- The Washington Times - Monday, October 9, 2000


PHILADELPHIA The Washington Redskins' absurdities increase each week, and yet their bottom line victory remains the same.

Here's what the Redskins overcame yesterday: a frightening injury to a starting wide receiver, a sideline confrontation involving the other starting receiver, two more missed field goals by their embattled kicker, and a pair of apparent fumbles in the game's final three minutes.

Somehow Washington scored a 17-14 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles before 65,491 at Veterans Stadium, where the Redskins had won just once since 1989. More important, somehow Washington (4-2) secured a third straight win to retain a share of the NFC East lead even though the final score once again belied its domination of an opponent.

"I have been here seven times as a head coach. This is the second time we have won," said Redskins coach Norv Turner, whose only other win here came in 1996. "We're going to take a win. We're excited to have it. And we're going to go home and get better."

The Redskins outgained the Eagles (3-3) by 132 yards, had seven more first downs and nearly a 13-minute edge in possession and yet they needed several freak occurrences in the homestretch to escape overtime.

Similarly, seven days earlier the Redskins outgained the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by 174 yards in the game's first 56 minutes and escaped with a 20-17 overtime victory. And six days before that, they outgained the New York Giants by 210 yards in the first 55:30 and won just 16-6.

And here the Redskins are, gaining distance from their 1-2 hellhole and churning toward the playoffs.

"This was huge," quarterback Brad Johnson said, "especially [considering] the three wins we have had the last three weeks. The Giants, after everyone was coming at us. Tampa, which was a huge win for us. And then Philly today, it's a division game. It really gives us the upper hand [in the NFC East]."

Washington's injured wide receiver was Irving Fryar, who was on the ground for perhaps 10 minutes after colliding helmets with Eagles safety Tim Hauck. Fryar was carted away on a stretcher. He was listed in stable but guarded condition last night at Philadelphia's Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

The argumentative receiver was Albert Connell, who engaged in a screaming match with assistant coach Terry Robiskie near the end of the first half. Connell's rage, sparked by one catch for 5 yards in the half, was lost in five catches for 78 yards after intermission.

The scattershot kicker was Michael Husted, who overcame a missed 33-yarder in the second quarter and a missed 42-yarder in the third to connect on his second straight game-winner. The final kick, a 24-yarder, made Husted 4-for-8 (with a long of 28 yards) since replacing Brett Conway in Week 4.

And the homestretch slippery fingers belonged to cornerback Deion Sanders and running back Stephen Davis. Sanders lost control while returning a punt with 2:43 left, but officials reversed their initial ruling of a fumble. Davis lost the ball with seven seconds to go but officials whistled him down, a ruling that cannot be reviewed.

"The important thing is that [Fryar's] injury is not life-threatening," said Redskins trainer Bubba Tyer.

"That was just Terry coaching," said Connell.

"I don't feel like I'm struggling," said Husted.

"I knew I was fine," said Sanders.

"I'm not answering no questions about the fumble," said Davis. "We won the game."

Indeed. Barely.

Husted's game-winner capped an incredible stretch in the final three minutes, which began with the score tied 14-14.

First Sanders, who fumbled away a punt return in the first half, apparently fumbled another after being smacked from the side by Jason Bostic. The Eagles recovered, but Turner challenged the call. Officials overturned it because Sanders' knee touched the ground a split-second before he lost the ball.

The Redskins punted eight plays later, giving the Eagles a chance for a miracle score with 40 seconds left. But quarterback Donovan McNabb threw an interception right to Darrell Green, who had been beaten for both Philadelphia touchdowns. Green's pick, the 52nd of his career, set Washington up at the Eagles 19 with 23 seconds left.

Davis (84 yards on 23 carries, 37 yards on three catches) then broke loose for 13 yards on the left side and apparently fumbled. This time the ball popped loose as Bobby Taylor dragged Davis down, and the Eagles once again recovered. But the initial ruling could not be reviewed, and the game-winner followed.

Later, with a laugh, Husted said he wasn't nervous.

"Not at all," he said. "In fact I was just kind of shrugging it off, looking to the sky, [saying to] the Lord, 'Hey, I don't know what you're doing to me, but you're putting me in these situations.' Because it was a short field goal, I just focused on the basics of keeping my head down and following through."

Johnson guided the Redskins to a tying touchdown early in the fourth quarter after the Eagles took a 14-7 lead. On the drive Johnson completed five of six passes for 65 yards, with an interception going off the fingertips of tight end Stephen Alexander, into the hands of safety Damon Moore, and then out of Moore's hands and into the grasp of James Thrash.

The wild pick-turned-fumble gave Washington a 10-yard gain. Two plays later, third-string running back Skip Hicks, active for just the second time, took his one and only handoff of the season 2 yards for a touchdown.

Johnson has been superb since the Redskins dropped to 1-2 and a quarterback controversy reached its apex. Yesterday he hit 25 of 36 passes for 289 yards and the one interception; for the past three weeks he completed 59 of 88 passes for 785 yards, three touchdowns and one pick.

Philadelphia's drive for the 14-7 lead started in the third quarter and ended on the first play of the fourth. The possession lasted 12 plays and 7:10. A 22-yard scramble by McNabb (17 of 34 for 186 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions; five carries for 43 yards) converted a third-and-10, and an 8-yard touchdown pass from McNabb floated over Green to wide receiver Na Brown.

The Eagles' sixth possession of the game went 92 yards 19 more than their first five drives put together. The score, with 1:25 left in the first half, came on a perfectly thrown pass from McNabb to receiver Charles Johnson. Green wasn't able to look back at the ball until it was too late, and Johnson waltzed in for a 30-yard touchdown.

That tied the game 7-7 a crime considering Philadelphia's stagnant offense and the Redskins' powerful one. Davis got 47 yards on his first five carries, including a 12-yard score on Washington's impressive opening drive. But for the Redskins from there, a penalty led to a punt; Sanders fumbled a punt return; Husted missed a field goal; and the two-minute drill continued to be an exercise in errors.

"I don't see too much difference between the Redskins and the Eagles," said Eagles running back Brian Mitchell, a 10-year Redskin who was released in June to make way for Sanders. "They're 4-2 now and we're 3-3. If we can just keep playing, that game in November will probably mean something."

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