Redskins 23, Eagles 17 Redskins
PHILADELPHIA — When Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis got a look at his team’s schedule, with three road games in the first five weeks against division opponents, he had one thought. “I think the N.F.L. was trying to get us out of this division quick, so you didn’t have to worry about the Redskins,” he said.
Everybody has to worry about the Redskins now. One week after they stunned the Cowboys in Dallas, the Redskins served notice with a 23-17 victory over the Eagles that the brutal National Football Conference East may still send three teams to the playoffs — just not the Philadelphia Eagles, whom many had expected would win the division.
The loss, the Eagles’ second in a row, sent them to 2-3, with two losses in the division. The only loss for the 4-1 Redskins came in the season opener, against the Giants, a game in which the Redskins’ offense, with a new coach and a new system, looked as if it could barely function.
Goodbye to all that. The Redskins’ next three games are against the floundering Rams, BrownsLions, and that could set up Washington for a prime spot near the top of the division going into the second half of the season. and
On Sunday, Philadelphia took an early 14-0 lead before the Redskins had accumulated even a yard. But the Redskins surged back, and with spectacular blocking, particularly on the edges, they pounded out 203 rushing yards against a defense that had been allowing an average of 53.8 in the first month. Portis, who finished with 145 yards on 29 carries, had a 4-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter on which he was not touched.
But if there was a play that defined this game — and defines why the Redskins have been one of the surprise teams of the season — it came on fourth-and-1 from the Eagles’ 38 with 2 minutes 48 seconds remaining.
The Redskins had failed to convert on third down with an incomplete pass from Jason Campbell. The rookie coach Jim Zorn — whose candor would seem an immediate disqualifier for his job — said he took a timeout after that play so he could regain his composure and get out of his mind how the third down had failed.
The safe thing to do would have been to punt and make the Eagles march the length of the field to try for the winning score. But during the timeout, Portis went to Zorn and asked him to call his number. Zorn did, and Portis muscled his way for 3 yards and a first down, allowing the Redskins to run out the clock.
“You don’t know what we’re going to do,” Portis said. “We don’t even know what we’re going to do. You get in the huddle and Jason calls the play and I’m saying, ‘We just put that in this morning.’ ”
Almost everything the Redskins tried seemed to work. After ceding a touchdown on the Eagles’ opening drive — and then giving up another on a 68-yard punt return by DeSean Jackson — the Redskins, with their defense playing without three starters, barely budged.
The standoff began at the end of the first quarter. After the Eagles’ David Akers, who has struggled with long kicks this season but looked strong in warm-ups, missed a 50-yard field goal, Philadelphia went almost two quarters without a first down. In the third quarter, the Eagles gained only 17 yards.
The result: the Eagles’ defense, renowned for its intensity and ability to harass the quarterback, grew weary, allowing the Redskins to go on clock-chewing drives even though the Eagles had effectively taken the deep threat Santana Moss out of the game. The Eagles’ defense was on the field for 75 plays (compared with 47 for the Eagles’ offense), and the Redskins held the ball for nearly 10 minutes longer than the Eagles, all without committing a turnover.
“It’s tiring, obviously,” Eagles cornerback Lito Sheppard said. “We need to get off the field and get our offense the ball.”
While the Eagles were standing still, the Redskins raced past them in the third quarter. On first down from the Eagles’ 18, Campbell handed the ball to Antwaan Randle El on a reverse. Randle El, a former college quarterback at Indiana, ran toward the right sideline, stopped in his tracks, then launched a perfect touchdown strike to tight end Chris Cooley.
Just a few minutes earlier, at the end of the second quarter, Cooley had told his coaches that the Eagles were covering him with a linebacker nearly every play — a gross mismatch. Still, the trick play caught almost everyone — including the Redskins — by surprise. It was part of their red-zone package, but the Redskins devoted little time to it last week.
“It worked out awesome,” Zorn said. “You know how many times we practiced that play? Once.”
No wonder Zorn was jumping up and down just before the Redskins’ offense took the field Sunday. Campbell jokingly asked his coach, a former quarterback, if he wanted to take Campbell’s pads and go into the game. Zorn replied, “I’ve got to get ready, too.”
So should the rest of the N.F.L.