PHILADELPHIA -- The Washington Football Team showed its grit and resilience. It showed the ability to compete in a situation where it entered at a clear disadvantage. What it didn't show was the ability to stop the Philadelphia Eagles' offense. Or to fully overcome a number of player losses.
That's why, instead of a win, it will receive a number of "good job, good effort" comments. A team that prides itself on being a David taking on Goliaths ran out of rocks in its bag Tuesday. Meanwhile, its playoff chances took a major hit with Tuesday's 27-17 loss to the Eagles.
At 6-8, Washington would need to win its final three games and receive help to make the playoffs. The WFT is a game behind Minnesota, New Orleans and Philadelphia for the third and final wild-card spot. But it has now lost to both the Saints and the Eagles.
Washington plays at Dallas on Sunday, followed by a home rematch against Philadelphia and a road game at the New York Giants. A three-game win streak to close the season would be asking a lot given the health of the roster.
Two weeks ago Washington appeared to be in good position to earn a berth. But that's when injuries and the COVID-19 list started to become key factors. Washington has lost too many players in the past two weeks; starting quarterback Taylor Heinicke and his backup, Kyle Allen, as well as All-Pro right guard Brandon Scherff were on the COVID-19 list and missed Tuesday's game.
“We’re in a unique situation," receiver Terry McLaurin said. "... We had the mindset going into the week that we’ll play with whoever we have. This is the NFL, you have to be ready at all moments.”
“It is frustrating because of the timing," coach Ron Rivera said. "If you look at some of the injuries we have, that’s the game. That’s the nature of the game. You have to handle tough circumstances. I would like to have handled the last couple weeks better than we did.”
Meanwhile, on a key Eagles' drive late in the game, only one of Washington's five defensive backs, safety Bobby McCain, was a full-time starter. Corner Danny Johnson was the only other regular contributor.
That all added up a rough night for Washington, even though the Football Team cut the lead to 20-17 early in the fourth quarter. That was part of the resolve it has shown in the last two seasons. Its first 10 points were set up by turnovers, but the Eagles took control thereafter. The stats suggested it should have been a blowout: Philadelphia outgained Washington 519 to 237.
Washington hung around because that's what it does. It has bounced back after a 2-6 start. It took a matter-of-fact approach in dealing with the player losses. But reality bit hard Tuesday. The WFT will need to get a lot of its players back and hope it can parlay that into a strong finish.
Troubling trend: The injuries. That's not really a trend as much as it is bad fortune, but Washington can't keep anyone healthy. It really missed safety Kamren Curl and corner Kendall Fuller, both on the COVID-19 list. Curl excels at covering tight ends. Philly's Dallas Goedert caught seven passes for 135 yards on Tuesday. Fuller had been playing exceptionally well in the second half of the season. During the game, Washington lost corner William Jackson III (ankle), safety Landon Collins (foot) and end Daniel Wise (knee). Washington was thin to begin the game -- it just can't keep overcoming those types of player losses.
QB breakdown: It's hard to knock Garrett Gilbert's performance. He had just signed with Washington on Friday, giving him three practices before playing in a game. He underthrew McLaurin on a 46-yard completion. McLaurin made the catch and Washington eventually kicked a field goal, but with more time together perhaps Gilbert would have hit him in stride for a touchdown. Gilbert made a couple of nice passes on a touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, one to tight end Ricky Seals-Jones on an out route and another to tight end John Bates on a third-and-1 bootleg in which he had to alter his arm angle to throw back slightly. Gilbert is a limited quarterback, but he was put in an almost unwinnable situation and probably did as well as one could expect.
Pivotal play: Washington had just cut the deficit to 20-17 and the Eagles faced a third-and-6 with 8:13 remaining. That's when quarterback Jalen Hurts threw a screen to receiver Jalen Reagor. Reagor took advantage of Washington's depleted secondary to race 34 yards to the Washington 19-yard line. On the next play, Hurts connected with Greg Ward for a touchdown. That all but ended the game, as Washington was unable to threaten again.