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Owens Makes His Presence Felt

Wideout Doesn't Score, but Draws A Crucial Penalty

By Mark Schlabach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 13, 2004; Page D12

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens was chided and scolded for wrapping his arms around scantily clothed actress Nicollette Sheridan during a "Monday Night Football" promotion this season. Last night against the Washington Redskins, two of Owens's biggest plays occurred when he couldn't wrap his arms around the football.

The Redskins did a good job containing Owens, the mercurial wide receiver who made headlines during the offseason for refusing to accept a trade to the Baltimore Ravens. That much-publicized dispute came after his off-field antics ran thin during his eight seasons with the San Francisco 49ers.

Linebacker Antonio Pierce forces Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens (six catches and 46 yards but zero touchdowns) to fumble, which Washington recovered deep in Redskins territory in the first half. (John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)

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But in his first 13 games with the Eagles, Owens's most outlandish act happened off the field, and he has been as good as advertised on the field, helping the Eagles to a 12-1 record. Last night's 17-14 win over the Redskins at FedEx Field was the Eagles' seventh in a row over Washington, and kept them tied with the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers for the best record in the NFL.

The Redskins' defensive backs challenged Owens from the start of the game, and he finished with six catches for 46 yards. After the Redskins got a 70-yard return from backup tailback Ladell Betts on the game's opening kickoff and then scored on Clinton Portis's five-yard run two plays later, the Eagles took over at their 34. On quarterback Donovan McNabb's first pass to Owens, cornerback Shawn Springs leveled Owens to break up the pass.

But Owens came up big three plays later. On second down and five at the Redskins 49, McNabb threw deep down the right sideline for Owens, who had run by Springs and safety Sean Taylor. At the 2-yard line, Springs broke up the pass but was penalized 47 yards for pass interference even though replays indicated it was Owens who had pushed Springs. The Eagles got the ball at the Redskins 2 after the penalty and scored on the next play on McNabb's two-yard pass to tight end L.J. Smith, which tied the game at 7 with 12 minutes 49 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

With the game still tied at 7 late in the first quarter, McNabb completed an 80-yard pass to wide receiver Todd Pinkston, the longest completion in the quarterback's six-year pro career. Pinkston stumbled in catching the ball at the Redskins 35, but regained his balance and ran to the 4 before he was tackled by safety Ryan Clark.

On the first play of the second quarter, McNabb threw to the right side for Owens, who was immediately met by Clark and linebacker Antonio Pierce. Pierce knocked the ball out of Owens's hands as he pulled him down for a one-yard loss, and Pierce recovered his fumble at the Redskins 8, preventing the Eagles from taking the lead.

The Eagles couldn't generate much offensively in the second half but came up with a field goal and a touchdown to go ahead 17-7. The Eagles went ahead 10-7 on David Akers's 38-yard field goal on their opening possession of the second half. Late in the third quarter, McNabb turned to Owens to produce another score.

With a drive starting at the Eagles 32 with about three minutes left in the quarter, McNabb threw to Owens on the first three plays of the possession. Owens gained six yards on the first pass and then nearly came up with a long reception down the right sideline, but he caught the ball with his right foot out of bounds near the Redskins 25-yard line. On third down and four, Owens caught a pass and leapt over Springs's tackle attempt before he went out of bounds and was hit by Taylor at the Redskins 46. Owens argued for a personal foul against Taylor but didn't get one.

Four plays later, backup tailback Dorsey Levens scored on a one-yard run, making it 17-7 with 25 seconds left in the third.

"This was a very physical ballgame," Owens said afterward. "It was a test for us and I think we weathered the storm. This was a test for us going into the playoffs. Every game from here on out is going to be a grind because we're going to get everybody's best."

Before the Eagles' 49-21 win at Dallas on Nov. 15, Owens appeared in the much-publicized promotion with Sheridan, who dropped her towel in the team's locker room and hugged Owens. The act drew the ire of Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and other league officials, and ABC Sports apologized for airing the promotion.

On the field, Owens has emerged as the Eagles' much-needed big-play wide receiver, leading the NFC with 1,130 receiving yards on 69 catches with 14 touchdowns entering last night's game. Owens and Marvin Harrison of the Indianapolis Colts are the league's only players with 5,000 receiving yards and 50 touchdowns the previous four seasons.

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