The video board at Lincoln Financial Field displayed the Eagles and Redskins logos at the end of the Eagles' 40-17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday night, and players on the Eagles already started thinking about Washington when they walked off the field. That image was the lone glimmer of good news on a forgettable night in Philadelphia.
Any illusion that the Eagles could remain competitive with one of the best teams in the NFL faded early in the second half. The Eagles dropped to 6-8, ensuring that they will not have a winning record for the first time in coach Chip Kelly's three seasons. But they can still make the playoffs, and that's why their game Saturday against the Redskins offers a reason for optimism - or at least an elixir to quickly forget what just happened during the previous three hours.
"Right now, just trying to erase this," tackle Lane Johnson said. "Just got to bury it, because it's a short week. It's time to go right now. ... It puts a bad taste in your mouth. It's all going to come down to [Washington]."
The loss Sunday was costly, but it was far from crippling. The Eagles still control their postseason hopes entering the final two games. They must beat Washington on Saturday to remain in contention. If they win both of their final two games, they'll be the NFC East champions and have a home playoff date.
A win Sunday would have made the path easier and would have given them another victory over a formidable foe. But the Eagles still would have needed to beat Washington. No scenario would have put them in without beating the Redskins.
"It doesn't matter about two [wins] - it matters about one," Kelly said. "If we don't take care of business on Saturday, there's not a second game to even talk about."
The Eagles spoiled a pristine opportunity to keep pace with the Cardinals when they failed to convert on fourth and 1 from the 8-yard line while trailing by seven points with 50 seconds remaining in the second quarter. Kelly eschewed a field-goal opportunity and kept his offense on the field, hoping to get 1 yard.
Kelly called a running play for Ryan Mathews, whose numbers in short-yardage situations pale compared with DeMarco Murray's. The offensive line could not get any push, and Mathews was stuffed for no gain. The Eagles were left without any points on a key red-zone visit.
"I thought in terms of making the call that we were going to get it," Kelly said. "We think we can pound it up in there. Had two tight ends in the game. Brought a receiver over to handle the DB. Pound it up in there."
The Cardinals called a timeout before the play. They changed their defensive look during the timeout, according to Johnson, but the Eagles did not change their play call. Kelly said the Eagles changed the formation.
"That was kind of the game - we don't get it there - [and] you look back at that in hindsight," Kelly said of the failed conversion.
Quarterback Sam Bradford finished 28 of 41 for 361 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Mathews led all rushers with 58 yards, but he also had a fumble. Murray barely played and received only two carries. The top offensive performer was receiver Jordan Matthews, who finished with eight catches for 159 yards and a touchdown.
The Cardinals accumulated 493 total yards, including 187 rushing yards by rookie David Johnson.
The game remained close to even for much of the first half. Arizona tried going deep on the first play of the game, but John Brown dropped Palmer's pass even though he had already passed the Eagles defense. The Cardinals rebounded by going 78 yards on eight plays, instead of one play, with Johnson rushing for a 1-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
The Eagles needed to settle for a field goal on their ensuing drive. It took 12 plays - one of them with Bradford on the sideline after aggravating his left shoulder. The key play was Bradford's finding Jordan Matthews for 30 yards to go from Eagles territory to Cardinals territory.
After an Arizona field goal, the Eagles tied the game when Bradford connected with Zach Ertz for a 22-yard touchdown pass down the middle of the field midway through the second quarter.
The Eagles lost starting cornerbacks Byron Maxwell and Eric Rowe during the quarter, but it was not a passing play that buried them in the third quarter. Rather, the Eagles could not tackle the Cardinals in the running game. Johnson bulldozed through the line of scrimmage and bounced off Eagles defenders for a 47-yard touchdown run that will play on highlight reels throughout the season to the likely chagrin of defensive coordinator Bill Davis.
"There was about five missed tackles," Davis said. "The run game was a big-time tackling issue tonight. We've got to do better. We have done better than that, we will do better than that. I don't know where it came from, but I have to stop before we get to Washington."
The failure to score before halftime proved costly when the Cardinals tallied the first 20 points of the second half. They started by driving for a touchdown early in the half, and then they forced Eagles turnovers on three consecutive drives. Bradford fumbled, Mathews fumbled to lead to a Cardinals touchdown, and Bradford threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown.
Ten seconds into the fourth quarter, the Cardinals built a 37-10 lead. The Eagles' statistics were helped by a 78-yard touchdown pass from Bradford to Matthews, but they needed only to look at the scoreboard to realize it was not going to change the outcome.
Just to make sure, the Cardinals kicked a field goal so the Eagles could experience what it's like to see 40 points scored against them again.
Although falling to the Cardinals was the likely outcome, the Eagles have allowed at least 40 points in three of the last five games and have lost four of six games. They can still make the playoffs - but only if they win on Saturday against Washington.
"It all comes down to this week," Johnson said. "It's do or die."