- The Washington Times - Monday, December 16, 2002

PHILADELPHIA A Washington Redskins team on its way down and a Philadelphia Eagles team on its way up collided in rather predictable fashion yesterday.
The Redskins, eliminated from playoff contention a week earlier, turned in another mistake-laden performance as one of the NFL's premier teams continued to surge. Only a late rally kept it from being ugly as Washington lost 34-21 before 65,615 in the final regular-season game at Veterans Stadium.
Amid an afternoon of low points, the lowest might have come less than a minute in, when star running back Stephen Davis dislocated his right shoulder and did not return.
It appears unlikely that Davis will play again this season as Washington closes against the Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys. And this offseason, the Redskins are expected to release their three-time 1,300-yard back in order to gain substantial salary cap relief.
Washington (5-9) hopes its limited cap room will be enough to shore up a team that, in coach Steve Spurrier's first season, is assured of its first losing record since 1998 and is 0-5 against NFC East competition with just one division contest left.
"This has got to be the worst," defensive end Renaldo Wynn said. "Looking back at the beginning of the season, the goals that we had obviously you always want to win a game in the division. For us to be winless, it's something that makes you sick to your stomach."
In sharp contrast to the Redskins yesterday were the Eagles (11-3), who won their fourth straight game without franchise quarterback Donovan McNabb and wrapped up their second consecutive NFC East title.
"We're maybe not as good as that team over there, that green team especially the way we play," Spurrier said. "We play with turnovers, and we don't give ourselves a good chance."
Washington's turnover margin this season fell to minus-16 with three lost fumbles yesterday. The first was by Davis on the play he got injured; the second by Champ Bailey, marking his third muff on a punt return since inheriting the job five games ago; and the third on a botched exchange between two rookies, quarterback Patrick Ramsey and running back Ladell Betts.
The last fumble was critical. Washington was starting to generate some yardage in what would be a solid second half of offense, but Eagles linebacker Carlos Emmons dived on the ball, wasn't touched, got up and ran 44 yards for a touchdown to make it 24-7.
At least three Redskins stood around Emmons while he was on the ground but made no move to touch him and end the play.
"We couldn't even fall on the guy," Spurrier said. "That was a sad play for the Redskins."
Asked about his players' effort on the day, the coach was non-committal.
"You guys got to write that," Spurrier said. "I try not to criticize our players. I don't think we were very sharp mentally, and effort-wise I think a lot of guys did, and probably some did not, really bust their tails. But I'm not going to name individuals. You guys watched the game. You guys have to write about that."
Players, for their part, seemed reasonably confident that the effort was there, pointing to the fourth-quarter rally that the cut the deficit from 31-7 to 31-21.
"I think we played hard," wide receiver Rod Gardner said. "I think we fought back and gave ourselves an opportunity to win the game. It was just a little too late to make that comeback that we needed."
One of the day's few points of optimism came from Ramsey, who completed 23 of 35 passes for 213 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. His 110.8 rating was the highest by a Redskins quarterback this year, and perhaps more impressively he stayed composed against a potent Eagles pass rush that sacked him twice and hit him on many other instances.
"I thought Patrick did an outstanding job," tackle Chris Samuels said. "At times he was leading the whole group out like he's been in the league 10 years. He stepped up and made some outstanding plays."
However, those outstanding plays mostly didn't come until the second half, by which point Washington pretty much had played itself out of the game. Mistakes on defense and special teams staked the Redskins to a 17-0 deficit midway through the second quarter, and they didn't get their second first down until a touchdown drive shortly before halftime.
The Eagles went three-and-out on their first two possessions of the second half and Ramsey hit Gardner for 17 yards to get the ball close to midfield, but the botched exchange followed and made Washington's late rally far too little, too late just like a pair of wins in the season's final two weeks now would be.
"We are nowhere close to where we wanted to be or where we need to be," Gardner said. "A winning team can't make the mistakes that we make. You can never win like that."


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