- The Washington Times - Monday, November 13, 2006

PHILADELPHIA — Each week the Washington Redskins preach the same things: balance the offense, limit the number of big plays on defense and show the discipline to avoid penalties.

But as yesterday’s 27-3 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles again demonstrated, the Redskins have trouble practicing what they preach.

“We’ve talked about everything and tried to correct things,” cornerback Shawn Springs said. “But we’re not getting it done.”

The offense still has trouble finishing drives and now must play without running back Clinton Portis, who broke a bone in his right ring finger and will miss three to four weeks. The defense still has trouble allowing field-flipping plays. And the penalty problem resurfaced with eight for 70 yards after a one-game respite.

The Redskins (3-6), unable to cash in on the momentum created by last week’s win over the Dallas Cowboys, have become pushovers away from FedEx Field. They have lost their last three road games by 19, 14 and 24 points and have been outscored 105-67 in five road contests this season.

As with every ugly Redskins loss, the focus starts with the quarterback. Mark Brunell completed 16 of 31 passes (with one interception) for only 132 yards and a season-low 49.4 passer rating. With nine minutes remaining, coach Joe Gibbs told Todd Collins to warm up so he could finish the game. The Eagles, however, never gave up the ball, and Collins never got his chance to play.

“I talked about doing that because it had been a tough day for Mark,” Gibbs said.

The Redskins next face a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that is 2-6 entering tonight’s game at Carolina. Is Sunday’s game the right time to give young third-string quarterback Jason Campbell a look?

“I don’t have any initial thoughts,” Gibbs said. “I know everybody will be wanting to talk about it.”

Brunell was involved in one of yesterday’s three game-changing plays, each of which went in Philadelphia’s favor and resulted in a touchdown.

Trailing 3-0, the Redskins entered Eagles territory on their second possession. But a 10-yard intentional grounding penalty on Brunell moved the Redskins out of field goal position. After an incompletion, they punted.

On the first play of the Eagles series, McNabb hit Donte Stallworth in stride for an 84-yard touchdown. Springs had the original coverage before giving way to Sean Taylor. When Stallworth faked an outside move, Taylor bit and was burnt.

“We had to be at our best to keep them from making big plays because their quarterback is great and they’re certainly capable of making plays,” Gibbs said. “But I can’t stand here and say it’s just the defense.”

Nick Novak missed wide right on a 48-yard field goal attempt on the Redskins’ next drive, and the Eagles used the good field position to take a 17-0 lead on a wacky play.

On third-and-15 from the Eagles 45, McNabb threw 20 yards to Reggie Brown. Brown was hit by Springs, and the ball popped loose — right to Eagles running back Correll Buckhalter at the 37. Buckhalter ran through Taylor’s attempted tackle for a touchdown and a 17-0 lead 10:44 before halftime.

“I hit [Brown], and I’m looking for the ball. The next thing I know, I hear the crowd go, ‘Ohhhh,’ and I still didn’t know what had happened,” Springs said. “I looked up and saw Buckhalter running down the sideline and thought, ‘Holy smoke. What can I do?’ I made a good play, and that happens.”

The Redskins’ only points came on Novak’s 32-yard field goal late in the first half that made the score 17-3.

Philadelphia started the second-half scoring with David Akers’ 25-yard field goal. Six plays later, the Eagles sealed the victory when Sheldon Brown intercepted Brunell’s pass and returned it 70 yards for a touchdown. Brunell intended his pass for receiver Santana Moss, but Brown stepped right in front of him in the flat.

“We were getting pressure in [Brunell’s] face, and he really didn’t recognize where it was coming from, so he didn’t have many choices,” Brown said. “When I took a peek back, the ball was thrown behind the receiver, and I just broke at the right time.”

Though he wasn’t sacked, Brunell was pressured throughout the game, especially on third down. The Redskins converted only three of 13 third downs (their worst effort since Week 2) and managed only 278 yards, the fifth time this season they have been held under 300.

“Last week’s [momentum] didn’t have any bearing on this week, but we had some drives today that we didn’t cash in on, and that’s when we have to convert,” right tackle Jon Jansen said. “Anytime we do something well, we have to get points. We didn’t make enough happen.”

The offense will have to make something happen for the next several weeks without Portis, who was injured in the first half, apparently while blocking on an incomplete pass. He carried for 9 yards on the next play but didn’t return. He could undergo surgery as soon as today.

The Redskins now turn to Ladell Betts to be the No. 1 back, and associate head coach Al Saunders said T.J. Duckett also will play an increased role. Duckett carried twice and caught one pass against the Eagles.

Even if Betts and Duckett produce in Portis’ stead, the Redskins won’t win if they continue to allow monster plays and gaudy passing days. McNabb completed only 12 passes, but they went for 222 yards. And Philadelphia averaged 4.3 yards a carry.

“We have to decide amongst ourselves to realize we have the guys to get it done,” defensive end Renaldo Wynn said. “We had a good game plan, but the big plays hurt us the most. We have to draw a line in the dirt on big plays because some of them are plays we can control. And teams will continue to pick on us until we figure out a way to stop them.”

Three games under .500 for the second time this season, the Redskins have entered the playing-for-pride portion of the schedule.

“If you’re a real pro and truly love the game, it’s not hard to keep playing,” defensive end Phillip Daniels said. “Down the stretch, you see the guys who will be willing to continue working.”

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