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Can Eagles recover from worst loss of Kelly's career?

LANDOVER, Md. - Maybe the Eagles are still capable of reviving their season, which has now drifted to a 1-3 start after a bad loss to a bad Washington Redskins team on Sunday afternoon in FedEx Field.

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly.
Eagles head coach Chip Kelly.Read more(Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

LANDOVER, Md. - Maybe the Eagles are still capable of reviving their season, which has now drifted to a 1-3 start after a bad loss to a bad Washington Redskins team on Sunday afternoon in FedEx Field.

But, make no mistake, with two division and three conference losses already - and a team that is capable of long stretches of poor play - it is going to take an unlikely revival.

If you're keeping track, the Eagles have now lost six of their last eight games. They finished last season losing three of four - with the lone win in a meaningless finale - and have started this new season of great expectation the same way.

Chip Kelly said he knew the 2014 edition wasn't good enough to seriously contend, so he threw the roster into the air and started over. Is the current team any better? Not where it matters.

"This is not where we expected to be after Week 4," said new quarterback Sam Bradford. "When you're 1-3, those expectations are gone."

Against the Redskins, the Eagles very nearly pulled off a comeback of similar proportion to the one they now need to salvage their season. In a way, the game might turn out to be a microcosm of the season. They fought back from a significant deficit, took the lead with help from improbable heroes, then faded at the very end, with neither enough talent nor energy to prevent the loss. When the regular season ends, will that story arc also sum up their year?

"We know we gave one away," linebacker Brandon Graham said. "We've just got to continue to stay together."

On Sunday, a banged-up defense that looked a step slow couldn't stop Washington's 90-yard drive to the winning touchdown in the 23-20 outcome. It was the most deflating loss of Kelly's career in Philadelphia, even including the one the Eagles suffered in this same place last season. This was worse, because the Redskins aren't any better, and the Eagles seem to have regressed. Had they been able to hold on to the comeback, things would feel different, but that didn't happen.

The defeat again calls Kelly's tactics and system into question. No one on the defensive side of the ball pointed fingers, but that unit was on the field for more than two-thirds of the game. When they had to make a stop, they couldn't.

"It's our job to get ourselves off the field," defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. "Their offense was out there with us. They had as many snaps as our guys. We're built for reps, and I'll take that scenario every time with these guys. We'll win more times than we lose. We didn't today, though."

The offense has a lot to answer for as well and not just the dreadful first half. When the Eagles got the ball midway through the fourth quarter with a four-point lead, it was incumbent on the offense to take some time off the clock, one way or another.

One of those ways would have been for Kelly to take the air out of his hurry-up offense and grind away an extra minute or two while the Redskins preserved their timeouts. The other way would have been to pick up a few first downs. Instead, the Eagles went three-and-out and took just 1 minute, 17 seconds off the clock.

"Very disappointing," Bradford said. "We felt at that time we had all the momentum, and we could go down and score and put the game away. We just didn't do it."

The first half unraveled badly right from the start. It was a lowlight reel of everything that has been troubling about the team this season. The offense couldn't stay on the field, and the defense couldn't get off. Throw in a few injuries at positions that were already depleted and the formula for a meltdown was there.

On the offensive line, where Kelly rolled the dice this season by getting rid of Evan Mathis and going with longtime backups rather than more dependable talent, a patchwork became patchier when tackle Jason Peters went out with a quadriceps pull. That left an alignment of Matt Tobin, Allen Barbre, Jason Kelce, Dennis Kelly, and Lane Johnson.

With less-than-optimal protection, Bradford was sacked three times in the opening half; completed just half of the 10 passes he attempted; and, with the exception of one nice gain from DeMarco Murray, got no help from the running game.

Down by 13, the offense awoke, and by the most unexpected means. The quarterback who couldn't throw down the field finally did. The slow receivers who couldn't get open were right where they had to be. Anyone who had Riley Cooper, Brent Celek, and Miles Austin in the pool to predict who would catch the next three touchdowns should go to the head of the class.

But that's the Eagles. Full of surprises. Their entire season has been a surprise so far. It just hasn't been a good one. And now, having lost six of their last eight, the question is how much longer losing will be considered a surprise.

bford@phillynews.com

@bobfordsports

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