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Best and Worst

Monday, December 13, 2004; Page D13

Best coaching matchup: Joe Gibbs and Andy Reid are about as evenly matched as you can get, at least during the regular season. Entering the game, Gibbs had a .664 winning percentage (144-73); Reid had a .663 winning percentage (67-34). Gibbs holds a significant margin in the playoffs (16-5 to Reid's 5-4), but expect Reid to make up ground this postseason.

Best local connections: The Eagles have two players with strong roots to the D.C. area. Brian Westbrook played football and basketball at DeMatha, and linebacker Dhani Jones played football at Churchill.

Redskins cornerback Shawn Springs, covering Terrell Owens, is called for pass interference during the first quarter, which gave Philadelphia the ball on the 2-yard line. The Eagles scored a touchdown on the next play on a pass from Donovan McNabb to L.J. Smith. (Toni L. Sandys - The Washington Post)

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Best start: The Redskins finally broke open for a long gain on special teams when Ladell Betts took the opening kickoff 70 yards to the Eagles 14. A Philadelphia face-mask penalty moved the ball to the 7. From there, the Redskins ran Clinton Portis twice, including a five-yard cutback to the left for a touchdown that got the crowd going right away.

Worst momentum shift: On the next series, cornerback Shawn Springs was in single coverage against Terrell Owens on a deep out to the front right end zone pylon. Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb recognized it and flung the ball toward Owens, who drew a pass interference call on Springs. On the next play from the Redskins 2, McNabb completed a touchdown to tight end L.J. Smith to tie the game.

Best defense: Linebacker Antonio Pierce, who has made the most of his opportunity to start this season in place of LaVar Arrington, made a Pro Bowl-worthy play by stripping Owens of the ball and recovering at the Redskins 5. The Eagles had moved into prime touchdown position with an 80-yard completion from McNabb to Todd Pinkston.

Best fortitude: Laveranues Coles provided perhaps the best catch of the season for the Redskins when he went over the middle in the second quarter, secured the pass and absorbed a jarring blow from strong safety Michael Lewis. The catch so inspired Coles that he got up and beat his chest as Eagles defenders looked at one another wondering how the ball could not have been separated from the wide receiver during impact.

Worst decision: Midway through the third quarter, James Thrash was deep to receive a punt. Instead of calling for a fair catch, Thrash, who played for the Eagles from 2001 through last season, chose to let the ball bounce near the 20. The ball rolled to the 5 before the Eagles downed it.

Best effort: Coles's masterful night continued with a tough catch and run in the third quarter. On second down and 15, Coles caught a pass over the middle, bounced off Eagles defenders, kept his balance and stumbled for a first down and an 18-yard completion.

Best interception: McNabb overthrew a pass intended for Owens, and Sean Taylor leaped to tip it. Springs caught the ball on the carom at the Redskins 39 and returned it 10 yards. The play energized the Redskins' offense, which marched the rest of the way for a touchdown on a two-yard run by Portis to cut the deficit to 17-14 with 12 minutes 4 seconds to play.

Worst sight: Springs was on the receiving end of a devastating block by Eagles fullback Josh Parry with 10:19 to play and had to be taken off the field on a cart. Springs, who attended high school at Springbrook, got an ovation from the FedEx Field crowd and many supportive words from coaches and teammates as he was driven to the locker room. The Redskins later announced he had a concussion and that he had movement in all his extremities.

Worst penalty: Mike Sellers was called for unnecessary roughness after a 23-yard Eagles punt in the fourth quarter. Instead of beginning at the 50, the Redskins started at the 35 and went three plays and punt.

-- Gene Wang

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