This week's match-up with the Philadelphia Eagles had all the makings of a trap game. The Washington Redskins came in needing a win to reach the playoffs for the first time since 1999 and only the second time since Coach Gibbs retired the first time. The Eagles had nothing to lose and the Redskins were coming in after two emotional wins against playoff contenders from the NFC – East. Luckily, the Redskins overcame their early miscues and pulled out the win, 31-20.
Mark Brunell was a bit off on Sunday. Brunell told Troy Aikman prior to the game that he was a little sore and a bit stiff coming off of a sprained MCL suffered in last week’s victory over the New York Giants. His 9 of 25 passing performance was the worst of the season for Brunell.
Santana Moss took advantage of the Eagles secondary, pulling in 4 catches for 83 yards and surpassing Bobby Mitchell for the most receiving yards in a single season in franchise history – although Bobby set the record in a 14-game season. While Moss was held out of the end zone, he averaged over 20 yards per catch on the day.
Chris Cooley had one of his least productive games in the burgundy and gold, being held to just 8 yards on 2 receptions. Cooley was visibly frustrated on the sidelines throughout the second half, so look for the second year pro to try and make up for it in Tampa Bay.
James Thrash also added a spectacular 41 yard grab in the second quarter to set up a John Hall field goal. Mike Sellers once again found the end zone for his eighth touchdown of the season trailing only Portis with 11 and Moss with 9 on the season.
The Washington Redskins have really discovered their identity over the past 5 weeks, and that identity is Clinton Portis. Portis may try to hide from the public with his outrageous costumes every week, but he can always be found on game day, running over defenders and carrying the Redskins on his back.
Portis broke 1500 yards on the season with his 112 yards in Philadelphia, while adding two more touchdowns to his season total. Portis joins only Earl Campbell and Barry Sanders in NFL history to gain 1300+ yards in each of their first four NFL seasons.
The offensive line has as much to do with Portis’ success as does Clinton himself. Ray Brown has filled in admirably for the fallen Randy Thomas and Jansen and Samuels have really poured it on the last few weeks. Even the much beleaguered Derrick Dockery has been solid. If the line continues to dominate the way they have in recent weeks, there’s no telling how far the Redskins can go in the playoffs.
They started cold, but as the game wore on, the defense warmed up. The star of the game was undoubtedly Sean Taylor. Not only did Taylor lead the team with 9 tackles, but he also drove the nail in the Eagles’ coffin when he scooped up a Koy Detmer fumble in the fourth quarter and sprinted to the end zone. Taylor has become feared by opposing receivers and it is a joke that he was not voted into the Pro Bowl.
Ryan Clark and Marcus Washington both turned in solid performances, each man forcing a fumble and recording a sack. Cornelius Griffin and Phillip Daniels also continued their impressive run, with each recording a sack and generally providing good pressure in the second half.
The defense would have earned 4 quarters had they only played the second half; however the first half would have earned 0.
Mike Sellers, who should have represented the NFC as a special teams player in the Pro Bowl, recovered a muffed punt in the first quarter to set up the Redskins first touchdown.
John Hall hit 4 extra points and a field goal; however he also sent a kickoff out of bounds in the fourth quarter after the Redskins had taken a 24-20 lead, giving the Eagles the ball on the 40 yard line with 12 minutes left in the game.
Derrick Frost had a decent afternoon, with a 41 yard average on 10 punts, including a 52 yarder.
Next week, the Redskins are in Tampa Bay to face the Buccaneers for the right to face the Seahawks. The way Coach Gibbs has the team playing, coupled with owing the Bucs for the “two-point conversion” game, as well as the botched field goal attempt in the ’99 playoffs, could make for a long day for the Buccaneers.