- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 10, 2002

The hoopla of Steve Spurrier's first win quickly died yesterday as the Washington Redskins suddenly had much bigger things to worry about the Philadelphia Eagles and a potential two-game lead in the NFC East.

Washington already has a one-game edge over the Eagles, New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys, thanks to Sunday's 31-23 win over the Arizona Cardinals and the trio of losses by the Redskins' division rivals, including Philadelphia's 27-24 loss at Tennessee.

"It was a nice week for the Redskins," Spurrier said. "Our three division teams all lost. Hopefully we'll have several weeks like that. We'll be in good shape, won't we?"

The Eagles, of course, present a far greater challenge than Arizona. Philadelphia went to the NFC Championship game last season and nearly beat the St. Louis Rams on the road. Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb and several stars on defense are as good as any players in the league and now they're mad.

"It's going to be a fight," defensive end Renaldo Wynn said. "It's a big division rivalry, and they already lost their season opener. They're going to be looking forward to coming in here and winning."

The Redskins have the liberty of looking ahead to a big game after accomplishing a variety of fundamental goals in the opener most importantly, establishing Spurrier's offense at this level.

A nice blend of running and passing by the Redskins resulted in a 442-yard performance, the second-best in the NFC in Week 1. Running back Stephen Davis got 33 touches (playing through a late groin strain, which isn't expected to keep him out Monday), quarterback Shane Matthews had a 327-yard day and the offensive line, after a preseason of questions, held up well.

Those elements came together particularly well on third downs Matthews was 11-for-11 (posting an incredible 142.4 rating), and the Redskins tied the New York Giants with an NFC-high 56.3 conversion rate.

"We made a bunch of third downs," Spurrier said. "That, as we all know, is a big key staying out there. We had 72 plays, which is a lot in the NFL."

Now it's time for the Fun 'n' Gun or, as it's increasingly being called, the East Coast Offense to come up with an encore.

"We just need to go out and play as well as we can," Matthews said. "We may not have as many yards, might not score as many points. The bottom line is a win, and I don't care how we do it."

Spurrier continued to give little public indication of game-planning for specific opponents, claiming he didn't know Cardinals cornerback Duane Starks was a big-money free agent until after the game. David Barrett is considered a far more susceptible target, but Washington went after Starks and beat him for two touchdowns.

"Somebody told me he was a high-priced guy after the game," Spurrier said. "Tell you the truth, the feeling going into the game was maybe throw a little more at the guy on the left, but it just worked out that we threw a bunch over there. We usually throw according to where we are on the field and the coverage, and really don't worry all that much about who the other guys are on the team."

Asked whether that would change this week against Pro Bowl players like defensive end Hugh Douglas and cornerback Troy Vincent, Spurrier replied, "I don't know. How do you know if it's zone or man [coverage]? We're just trying to throw against whatever they try to do."

Perhaps getting the most upgraded challenge this week is Washington's offensive line, which performed well Sunday despite having left tackle Chris Samuels coming off an ankle sprain, left guard David Loverne starting for the first time and right guard Brenden Stai in the system just two weeks.

But Arizona's defensive line with Barron Tanner and Fred Wakefield is no comparison to the Eagles' front with Douglas and tackle Corey Simon. So while offensive line coach Kim Helton called Samuels' performance "courageous" and said Loverne played as well as could be imagined, the unit must be even better against Philadelphia.

"We've got a better bunch coming at us this week, and we've got to get ourselves in order to go out there and kick their butt," Stai said.

No Redskin, though, will be more scrutinized this week than linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, the former heart of the Eagles defense who signed a seven-year, $35.5million contract with the Redskins this offseason.

The trash talk already started yesterday Vincent called Trotter and left a message saying he wanted to "crack [Trotters] head open," and Trotter left one joking he hoped to play some fullback.

Kidding aside, Trotter knew exactly what a win Monday night would mean a two-game lead.

"That's what we're looking to do," Trotter said. "I would love to drop those guys to 0-2. That would just make my day. That would make my year to drop those guys to 0-2."

Note The NFL is reviewing a recently struck sponsorship deal between the Washington Redskins and Diageo North America Inc., distributors of Smirnoff Ice, Captain Morgan and other similar alcoholic beverages. Distilled spirits are a prohibited sponsorship category for NFL teams. Diageo ads, already appearing on the back of the Redskins' media guide, include the Redskins team name, but no logos of any kind. League officials declined to speculate on the chance of the multi-year deal being voided, but such cancellations have occurred in the past.

Staff writer Eric Fisher contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide