- The Washington Times - Monday, October 9, 2000

PHILADELPHIA. Another Sunday, another near-death experience for the Washington Redskins.

This time the final score was Redskins 17, Eagles, with Your Heroes pulling it out on a field goal by Michael Husted with four seconds left. The week before, they had to work overtime to beat the Bucs. In their opener, they sweated out a 20-17 victory over Carolina.

The Redskins are winning, but not by much. And you have to wonder if it isn't beginning to take a toll on them. A bunch of close victories can pull a team together, but it can also wear a team down especially a team that has some age on it to begin with.

Six weeks of living on the edge almost caught up with the Redskins yesterday. They fell behind the Eagles, 14-7, at the start of the fourth quarter and needed some huge breaks to overtake Philadelphia. In fact, there were two times after that when I said to myself, "This game's over. The Redskins can't possibly win." And yet they did.

The first time was when the Eagles' Damon Moore picked off a deflected Brad Johnson pass at the Philly 7 with under 11 minutes to go. Ballgame, right? Uh-uh. Moore fumbled the ball back dropped it, actually and the Redskins scored the tying touchdown two plays later.

The second time was when Deion Sanders appeared to lose a fumble at the Washington 24 on a punt return with 2:54 to go. Had the play stood, the Eagles would have been in very makeable field goal range. But the play didn't stand. It was reversed on instant replay.

After that, how could the Redskins lose? But it still took a totally brain-dead pass by Donovan McNabb right into the arms of Darrell Green to set them up for the can't-miss winning field goal in the final seconds. Could the Redskins have won this game without such charity? Maybe, maybe not.

There's no question they've been playing with fire this season, though. One of these weeks perhaps Sunday against the Ravens they're going to get burned. And they seem to sense it. They sounded like anything but a winning team in the locker room afterward.

"We made a lot of mistakes, stupid mistakes," Keith Sims said. "We would drive down to the 20-yard line, have a couple of penalties, drop a pass and wind up kicking a 40-yard field goal instead of a 20-yarder. We were able to overcome it today, but we've got to stop it."

What bothered Norv Turner the most was that "we don't capitalize on the opportunities we have. We had opportunities in the first half to build a lead," he said, "and we didn't do it."

In their second series the Redskins drove to the Philadelphia 42 but were stopped by a holding penalty. In their third series they reached the Philly 14 but missed a 33-yard field goal. In their fourth series they got to the Philly 34 but got stuffed on third-and-2, forcing a punt. Since the Redskins obviously weren't going to put them away, the Eagles marched 92 yards late in the half to tie the score, 7-7. They never should have gone into the locker room feeling that good about themselves.

But beyond the emotional drain of all these close games, there's the physical price being paid by the Redskins. They lost yet another key offensive performer yesterday Irving Fryar, who got taken to the hospital in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury and pinched nerve. How many more hits can the offense take? It was so desperate for wideouts against the Eagles that it had to use tight end Stephen Alexander in the four-receiver package.

"When you lose Michael [Westbrook] and then you lose Irving there's only so many things you can replace," Brad Johnson said.

He's right about that. Heck, the Redskins were hard-pressed to replace Westbrook when he went down; 36-year-old Andre Reed was the best they could do. If Fryar misses any significant time, they might have to coax Art Monk out of retirement.

The offense is now missing its top receiver (Westbrook), its No. 3 receiver (Fryar), its best blocker (Tre Johnson) and its starting center (Cory Raymer). Which goes a long way toward explaining why it hasn't scored more than 21 points in a game. And if you can't score more than 21 points, how are you going to put anybody away?

You don't think there's some tension on the Redskins' sideline? I call your attention to the blowup between Albert Connell and passing game coordinator Terry Robiskie in the second quarter yesterday. Players and coaches, as we all know, will have their disagreements, but they're usually over in a flash. The one between Connell and Robiskie lasted longer than the first Gore-Bush debate. (It's not entirely certain what they were talking about, but Albert's 12 catches on the season up to that point were probably mentioned by somebody.)

Brad Johnson preferred to look on the bright side. "For us to win like we did, with so many bad things happening, tells me good things are potentially in store for us," he said.

But it also told him something else.

"We play 10 more games," he said, "and we've gotta be ready for all of 'em to be as close as this one."

I'm not sure Redskins fans can take it, never mind the team.

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