- The Washington Times - Monday, December 11, 2006

For once, they didn’t blow it in the fourth quarter. This time, they only came close.

The Philadelphia Eagles led the Washington Redskins 21-3 in the second quarter and seemed to be breezing to a victory that would put them squarely in contention for a playoff berth.

Momentum, however, suddenly shifted in the second half: The Redskins scored 13 straight points and in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter were poised to score again.

It was a painfully familiar situation for the Eagles, who lost three games earlier this season after leading in the final quarter. Now, they seemed poised for another case of last-second heartache.

This time, with the outcome in doubt and in a tough spot, the Eagles didn’t fold. The Redskins, trailing 21-16 with about six minutes remaining, faced a first-and-goal at the Philadelphia 3.

The Eagles, however, stopped Redskins running back T.J. Duckett for no gain on first down and forced quarterback Jason Campbell to throw the ball away on second. The Redskins were penalized 5 yards for illegal substitution, and, on third down, safety Brian Dawkins sacked Campbell for a 9-yard loss.

Instead of taking the lead with a touchdown, the Redskins were forced to settle for a 35-yard Shaun Suisham field goal that made the score 21-19 with 5:02 left.

“He’s a playmaker,” safety Michael Lewis said of Dawkins. “You need your playmakers to make plays, and Brian stepped up for us big time.”

The Eagles’ offense got the ball back, picked up three crucial first downs and was able to just run out the clock.

“The thing it teaches you is that you can win,” said Dawkins, a five-time Pro Bowl player. “We can win in any situation. We definitely need to get better at getting these scores … when we get them down and keep them down and not allow them to come back.”

That certainly has been a problem for the Eagles.

The New York Giants scored 23 unanswered points against the Eagles in Week 2, and quarterback Eli Manning connected with wideout Plaxico Burress on a 31-yard touchdown pass with 3:11 left in overtime to finish off a 30-24 New York victory.

New Orleans kicker John Carney booted a 31-yard field goal as time expired on Oct. 15, capping a Saints’ rally from a seven-point deficit in the fourth quarter and sending the Eagles to a 27-24 loss.

The next week, the Eagles were stunned when Buccaneers kicker Matt Bryant boomed an improbable 62-yard field goal as time expired for a 23-21 Tampa Bay victory.

The Eagles refused to allow the Redskins to add to the litany of misery yesterday.

“For us to win it, it speaks to the toughness and the will we have as a team,” said running back Brian Westbrook, wearing a blue visor from his alma mater, DeMatha High School, after the game. “That speaks to this football team and the character that we have.”

On the final Eagles possession, Redskins assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams stacked nine players in the box, but his unit still could not stop the ground attack. Westbrook carried four times for 20 yards on that drive, including a big 12-yard run off left tackle that gave the Eagles a first down at the Washington 44 with two minutes remaining.

The Redskins had no more timeouts, so quarterback Jeff Garcia merely had to kneel to run out the clock.

The victory keeps the Eagles in contention for a playoff berth, but they face a tough three-game closing stretch that includes road games against the Giants and Dallas Cowboys followed by a home game against the Atlanta Falcons.

“We like this,” Garcia said. “I think this is a great challenge for us. I think playing on the road is really a place that you need to show how mentally and physically tough you are. This was a tough hostile crowd. It was a tough environment.”

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