed to be between the QB and the receiver.
Griffin, wearing a brace on the left knee that caused him to miss last week's game, ignored the Eagles' corners to work the middle of the field to lethal effect, like a boxer bypassing the jaw to work the ribs. The Eagles' safeties and linebackers couldn't stop the pounding, even with Nate Allen benched, as Griffin piloted the Redskins to their sixth win in a row, putting the NFC East title within their grasp.
Colt Anderson did manage the first Eagles interception in nine games, on a ball that bounced off the intended receiver, but Griffin, often afforded excellent field position, completed 16 of 24 passes for 198 yards, two beautifully thrown touchdowns and the one pick. His passer rating was 102.4, which is plenty good, but 55.9 points under his perfect score in the previous meeting, a 31-6 Redskins victory. The knee seemed to make him more of a pocket passer than usual.
That earlier game, Foles was 21-for-46 with no touchdowns, two picks and a 40.5 rating, so you could chart the progress he has made in a month, against the first defense he has seen twice.
"I gotta eliminate mistakes," Foles said. "I fumbled and I threw an interception, and it's the quarterback's job to make sure we get more points on the board than the other team. I didn't do my job today. It's frustrating, because I'm hard on myself and I want to win . . . It's been a tough year, but we still have each other and I know we're going to keep going to work."
Reid said Foles "was better than he was the last time. We came up short, and obviously, it's not all the quarterback's fault. I thought the guys battled. I thought he did some good things."
Foles said Reid wasn't any different Sunday, amid the end-of-an-era atmosphere.
"He stays the same. He stays the path. He's a great head coach to play for," said Foles, who went through something very similar last year at the University of Arizona, when Mike Stoops was dismissed during the season. "He cares a lot about this city and he's done a lot of great things here . . . He doesn't change. He's solid. That's something I'm always going to respect about him."
Graham said: "It's a business. Coach Reid is fighting his butt off right now . . . today was just one of those days, I wish we could give it back to him, but you can't."
Could Graham have played the whole year the way he's playing now, had he been given the opportunity?
"Who knows?" he said. "I can only talk about what I'm doing now, and right now I've made sure I just stayed at it. Every week, you're going to get 100 percent from me. My teammates know that, and I know they'll do the same."
McCoy, who converted a crucial fourth down and then got out of bounds at the 5 to set up the final sequence, said the Eagles did a lot of good things, made a lot of good play calls on the final drive, as they moved from their 15 to Washington's 5.
"Another situation where we just don't capitalize," McCoy said. "That's kinda how the season went this year."