The Washington Redskins stumbled and bumbled their way out of the NFC East race yesterday, and were left hoping for help elsewhere to keep their flickering playoff aspirations alive. They failed to help themselves by squandering one opportunity after another and losing to the Philadelphia Eagles, 20-6, in front of 84,936 at FedEx Field.
The Eagles (9-4) avenged a loss to the Redskins (6-7) three weeks ago in Philadelphia and increased their lead in the NFC East to three games. Philadelphia can clinch the title with one more win or a loss by the New York Giants (6-7).
Rod Gardner, a first-round draft choice a year ago, had 46 receptions last season.
(Stephen J. Boitano - AP File Photo)
Only a loss by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-6) yesterday -- and the hope that the New Orleans Saints (7-5) will lose tonight -- kept the Redskins from giving up in the hunt for the final wild-card playoff berth. They trail the Saints by 1 1/2 games and will play the NFC Central leading Chicago Bears (10-3) at home next Sunday.
"All we can do is try to win out and roll the dice," linebacker Robert Jones said in the Redskins' somber postgame locker room.
The Redskins had a 6-0 lead early in the second quarter that could have been bigger, but were undone by mistakes. Brett Conway missed a pair of field goal attempts, the first of which struck an upright. Punt returner Eric Metcalf had a first-half fumble that led to an Eagles field goal.
By Coach Marty Schottenheimer's count, the Redskins dropped eight passes, and quarterback Tony Banks needed plenty of support. He threw a pair of costly interceptions to safety Brian Dawkins, one at the Philadelphia 4-yard line and one in the end zone.
"We didn't finish things off," Schottenheimer said. "When you play a good football team like the Eagles, you have to take advantage of your opportunities. And we didn't do that. . . . When you don't get it finished offensively, it's very frustrating. It's disappointing not to be able to finish off those opportunities."
Said veteran cornerback Darrell Green: "We gave too much. We were too generous."
The Redskins got 111 rushing yards by tailback Stephen Davis, and their defense limited the Eagles to 63 rushing yards and forced four turnovers. Defensive end Bruce Smith pressured quarterback Donovan McNabb into an interception and stripped the ball from tailback Duce Staley. Linebacker LaVar Arrington and Green added interceptions.
The Redskins couldn't cash in, and McNabb led the Eagles to their sixth road triumph in six tries. McNabb had touchdown passes of four yards to rookie wide receiver Freddie Mitchell in the second quarter and 62 yards to wideout Todd Pinkston in the third quarter.
"He showed poise as a quarterback," Staley said. "Things didn't start off like we wanted them to, but he hung in there. He is a leader on the field, and we saw that out there. He took some hits. He was banged up a little bit. But he came back to the huddle and fired us up."
The early signs were ominous for the Redskins. Eddie Mason committed a holding penalty as the Redskins returned the opening kickoff, and wide receiver Michael Westbrook dropped a screen pass on the game's first offensive play. Fullback Bryan Johnson had a swing pass from Banks slip off his fingertips on third down as the Redskins went three plays and out on their opening possession.
But the Philadelphia offense also went three plays and out as McNabb made a pair of low throws, and the game settled into a tight, tense struggle. The Redskins had the first scoring chance when the Eagles' second drive ended with McNabb being hit from behind by Smith as he tried to pass, with the ball wobbling into the hands of defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson for an interception.
The Redskins took over at the Eagles 26. But rookie wideout Rod Gardner was called for offensive pass interference on the first play, and Banks could get only 11 yards on his third-and-16 scramble. Enter Conway, who clanked two kicks off the left upright eight days ago at Arizona before connecting on his final two field goal attempts. This time, his 39-yard try hit the right upright and fell away.