- The Washington Times - Monday, December 17, 2001

When he last faced the Washington defense three weeks ago, Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb was one frustrated quarterback. The Redskins limited the multi-talented McNabb to 92 yards passing and 39 yards rushing (33 of which came on a scamper in garbage time) while upsetting the host Eagles 13-3. Even Philadelphia coach Andy Reid dissed last year's MVP runner-up, giving the ball to other players on the Eagles' two failed fourth down attempts.
In the early going yesterday at FedEx Field, it looked as if McNabb was on his way to a repeat disaster. As he took the field for his fifth series, the Eagles trailed 6-0 and didn't have a first down. He had produced a mere 35 yards and had been in enough pain on the bench from a couple of body blows delivered by the Redskins that backup Koy Detmer had taken some warmup throws.
But on the fifth play of that fifth possession, Reid called McNabb's number on fourth-and-1 at the Washington 42. McNabb bulled forward for two yards, and six plays later he drilled rookie wideout Freddie Mitchell for a 4-yard touchdown. Philadelphia led 7-6 and went on to a 20-6 victory.
"Andy's a very aggressive coach," said McNabb, who has a staggering 17-1 touchdown to interception ratio inside the opposition 20-yard line. "He showed confidence in us that we could get the first down. Getting that first down did a lot for our confidence and it took a lot of steam out of them."
McNabb never got going full steam yesterday, but he passed for 235 yards and ran for 25 more. He threw two touchdowns the strike to Mitchell and a 62-yarder to wideout Todd Pinkston on which McNabb's fake reverse and subsequent pump-fake froze Redskins rookie cornerback Fred Smoot long enough to get Pinkston open. McNabb was picked off three times, but one of those interceptions came on a tipped ball and another happened because he was crunched by Redskins defensive end Bruce Smith as he released the throw.
"Donovan very easily could have hung his head and gone into a shell, but he didn't do that," Reid said. "He showed great maturity stepping up and really throwing the ball, particularly on a couple of those third downs. The one to Freddie [the touchdown], there was no question about it. We all understand the nice guy part of Donovan, the guy who jokes a lot. But underneath all of that, there's a competitive fire. He showed that today. He stepped up and rallied everybody."
Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington, who did such a magnificent job of spying on McNabb at Veterans Stadium, gave credit where credit was due yesterday.
"Donovan just beat us with his arm," Arrington said.
Duce Staley generated 109 yards of offense for the Eagles yesterday, but the halfback knew who had led Philadelphia (9-4) to the brink of its first NFC East title in 13 years. The Eagles will win the division with one more victory or a loss by the New York Giants in the next three weeks.
"Donovan showed poise," Staley said. "Things didn't start out like he wanted them to, but he hung in there. He's a leader. You saw that today. He took some hits. He was banged-up a little, but he came back in the huddle fired-up."
McNabb said this wasn't a statement game, but then admitted it was more than an average day at the office.
"Everyone dogged us all week," McNabb said. "Everyone has dogged us since that first game, saying that we couldn't get [free of Washingtons] man-to-man coverage, talking about how great their corners were. We showed a little bit today. We don't talk like they do. We just go out and play."
Last season in his first year as a starter, McNabb led the Eagles to their first playoff victory since 1995. And now he has the Eagles 3-13 before his arrival as their top pick in the 1999 draft primed to open postseason as no worse than the third seed and owning a decent shot at reaching the Super Bowl for the first time in 21 years.

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