LANDOVER, Md. — The Philadelphia Eagles have proved themselves to be a mirage, a team that got away with its faults until it couldn’t any longer.
Leaders in the NFC East as recently as week ago, they’re now just about done in the playoff race, and they’re in no position to argue that they deserve any better.
Penalties, missed field goals, two more turnovers by Mark Sanchez and an inability to keep track of former teammate DeSean Jackson turned into a 27-24 loss to the lowly Washington Redskins on Saturday night, the Eagles’ third straight defeat and one that gives Dallas two chances to clinch the NFC East.
“We’re currently minus-9 in the turnover margin, so us having nine wins is really impressive for that,” said safety Malcolm Jenkins, echoing the mood of a locker room hit with a communal reality check. “And really we were on borrowed time playing that style of football. If we (would) have run the table in December with that kind of football, it would have been surprising, and it’s something we didn’t fix.”
Sanchez’s interception with 1:31 remaining — his 13th turnover in seven games — led to Kai Forbath’s winning 26-yard field goal with 5 seconds remaining as the Redskins (4-11) snapped a six-game losing streak.
The Eagles (9-6) will now be rooting for Indianapolis to beat the Cowboys (10-4) on Sunday. A Dallas win eliminates Philadelphia. A Dallas loss keeps a modicum of hope alive.
“I’m not going to throw a party and watch it,” receiver Jeremy Maclin said. “I’m going to watch it at home.”
The loss also knocked Philadelphia from the wild-card race and clinched a playoff berth for Detroit.
Sanchez set an Eagles record with 37 completions in 50 attempts for a career-high 374 yards with two touchdowns to Riley Cooper, and tight end Zach Ertz set a franchise game record with 15 catches. But Sanchez lost a fumble for the third time this season and threw his 10th interception to put the Eagles’ NFL-leading turnover tally at 36.
Robert Griffin III, back from his recent benching after a season-ending neck injury to Colt McCoy, went 16 for 23 for 220 yards with one interception for the Redskins to win in his first complete game in 13 months. Griffin’s only other win as a starter this season came when he was injured in the first quarter against Jacksonville in Week 2.
First-year coach Jay Gruden, who has frequently been critical of Griffin, gave a glowing assessment, saying RG3 “did an outstanding job of managing the football game.”
“You would think a 3-11 football team would just quit,” Griffin said. “And we’re not.”
From the Eagles’ perspective, everything seemed to go wrong in pairs. Two wide-rights by rookie kicker Cody Parkey — doubling his number of misses this season — were converted into two 1-yard touchdown runs by Darrel Young.
One of those Washington scoring drives included roughing-the-passer penalties by Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry in a span of four plays. The other drive featured a 55-yard over-the-shoulder grab by Jackson, the second 50-plus Griffin-to-Jackson connection in the game.
“I missed kicks and we lost the game,” said Parkey, who has been battling a groin injury in his kicking leg. “I don’t think there’s any words to really describe it. You let yourself down. You let your teammates down. The kicks had nothing to do with my groin.”
Curry also had a roughing-the-passer call on the Redskins’ winning drive. Earlier, a pass-interference call on Nate Allen in the end zone set up Young’s second scoring run. Philadelphia was flagged 13 times for 102 yards.
“We’re beating ourselves with the penalties,” defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. “They stay on the field, and they get more shots on goal, and bad things happen in the NFL.”
The Eagles trailed 24-14 when Sanchez hit Riley Cooper for a 16-yard score early in the fourth quarter, and Parkey kicked a 22-yard field goal with 6:17 to play.
But, on their next possession — with the score tied and the season on the line — Sanchez made the game’s final mistake, the interception to rookie cornerback Bashaud Breeland at Washington’s 42.
“We wanted to spoil their Christmas and send them home,” Griffin said, “and we did our part.”