- The Washington Times - Monday, December 13, 2004

The dirty birds flapped their wings a bit too early last night. A heavy turnout of Philadelphia Eagles fans didn’t realize that the Washington Redskins are rising from the dregs of the NFC. The journey didn’t reach its destination last night, but Washington proved something by hanging tough.

A terrific game ended in anticlimax, with Washington tossing a harmless interception in the final minutes and then failing to threaten again. But before that, the Redskins went blow-for-blow with one of the NFL’s premier teams — literally. Seemingly half of each team got carted away.

Even Terrell Owens leveled a cheerleader. The Monday Morning Quarterback was glad to be in the safety of the press box, where he saw coach Joe Gibbs’ club lay a bit more of the foundation for 2005.

Q: Did the Redskins really have a shot? How close did they come in this one?

A: Close enough to rue their dumb errors. They needed to make 43-yard field goal at the end of the first half. They shouldn’t have committed so many penalties. Simply put, they had to capitalize against a potential 15-win team like Philadelphia.

Q: But there was progress? We shouldn’t cash in our tickets for Nationals box seats just yet?

A: Such a competitive game against the Eagles means more for Washington’s future than another win over a patsy. There was a sense after the first meeting that the Redskins, while close at the start of the fourth quarter, were never really that close. Yesterday Washington actually put more fear in the Eagles as the game progressed.

Q: The game was so physical, even we got welts. Are body bags back in the Redskins-Eagles series?

A: Washington finally came to play in an NFC East game. After years of getting pushed around in division games, the Redskins had spine to spare at FedEx Field. It looked like the Eagles weren’t ready for such a battle. And there’s little doubt that type of play will define the near term in this series, with both clubs committed to continuity.

Q: Patrick Ramsey took a step back from the Giants game. Does he remain the quarterback of the future?

A: It’s bit early to say for sure. Gibbs likes veteran passers, but he seems to like loyalty and building from within even more. Ramsey has demonstrated the ability to run this offense the way his coach wants, and he should take a step forward in coming games at San Francisco and Dallas. We like his chances of starting in ‘05.

Q: Of course, the question is whether he’ll be allowed to throw it more than five yards downfield. Why so many short passes?

A: At some point Gibbs must open up the offense. The 2-yard, purely horizontal passes are becoming farcical. The Redskins also should have attacked more up the middle. Clinton Portis was running hard, and the Eagles’ interior was decimated by injuries.

Q: While we’re at it, how come Gibbs didn’t go for it on fourth-and-1 with five minutes left?

A: Get used to it. The confluence of a reliable defense, a sketchy offense and Gibbs’ conservative nature have the Redskins playing borderline MartyBall. Down by just a field goal, Gibbs figured he could get it back — and he did. Sure, a little more moxy would be nice, but the real crime was that Clinton Portis came up short on third-and-1.

Q: Who was Ryan Clark covering on the 80-yard throw to Todd Pinkston? Do the Redskins need an upgrade at strong safety?

A: Clark bit on the play-action fake — not surprising considering he is, after all, a run-stopping safety — and simply didn’t have the speed to catch up. Washington frankly has gotten amazing production out of Clark, who admits that his game is all heart. And we’re not sure whether Matt Bowen would have gotten to Pinkston, either.

Q: What happened at the end of the first half? It looked like deja vu.

A: It was uncanny the way the Redskins reprised their penalties and miscues from the first meeting, when a first-and-goal in the fourth quarter turned into a missed 48-yard field goal. Last night, a run by Clinton Portis would have meant first down at the 14. Instead, Darnerien McCants’ hold was the first of three penalties and John Hall missed a 43-yarder. A touchdown there would have made all the difference.

Q: Speaking of that 43-yarder, the Redskins seem to have rediscovered their kicking curse. What happened to Hall being the long-term solution?

A: If Hall was going to be plagued by an injury, in this case a tender groin, it might as well have been in Washington. The Redskins could sign David Akers and he’d get rickets and a gambling problem. Or they’d use him for just one game and let him go. Whoops, that actually did happen.

Q: What, there were no desperate housewives at FedEx, so Terrell Owens took on a cheerleader?

A: Owens clobbered one of the first ladies of football on a deep pass to the sideline. Sean Taylor, in the midst of another reckless day at free safety, hit Owens two steps out of bounds. Frankly, without a love-tap from Taylor, the dainty Owens probably wouldn’t have won that battle.

Q: Do the Redskins have a player in H-back Chris Cooley or what?

A: Great story: Cooley was joking at Redskin Park last week that, after he took a monster hit in the Steelers game a few weeks ago, teammates later told him he should have given the first-down sign. Sure enough, he got pummeled on a 31-yarder last night, got up, ran a good 10 yards upfield and gave the most emphatic first-down signal this side of Michael Irvin. Guess the rookie is getting some veteran savvy.

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