- The Washington Times - Monday, November 27, 2000

The local cheerleaders picked the local football team to go to the Super Bowl after it defeated the Rams in St. Louis last Monday night.

That consecration followed the local football team's embarrassing loss in Arizona.

New wisdom is being pieced together now after the local football team lost to the Eagles in the place formerly known as Raljon yesterday.

The local football team is teetering on the edge with a 7-5 record, which is a strange place to be, considering the talk of the Super Bowl was not that long ago.

The cheerleaders desperately want to believe in the Boy Owner's product, possibly because the alternative is to be excluded from the feel-good fraternity.

So the local football team possibly is still going to the Super Bowl this week, despite 12 games' worth of evidence that indicates otherwise.

The team is about where it was last season at this time, just another flawed team in the parity-minded NFL. It is a team that does not inspire; it is a team that only torments its supporters. There is some good, some bad and whole lot of hand-wringing with this team.

The local football team is usually a couple of plays away from being a very good team each week.

There is an unexplainable fumble or miscommunication between the quarterback and a receiver. Or there is an injury. There is always an injury in the NFL. Believe it or not, the injury element is not unique to the bowl by the Beltway.

There is always something with the local football team. The special teams don't bother to show up a lot of weeks. The kickers come and go with mind-numbing regularity.

Eddie Murray, who was plucked out of retirement, missed the game-tying field goal attempt from 44 yards out against the Eagles. As it turns out, he can't kick his age, which is 44.

The Eagles scored two touchdowns because of turnovers: a muff by James Thrash on a punt and a bad exchange between the center and quarterback.

The local football team must have felt obligated to atone for some of the questionable calls that went against the visitors. The officiating crew, led by referee Tom White, did not have a good day.

The crew blew the whistle against Damon Moore on the first possession of the game. It seemed he was trying to goad the opposition into a false start from his spot on the punt return team. The infraction resulted in five yards and a first down for the hosts.

They took this as a good sign, as well they should have. Two plays later, Thrash was allowed to push Moore off in the end zone before catching a 36-yard touchdown pass from Jeff George.

A yellow flag appeared to fall to the ground whenever the local football team needed one. Eagles cornerback Al Harris was cited for pass interference in the second quarter. That third-down violation sustained the drive and eventually resulted in a touchdown.

The men in stripes saved their most curious work for late in the game. That is when they decided safety Brian Dawkins was guilty of pass interference. He actually only appeared to be guilty of trying to earn his keep.

The dubious penalty netted the hosts 30 yards and a first down from the Eagles 3. The hosts ended up with six plays from there. Another penalty, a legitimate one, merited a first down.

But nothing much happened in those six plays, and Murray was summoned to kick the game-tying field goal, which he did.

"We had six plays to get a score there and couldn't do it," George said. "That's ridiculous."

Norv Turner, the coach whose future has become an almost stale topic, maintained a brave front, as is his predilection.

"We're fortunate," he said. "We do have a lot of veteran guys who know there are a lot of ways to get into the playoffs."

Teams sometimes even reach the playoffs with 8-8 records, although Turner's bunch is better than .500.

To be accurate, the team is two games better than .500, which is not bad but hardly championship-caliber stuff, not even in the NFC East.

"Are we happy?" George said. "No. But what are we going to do about it? We're not going to roll over."

No one expects the team to pull a Webster Hubbell. But no one should expect the team to reach the Super Bowl either.

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