Time for a Change
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 17 -- Quarterback Jason Campbell's helmet headset had shorted out, a hodgepodge of special teams and offensive personnel had gathered on the field and no one on the Washington Redskins sideline seemed to know exactly what was going on as the first half wound down Monday night. So with the ball on the Philadelphia 11-yard line and the Redskins trailing by three, Coach Joe Gibbs figured he might as well just attempt a short field goal on second down, even with 14 seconds remaining.
But as Gibbs and his coaches tried to sort through the players and get the field goal unit aligned, the Philadelphia Eagles called a timeout, and the game slipped from their grasp for good. Suddenly, Gibbs had a moment to collect his thoughts, and, as he put it, he "decided to take a shot" that resulted in a momentum-changing touchdown. The Redskins went on to a 20-12 victory at Lincoln Financial Field that put them at 2-0 and left Philadelphia reeling at 0-2.
After a false start pushed the Redskins back to the 16, Campbell found tight end Chris Cooley in the back of the end zone for a touchdown and a 10-6 lead.
The defense, which has yielded just one touchdown this season, rattled quarterback Donovan McNabb most of the night and survived a late rally from the Eagles. Campbell continued his evolution, staying cool and calm even as confusion swept through the team, leading the offense to another superior outing on third down (8 for 15 on Monday; 7 for 14 in Week 1) that left them with as many wins against divisional foes this season as all of 2006 (1-5). Never was he more poised than on the touchdown pass to Cooley.
"That's the kind of play we need to make to get where we want to go," Campbell said.
"It was wild," Cooley said of the bizarre circumstances around the touchdown. "All of us were kind of confused, but we found a way to win the game. For us, it was big."
The victory came at a cost for Washington, though, as, for the second week, a starting offensive lineman was lost. Right tackle Jon Jansen was lost for the season last week with a broken leg-dislocated ankle (Todd Wade started in his place) and, in the first half Monday night, right guard Randy Thomas tore his left triceps. Thomas, a pulling guard who propels the running game, will undergo an MRI exam Tuesday to determine the extent of the injury but fears it is season-ending.
"You don't want to know what I feel like," Thomas said, welling with emotion.
Despite a makeshift right side of the line -- Thomas's absence forced veteran Jason Fabini, who struggled in camp, into action -- the Redskins moved the ball. Campbell was well insulated against what is traditionally one of the most blitz-happy defenses in the NFL, and was sacked just once for a two-yard loss.
"They had a pretty doggone good game from where I'm standing," Gibbs said of Fabini and the line.
The teams traded field goals in the first half, and they were tied at 3 before Campbell's third interception of the season gave the Eagles great field position. David Akers hit the second of his four field goals on that drive, but Philadelphia's 6-3 lead was its biggest of the night.
Campbell quickly found Santana Moss twice to pick up 20 yards, secured a first down on a quarterback keeper, then pranced 20 yards down the right sideline, getting out of bounds at the 18. A quick strike to Antwaan Randle El -- he eluded tackles after the catch -- put the ball on the 1, triggering a quirky sequence of events.
A delay-of-game penalty was followed by Fabini's false start, making it second and goal from the 11 with 14 seconds to play. Gibbs opted for the field goal attempt before Philadelphia gave the Redskins a reprieve. After the Eagles timeout, Fabini had another false start and, from the 16, Campbell connected with Cooley. His primary route was to James Thrash, but he was covered and Cooley gained a step on Pro Bowl safety Brian Dawkins deep in the end zone.
"That was a big momentum swing," Gibbs said.
Tailback Clinton Portis picked up 29 yards on three rushes to key a field goal drive in the third quarter, and the Eagles -- who stalled consistently inside the 15 -- settled for another field goal to retort, making it 13-9. Campbell's third-down theatrics -- he converted on third and eight and third and 10 -- brought Washington back near the end zone, and Portis's six-yard prance made it 20-12 with 12 minutes to play.
McNabb, unable to pierce this defense downfield after exploiting Washington with deep passes a year ago, was listless on third down the Eagles were 4 for 16 (Miami was 4 for 13 last week). Even when trying to pull off the comeback, he never looked entirely convincing. The Eagles faced fourth down again with about three minutes to play, needing five yards to stay alive, and this time Reggie Brown beat Carlos Rogers for 19 yards.
With 70 seconds left, McNabb faced fourth and six from the Redskins 9, the drive still inching along. He found wide receiver Kevin Curtis over the middle, but rookie safety LaRon Landry broke up the play -- "That kid is something special," linebacker Marcus Washington said -- and the fans filed out quietly, still looking for a victory while the Redskins savored their modest winning streak.