PHILADELPHIA, Nov. 21 -- Wide receiver Terrell Owens found a vacant corner of the end zone and executed his pattern perfectly, a picture of fluidity with his feet planted firmly on the turf and both hands rising above his head. Owens was not trying to evade the cornerback covering him or reaching to catch the ball -- he had just snatched his 13th touchdown of the season, in fact -- but rather was doing what he is best known for: celebrating.
The Redskins denied Owens his usual allotment of joy Sunday, limiting him to two catches for 24 yards in the Eagles' 28-6 victory at Lincoln Financial Field, but he still found a way to make his presence felt.
This celebration was tame stuff, capping a week in which he drew national attention and apologized for his role with actress Nicollette Sheridan in a racy intro to "Monday Night Football."
Owens went retro, going back to a ritual any grade school student could identify with, breaking into a flawless series of toe-touches by reaching to the ground, tapping his stomach and extending his arms to the sky.
"You know back in the fifth grade, you did calisthenics," said Owens, who leads the NFL in touchdown catches and unveils a different dance each time he scores. "We call them the way backs. . . . I got a lot more in my bag."
While Owens was not the focal point of the Eagles' offense, his game-breaking ability drew double-coverage from Washington's secondary on almost every play he was on the field; Owens was in man-to-man coverage with cornerback Shawn Springs on his touchdown, which gave Philadelphia a 14-6 lead late in the third quarter. With Owens attracting so much attention, quarterback Donovan McNabb (18 of 26 for 222 yards) found other open targets and threw four touchdown passes for the second straight week as the Eagles improved to 9-1. Receiver Todd Pinkston pulled down five balls for 106 yards and running back Brian Westbrook accounted for over 100 yards of offense between his rushes and receptions. The Eagles can clinch the NFC East title by beating the New York Giants next week.
"All game they were double teaming [Owens]," McNabb said, "and other guys made plays for us. That's just something that kind of opened up a lot of eyes for this team, the fact we have other weapons."
The Redskins' defense, which entered the game ranked second in the league, matched a season high by allowing 28 points, but several players were fuming about that total, believing poor officiating played a major role in the outcome. Cornerback Fred Smoot was particularly irate about a pass interference call that came on third and 10 from midfield with Philadelphia leading 14-6. Smoot's legs tangled with Freddie Mitchell's and both tumbled to the ground, with the officials telling Smoot he had pushed the receiver in the back. The Eagles gained 30 yards on the infraction to set up their third score.
"If you want to see bad officiating, come to a Redskins game," Smoot said. "This is not a coincidence and I'm fed up with it. Quote me on it. I want to know why we get bad officiating every time the Redskins line up to play some football. . . . I'm going for the ball, too, man. He fell first."
Washington's defense again kept the team in the game for much of the day, and the Eagles led only 7-6 at the half. Owens dropped two easy receptions and did not register a catch until snagging his 10-yard touchdown with about three minutes left in the third quarter.
McNabb used his athletic ability to dance around the pocket, avoiding the blitz and buying time for Owens to get a step on Springs as he cut to the left across the end zone ("I just wanted to put it in a spot where he could get it," McNabb said).
Owens tied a franchise record for touchdown catches in a season on the play, but it was his only highlight. Owens also joined Jerry Rice as the only wide receivers with five seasons of at least 13 touchdown receptions.
"What did you expect?" Springs said of Owens's quiet day. "Did you think he would go out there and burn our [backsides] up? We are one of the top defenses in the league."
"They were trying to shut me out," Owens said. "And they did a pretty good job coverage-wise."
Overall, it was a subdued end to a tumultuous week. Owens, whose celebrations have involved pom-poms and a Sharpie pen he pulled from his sock to autograph a ball after beating Springs for a touchdown when playing for San Francisco, received heavy criticism for a risque skit with Sheridan. His indiscretion was eventually overshadowed by the brawl involving the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons on Friday night. "They gave me a break," Owens said.
Owens said he had the stiff suspensions handed out to players in that NBA game in mind when Redskins safety Sean Taylor delivered a forearm to his head away from the play Sunday; Taylor received a 15-yard penalty and Owens resisted any urge to strike back.
"Did you hear [Ron] Artest got suspended a year?" Owens said. "That was brutal. There was so much stuff going on, I really didn't see the need to retaliate. The refs made the right call and it was kind of uncalled for, but I kind of expect those things."