- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 17, 2002

The first big test of the Steve Spurrier era resulted in a big flop.
Botching an opportunity to take early control of the NFC East and impress a "Monday Night Football" audience, the Washington Redskins were soundly outplayed on both sides of the ball en route to a 37-7 defeat before 84,982 at FedEx Field.
"Obviously, we got clobbered," Spurrier said. "Philly outplayed us, outcoached us, everything. I apologize to the Redskins fans."
The loss was Spurrier's first following an impressive 4-1 preseason and opening 31-23 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. Washington's early promise earned little respect from the national media despite last week's outright division lead, and last night the Redskins failed to advance their cause.
Spurrier's East Coast Offense gained just 179 yards as an encore to its 442-yard performance in Week 1 and lost quarterback Shane Matthews to a sprained left (non-throwing) shoulder in the second quarter. Marvin Lewis' defense, including former Eagles Pro Bowl linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, yielded scores in six of Philadelphia's first seven possessions.
"It's a bad feeling," wide receiver Rod Gardner said. "They came out and gave us a good butt-whooping. That showed we need to compete and get better."
Washington lost its seventh Monday night game in eight tries since 1998, and was defeated in an embarrassing manner similar to last year's 37-0 defeat at Green Bay in Week 2. The Redskins (1-1) now are in a four-way tie in the NFC East with Philadelphia, the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants, who all won in Week 2 after opening losses.
"That was just a bad showing all around," defensive end Renaldo Wynn said. "To go out on 'Monday Night Football' and play the way we played it's definitely one of the most humbling things I've ever experienced."
The Redskins will have a tough time reaching a Week 4 open date above .500, now having a short week to prepare to play at San Francisco. The talented 49ers will be coming off a loss, like the Eagles this week, and will have the additional incentive of repaying Washington's 38-7 preseason blowout in Osaka, Japan.
Matthews' injury seemed to be the culmination of a first half of hits, though he kept playing until halftime. Spurrier said a helmet to the shoulder near the end of the half was the key blow. Danny Wuerffel replaced Matthews but fared no better, throwing a third-quarter interception. Washington's offense did not have a scoring drive; the team's only points came on a 90-yard punt return by Jacquez Green in the second quarter.
Spurrier expects Matthews to be healthy enough to play at San Francisco but added that rookie Patrick Ramsey, Washington's first-round pick, will get a look in practice this week.
"We may practice Patrick up a little bit, see how close he is to playing," Spurrier said. "Danny had a lot of pressure up in there but did some funny things at times. … He looks like our guy of the future at some point, but if he's not ready to play, we're not going to put him out there right now."
Matthews finished 10-for-22 for 62 yards and an interception, not even approximating his NFC Offensive Player of the Week effort in Week 1. He appeared a bit off all night; a number of his passes were well off their targets while once again he seemed to lean on his underneath dump-off targets.
Philadelphia lost in Week 1 in part because the Tennessee Titans contained quarterback Donovan McNabb, sacking him six times. But McNabb returned to his two-time Pro Bowl form last night, completing 26 of 38 passes for 292 yards and two touchdowns, and adding a rushing touchdown. He led the Eagles to consecutive scoring drives to open the game and Washington never caught up.
The game came to a strange halt with 6:38 remaining when a fight in the stands led an officer to use pepper spray, and the cooling fans behind the Eagles' bench blew some of the pepper spray into the team area. Philadelphia players and staff were ushered off their sideline while many held towels over their faces; play was stopped for a few minutes before resuming.
The game essentially was over at halftime, with the Eagles leading 23-7 after outgaining Washington 243-105 forcing two turnovers.
Philadelphia scored touchdowns on its first two possessions, driving 80 and 65 yards as Washington's defense struggled to react. Big plays by McNabb powered both drivesthe first included a 33-yard strike to former Redskin James Thrash, a 26-yarder to Todd Pinkston and a 9-yard run for the score; the second a 15-yard pass to Antonio Freeman, a 22-yarder to Duce Staley after a scramble and a 2-yard floater to Jeff Thomason for the touchdown.
Matthews, meanwhile, seemed out of sync. A bad pass to Kenny Watson and the decision to ignore single-covered receivers in favor of a well-covered dump-off left the opening drive with a punt, while a miscommunication with Gardner led to a bad overthrow and a failure to convert a third down on Washington's second series.
The Eagles' defense added to the Redskins' troubles by putting pressure on Matthews and sticking the Redskins in third-and-long situations. A third-and-10 on the Redskins' third possession resulted in an interception by Troy Vincent when Matthews threw an errant pass to Gardner.
The Redskins' highlight came when young defensive end Ladairis Jackson sacked McNabb early in the second quarter to force a three-and-out. Green caught Sean Landeta's punt at the 10, worked slightly to the right and caught a nice block as he streaked toward the left sideline. Only Bill Dudley's 96-yard return against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Dec.3, 1950, was longer than Green's runback.
But Washington couldn't capitalize on the momentum. The defense immediately surrendered a 20-yard pickup on a short completion to Brian Westbrook, and McNabb led a 72-yard drive for a 22-yard field goal by David Akers and a 17-7 lead. The Redskins ran a reverse to Champ Bailey on their next possession but he fumbled, setting Philadelphia up on a short field. Four downs later Akers kicked a 40-yarder for a 20-7 lead with 3:54 left in the half.
The Redskins' final series of the half was their deepest advance, but Matthews couldn't complete a third-and-5 pass over the middle to Chris Doering, guard David Loverne committed a false start on fourth-and-5 and Matthews' deep attempt to Gardner on fourth-and-10 was thrown into double coverage and broken up by Al Harris.

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