- The Washington Times - Monday, November 27, 2000


The Washington Redskins spent yesterday losing control of the football, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb and, ultimately, their best shot at the NFC East title.
Fumbles set up both Eagles touchdowns, and the quickly maturing McNabb accounted for more than 90 percent of Philadelphia's yardage as Washington suffered a key 23-20 loss before 83,284 at FedEx Field. Redskins kicker Eddie Murray missed a 44-yard field goal attempt that would have tied the score with 1:16 remaining.
Washington (7-5) slipped 1 and 1/2 games behind the division-leading Eagles (9-4), who play Tennessee next week before ending their season against lowly Cleveland and Cincinnati. Philadelphia, which lost the Oct. 8 meeting with the Redskins 17-14, has not been swept by Washington since 1988.
The Redskins, coming off an impressive win at St. Louis, woke up thinking they could contend for home-field advantage in the playoffs. But after losing for the third time in four games, they went to sleep knowing they must fight Detroit (8-4), the New York Giants (7-4), Tampa Bay (7-5) and either New Orleans (8-4) or St. Louis (8-4) for a wild-card berth.
"We couldn't ask for a better situation than to play for first place at home, but we just screwed it up, screwed it up real bad," Redskins wide receiver Irving Fryar said. "I don't know what's going to happen now, but we've definitely got to win the rest of our games."
Washington outgained its opponent for the 11th time this season, even though feature running back Stephen Davis was a game-time inactive because of the pain of a hairline fracture in his forearm and the offense rushed for a season-low 44 yards. The Redskins finished with 326 net yards to Philadelphia's 289.
Quarterback Jeff George, dropping to 1-2 while starter Brad Johnson heals a sprained knee, threw for 288 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Wide receiver James Thrash continued to stand out, catching five passes for a career-high 121 yards and a touchdown, raising his total alongside George to 16 catches, 292 yards and two touchdowns.
But Thrash followed his 36-yard score on the opening drive with a muffed reception of a punt, which set up an 11-yard touchdown drive by Philadelphia. That first-quarter play was one of two critical fumbles by the Redskins, preceding a third-quarter botched exchange between George and center Mark Fischer at Washington's 20.
"I'm very frustrated [by the turnovers]," coach Norv Turner said. "If it was one guy, we'd find a way to change that up. But we're not having problems with Fischer snapping the ball. James has not had a fumble on a punt… .
"James didn't drop the football because he doesn't catch a thousand of them every week. He didn't drop it because he wasn't excited and ready to play in this game. He made an error, and when you play this game, that happens."
A solid effort marred by big mistakes is a consistent theme for the Redskins this year. Their four previous losses all came in winnable games that turned on fumbles, interceptions, blown coverages and special-teams gaffes.
"The team that doesn't turn the ball over, the team that doesn't make mistakes is the team that always ends up winning the game," defensive end Kenard Lang said.
McNabb rushed 11 times for a career-high 125 yards and a touchdown, and completed 19 of 30 passes for 137 yards, one touchdown and an interception. His touchdown run came one play after Washington's fumbled snap; his scoring pass came two plays after Thrash's fumble.
He delivered perhaps the biggest play of the game with about four minutes remaining and the score tied at 20-20. On third and 10 at the Eagles 39, McNabb eluded the hard rush of linebacker Shawn Barber and defensive lineman Kenard Lang and raced 54 yards to the Washington 7. Four plays later, David Akers kicked a 30-yard field goal and the Eagles took the lead for good.
McNabb's stunning performance more than compensated for the Eagles' continued lack of a decent running back. Duce Staley is out for the season after undergoing foot surgery in early October; starter Darnell Autry generated just 25 yards on nine rushes yesterday.
"[McNabb] is able to make extremely big plays when it seems like the house is falling down on him," Redskins defensive end Bruce Smith said. "He's pretty much the reason why we lost the ballgame, along with the turnovers we had."
Murray attempted the potential game-tying field goal after George completed a 50-yard bomb to Thrash on third-and-21 with 2:32 remaining. But George was pressured into a quick throw on the following third-and-2, and Murray's attempt went wide right and perhaps a bit short.
Murray had tied the score at 20-20 with a 20-yarder with 5:42 left.
That field goal could have been a touchdown, though. The Redskins got six chances to score from inside the 4, thanks to a defensive holding penalty on the first third-and-goal. But three rushing attempts and two other passes failed to cross the goal line.
McNabb's touchdown run put Philadelphia up 17-14 with 9:03 left in the third quarter. The play-action bootleg went 21 yards, with McNabb eluding the grasp of Smith in the backfield, getting a block on Deion Sanders, sidestepping Mark Carrier in the open field and dragging Matt Stevens into the end zone.
An interception-turned-fumble by Eagles cornerback Al Harris was nullified by an offside penalty late in the second quarter, leading to Washington's second touchdown.

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