- The Washington Times - Monday, November 7, 2005

It was Just Football at FedEx Field last night. Nothing wrong with that. Without the distraction of Terrell Owens’ burlesque, you could devote your full attention to what figured to be a hugely important game for the Redskins and Eagles.

For those who have been too busy raking leaves to read the newspaper, T.O. has been banished from Philadelphia’s active roster for conduct unbecoming an Eagle. Since he arrived in Philly a year ago, of course, a lot of his conduct has been unbecoming an Eagle, but last week he officially wore out his welcome when — once again — he trashed the organization and Donovan McNabb in an interview with ESPN.

Sticking a microphone in front of Owens is like giving a crackhead a spoonful. He just can’t help himself. And the Worldwide Leader in Sports knows this only too well. The network’s motives were so transparent, it was so clearly fishing for a story, that the interview should have been aired on “The New American Sportsman.”

(Don’t be surprised, by the way, if ESPN gives T.O. his own talk show these next few weeks, since he presumably won’t have anything else to do. The show won’t have any guests; it’ll just feature Terrell doing what he does best — talking about himself.)

It isn’t easy for a player as talented as Owens to get himself suspended/deactivated/stricken from the club Christmas card list or however they’re describing his status. NFL teams have extraordinary patience with guys who, in any other work context, would probably be, well, patients — in some detox facility or loony bin. They have patience with them, that is, provided they produce. And T.O., for all his histrionics, has always done that. His numbers through seven games (47 catches, 763 yards, six touchdowns) were among the best in the league.

But the old-school Eagles are less tolerant than most, which is why this was a doomed marriage from the start. They sent Owens home for a week early in training camp when he began acting up because the team wouldn’t renegotiate his contract. That, it turns out, was management’s final warning — not that the self-absorbed receiver noticed.

And so the Eagles had to play last night without their top receiver. This was great news for the Redskins, who were coming off a 36-0 embarrassment against the Giants and looking to regain their equilibrium. Another loss would have lowered their record to 4-4 and been their fourth in five games; not the way you want to start the second half of the season. It also would have left them with a sub-.500 division mark — their bete noire in recent years.

So the Redskins took advantage of the opportunity that presented itself. After spotting Philly a touchdown on a 56-yard pass to Owens’ fill-in, rookie Reggie Brown, they squeezed out, in dogged Gibbsian fashion, a 17-10 victory, their first over the Eagles in four years.

Not that there was anything resounding or decisive about it. Indeed, it smacked of the win at Dallas in Week2, when a couple of late touchdown passes magically dropped from the heavens. This time, the Redskins benefited from a pair of unlikely fumble recoveries — the first by special teamer Pierson Prioleau on a dropped punt by James Thrash, the second by offensive guard Derrick Dockery after Chris Cooley was violently separated from the ball near the Philadelphia goal line. Take either of those plays away and … who knows?

But, hey, the Redskins had had zero luck in the fumble department before last night, recovering just four of 26. That’s practically impossible. You could play blindfolded and stumble across more free balls than that. Let’s face it, the Snydermen had a couple coming to them.

Even so, they must have dropped 20 pounds sweating out the last few minutes. McNabb — the quarterback who isn’t up to Owens’ “standards” — drove the undermanned Eagles to the Washington 7 before a fourth-down interception by Ryan Clark sealed Philly’s fate.

The most encouraging thing from a Washington standpoint was that the Redskins went back to being the team they were in Weeks1 through 8 — not fabulous, maybe, but certainly feisty. Mark Brunell regained his “location,” completing 21 of 29 for 224 yards. Cooley and Santana Moss both shone — as did Mike Sellers, who has officially blown his cover as a Secret Weapon. The defense, meanwhile, managed to avoid another Major Breakdown after Brown’s TD. And big plays, as we all know, have been killing Gregg Williams’ unit of late.

All in all, it was a step forward for the home team, which now journeys to Tampa to take on the reeling Bucs. Too bad T.O. couldn’t have been there to see it.

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