Jason Avant was almost a hero in Philadelphia.
The Eagles lost their second game of the season to the Washington Redskins Sunday, but despite trailing all game, had a chance to win in the final seconds. An end zone heave from the Redskins 32 was in Avant’s hands but quickly slipped out, and DeAngelo Hall intercepted the ball to seal Washington’s 17-12 win.
The most productive thing Donovan McNabb did in his much anticipated return was hand the ball off, as he only attempted 19 passes and completed just eight of them for 125 yards, a touchdown and an interception. After receiving a standing ovation when introduced, McNabb was vehemently booed when he first took the field and was later showered with cheers after each of his three worm balls.
A lot of things not named Donovan factored into Philly’s loss, which looked similar to their week one loss against Green Bay. The defense allowed 169 yards on the ground to the 28th-ranked rushing offense coming into week four, and Washington’s 35 rushing attempts accounted for nearly two-thirds of their offensive plays.
The offense looked flat again with Kevin Kolb back under center due to a chest/rib injury from Michael Vick, who left late in the first quarter. Vick was sandwiched between two Washington tacklers while diving for a touchdown, and to make matters worse, the play was eventually called back because of a holding penalty on Max Jean-Gilles.
Everything Kolb did was unimpressive. It was clear he wasn’t prepared to run the offense as he barely attempted any passes over ten yards. Head coach Andy Reid later said that the Redskins were running a soft Cover 2 defense and dropping the corners and linebackers deeper than usual, so the “check downs were there all day” for Kolb. The offense mostly consisted of screen passes and out routes to running back LeSean McCoy and fullback Owen Schmitt, with Kolb basically ignoring quite possibly the hottest receiving tandem in the league, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.
“I didn’t want to force anything,” Kolb said after the game. “I didn’t want to try to be too overly aggressive.”
Overly aggressive is understandable, but showing even the tiniest bit of aggression would have been nice. Kolb finished the afternoon going 22-35 for 201 yards, a touchdown and the interception on the final play heave. McCoy finished with 12 receptions for 110 yards, mostly all of them screen passes, which shows half of Kolb’s passing yards were on glorified running plays. Jackson and Maclin combined for four receptions for 34 yards, and while Jackson was in perfect position for another of his long touchdowns, Kolb missed him wide open running towards the sidelines. But it wasn’t his fault, Kolb later said, because the wind took it.
The most unbelievable gaffe of the game came with less than a minute to go in the second quarter. After a challenge confirmed McCoy did not cross the goal line, Reid called time out to discuss a play. Somewhere along the line, Reid says he believes he either looked at the spot incorrectly or the ball was moved, because the goal line went from “inches to yards” away.
Reid questioned the referee about the spot and the team watched from the field—all while the play clock was running. By the time Kolb got on the field with the new play the clock was about to expire, and the Eagles were left with David Akers kicking his second field goal of the game.
When Kolb was asked in the press conference whether there’s that big of a difference in the play call between a spot that’s inches from the goal line to a spot that’s a yard away, he showed how much he was actually paying attention to the situation.
“Yeah, especially on a fourth down like that—it was fourth down, right?” he asked the press pool.
With a 17-6 lead at halftime, the Redskins continued to run the ball all over the Eagles defense, leaving Philly’s offense with few opportunities to make up ground. One break came off an interception by Nate Allen—the player selected with the pick the Eagles received from Washington for Donovan McNabb—but the Eagles went three and out.
It wasn’t until 4:10 left in the fourth quarter that the Eagles finally made their way into the end zone off a five-yard touchdown reception by Brent Celek. They failed their first two-point conversion of the year in an attempt to cut the lead to three, but gave the ball back down 17-12. The defense then couldn’t stop the Washington ground game once again and allowed two first downs with time ticking away, and the Eagles got the ball back 1:07 left and no time outs.
Vick wasn’t the only big injury in the game, as cornerback Asante Samuel left with a concussion after getting kneed in the head. Quentin Mikell finished the game despite getting run over by Washington’s leading rusher Ryan Torain on a 12-yard touchdown run and was reportedly feeling dizzy in the locker room after the game. Riley Cooper also left with a concussion.