- The Washington Times - Monday, December 16, 2002

PHILADELPHIA.
The Philadelphia Eagles are what the Redskins hope to become. Alas, the gap between the two clubs has rarely seemed wider. After smothering the Snydermen 37-7 in Washington earlier in the season, the Eagles beat them almost as badly at Veterans Stadium yesterday even with a third-string quarterback taking the snaps. The final score was 34-21, but you had the feeling it could have been worse, much worse, had Philly desired.
The Eagles are the best team in the NFC right now. Yesterday's game upped their record without Donovan McNabb to 4-0, perhaps the best measure of their prowess. The Redskins, meanwhile, pose no threat to anyone, except maybe themselves. Once again they littered the field with fumbles (three) and penalty flags (nine), enough to kill any chance they had of winning. And their defense had its usual breakdowns a 38-yard touchdown pass here, a 53-yard completion there, etc., etc.
If you're looking for something to lift your spirits, Patrick Ramsey had a nice fourth quarter 10 of 15 for 111 yards and two TDs. In fact, his numbers in the last 15 minutes were better than his numbers in the first 45 (13 of 20 for 102 yards and one score). That's what the Redskins are reduced to, getting excited about a couple of late touchdown drives after falling behind 31-7.
"It's been a tough year," said Darrell Green.
And it ain't over yet. There are still the Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys to play. A tough year could get even tougher.
Steve Spurrier made an interesting comment in the aftermath of his club's ninth defeat. During the course of a season, he said, "[some] teams get better, and some teams go the other way."
The Redskins, clearly, have gone the other way. Or at least, they haven't gotten appreciably better. They're still making the same mistakes in December that they were in September, still turning the ball over and messing up mentally and being their own worst enemy.
As for Spurrier's vaunted Fun 'n' Gun, "We aren't even close to where we want to be," Rod Gardner said. "We need to come out and dominate a game and win it, not just do some things in the fourth quarter."
Aside from Ramsey's play, the most encouraging thing from the Redskins' standpoint was the relatively sane game plan devised by Spurrier. Unlike the Saints debacle in Week 6, the Ball Coach didn't put too much on the rookie's shoulders in the early going, instead mixing in plenty of runs by Ladell Betts and Stephen Davis. Ramsey got hit a fair share of times by the aggressive Eagles defense, but he wasn't trampled into the turf like he was by New Orleans.
Indeed, he popped his head in the huddle at the start of the final period and told his teammates, "Let's forget about the score and just try to win the fourth quarter." And darned if the Redskins didn't, closing to within 31-21 with 8:36 left as the kid QB fired touchdown passes to Gardner and Derrius Thompson.
Which made his coach feel a heck of a lot better. "Fortunately, we did get something going," Spurrier said. "They didn't completely clobber us like they did the first time."
No, but the Eagles have defeated the Redskins by double-digit margins the last three times they've played them, twice at FedEx Field. They're just a much better team at this point, even with A.J. Feeley at quarterback instead of McNabb. And they've accomplished this by hiring a coach, standing by him and spending their cap dollars wisely by doing everything, in other words, that Dan Snyder hasn't done.
Philly isn't a club with a bunch of household names. It's a club with a small core of stars (McNabb, Hugh Douglas, Corey Simon, Troy Vincent, Brian Dawkins) surrounded by a large group of role players. And because the Eagles have had four years of stability under Andy Reid, they've been able to develop the depth a championship team needs to withstand the inevitable injuries and free agent defections. McNabb goes down and they keep on winning. Jeremiah Trotter signs with the Redskins and their defense remains as formidable as ever.
Seven of Philadelphia's eight draft picks this year are on the active roster and this a team, let's not forget, that reached the NFC Championship game last season. Soon, the Eagles will be moving into a new stadium, which will enable owner Jeffrey Lurie to keep up with the (Jerry) Joneses and everyone else.
If Dan Snyder is smart, he was taking notes yesterday, jotting down all the things that separate his team from the one that has already locked up its second straight division title. Once upon a time, the Redskins were the model in the NFC East; now it's the Eagles. And judging from the scoreboard yesterday, Snyder has quite a bit of catching up to do.


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