PHILADELPHIA. Norv Turner went deep into his playbook yesterday at Veterans Stadium.
He called the interception-fumble trick play early in the fourth quarter, and it worked to perfection.
Brad Johnson threw an interception to Damon Moore, and then Moore fumbled the ball after a gnat apparently became lodged in his eye.
Of course, it might not have been a gnat. It could have been a fly, or it could have been a speck of dust or a gust of wind. Or maybe Moore came down with the West Nile virus.
Whatever it was, Moore lost the ball without being touched. Give him this: He was advancing the ball in the proper direction until the ball, magically, squirted loose and James Thrash recovered it.
Washington’s representative in the NFL gained 10 yards and a first down on the interception-fumble trick play, and two conventional plays later, the team scored a touchdown to tie the game.
This is what Super Bowl-bound teams do to inferior opponents. They ask the skies to cleanse their mistakes, and the skies deliver.
If you’re a well-run, well-coached organization, you call the interception-fumble trick play and you let the elements do the rest. Confidence is a powerful weapon.
Maybe the sun got in Moore’s eyes or maybe he was distracted by the babes in the stands. He had the game in his hands, along with first place in the NFC East, and just like that, with his knees shaking, his eyes watering, his lips quivering, he gave it all away.
On the sidelines, Turner’s crew had needles stuck in a doll bearing Moore’s likeness.
The Boy Owner has invested $100 million in his players to make things like this happen. This is his genius. This is what he is all about. The gnat is his 12th man, and as far as anyone knows, the gnat does not demand to be compensated or ever threaten to hold out.
“I’d rather be lucky than good,” Bruce Smith said.
His team is awfully lucky. The good is still negotiable.
Turner sometimes acts as if all the lucky stuff happens to the other guys. He always sees Shaun King fumbling the ball before retrieving it and making something happen against his team. Turner points this out as if to indicate that if only he could be lucky on occasion, he could make good things happen as well.
His team is going to the Super Bowl this season, as everyone in Washington already knows, and once it gets there, it will be partly because of an anonymous gnat on Broad Street.
Turner undoubedly would have awarded a game ball to the gnat if he could have confirmed the whereabouts of it.
“Listen, I’ve been here seven times and it’s the second time I’ve won here,” Turner said. “I’m going to take it.
No one was suggesting otherwise, the role of the gnat notwithstanding. Take the victory. Revel in it. Just don’t squeeze too hard if the gnat is around. Gnats don’t usually respond well to squeezing.
Turner’s team lived by the fumble and nearly died by the fumble at the end of the game.
The non-fumble by Stephen Davis merited about a zillion second looks on Fox-TV, although not one second look by the men in stripes.
The Eagles would have challenged the call if the rules permitted, and they could have assumed the best.
The challenge worked for Turner after Deion Sanders committed his second fumble of the game. After further review, however, Sanders exercised great restraint in not dancing in celebration after his fumble total was pared in half.
This was a tough way to go down if you’re the Eagles. The Eagles did enough good things to win the game. They appeared to be on the verge of sealing the deal early in the fourth quarter. They were looking at no worse than overtime until quarterback Donovan McNabb suffered his second lapse of the game and threw a pop-up to Darrell Green.
Green elected not to call a fair catch, although he could have. But with kicker Michael Husted in the team’s employ, you are obligated to get as close as possible to the goal line.
“I’m not going to make any excuses about the wind, but it was windy,” Husted said after missing two field goal attempts.
Earth, Wind and a Gnat.
But no excuses.
The lucky team won.