- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 16, 2001

It's not enough that the Washington Redskins beat the Philadelphia Eagles at Veterans Stadium last month. Now the Redskins have replicated the Eagles' renowned swagger for today's rematch at FedEx Field.
"It's like street fighting in the back alley," Redskins tight end Walter Rasby said. "Whoever punches who in the mouth hardest wins the game."
Said defensive tackle Kenard Lang: "We have to have street ball mentality. You have to take your shirt off, [tape] up your knuckles and go blow to blow."
Philadelphia (8-4) can't clinch its first NFC East title in 13 years because of the New York Giants' 17-13 victory over Arizona yesterday. However, an Eagles victory would put Philadelphia within a win or a loss by the Giants (6-7) of clinching with three games remaining.
By beating the Eagles, Washington (6-6) would close within one game of Philadelphia and gain the tiebreaking edge because of its series sweep should the teams finish tied. Washington defeated Philadelphia 13-3 on Nov. 25, the Eagles' only loss over six games.
The Redskins expect to brawl. In fact, they may even want a rough outing to prove their resurrection from an 0-5 start is built on more than beating mediocre teams. Players expect a playoff atmosphere. After all, they seemingly have been on the brink of elimination for weeks in seeking to become the first 0-5 team to reach the postseason.
"This is the most important week of the season for us," quarterback Tony Banks said. "Two weeks ago, that was the most important week and last week was the most important week. Now it's our chance to get over .500 and put a little pressure on the Eagles."
Coach Marty Schottenheimer's description of a "big, big game" is about as much of a fiery speech as the conservative coach will offer. Schottenheimer is trying not to make it an end-all, be-all game because the Redskins still might make the playoffs despite losing to the Eagles by sweeping their remaining three games for the final wild card.
"Every week somebody beats somebody else and everybody says 'How could that happen?'" Schottenheimer said. "It happens because in this league today, two or three plays make all the difference."
His players finally concede they're thinking past their traditional "one week at a time" mentality to envision postseason possibilities. The Redskins see the Eagles as a team in their way.
"They're going to be flying high. They're playing pretty good football, but we're playing good football, too," linebacker LaVar Arrington said. "As long as we don't get ahead of ourselves and play with the same intensity and emotion [as in beating Arizona last week], we'll be all right."
However, there was some caution in the locker room in recent days. The Redskins clearly beat the Eagles along both lines in the first meeting, but it was hardly a rout. That's why offensive tackle Chris Samuels doesn't want to provide Eagles defensive end Hugh Douglas any added incentive.
"I know he's going to be fired up. That's why I didn't run my mouth too much after the first game," Samuels said. "If I beat him this second time, then I might open my mouth a little bit."
The game plan will be tweaked from just three weeks ago, but the Redskins will still focus on Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb. Although running back Duce Staley has steadily emerged over five games since returning full time from an early shoulder injury, McNabb is still the offensive core.
Washington pressured McNabb into staying in the pocket without ever sacking him last time. Just the constant pressure without leaving a hole to scramble through was enough to contain McNabb. He completed 15 of 27 for only 92 yards, and aside from a 33-yard scamper was neutralized. The extra benefit from the zone-like pressure up front also sealed the running lanes on Staley, who gained only 50 yards on 15 carries.
"We have to stop the run first, but you can't let McNabb get loose," cornerback Champ Bailey said. "You pay attention to the guy with the ball first, but it's just as tough stopping Staley as it is McNabb."
McNabb denied he's hindered when unable to make plays on the run. He's still the NFC's fourth-rated passer (87.3) with 20 touchdowns and only seven interceptions.
"I haven't been discouraged from running," McNabb said. "A lot of teams have focused on that to try to keep me in the pocket. When you do that, we're able to get the ball downfield. As a quarterback, you really won't complain. If have to run, I'll definitely tuck it away and run."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide