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Murray's fumble captures Eagles' mess of a season

What moment reddened your face first? Which one set you screaming loudest and longest? What did the Eagles do Saturday night to deliver unto you the greatest amount of torment?

Eagles running back DeMarco Murray (29) fumbles the ball away against the Redskins. (Clem Murray / Staff Photographer)
Eagles running back DeMarco Murray (29) fumbles the ball away against the Redskins. (Clem Murray / Staff Photographer)Read moreClem Murray / Staff Photographer

What moment reddened your face first? Which one set you screaming loudest and longest? What did the Eagles do Saturday night to deliver unto you the greatest amount of torment?

Was it the sight of Zach Ertz breaking open after a broken coverage by the Washington Redskins' secondary, nothing but a vast strip of green between him and a go-ahead touchdown, and the football sailing beyond his outstretched left hand because of a Sam Bradford overthrow? Was it Riley Cooper's failure to hold on to a deep and perfect Bradford pass early in the third quarter, and Cooper's subsequent tantrum on the sideline? Was it all that space that the Eagles linebackers gave to those Redskins receivers? Was it Chip Kelly's needless and senseless waste of a timeout in challenging the call on Cooper's drop? There were so many from this 38-24 Redskins victory, from a night that eliminated the Eagles from playoff contention and effectively ended one of the most infuriating - maybe the most infuriating - season in franchise history.

Perhaps it was the final, decisive blunder that best captured the night, that best symbolized the mess that sits smoldering at Kelly's feet.

Late third quarter. The Eagles have pulled within six on a DeMarco Murray touchdown, on a 4-yard score that saw Murray run with as much anger and toughness as he has at any time this season. And now on third-and-short, on the Eagles' next possession, with rain misting the air, with the football slick and slippery, Kelly has Bradford pitch the ball horizontally to Murray. And Murray drops it. And center Jason Kelce accidentally kicks it. And Washington cornerback DeAngelo Hall scoops it up and returns it 17 yards for a touchdown and a 30-17 Redskins lead.

Kelly: "That's on me. Not a good call. A hundred percent on me."

Murray: "It was a good pitch. It was my fault."

There was enough blame for both of them. Everything that went wrong for the Eagles last offseason and this season - it was there in that play. The arrogance of Kelly to call it, to disregard the weather conditions and do it his way, no matter what. The ineffectiveness of Murray - signed for five years and $40 million, discontented with his role yet undeserving of a greater one. The knowledge, deep in everyone's gut, that a 13-point deficit was insurmountable for this Eagles team, for this overmatched defense, for this error-prone offense. Consider: Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins committed one of the most egregious and inexplicable mistakes in the last 50 years of professional football. With six seconds left in the first half, with Washington out of timeouts and positioned at the Eagles' 6-yard line, Cousins took the snap from center and, instead of spiking the football to stop the clock, took a knee. Time expired. The Redskins didn't even attempt a field goal. It was the kind of mistake that can change everything about a game, can swing everything in an opponent's favor. And the Eagles, through their own ineptitude, rendered it an afterthought.

It was nothing new for them. Really, Saturday night was nothing new. The Eagles did not have the decency to be wholly and obviously terrible for the entire season. They were Saturday night, yes, and they were in several earlier games. But over the totality of the last 16 weeks, they did just enough good things to keep themselves in the NFC East title race - which, admittedly, is a little like challenging for first place in a race among four three-legged basset hounds.

Mostly, though, the Eagles did enough good things to drive everyone who follows them and cares about them to the brink of madness. They needed one defensive stop to beat the Redskins the first time the teams played this season, and they couldn't get it, and it cost them a victory that cost them the division. They began 1-3, got to 4-4 with a thrilling overtime win in Texas against the Cowboys, sank to 4-7, got themselves back to 6-7, then sank again.

That second sinking - that's what should compel owner Jeffrey Lurie to have a long and serious sit-down with Kelly come Monday, Jan. 4, the day after the Eagles' final game. Lurie afforded Kelly the unfettered power to remake the team as Kelly saw fit, over a single offseason, and what that plan had in boldness and daring, it lacked in competence. The roster Kelly created turned out to be a mishmash of mercenaries, neophytes, and players whose status as full-time starters apparently was based purely on the Peter Principle. The 2015 Eagles were a team without enough ability and skill, from top to bottom, to meet the preseason expectations that had them capable of winning a Super Bowl, and they didn't have the togetherness and cohesion necessary to overcome the talent gap between them and most of their opponents.

When they had the opportunity to get themselves into the postseason, the Eagles lost back-to-back home games, to the Cardinals and the Redskins, to an excellent team and a flawed one, by an aggregate score of 78-41. An earlier bottoming-out would have been easier to handle, easier to process. This was worse. This team was a tease from start to finish, nothing more. Just after midnight, as the media's postgame debriefing of Kelly neared its end, the lights in the news-conference room shut off for some reason. The room went completely dark. Insert your own metaphor here.